But then a gash appeared in his throat, as if someone had cut into it with a serrated knife. There was no blood, no sound as the wound formed a jagged smile at the base of his neck.
It wasn’t real. I knew it wasn’t real. But I was seeing it for a reason.
I rounded on Dr. Kells. She was pale but still conscious, still able to move, and she edged away from the wall. The floor was slick with her blood.
“Where’s Noah?” I said. My voice was thick and flat.
“Dead,” she whispered. She bunched up the corner of her lab coat, trying to use it to stanch her bleeding.
“You killed him.”
“Jude told me he’s alive.”
“Jude is sick,” she said hoarsely.
I believed that. But I also believed that Noah was alive. I would feel it if he weren’t, and I didn’t feel anything.
“Tell me where he is,” I said, my tongue heavy in my mouth. I tried to think what I could say or do to make her tell me, force her to tell me, then remembered what she had said to Jude.
She had told him I could bring Claire back. Jude had believed it. Maybe he’d been right to.
“Tell me where he is so I can bring him back.”
“He’s never coming back.”
“You told Jude—Claire—”
Even I thought that was cruel. I was about to say so when I caught her reaching for the syringe. Rage threw me forward, and I managed to swat it away with my hand. Then I pushed myself up.
Dr. Kells was right. I had killed her a thousand times in my head, but she was still here. Whatever drugs she’d given me were working, making it impossible to kill her with my mind. But I could kill her with my hands.
She had dropped her coat, and the blood flowing from her neck had slowed to a trickle.
She’s going to die anyway, part of me whispered.
“But she could kill you before she does.”
I swung my head in the direction of my voice. I stared at my reflection in one of the steel drawers. She—I—shrugged my shoulders as if to say, What can you do?
My arms trembled with the effort to hold myself up, but I would not let go until I had an answer. “How do I find Noah?” I asked.
Kells was scrabbling away from the door, away from me, but kept slipping on her own blood. I pulled at her legs, and her skin seemed to come off in my hand. No. Not her skin, her stockings. “What did you do to him? Tell me.”
She didn’t answer. She stared at me and then, without warning, dove for the syringe again.
I slid with her, and in a burst of strength pulled myself on top of her and pushed down on her chest, on her neck. She gasped for air as I wrestled the syringe from her curled fist.
I couldn’t leave her alive. Not after everything. I couldn’t take that chance. But as I held the syringe, I realized I could make death painless for her, just like she’d said she would do for me.
But was what she’d done to me painless? She’d hurt me before tonight, before today. She had tortured me. She’d said she had her reasons, but then, didn’t everyone? Did reasons matter?
She was mouthing something—praying, maybe? I hadn’t seen that coming.
When I’d thought about death before, it had been so abstract. I’d thought things but I’d never felt them. But this, this was real. My face was just inches from hers. I could hear her heart beating weakly in her chest with the effort to pump what blood still remained in her body. I could smell the sweat on her skin and almost taste her blood in my mouth, hot and metallic.
The truth was, I had known since the second I’d woken up in Horizons, since the second she’d confessed what she’d done to me, since she’d showed me the list, that if given the chance, I would kill her.
“Don’t worry,” I said to Dr. Kells. “This will only hurt a little.”
I HALF-STUMBLED, HALF-CRAWLED ALONG THE metal walkway as the feeling returned to my legs. My hands were scored from pulling myself up the grated catwalk. When I reached a fork in the walkway, I looked left, then right, and saw Jamie and Stella standing maybe a hundred feet away.
I didn’t have to say a word before they began to run toward me. Stella slipped in her socked feet, and she grabbed the railing to steady herself, dropping some files she’d been carrying under her arm, but soon they were by my side. They didn’t ask what had happened. They didn’t say anything at all. Each of them took a shoulder, and hauled me up. They half-carried me out of the hallway that led up a brutal, narrow flight of stairs and eventually outdoors.
“We got worried you weren’t coming out,” Jamie finally said as the three of us collapsed, panting, against the concrete building we’d just escaped from.
“What about Ebola?” I asked breathlessly.
Jamie coughed and wheezed, then said, “What’s a little hemorrhagic fever between friends?”
I smiled, despite everything.
“Guys?” Stella asked. “We should probably not stay here.”
“We need to hide,” Jamie said. “Until you can walk.”
He was right of course, but we didn’t have too many options. The building I practically crawled out of had to be the uppermost level of the maintenance shed. It was mostly hidden by trees, but it was nearly dawn and they weren’t that thick. We could even see Horizons—part of the treatment facility, anyway—in the distance, on No Name Island. Unfortunately, that meant that someone standing on No Name Island might be able to see us, too.
I looked down at my useless legs, smeared with blood and dirt. I felt a twinge of panic. “What if I can’t walk?” I swallowed thickly. “What if—what if—”
Stella knelt at eye level. “What does it feel like?” she asked gently.
“Like parts of my feet and legs are just dead, but other parts—other parts are stinging.”
“I remember feeling like that once, in there,” Jamie said, glancing at the closed door. “I woke up and couldn’t feel my legs.”
“What did she do to you?” I asked, but I was scared to hear his answer. Why would she make it so we couldn’t walk? What had she done to us?
“It wasn’t Kells, it was Wayne,” Jamie said. “And he wasn’t exactly forthcoming.”
Not comforting. But at least Jamie could walk now. Which meant I would again, too. I hoped.
“How long did it take to wear off?”
Jamie shrugged. “There were no clocks, not that I saw anyway, so I’m not sure, but I think an hour or two maybe? I felt strange after . . . like my limbs just floated away—like they were clouds.”