Illuminating the face of Dr. Kells.
She had been at the asylum. She was there.
My mind wanted to throw up, but my body was perfectly still as the lights came on.
Dr. Kells pointed at the whiteboard. “Mara, can you read what’s written there?” I skimmed the words as my blood pounded in my ears. The machine, the monitor, beeped faster.
S. Benicia, manifested (G1821 carrier, origin unknown). Side effects(?): anorexia, bulimia, self-harm. Responsive to administered pharmaceuticals. Contraindications suspected but unknown.
T. Burrows, non-carrier, deceased.
M. Cannon, non-carrier, sedated.
M. Dyer, manifesting (G1821 carrier, original). Side effects: co-occurring PTSD, hallucinations, self-harm, poss. schizophrenia/paranoid subtype. Responsive to midazolam. Contraindications: suspected n.e.s.s.?
J. Roth, manifesting (G1821 carrier, suspected original), induced. Side effects: poss. borderline personality disorder, poss. mood disorder. Contraindications suspected but unknown.
A. Kendall: non-carrier, deceased.
J. L.: artificially manifested, Lenaurd protocol, early induction. Side effects: multiple personality disorder (unresponsive), antisocial personality disorder (unresponsive); migraines, extreme aggression (unresponsive). No known contraindications.
C. L.: artificially manifested, Lenaurd protocol, early induction, deceased.
P. Reynard: non-carrier, deceased.
N. Shaw: manifested (G1821 original carrier). Side effects(?): self-harm, poss. oppositional defiant disorder (unresponsive), conduct disorder? (unresponsive); tested: class a barbiturates (unresponsive), class b (unresponsive), class c (unresponsive); unresponsive to all classes; (test m.a.d.), deceased.
Generalized side effects: nausea, elevated temp., insomnia, night terrors
“You’ve been a participant in a blind study, Mara,” Dr. Kells said. “That means most of your treating doctors and counselors have been unaware of your participation. Your parents are unaware as well. The reason you’ve been selected for this study is because you have a condition, a gene that is harming you.”
“It makes you act in a way that is causing you to be a danger to yourself and others.”
“Do you understand?”
“Yes,” my traitor tongue responded. I understood.
“Some of your friends are also carriers of this gene, which has been disrupting your normal lives.”
Stella. Jamie. Noah. Their names were on that list, right by mine.
And by J. L. Jude Lowe.
I had wanted to know what we were and now I did. We weren’t students. We weren’t patients.
We were subjects. Victims, and perfect ones. If we cried wolf, Dr. Kells would cry crazy, and there were hundreds of pages of psychological records to back her up. If any of us told the truth, the world would call it fiction.
The asylum, Jude, Miami—the people I’d killed, the brother Jude had taken. It all led to this moment.
Because it had been calculated that way. It was planned.
I wasn’t sent to Horizons—I’d been brought. My parents had no idea what this place was; they just wanted to help me get better and Dr. Kells made them believe I would. When they thought I was getting better, they decided not to make me go to the retreat; they would eventually pull me out of the program entirely.
And the day they decided not to make me go was the night when Jude made me slit my wrists. But not to kill myself.
To get me sent back.
I heard Stella’s voice, just a whisper in my mind.
“They need you.”
They? Dr. Kells and Jude?
Dr. Kells interrupted my racing thoughts. “Your condition has caused pain to the people you love, Mara. Do you want to cause pain to the people you love?”
“No,” I said, and it was the truth.
“I know you don’t,” she said seriously. “And I am truly sorry we weren’t able to help you before now. We had hoped to be able to sedate you before you collapsed the building. We tried very hard to save all of your friends.”
My heart stopped. The room was silent for seconds before the monitor beeped again.
“We didn’t anticipate that things would happen quite the way they did—as it was, we were lucky to be able to extract Jamie Roth, Stella Benicia, and Megan Cannon before they were seriously harmed. We just couldn’t get to Noah Shaw.”
I heard her wrong.
That was it. I calmly, slowly looked back at the board, and forced my mind to turn the letters into words, ones I could understand, ones that made sense. But all I could process when I read them now was:
Written under Noah’s name.
My mind repeated the words of the woman Noah had once called a liar.
“You will love him to ruins.”
All the pain I had ever felt was just practice for this moment.
“The roof caved around you, but not on you, Mara. Noah was too close, and he was crushed.”
“He will die before his time with you by his side, unless you let him go.”
“I’m very, very sorry,” Dr. Kells said.
What she was saying was impossible. Impossible. Noah healed every time he was hurt, always. He swore I couldn’t hurt him again and again and again. Noah didn’t lie. Not to me.
But Dr. Kells did. She lied to me about Jude. She lied to Jude about me. She lied to my parents about Horizons. She lied to everyone, to all of us.
And she was lying to me now.
A tear escaped anyway. Just one. It rolled down my alien cheek.
“We want to make sure nothing like that happens again, Mara, and we think we can, if you consent.”
Dr. Kells waited for my response, as if I had the ability to say anything but yes. She knew I couldn’t consent, which meant this was some kind of display, some kind of show. For someone’s benefit, but not mine.
I was raging.
“We want to help you be better, Mara. Do you want to be better?”
Her words brushed the dirt off of a memory.
“What do you want?” Dr. Kells had asked me, on my first day in her care.
“To be better?” I had answered her.
My answer then had been honest. After the asylum, I was gnawed by grief. After Jude came to the police station, I was tyrannized by fear. Grief and guilt, fear for my family and for myself. Of myself. It ruled me.
Dr. Kells manipulated that. Jude did too. I didn’t know what part he was playing in this, or what Dr. Kells stood to gain by terrorizing and torturing and lying to me. I didn’t know why they needed me or why I’d been brought here or where here even was or whether I was alone. But I was no longer afraid. There were other names on that list, and if they were here with me, I would get them out and we would see the people we loved again.