“I don’t know everything,” the professor said, “but I do know he has your smile.”
Her hands drifted down to her lower belly. “I can’t believe this is really happening.”
“It is happening.” The professor had counted on this, on her, and I had too. “The boy is destined for greatness. Because of you, he will change the world.”
And because of him, Naomi would die. It was a sacrifice she was willing to make. It cost the professor nothing; but I was the one who had convinced her to make it. I needed her child too, and her death was easy to accept when Naomi was just an abstraction, a stranger. But now I knew her, and I was haunted by guilt. I had befriended her, persuaded her, knowing that there was no time line in which she would have this child and live, and over the months, the specter of her someday-death haunted me. I dreamed of her hanging by a rope from the rafters in a stable, her feet bare, her body swinging after the tension in the rope snapped her spine. I dreamed that a shard of glass pierced her chest after in a car accident, and she died choking on her own blood. I dreamed of her murder, her drowning, her being buried alive beneath a collapsing building. I didn’t know when it would happen, but I knew that it would.
Before her wedding, I couldn’t help but warn her again. She would be a martyr for this child, I told her.
Every gift has its cost, she had said back.
I could see the beginnings of that cost today. There was none of a new mother’s emotion in her expression, no awe or wonder, or even love. Instead she looked like a child who’d been told she’d be setting off on a great adventure soon, and she couldn’t wait to begin.
She nearly bounced on her heels. “I wish I didn’t have to wait nine months to meet him,” she said.
“He will be born in a good hour. Be patient.”
“When should I tell David?”
“I’ll let you know the next time we meet.”
“And when will that be?”
“Next Thursday. You, Mara and I shall meet at the lab, and we’ll see how everything is progressing. All right, then?”
“If you say so.”
“Very good. Then I shall see you then. Good day, Mrs. Shaw,” he said, as Naomi turned to leave. “And congratulations.”
She looked over her shoulder at him. “Don’t call me Mrs. Shaw,” she added petulantly. “Makes me feel ancient.”
A hint of a smile touched the professor’s mouth, and then the door closed behind her.
“This pregnancy will be difficult for her,” the professor said, staring after her.
“The child will live, yes?”
“Yes. Of course.”
I paused for a moment. Then asked, “And Naomi?”
“She will not die in childbirth.”
But that wasn’t what I asked, and we both knew it.
I OPENED MY EYES TO darkness. I saw nothing but felt like a small thing alone in a wide, cavernous space. And high—I felt high up, which made me want to tuck my limbs in, tight and close to my body. I tried to but couldn’t. My arms and legs were bound. But I wasn’t afraid; I felt removed, distant. Where I should have felt frightened and terrified, I just felt clinical and calculating.
Until I remembered my brother, calling for me in the dark.
I could see only what was above me and on either side of my head, and not well at that. I was in some kind of warehouse; there was a source of light somewhere, but I couldn’t find it. I blinked and blinked again. A crumbling, pockmarked concrete ceiling materialized above me, framed by casement windows fogged with grime. And to my left and right were the shadows of hundreds, maybe thousands, of people.
No. Not people. Mannequins. Or parts of them, anyway. An army of headless torsos standing at attention, extending farther back than I could see. Dingy resin hands and arms, cloth torsos and plastic eyes, were heaped and scattered on the ground.
But Daniel wasn’t there, not that I could see. I knew I wasn’t alone, but maybe I was the only one Jude had taken. I prayed to a God I did not believe in that I was right.
“You’re wondering where we are,” a voice said. A strangely familiar voice, resonant and compelling, even though I’d never heard it before. My ears were ringing and my head was cloudy, and everything, including my thoughts, seemed distorted.
“You’re wondering why we’re here.” I heard the sound of slow, purposeful footsteps but didn’t see anyone at first. Then, slowly, my eyes detected movement. A figure moved between the bodies, as tall and narrow as they were. I discerned the outline of a black suit among them, and as the footsteps grew nearer, the outline became a person.
He had Noah’s blue-gray eyes, but he wasn’t Noah. And behind him stood Jude.
“I’m afraid we’ve never been formally introduced,” the man said to me. His eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled, the slight curve of his mouth emphasizing the hollows beneath his sculpted cheekbones. “My name is David Shaw.”
My tongue was thick in my mouth, and my thoughts dissolved before they could reach it. I had heard about Noah’s father but had never met him, and now, now he was here. He was here, and I had been brought here by him.
He stood there looking at me kindly, sympathetically, as if Jude, my tormenter, were not standing beside him. As if he hadn’t been the orchestrator of my torment, using Horizons and Wayne and Kells as tools.
Struck dumb by shock or drugs, all I could do was stare at him and Jude, who scarcely resembled the creature I remembered. Gone was the smooth conviction he’d displayed at the dock when he’d forced me to cut my own wrists. I saw none of the anger he’d shown in the garden at Horizons, when he’d tortured my friends and Noah and me. He was whispering to himself. Mumbling. I couldn’t make out the words.
“You’re afraid,” David Shaw said to me.
I wasn’t. Not anymore.
“I am truly sorry for this. I wish things could be different.”
They would be. I wasn’t going to kill him like I’d killed everyone else. I would torture him, the way he had tortured me.
I didn’t need him to tell me why he had done it. I didn’t care. I only cared about only one thing, but my mouth wouldn’t form the words until David Shaw gave it permission to. I recognized the sensation. I was on Anemosyne, Kells’s drug of choice.
“Did Noah know?” My voice was scratchy and hoarse, and I wasn’t sure he heard me, until his eyebrows lifted in surprise.