His vision blurs.

He glances back.

Glimpses movement in the pines—pale forms pursuing him on all fours through the trees.

He’s gasping for air, thinking, I’m going to die my first day out of suspension.

The world goes black, and his face is suddenly freezing.

He hasn’t lost consciousness.

He’s just facedown in the snow, unable to move.

As the approaching screams grow louder, he’s suddenly hoisted out of the powder. From his new vantage point, draped over Arnold Pope’s shoulder, he sees the woods joggling behind him and humanoid creatures bearing down, the closest within fifty feet.

Pope shoves him through the titanium door, and as Pilcher crashes to the floor, Pope scrambles inside.

Pilcher’s face presses against the cold concrete.

Pope shouts, “Get back! It’s gonna be close!”

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The portal slams home.

On the other side, a series of dull thuds crashes into the metal.

Safe now, Pilcher’s consciousness is ebbing.

The last thing he hears before slipping under is Pam’s voice cutting through the hysteria, shouting, “What the f**k are those things?”

I

TWO HOURS AFTER ETHAN BURKE’S REVELATION

JENNIFER ROCHESTER

The house was so damn dark.

Jennifer tried the kitchen light out of instinct, but nothing happened.

She felt her way around the fridge to the cabinet over the stove, opened it, and grabbed the crystal candlestick holder, a candle, and the box of matches. She turned on the gas and struck a match to the back burner and set the teakettle over the hissing blue flame.

Lighting what was left of the candle, she sat down at the breakfast table.

In her life before, she’d been a pack-a-day smoker, and God could she use a cigarette right now—something to steady her nerves and her hands, which wouldn’t stop trembling.

As her eyes filled with tears, the candlelight fractured.

All she could think of was her husband, Teddy, and how far apart she felt from him.

Two thousand years apart to be exact.

She’d always harbored hope that the world was still out there. Beyond the fence. Beyond this nightmare. That her husband was still out there. Her home. Her job at the university. On some level, it was that hope that had gotten her by all these years. Hope that one day she might wake up back in Spokane. Teddy would be lying beside her, still sleeping, and this place—Wayward Pines—would all have been a dream. She would slip quietly out of bed and go into the kitchen and cook him eggs. Brew a pot of strong coffee. She would be waiting for him at the breakfast table when he stumbled out of bed in that disgusting robe, disheveled and sleepy and everything she loved. She’d say, “I had the strangest dream last night,” but as she’d try to explain it, all that she’d experienced in Wayward Pines would slip back into the fog of forgotten dreams.

She’d just smile across the table at her husband and say, “I lost it.”

Now, her hope was gone.

The loneliness was staggering.

But underneath it simmered anger.

Anger that this had been done to her.

Rage at all the loss.

The teakettle began to whistle.

She struggled to her feet, her mind racing.

Lifting the kettle off the flame, the whistling died away, and she poured the boiling water into her favorite ceramic mug in which she kept a tea infuser perpetually filled with chamomile leaves. Tea in one hand, candle in the other, she moved out of the dark kitchen and into the hallway.

Most of the town was still down at the theater, reeling from the sheriff’s revelation, and maybe she should’ve stayed with everyone else; but the truth of it was that she wanted to be alone. Tonight, she just needed to cry in bed. If sleep came, great, but she wasn’t exactly expecting it.

She turned the corner at the bannister and started up the creaking stairs, candlelight flickering across the walls. The power had gone out several times before, but she couldn’t escape the feeling that tonight of all nights meant something.

The fact that she’d locked every door and every window gave her some small—very small—peace of mind.

SHERIFF ETHAN BURKE

Ethan stared up at twenty-five feet of steel pylons and spiked conductors wrapped in coils of razor wire. The fence usually hummed with enough current to electrocute a person one thousand times over. So loud you could hear it a hundred yards away and feel it in your fillings at close proximity.

Tonight, Ethan heard nothing.

Worse still, the thirty-foot gate stood wide open.

Locked open.

Shreds of mist skirted past like the front edge of an approaching storm, and Ethan gazed out into the black woods beyond the fence. Over the pounding of his heart, he heard shrieks beginning to echo in the forest.

The abbies were on their way.

David Pilcher’s final words to him were set on repeat.

Hell is coming to you.

This was Ethan’s fault.

Hell is coming to you.

He’d made the mistake of calling that psychofuck’s bluff.

Hell is coming to you.

And telling people the truth.

And now everyone in town, his wife and son included, was going to die.

Ethan sprinted back through the forest, the panic growing with every stride, every desperate breath. He weaved between the pines, now running alongside the quiet fence.

His Bronco lay just ahead and already the screams were louder, closer.

Jumping in behind the wheel, he cranked the engine and sped off into the trees, pushing the suspension package to the limit and jarring the last few jags of glass out of what was left of the windshield.

He reached the road that looped back into town and roared up the embankment, back onto pavement.

Pinned the gas pedal to the floorboard.

The engine wailed.

He shot out of the trees and raced beside a pasture.

High beams blazed across the billboard at the edge of town, showing a family of four waving, smiling those carefree 1950s shit-eating grins over the slogan:

    WELCOME TO WAYWARD PINES

WHERE PARADISE IS HOME

 Not anymore, Ethan thought.

If they were lucky, the abbies would reach the dairy first, slaughtering their way through the cattle before tearing into town.

There it was.

Straight ahead.

The outskirts of Wayward Pines.

On a clear day, the town defined perfection. Neat blocks of brightly colored Victorian houses. White picket fences. Lush, green grass. Main Street looked like something built for tourists to wander down and dream of retiring here to live the good life. The quaint life. The mountain walls that surrounded the town promised shelter and security. At first blush, nothing about it felt like a place you couldn’t leave—a place where you’d be killed for even trying.