No no no get them out
“Oh, shit, Jamie. She’s moving. Hold her—”
“She’s digging. Oh, God. She’s, like, digging . . .”
“Give her more morphine or something. Christ!”
“I don’t want her to OD!”
“Well, she’s tearing out her intestines!”
“She is not. Don’t be so dramatic.”
Their voices blurred to silence, and my hands disappeared into warmth. I saw red and felt pain, but my hands kept moving, pushing, pressing, until I felt—
“Is that— What the fuck are those?”
What are they what are they
“There are two of them. Oh my God.”
“She was right. She was right.”
“Is that—maybe that’s what’s been making her sick?”
“I don’t know. I think—I think I can stitch this up.”
“How can you even see?”
“Here, give me that towel.”
It hurts it hurts stop please
“Stella, her lips are white.”
“Put some pressure here, maybe?”
“Should she be shaking like this?”
“Oh, no. She’s seizing—”
“What should I do?”
“Mara? Mara, look at us, okay? Just keep looking at us.”
But I couldn’t. Their words faded into darkness, and I did too.
I DISOBEYED THE PROFESSOR IN one thing when we fled London before dawn. I carried in my trembling hands the doll Sister had made me. Nothing more. Nothing less. I stared warily with tear-blurred eyes at the hansom cab the professor hired. The horses were uneasy, but he gave them something to calm them, he said, before he noticed what was in my hand.
“That is not my real name,” I said hoarsely. I wanted to change the subject, so he would not force me to leave the doll behind.
He considered me. “Did you choose it for yourself?”
“Then that is what I shall call you.”
“What is your name?” I asked as the carriage rolled over the stone streets, toward the smoky sunrise.
The professor lifted an eyebrow. “I have had many.”
“What is the one you’ve chosen for yourself?”
At this he smiled. “I have chosen many. Abraham, Alexander, Alim, Abel, Arthur, Armin, Abdul, Aldis, Alton, Alonzo, Aloysius—”
“All beginning with A ? Why?”
“You are just as inquisitive as when I left. When you live the way I have, you must find ways to amuse yourself.”
I didn’t see how it was amusing at all, but I said nothing. There was too much else on my mind. What would happen at dawn, when the servants woke and found my husband—what Aunt Sarah would say, do, when she learned I was gone. My throat tightened, and I gripped the doll until my knuckles were white.
“How did you find me?”
“In England, or in India?”
My eyes widened in shock. “India?”
“By the well,” he said casually. “You were younger then.”
I reached back, searched my mind for some glimmer of recognition. I remembered a woman pointing at me, whispering something. A man was with her, but I could not remember his face.
“That was you?” And then, before he could answer, “How did you know where to find me?”
“I was paid by Simon Shaw to unlock what he believed would be the secret to immortality.” The professor smiled just slightly.
“He thought I was—”
A slight nod. “I knew the man you called Uncle, and suggested that Mr. Shaw contract with him to care for you until you grew up, as no one could be sure what you would become until you were older.”
“But I thought you saw my future?”
“I can see shades of it, under . . . particular circumstances. But many things are hidden, even to me.”
“How did you know Uncle?”
The professor pursed his lips. “There are not many of us, and we are . . .” He searched for a word. “Attracted to each other.” The carriage slowed to a stop. He stepped out of the carriage and held out his hand to me. I took it, clutching my doll with the other.
“What am I?”
The look he gave me was tinged with sadness, but also hope. I would never forget it. “You are a girl, Mara. A girl blessed and cursed.”
THE LIGHT CHANGED FROM BLACK to bright red. I squinted against it.
“She’s moving. Look.”
Jamie’s voice. I tried to answer him, to swallow, but my throat was filled with sand. I forced my eyes open—the light in the room was blinding. A backlit shadow shifted beside me.
“Stella—some water, maybe?”
In seconds another shadow joined Jamie’s, handing him something. He held something cold and hard to my lips—a glass. I was weak and couldn’t take it from him, but I sipped from it greedily. Freezing water ran down my chin, and as it did, I noticed that I was freezing too.
“Cold,” I said between gulps. My voice was still hoarse, but at least I had one. The room was coming into focus too. The more aware I became of everything around me, the more aware I became of myself. I was freezing, and nauseous, but somehow I didn’t feel sick.
“What happened?” I asked.
Jamie and Stella exchanged a glance.
“What do you remember?” she asked cautiously.
I thought back, rooting through hazy memories of the past few days—the road trip, the sickness, the train, the razor—
Oh, God. “I—I cut myself,” I admitted. My cheeks burned with shame.
But then Jamie said, “We got them out.”
“There was totally something inside you, Mara. You were right.”
Horror. “Oh, God. What was it?”
“Like, capsules, they looked like?” Stella said.
“Do you still have them?” I asked.
“They’re in my room. Hold on.” Jamie left, and when he came back, he held out his hand.
There were two of them, slightly larger than grains of rice, and transparent. Something copper and black was inside one, copper and red in the other.
“How did you know they were there?” Stella asked.
I thought back, remembered my face in the mirror, and the whispers:
Get them out.