She got down on her hands and knees and crawled across the floor as the footsteps outside her door drew closer. Flattening herself, she squeezed under the bed, her heart pounding against the dusty hardwood floor.
She could hear more of them climbing the stairs.
The door to her bedroom exploded off the hinges.
The footsteps of whatever entered her bedroom made a clicking sound on the hardwood. Like claws.
She smelled it, stronger than ever, a potpourri of dead things—rot and blood and an otherworldly stench beyond her understanding.
She didn’t make a sound.
By the side of the bed, the floorboards cracked, as if with the weight of something kneeling down.
She held her breath.
Something hard and smooth grazed her arm.
She screamed and pulled back.
Her shoulder suddenly felt cold.
She put her hand to it.
It came away wet. She’d been cut by something.
Whispered, “Please God . . .”
There were others in the room now.
Oh, Teddy. She just wanted to see his face. One last time. If this was really the end.
The bed lifted, one of the legs scraping across her side as it crashed into the wall.
In total darkness, she couldn’t move, paralyzed with fear. Her shoulder bled profusely but she couldn’t feel a thing, her body gone numb, mechanical, as the fight-or-flight response kicked in.
They were near her now, standing over her, their alien respirations fast and shallow, like panting dogs.
She put her head between her knees in the brace position.
Two weeks before they’d come on their fateful trip to Wayward Pines, she and Teddy had spent a Saturday at Riverfront Park in Spokane. Thrown a picnic blanket down in the grass and stayed until dusk, reading their books and watching the white water spill over the falls.
And for a second, she captured his face. Not straight on, but from the side. Late sunlight fringing what hair he had left, glinting off the wire-rimmed glasses. He was watching the sun go down over the falls. Content. In the moment. And she had been too.
He turned to look at her.
As the end came.
Brad was shoving the ammo-laden rucksack through the busted back window as Ethan jumped in behind the wheel.
He checked his watch.
They’d burned eleven minutes.
“Let’s go!” Ethan said.
Brad yanked the door open and climbed onto the broken seat.
Headlights blazed through the glass doors into the lobby of the sheriff’s station.
Ethan glanced in the rearview mirror. Through the reddish glow of the taillights, a pale form streaked past.
He shifted into reverse.
They backed down the sidewalk and Ethan’s head hit the ceiling as the tires launched off the curb.
Ethan braked hard, brought it to a dead stop in the middle of the road, and shifted into drive.
Something struck the passenger-side door, Brad screamed, and by the time Ethan looked over, Brad’s legs were already sliding through the empty window frame.
Ethan couldn’t see the blood in the dark, but he could smell it—a strong, sudden waft of rust in the air.
He pulled his pistol.
The screams had gone silent.
All he could hear was the fading scrape of Brad’s shoes dragging across the pavement.
Ethan grabbed the flashlight, which Brad had dropped between the seats.
Shined it out into the street.
Oh my God.
The beam struck an abby.
It was crouched on its hind legs over Brad, its face buried in his throat.
It looked up, mouth blood-dark, and hissed at the light with the venomous warning of a wolf protecting its kill.
Behind it, the light showed more pale figures coming down the middle of the street.
Ethan punched the gas.
In the rearview mirror, a dozen abbies chased the car on all fours. The one out in front came up alongside his door. It leapt at Ethan’s window, just missed, hit the side of the car instead, and bounced off.
Ethan watched it tumble across the street as he forced the pedal to the floor.
When he looked back through the windshield, a small abby stood twenty feet ahead of the grille, frozen in the headlights, teeth bared.
At contact, the bumper blasted the abby straight back thirty feet. He ran it over and dragged it for half a block, the Bronco jarring so violently he could barely keep his grip on the steering wheel.
The undercarriage finally spit it out.
Ethan raced north.
The rearview mirror showed a dark, empty street.
He breathed again.
Near the north end of town, Ethan turned west, headed several blocks toward Main until the headlights swiped across a line of people in the street, faces lit by a handful of torches.
He steered the Bronco over the curb.
Left the keys in the ignition so the lights would keep burning.
He went around to the back of the Bronco, lowered the tailgate, and grabbed one of the three loaded shotguns.
Kate was standing beside an open trapdoor behind a bench, its underside constructed of one-by-four planks and rusted hinges, the top camouflaged with dirt and grass. She and another man were lowering people, one by one, underground.
Their eyes met as he approached.
He shoved a shotgun into her hands and looked back at the crowd—still twenty-five or thirty left to go.
“They need to be underground five minutes ago,” Ethan said.
“Going as fast as we can.”
“Where are Ben and Theresa?”
“Already down below.”
“The abbies are here, Kate.”
He saw the question in her eyes before she asked, “Where’s Brad?”
“They got him, and I’m telling you, we have a couple minutes tops and then it’s all over.”
The crowd was moving with the efficiency of an evacuation—orderly, no one talking, a hushed intensity in the air.
Screams—human and inhuman—were erupting across the town with greater frequency.
Ethan turned to the crowd.
He said, “I have a carful of weapons. If you ever owned firearms in your prior life, if you have any experience or comfort level whatsoever, come with me.”
Ten people stepped out of line and followed Ethan over to the back of the Bronco.
Hecter Gaither, the town pianist, stood among them. He was tall and lanky, salt-and-pepper hair with whitewashed wings. Fragile, almost regal features. For the fête, he’d dressed up like a murderous fairy.
Ethan asked, “What’d you shoot in your past life, Hecter?”
“I used to go duck hunting with my father every Christmas morning.”
Ethan handed him a Mossberg.