Noah’s eyes were closed, but he was breathing. Sleeping. One of his hands was curled in a loose fist by his face, and his T-shirt, the one with the holes in it, was twisted, exposing a sliver of skin above his boxers. This was how he looked the morning after I told him what was wrong with me. After we figured out what was wrong with us.
I couldn’t stop looking at them—the people I loved, laughing and talking and living behind silvered panes of glass. But as I did, I realized something wasn’t right. I looked closely at Noah. He was sleeping, not moving, which made it easier for me to finally see. His edges were faded. Blurred. I glanced back at the images of my parents, my brothers. Their edges were soft too.
“We’re losing them, I think,” the girl said. “I don’t know why, but I think Kells does, and I think she’s doing it on purpose.”
I was only half-listening. I couldn’t stop staring at the mirrors.
“I’m never going to see them again, am I.” It wasn’t a question.
“My sources say no.”
“You know,” I said to her, “you’re kind of an asshole.”
“Well, that would explain why we’re so popular. Speaking of, Jamie and Stella are here too. In case you were curious.”
“Have you seen them?”
She shook her head. “But Wayne mentioned ‘Roth’ once, and ‘Benicia’ twice, to Kells. And he talked about them in the present tense.”
I swelled with relief. My throat tightened and ached and I felt like I might cry, but no tears came. “What about Noah?” I blurted out the question before I could think about whether I really wanted the answer.
The girl knew. “Kells mentioned him once.”
But my question had gone unanswered. And now I had to know. “Tell me what she said.”
“She said—” The girl didn’t finish her sentence. Something hissed and clicked behind me, and she went still.
“What?” I asked. “What did she say?”
She didn’t answer. When she spoke again, her voice shook. “They’re here,” the girl said, and then she was gone.
UNTIL THAT MOMENT I HADN’T been sure if I was awake or hallucinating. But now the sounds I heard seemed very real. Too real. The click of high heels on the linoleum floor. The rush of air as a door opened somewhere behind my head. I glanced at myself in the ceiling. Opened my mouth. My reflection did the same thing.
So I was alone now, definitely. I might not have been sure what was real and what wasn’t, but I knew that I didn’t want Kells to know I was awake. I squeezed my eyes shut.
“Good morning, Mara,” Dr. Kells said crisply. “Open your eyes.”
And they opened, just like that. I saw Dr. Kells standing beside my bed and reflected in front of me hundreds of times in the small, mirrored room. Wayne was beside her, large and puffy and sloppy, where she was slim and polished and neat.
“Have you been awake long?” she asked me.
My head shook from side to side. Somehow, I don’t know how, it didn’t feel like I was the one who shook it.
“Your heart rate spiked not long ago. Did you have a bad dream?”
As if I weren’t living a bad dream. She looked genuinely concerned, and I’m not sure I’d ever wanted to hit someone as much in my entire life.
The urge was sharp and violent and I enjoyed it while it lasted. Which wasn’t very long. Because as soon as I felt it, it thinned. Vanished, leaving me cold and hollowed out.
“Tell me how you’re feeling,” Kells said.
I did. It didn’t matter that I didn’t want to. I didn’t have a choice.
“I want to run some tests on you. Is that all right?”
No. “Yes,” I said.
She took out a composition notebook. My handwriting was on the front of it, my name. It was my journal, the one I was supposed to write my fears in, at Horizons. From days ago. Or weeks, if what my reflection had said was true.
“You remember this, don’t you, Mara?”
“Excellent,” she said, and smiled genuinely. She was pleased that I remembered, which made me wonder what I might have forgotten.
“We’re going to work on your fears together today. G1821—the genetic condition that’s harming you, remember?—causes your ability to flare. Different factors switch it on. But at the same time, it switches off a different part of you.” She paused, studying my face. “It removes the barrier between your conscious thought and your unconscious thought. So to help get you better, Mara, I want to be sure I can prescribe you the accurate dosage of medication, the variant of Amytal you’re being given—Anemosyne, we call it. And in order to see if it’s working, we’re going to trigger the fears you recorded in this journal. Sort of like exposure therapy, combined with drug therapy. Okay?”
Fuck you. “Okay.”
Wayne opened a case he’d been carrying and laid out the contents on a small tray next to the bed. I turned my head to the side and watched, but then wished that I hadn’t. Scalpels, syringes, and needles of different sizes gleamed against the black fabric.
“We are going to measure your response to your fear of needles today,” she said, and on cue Wayne lifted a plastic-capped cylinder. He pinched the cap between his fingers and twisted it. The seal broke with a loud snick. He fitted the needle onto a large syringe.
“You’ve certainly seen plenty of these, considering your time in hospitals, and judging from your records, your instinct is to fight back when touched nonconsensually by medical professionals,” she said, raising her penciled brows a fraction. “You punched a nurse on your first hospital stay in Providence after the asylum incident, in response to being touched and forcibly held.” She looked down at a small notepad. “And then you hit the nurse at the psychiatric unit in the hospital when you were admitted after you attempted suicide.”
At that moment two images competed for space in my mind. The first one was sharp and clear, of me standing alone on a dock and taking the shining blade of a box cutter to my pale wrists. In the other image, blurred and soft, the outline of Jude stood behind me, whispering into my ear, threatening me and my family until the box cutter bit deep into my skin.
My mind clamped down on the second image, the one with Jude. I hadn’t tried to kill myself. Jude had just tried to make it look like I had. And Kells, somehow, was trying to make me forget it.
Wayne bent down then and withdrew something from below the bed, beyond my range of vision. He stood up, holding a complicated-looking system of leather and metal restraints. Shackles, really. Still no fear.