Right on the cusp of uncontrolled panic, something gave.
A trickle of precious air slid down his throat.
He tried not to let on.
Made his eyes bug out as he inched his hand into his back pocket.
“As you lay there suffocating, I want you to know something.”
Ethan worked his thumb into the hole in the blade.
“Whatever you were trying to pull off, you failed, and Theresa and Ben…”
He produced a wet, choking sound that made Pam smile.
“What I do to them will make what we did to Alyssa seem like a day at the spa.”
He flicked the blade open and shoved it straight into Pam’s leg.
It was so sharp, he only knew he’d aimed well when she gasped.
He turned his wrist, turned the blade.
Pam shrieked and jerked back away from him.
Blood darkened her jeans, ran down over her shoe, into the pine needles.
Ethan struggled to sit up.
Came painfully to his feet.
His kidney was throbbing but at least he could breathe again.
Pam was dragging herself away from him with her good leg, seething, “You’re dead! You’re f**king dead!”
He picked up the Desert Eagle and followed her.
As she screamed at him, he bent over and brought the heavy pistol down on the back of her head.
The forest was quiet again.
The evening gone deep blue.
He was f**ked.
How long could Pam be AWOL before Pilcher sent out a search party? Strike that. There wouldn’t even be a search. He’d just dial in on her chip and come right to the fence.
With the Harpy, Ethan cut out a large swath of Pam’s jeans, exposing the back of her left leg.
A shame she couldn’t be conscious for this.
Wayward Pines, Idaho
New Year’s Eve, 2013
Pilcher closed the doors to his office behind him.
Practically vibrating with energy.
Moving past the architect’s miniature of the future Wayward Pines, he opened the closet, where a pristine tux hung from the rack.
He turned, smiled.
“Sweetheart, I didn’t see you there.”
His wife sat on one of the couches that faced the wall of screens.
He started unbuttoning his shirt as he walked toward her.
Said, “I thought you’d be dressed by now.”
“Come sit with me, Dave.”
Pilcher took a seat beside her on the plush leather.
She put her hand on his knee.
“Big night,” she said.
“Does it get any bigger?”
“I’m really happy for you. You did it.”
“We did it. Without you, I—”
Her eyes welled up. “I’ve decided to stay behind.”
“I want to see the end of my story in the present. In this world.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Please don’t raise your voice with me.”
“I’m not, I just… tonight, of all nights, you choose to tell me this. How long have you felt this way?”
“A while. I didn’t want to disappoint you. There were so many times I almost said something.”
“Are you scared? Is that it? Look, that’s totally normal.”
“It’s not that.”
Pilcher leaned back into the cushion and stared at the blank screens.
He said, “Our entire life together has been building toward tonight. It’s all been about tonight. And you’re walking away from it?”
“This means you’re walking away from your daughter.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
He stared at her. “How does it not? Explain that to me.”
“Alyssa is ten years old. Middle school is right around the corner. I don’t want her first dance to be in this town that’s not even built, two thousand years from now. Her first kiss. University. Seeing the world. What happens to those moments?”
“She can still have them. Well, some of them.”
“She’s already sacrificed so much since we’ve moved into the superstructure. Her life, my life, is here and now, and you don’t know what the future holds. You don’t know what this world will be like when you come out of suspension.”
“Elisabeth, you’ve known me for twenty-five years. Have I ever done or said anything that would lead you to believe I would allow you to take my daughter away from me?”
“Please just answer that.”
“It’s not fair to her.”
“Not fair? She’s getting an opportunity no human being has ever been given. To see the future.”
“I want her to have a normal life, David.”
“Where is she?”
“Right now. Where is my daughter?”
“In her room, packing. We’ll stay through the party.”
“Please.” The desperation in his voice surprised him. “How do you expect me to be separated from my daughter—”
“Oh, f**k off.” A flash of pent-up fury. “She barely knows you as it is.”
“I barely know you as it is. Let’s not pretend all this hasn’t been your obsession. Your first love. Not me. Not Alyssa.”
“That’s not true.”
“This project has consumed you. The last five years, I’ve watched you change into something deeply unpleasant. You’ve crossed more than a few lines, and I wonder if you fully even know what you’ve become.”
“I’ve done what I had to do to reach tonight. I make no apologies. I said from the beginning there was nothing that was going to stop me.”
“Well, I hope it’s all worth it in the end.”
“Please don’t do this. This should be the greatest night of my life. Our lives. I want you there on the other side when we all wake up.”
“I can’t do it. I’m sorry.”
Pilcher took a long breath in, let it slowly out.
“This must have been difficult for you,” he said.
“You have no idea.”
“You’ll at least stay on through the party?”
He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.
Couldn’t remember the last time he’d done that.