“In her office should be everything you’re looking for. Your files—the real ones, not the bullshit cover-their-ass fake stuff. There’s stuff about your friends; they’re here too, by the way. I’m getting them out while you’re listening to this. Once the tape ends, get to Kells’s office, grab what you need, and get out. The map in there will show you how to get off the island. Kells will either already be gone or— I—I—had to let her go. I’m sorry. But you should have enough time to get out before she can manually set the lockdown. I’ll get your friends out. Noah will be waiting for you.” He coughed hard. “Also, I left my watch for you. It’s in Wayne’s other hand. Get it before you—before you go.
“And, I know there’s no reason you should trust me. I’ve done— I—can’t talk about it. Sick shit.” He coughed again. It was deep and wet, and he was breathing hard when he spoke again. “I can’t talk about it. I don’t know how long I’ll be like this, be me, or if this is even me anymore, but whatever. I might as well— I want to say— I’m not going to say I’m sorry—‘sorry’ doesn’t mean anything when you can’t promise not to do it again, and I can’t promise. I’m just—I’m going to leave you alone now. I promise.”
The tape went silent. I was silent. I stared at the recorder, my lips parted and my body still.
“Sorry about the message in blood thing, by the way.”
I startled at the sound of Jude’s voice on the tape again.
“There was nothing else to write with.”
Then it clicked off.
Maybe I was in shock, because I wasn’t panicking, or screaming, or shaking, or even scared. My mind kept repeating two words, over and over and over again.
But Jude was the one who’d said it.
I didn’t know whether I should believe him, but I did know that I wanted to. Part of me was terrified to let myself hope, but another part of me couldn’t help it. My mind seized on the possibility like a shark on a seal, and then I rewound the tape and listened to Jude’s words again.
“Noah will be waiting for you.”
All I had to do was get out of this room.
“You’re going to need to cut out his left eye.”
All I had to do was cut out Wayne’s left eye.
I looked over at him, a hump of bloodied flesh on the floor, his wire-rimmed glasses askew on his face. His eyes opened behind them.
“Fuck!” My heart exploded and I covered my mouth to keep from screaming. It was the first normal reaction I’d had since waking up in here. “Fuck,” I said again. Wayne’s small, piggy eyes followed my every movement. He was alive. Conscious.
“Are you serious,” I whispered. A gurgly groan erupted from his throat.
I was rooted to the spot, but I needed to not be. I was locked in a room with not-dead Wayne, and the only way out was to use his eye to trick the retinal scanner into releasing me.
But if he was alive, maybe I wouldn’t need to trick it? Maybe Wayne could just open it for me.
But for that he would need to stand. The pool of blood around him widened. The smell of it filled my nostrils, somehow metallic and animal at once. My nostrils flared.
“Wayne,” I said loudly. “Can you talk?”
“Yes,” he whispered.
Good. “Can you stand?”
“I—don’t think— No.”
Not good. “Did you hear what was on that tape?”
“What—” He wheezed. “What tape?”
The minute hand on the watch shifted. I’d heard it, somehow. Kells was somewhere in this building, and Noah was too. I couldn’t wait to find him, or else she would find me first. I’d have to try to lift Wayne myself.
As I moved over him, my stomach contracted—with nausea, I think—and Wayne’s eyes widened in alarm. I rolled him gently, sort of, onto his back. That was when a different smell smacked me in the face. His intestines jiggled wetly from his slashed stomach.
“Are you serious,” I hissed through clenched teeth. I mildly wondered how I’d managed to not empty the contents of my stomach all over him as I placed my hands beneath his wet armpits and tried to lift him up.
“Stop!” He moaned. “Please.”
I stopped. My eyes darted around the tiled room looking for something, anything to help me, but it was pretty bare. A plastic table and two knocked-over chairs were at one end of it, and another chair, wooden, was strewn in pieces near the wall. A few of the tiles had been smashed, presumably by the chair. But something metal gleamed in the ruins of what once must have been a neat and tidy medical-ish room.
I went over to inspect it, kicking aside jagged pieces of wood and brushing off some ceramic tile bits, and then realized what I’d found.
It was a scalpel. I picked it up, brushing it against my soiled hospital gown to wipe away the dust. Just holding it felt strange. It seemed to conform to the shape of my hand.
Wayne moaned again behind me, a miserable, desperate sound. I turned to him. He was dying. He was mostly dead, really. And the fact that his left eye was still in his skull was the only thing keeping me from getting out. From getting to Noah.
As I stared at him, I tried to imagine his eyes closing—to think about him dying from blood loss or something, why hadn’t that happened yet? But Wayne’s eyes didn’t close. They just kept looking at me.
I told myself that in his current state, death would be a relief, a kindness. But the thing was, I didn’t want to kill him. I remembered, in a clinical sort of way, that he’d played a role in trapping me here, in torturing me, and that memory carried with it the sense that he’d enjoyed it. But I remembered these things the way you remember the name of your second-grade teacher (Mrs. Fish-Robinson). I didn’t really care that he’d done them. At that moment I didn’t want him dead, and I really didn’t want to be the one to kill him.
He must have seen my hesitation, because he whispered, “Good girl.”
I cocked my head.
“You’re not so bad, are you?”
Those were his last words before I cut his throat.
I FELT KIND OF BAD about it, honestly. it wasn’t a clean cut. Too much hesitation; I could barely watch as I did it. But I did make sure he was dead before I took his eye. That was something?
And I kept the scalpel. I had a feeling I would need it again.
By then a low, whooping alarm had been set off, but when I peeked out from the examination room, the halls were empty. I couldn’t remember ever seeing anyone here besides Dr. Kells and Wayne, but that didn’t mean much. There was a lot I couldn’t remember.