“Maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. We had our chance. We failed.”
“We have to keep trying. Keep fighting.”
“Because that’s what we do.”
“I don’t know if I’m cut out for this.”
The door to their bedroom creaked open.
“Mom? Dad?” Ben’s voice.
“What’s up, buddy?” Theresa asked.
“I can’t sleep.”
“Come get in bed with us.”
Ben crawled across the covers and burrowed down between them.
“Is that better?” Ethan asked.
“Yeah,” Ben said. “Much better.”
They all lay in the dark, no one talking.
Ben dosed off first.
And still Ethan couldn’t sleep.
He sat up on one elbow and watched his family, watched them all through the night, until the sky lightened in the windows and dawn broke on their final day in Wayward Pines.
In every house throughout the valley, phones began to ring.
Ethan walked in from the kitchen holding a cup of black coffee and answered their rotary phone in the living room on the third ring.
Even though he knew the message that was coming, it still twisted his stomach up in knots as he held the receiver to his ear and listened to his own voice say, “People of Wayward Pines, it’s time.”
Ethan held the front door open for Theresa as she stepped out onto the porch carrying a cardboard box filled with framed photographs of their family—the only material possessions they had decided were worth taking.
It was a beautiful morning for leaving.
Up and down their block, other families were emerging from their houses, some carrying small boxes filled with their most precious belongings, others with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
The Burkes moved down the porch, through the front yard, and out into the street.
All the residents converged on Main and moved as one toward the forest on the southern outskirts of town.
Ethan spotted Kate up ahead, a backpack slung over her shoulder, walking with Adam Hassler.
Caught a stab of something he couldn’t quite wrap his head around, thinking maybe some emotions were too complex. But wherever this one fell on the color wheel, it was definitely in the neighborhood of nostalgia.
He let go of Theresa’s hand and said, “I’ll be right back.”
Ethan caught up with his former partner as the group walked past the Aspen House.
“Morning,” he said.
She glanced over, smiled. “Ready to do this?”
“It’s insane, right?”
Hassler said, “Hey, Ethan.” A month in civilization had done wonders for the man. Hassler had put on enough weight to look almost like his old self again.
“Adam. How you guys holding up?”
“All right, I guess.”
Kate said, “I feel like I’m about to get on this terrifying ride, you know? No idea where it’s going.”
They passed the hospital, Ethan thinking back to that first time he’d woken up to the smiling face of Nurse Pam. Those first days he’d wandered in a daze around this town, confused, still trying to call home and unable to reach his family. The first time he’d seen Kate, nine years older than she should’ve been.
What a journey.
Ethan looked at Kate. “It’s going to get crazy in a little while. I was thinking maybe we should say goodbye here.”
Kate stopped in the middle of the road, the last residents of Wayward Pines moving past them. The way she smiled, the early sun in her face, eyes squinting—she looked like the Kate of old. Of Seattle. Of the worst and the best mistake he’d ever made.
“Thank you for coming to look for me all those years ago,” Kate said. “I’m sorry it ended up like this.”
“I wouldn’t change any of it.”
“You did the right thing,” she whispered. “Never doubt it.”
Theresa reached them.
She smiled at Kate.
She went to Hassler and hugged him.
As they came apart, she asked, “Do you guys want to walk with us for a while?”
“We’d love to,” Adam said. Ethan wondered, as he stood there with his wife, his son, his former mistress, and the man who had once betrayed him, Is this what a family looks like in this new world? Because no matter what had happened in the past, in this harrowing present, everybody needed everybody.
As the last of the crowd pushed on past them, they lingered where the main road out of Wayward Pines entered the darkness of the forest.
Behind them, the town stood abandoned.
The morning sun glaring down against the streets.
The storefront glass shimmering on the west side of Main.
They took in all those picket-fenced Victorians.
The surrounding cliffs.
The turning aspen trees as the wind stripped their branches of the last golden leaves.
In this moment, it was so . . . idyllic.
Pilcher’s brilliant, mad creation.
At length, they turned away and moved on down the road together, into the woods, away from Wayward Pines.
Ethan sat at the main console in the surveillance center, Alan on one side, Francis Leven on the other.
“What exactly is the point of this message?” Leven asked.
“In case someone stumbles across this place,” Ethan said.
“I find that highly unlikely.”
“Do you know what you want to say?” Alan asked.
“I wrote something down last night.”
Alan’s fingers danced across the touch screen.
“Ready when you are,” he said.
“Let’s do this.”
Ethan took the scrap of paper out of his back pocket, unfolded it, and leaned into the microphone.
He said his piece.
When he’d finished, Alan stopped the recording.
“Well said, Sheriff.”
Above them, the bank of twenty-five monitors still streamed a rotating series of surveillance feeds from the valley.
The empty corridors of the hospital basement.
The empty hallway in the school.
The empty park.
Ethan looked over at Francis Leven. “We ready?” he asked.
“All nonessential systems have been powered down.”
“It’s already underway.”
As Ethan walked alone down the Level 1 corridor, the overhead lights winked out, one by one. When he reached the sliding glass doors that opened into the ark, he glanced back down the passage as the last light at the far end of the corridor went dark.