A flashlight clicked on, the beam skirting across the interior and igniting the color of a stained-glass window inset in the back wall.
The image—rays of sunlight piercing through clouds and lighting a single, flowering tree.
Ethan slumped down onto the freezing stone as Beverly unzipped a duffel bag that had been stowed in the corner.
She pulled out a blanket, unfolded it, spread it over Ethan.
“I have some clothes for you as well,” she said, “but you can dress when you wake up again.”
He shivered violently, fighting the undertow of unconsciousness, because there were things he had to ask, had to know. Didn’t want to risk Beverly not being here when he woke up again.
“What is Wayward Pines?” he asked.
Beverly sat down beside him, said, “When you wake, I’ll—”
“No, tell me now. In the last two days, I’ve seen things that were impossible. Things that make me doubt my sanity.”
“You aren’t crazy. They’re just trying to make you think you are.”
“That, I don’t know.”
He wondered if he could believe her, figured that, all things considered, it was probably wise to err on the side of skepticism.
“You saved my life,” he said, “and thank you for that. But I have to ask...why, Beverly? Why are you my only friend in Wayward Pines?”
She smiled. “Because we both want the same thing.”
“To get out.”
“There’s no road out of this town, is there?”
“I drove here several days ago. So how is that even possible?”
“Ethan, just let the drug take you, and when you wake up, I’ll tell you everything I know and how I think we can get out. Close your eyes.”
He didn’t want to, but he couldn’t stop it from happening.
“I’m not crazy,” he said.
“I know that.”
His shivering had begun to abate, his body heat creating a pocket of warmth under the blanket.
“Tell me one thing,” he said. “How did you wind up in Wayward Pines?”
“I was a rep for IBM. Came here on a sales call trying to outfit the local school’s computer lab with our Tandy 1000s. But as I drove into town, I got into a car accident. Truck came out of nowhere, slammed into my car.” Her voice was becoming softer, more distant, harder to follow. “They told me I suffered a head injury and some memory loss, which is why my first recollection of this town is waking up one afternoon beside the river.”
Ethan wanted to tell her that the same thing had happened to him, but he couldn’t open his mouth to speak, the drug plowing through his system like a rogue wave, engulfing him.
He’d be gone inside a minute.
“When?” he rasped.
She didn’t hear him, had to lean in close, put her ear to his mouth, and it took everything in his power to get the question out.
“When...did...you...come...here?” he whispered, clinging to her words now like a life preserver that could keep him afloat, keep him awake, but still he was slipping under, seconds of consciousness remaining.
She said, “I’ll never forget the day I arrived, because in some ways, it’s like the day I died. Since then, nothing’s been the same. It was a beautiful autumn morning. Sky a deep blue. The aspen turning. That was October third, 1985. In fact, next week is my anniversary. I’ll have been in Wayward Pines a whole year.”
She didn’t dare open the door, glanced instead through one of the missing panes in the stained-glass window. Found nothing to see through the midnight rainfall and nothing to hear above the sound of it on the weeds and the trees and the mausoleum roof.
Ethan was gone, lost to the drug, and in some ways, she envied him.
In sleep, the dreams came to her.
Of her Life Before.
Of a man whom in all likelihood she would have married.
Of her home with him in Boise.
All the plans they’d made together.
The children they had one day hoped to bring into the world—sometimes, she even dreamed about their faces.
Waking was Wayward Pines.
This beautiful hell.
When she’d first arrived, the surrounding cliffs had filled her with awe and wonder. Now, she hated them for what they were, what they’d become—prison bars surrounding this lovely town where no one could leave, and those few who tried...
She still had nightmares about those nights.
The sound of five hundred telephones ringing at once.
Not tonight...that is not going to happen tonight.
Beverly pulled off her poncho and went to him, curled up under the blanket against the wall. When the pattern of his breathing finally slowed into long respirations, she crawled over to the duffel bag and fished the knife out of an exterior pocket.
It was a folder, rusted and dull, but it was all she’d been able to find.
She tugged the blanket away and pulled up Ethan’s hospital gown and ran her hand along his left leg until she felt the bump on the back of his thigh.
Let her hand linger there a shade longer than she should have, hating herself for it, but God it’d been so long since she’d even touched or been touched by a man.
She’d considered telling Ethan ahead of time, but his impaired state had prevented this, and maybe that was for the best. Regardless, he was lucky. She hadn’t had the benefit of anesthesia when she’d done this to herself.
Beverly set the flashlight on the stone floor so it illuminated the backside of his left thigh.
It was covered in scars.
You couldn’t see the bump, only feel it—and just barely—if you knew exactly where to touch.
She pried open the blade, which she’d sterilized two hours ago with cotton balls and alcohol, her stomach lurching at the thought of what she had to do, praying the pain wouldn’t break his sedation.
Ethan dreamed he’d been tied down and that something was eating his leg, taking small, probing bites that occasionally went deep enough for him to cry out in his sleep.
* * *
He slammed awake.
Darkness everywhere, and his left leg, high on the back of his thigh, burning with a pain he knew all too well—someone was cutting him.
For a terrible moment, he was back in that torture room with black-hooded Aashif, hanging from the ceiling by his wrists, his ankles chained to the floor, and his body taut so he couldn’t struggle, so he couldn’t even move, no matter how awful the pain.