“What do you want me to do?” she asked.

She was young, scared.

Ethan said, “Just hold your light. It’s Maggie, right?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m Ethan.”

“I know.”

“Let’s go.”

The group moved slowly enough as a whole for Ethan, Hecter, and Maggie to backpedal without fear of falling. The torchlight flickered across the crumbling concrete, illuminating an empty stretch of tunnel forty feet behind them, the walls fringed with light, the center space disturbingly black.

There was the sound of footsteps in water, a few hushed voices, and little else.

As they traveled, Ethan’s mind wandered to Theresa and Ben. They were only fifty feet away, but he didn’t like being any distance from them under these conditions.

They came to a junction.

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Maggie’s torch momentarily illuminated the intersecting tunnels.

For a split second, Ethan thought he heard screams echoing down through the dark, but they were lost to the sound of his group’s passage.

“Are we doing okay?” Maggie asked.

A tremor in her voice.

“Yes,” Ethan said. “We’ll be safe soon.”

“I’m cold.”

Her costume for the fête was a bikini under a raincoat, and fur-lined boots.

Ethan said, “We’ll have a fire where we’re going.”

“I’m scared.”

“You’re doing great, Maggie.”

Two junctions later, they hung a right into a new tunnel.

As they passed an old iron ladder that climbed into darkness, Ethan stopped.

“What’s that sound?” Hecter asked.

Ethan looked at Maggie. “Let me have your torch.”

“Why?”

He grabbed it and handed her his shotgun.

Climbed with one hand on the rungs, one hand gripping the torch.

After ten steps, Hecter’s voice reached up from below.

“Ethan, not to complain, but I can’t see a thing down here.”

“I’ll be back in one minute.”

“What are you doing?” Maggie called out. There were tears in her voice, but Ethan kept climbing, until his head bumped against the hatch. He clung to the top rung of the ladder, the trapdoor lit by the firelight, the flame warm near his face.

Maggie and Hecter were still calling out to him.

He eased the trapdoor open.

Compared to the tunnel, the starlit town was bright as day.

The noise that had drawn him up the ladder was screaming.

Human screaming.

And what he saw, he didn’t know how to process.

How do you make sense of people running down the middle of a street that could’ve been the cover of a Saturday Evening Post, chased by a horde of monsters, pale white, translucent in the night, some sprinting upright, others moving on all fours with a bounding gait like wolves?

You process it piecemeal.

A string of indelible images.

Shrieks from the nearest house as an abby plows through the front window.

Three abbies running down one of the officers of the fête, who stops to face them at the last moment and swings his machete too early, just missing the nose of the lead abby as the other two tackle him to the ground.

Thirty yards away, an abby pulling out loops of intestine and shoveling them into its jaws as the man pinned beneath its talons makes the last noise—awful, desperate screaming—he will ever make.

In the middle of Main Street, a large abby on top of Megan Fisher, violating her.

A dozen bodies already scattered across Main, most lying absolutely still in puddles of their own insides, two barely crawling, three being eaten alive.

Like a horrific game, no one running in any particular direction.

Ethan had the urge to go above ground and help. Save someone. Just one person. Kill just one of those monsters.

But it would be death.

He didn’t even have his shotgun.

This group—one quarter of Wayward Pines—had been ambushed en route to their trapdoor.

No weapons save a few machetes. But would it really matter if they’d all been armed? Would it matter for Ethan’s group if the abbies discovered the tunnels?

A terrifying thought.

Think about your family.

They’re below you right now.

They need you.

They need you alive.

“Ethan!” Maggie shouted. “Come on!”

Above ground, a man shot past, running as hard as Ethan had ever seen someone run, the speed and sheer energy output only attainable by someone in fear of an impending, unthinkable death.

The abby chasing him was on all fours and closing fast, and as the man glanced back, Ethan recognized him as Jim Turner, the town dentist.

A second abby collided with Jim at full speed, the man’s neck snapping from the brute force of the impact.

The questions were inescapable—what if Ethan hadn’t made this revelation to the town? What if he’d let them kill Kate and Harold, go on with things the way they’d always been? These people would certainly not be dying right now.

Ethan carefully lowered the trapdoor and descended.

Maggie was hysterical below him, Hecter trying to comfort her.

Ethan reached the bottom, traded back the torch for the gun, and said, “Let’s go.”

They moved quickly up the tunnel, the rest of their group out of sight.

“What was happening up there?” Maggie asked.

Ethan said, “One of the other groups didn’t make it underground in time.”

Hecter said, “We have to help them.”

“There is no helping them.”

“What does that mean?” Maggie asked.

Ethan glimpsed a shimmer of torchlight in the distance and quickened his pace.

He said, “We need to focus on getting our people to safety. Nothing else.”

“Were people dying?” Maggie asked.

“Yes.”

“How many?”

“I imagine all of them eventually.”

THE RICHARDSONS

Bob Richardson slid in behind the wheel of his 1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera and cranked the engine as his wife, Barbara, piled into the front passenger seat beside him.

“This is the stupidest idea,” she said.

He put the car into gear and eased out into the dark street.

“What’s yours?” he asked. “Wait inside the house for those things to break in?”

“Your lights aren’t on,” Barbara said.

“That’s intentional, darling.”

“You don’t think they can hear our engine?”

“Will you shut up and let me drive please?”