Who’s Megan? I mouthed to Jamie.
“Megan? From Horizons? Who was afraid of everything in Group?”
It didn’t register, and Jamie could tell. He looked worried.
“And then Adam—” Stella began.
“The douchecanoe who always fucked with me,” Jamie added helpfully.
“—wanted to know why Jude was doing this to us, and Jude just looked at him, and then at Megan, and then at Tara, who was passed out. He slit Tara’s throat while she was unconscious, just like that.” Stella snapped her fingers.
“Didn’t say a word till after her blood had already soaked into the sand,” Jamie said. “And then he said that if we didn’t stay quiet, he would do the same to the rest of us, one by one. No diabolical monologue. No explanation. Nothing.” Jamie paused. “That is all to say—he is one seriously sick fuck.”
“I know this.” My voice was firm and clear. “I’ve known Jude longer than I’ve known either of you.”
I thought about telling them about Laurelton, and the asylum, and the scars on my wrists—the things Jude had done to me, the things he’d made me do. I decided I would, but now was not the time.
“I’m not saying I trust him. I’m just saying we don’t have a lot of other options. Can we just look for the map, please, and get Noah and get the fuck out of here?”
Without another word Jamie and Stella began to search. We opened drawer after drawer. They were all empty.
The minutes ticked by, stoking my frustration and my rage. I wanted to knock the file cabinets over, to lift the table and throw it into the wall. I wanted to claw the walls down to their studs. Stella grew visibly nervous, grinding her teeth, winding her fingers around her hair, until finally she said, “We have to get out of here.”
“Do you hear something?” Jamie asked her.
She shook her head. “No. But I want to go.” She tried to turn the door handle. It had locked behind us.
“You can’t get out like that,” I said as Stella let out a whimper. I was on my hands and knees on the rug, under the desk, trying to find anything that could help us. “You need to use the eye.”
I’d left it on the worktable above me, but as I tried to stand back up to get it, I banged my head. “Ow.”
Jamie poked his head under the table. “You okay?”
I shot him a glare. “Do I look okay?”
“Touché,” he said, kneeling beside me. He patted my head a few times until I threatened to eat him.
“Hey, Mara, did you see this?” he asked.
He was staring at a spot on the rug, and reached for it. It was a key.
Stella’s face split into a smile, showing teeth. “It has to open something!”
“That is what keys generally do,” I said.
“And not a drawer,” she said, ignoring me. “None of them were locked.”
“So maybe a safe or something?” Jamie crossed the room. He leaned one of the empty file cabinets forward, to find only solid wall behind it.
I rocked back on my heels and plucked the key from Jamie’s fingers. “Where did you find it?”
“It was right there.” He pointed under the table. “Maybe it was taped under the table, and when you banged your head, it fell?”
An idea crystallized as I looked at the worn, patterned rug. “Help me move this,” I said, indicating the table. Stella looked unsure and cast a glance at the door before she joined me and Jamie. We lined up on one side of the table.
It was insanely heavy, solid metal, and it took everything we had, which wasn’t very much, to push it off the rug. Panting, we took a moment to catch our breaths before Jamie and I reached for the rug and pulled it up at the same time.
“Well, heavens to Betsy,” Jamie whispered.
A rectangle had been cut into the linoleum floor. And at the bottom of it, right in the center, was a keyhole.
Before Jamie or Stella could say another word, I stuck the key into the hole. The room was so quiet that the three of us heard the tumbler click. I hadn’t noticed before that the alarm had gone silent.
I pulled back on the key, and the trapdoor lifted with it, surprisingly light. We peered down but couldn’t see anything except the top rungs of a ladder.
“Jamie, you keep the eye.” Never know when you might need it. I swung my leg over the first rung. Stella tugged at the shoulder of my hospital gown. “Where are you going?”
“Down.” I picked her fingers off me. The ladder had raised bumps for traction, and they pricked my bare feet. “You have the tape?” I asked Jamie. He nodded. And I still had the scalpel, now tucked into the waistband of my underwear. “You guys can stay here if you want till I come back with the map.”
“Yeah, no,” Jamie said. “I’ll be right behind you.”
“Then I’ll see you on the other side,” I said, and disappeared into the darkness.
THIS WAS WHAT WE HAD been looking for.
The room we found ourselves in was massive, almost bunker-like. On the wall opposite us a global map stretched from corner to corner. It was dotted with thousands of pins in dozens of colors, connected to one another by string to form a web. By some of the dots there were pictures of people—some smiling, most not—or scribbled-on Post-its, or newspaper clippings in different languages.
“Is that it?” Stella asked as she hopped down the last rung. She landed softly on the floor in her socked feet. Jamie wasn’t wearing shoes either.
“Can’t be.” Jamie said what I was thinking. “It’s the world, not Horizons.”
And then I saw something familiar. A whiteboard easel with writing on it, writing I recognized. The dark blue marker was faded but legible.
S. Benicia, manifested (G1821 carri rigin unknown).
Side effects(?): anorexia, bulimia, self-harm. Respons administered pharmaceuticals. Contraindications suspec but unknown.
T. Bur ows, n-carrier, deceas
M. Ca no, on-carrier, sed
M. Dyer, manifesting (G1821 carrier, original).
Side effects: co-occurring PTSD, hallucinations, self-harm, poss. schizophr ia/paranoi subtype. Respon to midazolam. Contraindications: suspected n.e.s.s.?
J. Roth, manifesting (G1 21 carrier, suspecte original), induced. Side effects: poss. borderline personality disorder, poss. mood disorder. Contrain ations suspected but unknown.
A. Ken all: non-carrier, decease
J. L.: artificial manifested, Lenaurd protocol, early induction.