For what seemed a long, long time, neither of them spoke.
Finally, Ethan said, “I never made it to the fence, but I did wander a ways into the woods beyond the curve in the road at the south end of town. This was just last night. I could swear I heard something.”
“It was a scream. Or a cry. Maybe something in between. And the weird thing was this feeling like I’d heard it before. In a dream. Or another life. It filled me with terror on such a base level, like the howl of a wolf. Something deeply ingrained. My only response was to run. So now I hear you telling me about this electrified fence, and I’m wondering, why is it there? Is it to keep us in? Or to keep something out?”
At first, Ethan thought the sound was coming from inside his head—some aftereffects of the drug Nurse Pam had given him, or the trauma of Pope’s beating and everything he’d experienced since.
But the noise quickly grew.
Something was ringing.
Many things were ringing.
Hundreds and hundreds of them.
“What is that?” Ethan asked, struggling onto his feet.
Beverly was already at the door, fighting to pull it open, the hinges grinding, and then a blast of colder air swept into the crypt and the noise grew suddenly loud.
Ethan realized what it was.
The sound of five hundred rotary telephones going off at once, filling the valley with a bright, eerie ringing.
“Oh God,” Beverly said.
“This is how it started the night Bill died.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Every telephone in every house in Wayward Pines is ringing right now. People are being told to find and kill you.”
Ethan braced for the impact of that piece of information, but he was only vaguely aware that he should be scared shitless, something he knew but didn’t feel, his mind already roping itself off, sliding into that numb, adrenalized state of rote survival he’d tasted those few times in his life when he’d had the misfortune to lock eyes with death. No place for extraneous, wasted thought or emotion. All power diverted and channeled so it could heighten the only thing that could keep him alive—sensory perception.
“I’ll go ditch the chip and hide here,” he said. “Wait them out.”
“There are just over five hundred people living in Wayward Pines, and every one of them will be looking for you. I’m thinking eventually someone’s going to come through this door, and you don’t want to be here when that happens.”
Ethan grabbed the flashlight out of her hand and flicked it on, limped over to the duffel bag.
“What’s in here?” he asked, going down on his knees beside the bag.
“Clothes for you. Shoes. I had to guess your size.”
“Sorry. Couldn’t get my hands on any.”
Ethan started pulling things out—a long-sleeved black T, black jeans, black shoes, two dozen bottles of water—
“Turn off the light!” Beverly hissed at him.
Ethan killed it.
“You have to go right now,” she said. “They’re coming.”
“Just let me get dressed and—”
“They’re already in the cemetery. I can see their flashlights.”
Ethan left everything strewn across the floor and staggered over to the iron door. Out in the darkness, he spotted four points of light weaving through the headstones.
They appeared to be a few hundred feet away, although judging distance was a challenge in this weather.
The telephones had gone quiet.
Beverly whispered in Ethan’s ear, “You need to find the river at the southwest end of town. That’s the route Bill and I had planned to take. It’s the only direction I haven’t thoroughly explored. Bill went up a little ways and thought it looked promising.”
“Where do we meet?”
“Just get to the river and follow it upstream. I’ll find you.”
Beverly pulled the hood of her poncho over her head, stepped down out of the mausoleum, and sprinted off into the night, Ethan listening as the sound of her footsteps dwindled away and were soon lost to the steady rain.
He lingered in the threshold, alternating his attention between the approaching lights and the pitch darkness of the crypt, wondering if he had two minutes to spend getting dressed and gathering supplies or if he just needed to go.
The beams of light drew closer, all four of them moving in the general direction of the mausoleum and bringing voices along with them.
He was wasting precious seconds.
If they reach you while you’re in the crypt, you’re dead. There is no escape, and they could be here in less time than it will take you to dress.
Wearing nothing but a hospital gown, shoeless, his bare feet swishing through grass and squishing through patches of cold mud.
Rain pelting him.
Wracked with chills.
His left hamstring screaming with every flexion.
He shut it all away—the fear, the agony, the cold—and tore through the pines, dodging gravestones.
The four points of light behind him didn’t appear to have noticed his exit as they were still on an intersecting trajectory with the mausoleum.
In near total darkness, the disorientation was staggering. He had no idea if he was heading north or south, toward town or away, but he kept running until he reached a stone wall that formed the decrepit border of the cemetery.
Climbing over, he straddled it, taking a moment to catch his breath and glance back the way he’d come.
At least a half dozen newbies in addition to the original four, and there were more appearing every second behind those, a veritable army of fireflies emerging in the dark and all moving toward him with a kind of bobbling motion that made him fear the people holding them were running.
Ethan dropped the microchip on the stone wall.
Then he swung his legs over and hopped down on the other side, wincing at the biting pain in his left hamstring. But he ignored it and pushed on into a field of cut grass.
On the far side, playground equipment gleamed and he could see the rain pouring through the illumination of an overhanging streetlamp.
Beyond, in a stand of dark pines—more flashlights, more voices.
Someone shouted back in the cemetery, and though he couldn’t tell if this was directed at him, it had the effect of accelerating his pace.
Approaching the swing set and sliding board, it occurred to him where he was, and the burbling of running water above the rainfall and the pounding of his heart confirmed it.