The key wouldn’t turn.
As he fumbled with the next one, a terrifying thought crossed his mind—what if Maggie’s car was actually parked across the street? Or up the curb a little ways? It’s not like she ever had to drive it.
Then I will be eaten alive in this Jeep.
A slashing behind Ethan.
He glanced back as a black talon tore through the plastic rear window.
The view through the old, dirty plastic was blurry, but he could see enough of the monster to draw a bead.
He shot through the window.
Blood spattered across the plastic and the pistol’s slide locked back.
With only one magazine, it would take him a minimum of thirty seconds to dig out the box of .50 cal rounds, reload it—
He hadn’t brought extra ammo for the Desert Eagle.
Only the Mossberg.
The abbies were closing in. He could see a dozen of them through the windshield and hear more heading toward him from Maggie’s house.
He grasped the second key, thinking, How strange that whether I live or die comes down to whether or not this key will turn.
It went into the ignition.
He jammed his foot down hard into the clutch.
The engine turned over several times—
And sputtered to life.
The gurgling noise of it was life.
Ethan popped the emergency brake and wobbled the gearshift, which operated a three-speed manual transmission.
He shifted into reverse, then gunned the gas.
The Jeep lurched back and crashed into the station wagon, pinning a screaming abby to the bumper. Ethan shifted into first, cranked the wheel, floored the pedal.
Out into the street.
If he’d been driving something substantial he wouldn’t have hesitated to plow right through them, but the Jeep was compact, with a narrow wheelbase that made it prone to rolling over.
He doubted it could sustain a head-on collision with even a modest-size bull.
It felt so good to accelerate.
He took a sudden left turn to miss an abby, the Jeep leaning over on two wheels.
Brought it back down, four coming straight at him, undaunted, no signs of deviating from their kamikaze course.
He turned hard, drove over the curb, plowed through a picket fence at thirty miles per hour, through the front yard of a corner lot, and punched through the fence again on the other side, the Jeep taking a thunderous jarring as it came back off the curve and hit the road, tires squealing as he straightened out the steering wheel.
The road ahead was clear.
Ethan shifted into second.
Whatever was under the hood of this thing had some meat on its bones.
Ethan glanced in the side mirror.
A swarm of abbies, thirty or forty strong, was chasing him down the middle of the street, their screeches audible even over the roar of the eight-cylinder engine.
He hit sixty blasting through the next block.
Passed a toddler park where a dozen baby abbies were feeding on a pile of bodies in the grass.
Must have been forty or fifty bodies. One of the doomed groups.
Sixth Avenue was coming to an abrupt end.
The forest of towering pines looming in the distance.
Ethan dropped a gear.
He’d outrun the abbies by a quarter mile at least.
At Thirteenth Street, he took a hard right turn and punched the pedal again.
He drove alongside the woods for a block, and then past the hospital.
Ethan dropped one more gear, took a slow left turn onto the main drag out of town.
Wayward Pines dwindled away in the rearview mirror.
He drove past the goodbye sign, wondering if anyone had made it this far into the woods when the mayhem had ensued.
As if in answer to his question, he passed an Oldsmobile parked on the side of the road. Nearly every shard of glass had been busted out, the exterior covered in dents and scratches. Someone had tried to flee to the outskirts of town, only to have a group of abbies find them.
At the Sharp Curve Ahead sign, he veered off the road into the forest.
Kept his speed up in the trees.
The boulders appeared in the distance.
He had a pocketful of shotgun shells and no shotgun.
A devastating pistol with no rounds left.
Not exactly the ideal setup for what he was about to do.
The large outcropping that masked the entrance to the superstructure loomed a hundred yards ahead.
Ethan shifted into second, tightened his grip on the steering wheel.
He had the pedal down against the floorboard, the heat of the overworked engine coming through the vents.
At twenty-five yards, he braced himself.
The speedometer holding steady.
He was driving at forty miles per hour into a wall of rock.
She was in Seattle, their old home in Queen Anne—her family in the backyard on one of those perfect summer evenings when you could see everything. Rainier. The Puget Sound and the Olympics across the water. Lake Union and the skyline. Everything cool and green and the water shimmering as the sun fell. All that suffering through the chill, gray days of endless drizzle was rewarded with nights like this. The city almost too beautiful to take.
Ethan stood by the grill, cooking salmon filets on planks of wine-soaked cedar. Ben strummed an acoustic guitar in a hammock. She was there. Everything so vibrant, the dream verging toward lucidity. She even questioned the reality as she moved to her husband and placed her hands on his shoulders, but she could smell the fish cooking, could actually feel the sunlight hit her eyes, and the good bourbon she was drinking was a pleasant lethargy in her legs.
She said, “I think those look ready,” and then the world began to shake and even though her eyes were already open, she somehow opened them again to find Ben shaking her awake.
She sat up from the cold rock floor of the cavern, her bearings lost. For a moment, she had no idea where she was. People were running past her toward a heavy log door that now stood wide open.
The dream was fading fast, the real world rushing back in like a pounding hangover. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d dreamed of her life before, and the timing now seemed especially cruel.
She looked at Ben and said, “Why is the door open?”
“We have to leave, Mom.”
“The abbies are coming back. One of the watchers saw a swarm of them scaling the cliffs.”
That jerked her back into full consciousness.
“How many?” she asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Why’s everyone leaving the cavern?”
“They don’t think the doors can handle another attack. Come on.” He took hold of her hands and pulled her up onto her feet.