But Jamie had set Stella free and they stood. Stella cradled her broken wrist. Megan and Adam were unconscious, but alive. Jamie hauled Megan up beneath her arms, dragging her toward one of the hallways with Stella by his side. We were still locked in the building, but Jude would leave them alone now that he had me.
“Go,” I said to Noah, even knowing that he never would. His jaw was iron and his stare was fierce. I would miss it.
I was saying good-bye, I realized.
Noah saw it in my expression and shook his head slowly. His voice was calm and strong, just for me. “You’re going to be fine,” he said.
I will fix this, he meant.
But Jude’s grip tightened, and the blade pressed into my neck. The breath I was holding escaped and he gripped me tighter. A trail of warm blood trickled down into my shirt.
“I will give you anything,” Noah said to Jude. His voice was quiet. “Anything.”
Jude spoke to Noah, but his lips were at my ear. My flesh rotted beneath them. “There’s nothing you have that I want. Not anymore.”
I met Noah’s eyes and watched as something in him died.
I couldn’t take it. I wasn’t afraid anymore for myself; just miserably, desperately sad. “He won’t kill me,” I lied to Noah. “I’ll be okay.”
Jude inched us up against a white, bare, empty Horizons wall, crushing me in his arms. He edged us slowly toward the hallway, flanked by patient rooms on each side. I was trapped by him again.
Trapped. The word triggered a memory. I remembered—
A different hallway. Illuminated by the flash of Rachel’s camera.
Jude and I walked together behind Rachel and Claire, sticking to the middle of the cavernous hall. Patient rooms flanked it, and I didn’t want to go anywhere near them. When Rachel and Claire disappeared behind a corner I sped up, terrified to lose them in the labyrinthine passageways.
I had been trapped before.
And I escaped before.
With nothing more than a bruise on my cheek, which wasn’t even from the collapse. I remembered seeing the blossoming purple stain on my cheekbone in the hospital mirror. It was from Jude. From when he hit me.
I brought the asylum down, but I made it out unharmed. Safe.
But Jude escaped, too, my mind whispered.
His arms gripped me tighter and I knew his eyes were locked on Noah’s. The blade edged into my skin and I felt a rush of warmth and pain. Jude was eliciting every last drop of malicious glee from hurting me and being able to make Noah watch.
I wanted to hurt him back.
And maybe I could. Yes, Jude escaped—but without his hands.
Which meant I could hurt him, but not kill him; I’d tried so many times to kill Jude before and it never worked, but I did escape. I brought the asylum down and maybe if I brought this building down, I could get free.
And Noah. He might be injured if the building collapsed but he was different, like me—so he would survive like me. Even if he was hurt when the building collapsed, he would heal. He always did. Noah would be safe.
But Jamie? Stella? They were different like us, too. Like Jude. Which meant they would probably survive, but they might be wounded.
Noah could heal them, though. He healed my father. If I hurt Jamie and Stella by trying to get us out, he could fix them.
Jude’s hot breath tickled my neck, making me turn my head before we edged into the shadows. I saw the blood-soaked girl in the garden. I saw Adam lying in the sand.
Me and Jamie and Stella and Noah would survive. But we weren’t the only ones here.
Adam was probably still alive. Megan was when Jamie dragged her away. There might be others locked in their rooms behind their doors, too.
If I brought this place down like the asylum, anyone who wasn’t different would die like Rachel and Claire. Adam. Megan. Anyone else, anyone normal.
But they could die anyway, I told myself. Jude might go through each one of them until they—we—were all gone.
My skin tightened and the blood rushed in my ears and I felt Jude inching us farther away. If he turned the corner, Noah would be out of sight.
I was running out of time. I would have to choose even though neither option was good. Maybe a hero could see another way out of this, but I was not a hero.
You always have a choice, Noah had said once.
I made mine.
I used every bit of force I had to slam us both into the wall.
Jude wasn’t expecting it. His head cracked obscenely and I imagined fissures spidering from where it hit up to the ceiling and down to the floor, to below, to the foundation. The arms around my chest loosened as Jude fell to the ground.
But I didn’t run.
I whipped around to face him. I could hear nothing but my breath and my heartbeat and pulse and they were loud and fast but not with fear. With pure, cold, rocking fury.
I felt a strong, disturbing tug in my mind, but I gave in to it and something came free. I pushed Jude’s slack body up, up against the wall. Pinned him, crushed him against it so firmly that bits of plaster seemed to shake off and fall to the floor. I was stronger than I knew. I couldn’t kill Jude with my mind but I would kill him with my body and he deserved to die.
I knew Noah was behind me but he didn’t move to help. He saw I didn’t need it.
Jude was unconscious and limp and time seemed to slow down as spots of black and red crowded into my vision, as a colorless scent invaded the air. I crushed Jude’s throat with graceful hands that didn’t feel like my own. The sight brought a rush of savage joy. I felt myself smile.
I heard my name whispered in a loved, familiar voice, but it was far away and I didn’t listen. I would not stop until this thing beneath my grip was dead—I would not allow it to escape or heal. I wanted to watch it die, to turn it to meat. The thought filled me with hot pleasure. The doors were still locked and I was still sealed inside but I would bring this place down, I would claw at it with my mind and my fingers if I had to. I would get the boy I loved out. I would set myself free.
That was the last thought I had before everything went black.
Port of Calcutta, India
THE CROWD GREW AND THICKENED AROUND the wild creatures at the port, where they did not belong. A loud blast sounded from one of the ships and small monkeys chittered and screamed. One man hit the top of a cage with his fist—a large, bright-colored bird shrieked inside. He smiled and peered closer as the bird beat its wings against the bars and jewel-colored feathers fell to the ground.
Another man poked a stick through a different cage at the large, brown monkey. It pulled its lips back and bared its fangs.