Wayne’s eye squelched in my closed fist. It was larger than I’d thought it would be, and rounder, too. Part of the optic nerve was still attached to it, peeking out between my fingers. Every second that passed could bring Kells with it, so I darted to the left, to where I thought her office might be. The fluorescent lights flickered and buzzed above my head, and the white walls seemed to curve and bend around me. There was no way to know how far I’d come, no way to make sure I was going in the right direction.
I tried to unravel my tangled memories of this place so I could pick a direction, any direction, to follow. But empty hallways dead-ended with locked steel doors or doors that opened up to rooms with nothing and no one in them. And there were no windows, no statues, no artwork, nothing that even remotely resembled the blurry picture of Horizons as I remembered it.
I grew panicked, turning corners and opening doors to find nothing but whiteness and metal. None of it looked familiar. I was a rat in a maze; I might not be locked in a cell, but I was still a prisoner. I tried to believe that Jude would get Jamie and Stella out, that Noah was alive and would be waiting for me, but every dead end killed a little bit of hope, until I barely had any left.
But then, I noticed a tiny door painted white to blend in with the walls. I opened it and crawled through. I was staring at a narrow flight of metal stairs.
I climbed them, of course. They creaked beneath my feet and my heart felt like it might burst. When I opened the door at the top, the hinges squeaked and I cringed.
Behind the door, something metal clattered to the floor. I heard a whispered obscenity. I knew that whisper.
“Jamie?” I asked, pushing open the door.
“Mara? Mara? No fucking way.” Jamie’s voice echoed in the mostly metal room, which was in fact an industrial kitchen. I searched for him but all I saw were gleaming, distorted reflections of myself in the steel cabinets that lined the walls.
“Where are you?” I asked.
I ducked beneath a hanging pot rack and caught one reflection that didn’t match the others. I tilted my head to one side as the reflection changed, distorted, as Jamie pushed open a cabinet door and crawled out of it. He nearly tripped on the cooking utensils scattered on the floor as he ran to me. He stopped just short of a hug. “Oh my God—Mara—what the fuck happened to you?”
I looked up, staring at myself in the steel backsplash behind an enormous oven. This was what I saw:
One scalpel (held)
One tape recorder (held)
One human eye (brown) (held)
One blood-soaked surgical gown (worn)
One gold Rolex (worn)
I really wished the stupid hospital gown had pockets. My reflection shrugged, even though I had not.
“Blood’s not mine,” I said.
“I’m afraid to ask . . .”
“Wayne,” I said.
“Well, then, I have never been so happy to see you covered in blood.”
And I’d never been so happy to see him. He was not a mess, and was not wearing a hospital gown either. He had on clothes that would have been normal—khaki pants, a polo shirt, no shoes, just tube socks—except they weren’t normal for him. They didn’t fit him either. The cuffs of his pants came to his ankles, and the shirt he wore hung loosely off his frame. His hair had been buzzed so short that his scalp shone beneath it.
“We have to find Stella. Any ideas?” I asked.
Jamie shook his head. “I don’t even know where my room is.”
“How did you get out?” I silently hoped that Jude was the answer.
“I was playing solitaire when I heard the door to my room—cell, whatever—hiss and unlock. The hallway was empty, so I made a run for it. Except I didn’t know where to go, and at one point I thought I heard footsteps behind me, and I didn’t really want to run into anyone, obviously, so I opened the first unlocked door I could find—this one,” he said, swinging the kitchen door, “and hid. But not before I made a metric fuck ton of noise, obviously.”
“And I was the footsteps.”
“You were the footsteps.” His expression softened. “I’m glad you were the footsteps.”
“I really want to hug you, but you’re disgusting, no offense.”
A smile turned up the corner of my mouth, a real one. “Why is it that whenever anyone says something offensive, they always add ‘no offense’ after it?”
“Offensive or not, you’re objectively covered in blood,” he said, giving me a long look. His eyes landed on the watch on my wrist. “And bling. WTF?”
“Jude’s.” I turned away from Jamie and poked my head out into the hallway, trying to decide which way we should go.
“Did you just say what I think you said?”
“The watch belonged to Jude,” I said slowly. “He left me a tape, told me how to get out of here,” I said, holding out my palm and releasing my fist slowly, so as not to let Wayne’s eye slip out.
“Okay. One, that is foul, Mara, and I don’t understand, but that seems to be the running theme here. Two—what tape?”
I showed him the tape recorder in my other hand. “I’ll play it for you but not now. But Jude’s the one who let me out.”
Jamie’s eyes widened.
“And he’s the one who let you out too, I think. Listen, I’ll tell you everything, but now we need to go.”
“I appreciate this, Mara. I appreciate our situation, I really do. But listen to yourself. You’re talking about trusting the guy who is largely responsible for our current situation.”
I took a deep breath. Jamie was right. But he hadn’t heard what Jude had said about Noah. And now wasn’t the time to tell him. “I didn’t have much of a choice,” was all I said. “Look, I woke up in this room, and Wayne was dead.” Well, mostly dead. “The tape was in his hand, the door was locked, and on the tape Jude said the only way out was to use Wayne’s eye to trick the retinal scanner, which would get me out. It also opens the door to Kells’s office, which is where we have to go next. But first I thought, ‘Well, Mara, your situation can’t get much worse,’ and so I did what Jude told me to do. And that led me to you.” I started walking down the corridor, trying in vain to ignore the squish of Wayne’s eye in my fist.
Jamie didn’t have to work hard to keep up with me; he was taller than I remembered, taller than me. “And I’m happy about that, truly, but am nevertheless concerned about the veracity of our would-be savior.”