Pilcher said, “Ethan, would you mind stepping aside, letting me have a word?”

Ethan backed out of the limelight.

For a moment, Pilcher just stared into whatever camera was filming him.

He said finally, “Some of you know me as Dr. Jenkins. My real name is David Pilcher, and I’ll keep this short and sweet. All the things your dear sheriff just told you are true. If you think I’m here to explain myself to you, or to apologize, let me disabuse you of that notion. Everything you see, everything, I created. This town. This paradise. The technology that made it possible for you to be here. Your homes. Your beds. The water you drink. The food you eat. The jobs that occupy your time and make you feel like human beings. You draw breath for no other reason than I allow it. Let me show you something.”

Pilcher was replaced with an aerial view of a vast plain, where a swarm of several hundred abbies crossed the rolling grasslands.

Pilcher’s voice filled the theater over the images of the swarm.

He said, “I see you have one of these monsters, dead onstage. You should all take a good look at it, and know that there are millions and millions of them outside the safety of Wayward Pines. This is what a small swarm looks like.”

Pilcher returned, only now he was holding the camera himself, his face taking up the entire movie screen.

“Let’s be clear. For the last fourteen years, I’m the only God you’ve known, and it might be in your best interest to keep acting like I still am.”

A rock hurled out of the darkness and struck the screen.

Someone in the crowd shouted, “Fuck you!”

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Pilcher looked away, watching everything unfold on his wall of monitors.

From the wings, Ethan watched as three men climbed up onto the stage and began to tear down the screen.

Pilcher started to speak, but someone in the back of the hall pulled the projector out of the wall and smashed it into pieces.

Pilcher sat alone at his desk.

He picked up the bottle of scotch.

Drained it dry, threw it at the screens.

He had to hold onto the desk as he dragged himself onto his feet.

Swaying.

He’d been drunk.

Now he was annihilated.

Staggered away from the desk across the dark hardwood floor.

Vincent van Gogh watched him from the wall, his face shaven, his right ear bandaged.

Caught himself from falling on the large table in the center of the room. He stared down through the glass at the architectural miniature of Wayward Pines, tracing his finger across it to the intersection of Eighth and Main.

His fist went through on the first try and flattened the intricate model of the opera house.

His hand caught on the jags of glass as he pulled it out.

He punched his bloody fist through another part of the glass.

And another.

His hand was bleeding profusely by the time he’d broken out all of the glass, the tiny shards and pebbles littered across the town like the wake of a biblical hailstorm.

He stumbled alongside the table until he came to Ethan’s yellow Victorian.

Crushed it.

Crushed the sheriff’s station.

Crushed the house of Kate and Harold Ballinger.

It wasn’t nearly enough.

He grabbed hold of the table, bent his knees, lifted, and flipped it upside down.

Even after Ethan had told them everything, after the movie screen had been pulled down, people stayed in their seats.

Nobody would leave.

Some sitting catatonic. Stunned.

Others weeping openly.

By themselves.

Or in small groups.

Into the shoulders of spouses they’d been forced to marry.

The emotion in the room was staggering. Like the hushed devastation of a funeral. And in many ways, that’s exactly what it was. People mourning the loss of their previous lives. All the loved ones they would never see again. All that had been stolen.

So much to process.

So much to grieve.

And so much still to fear.

Ethan sat with his family onstage behind the curtain, holding them tightly.

Theresa whispered in his ear, “I’m so proud of what you did tonight. If you ever wonder what your best moment was, you just lived it.”

He kissed her.

Ben was crying, said, “The stuff I said to you earlier today on the bench…”

“It’s okay, Son.”

“I said you weren’t my father.”

“You didn’t mean it.”

“I thought Mr. Pilcher was good. I thought he was God.”

“It’s not your fault. He took advantage of you. Of every kid in that school.”

“What happens now, Dad?”

“Son, I don’t know, but no matter what, from this moment on, our lives are our own again. That’s all that matters.”

People began coming up to see the dead aberration.

It wasn’t a large one, just a hundred twenty pounds. Ethan figured its small size had kept the effect of the tranq dart going longer than he’d planned for.

It was past midnight, and he was looking out over all the people whose lives he had just immeasurably changed when he heard the sound of a phone ringing in the lobby.

He climbed down off the stage and moved up the aisle, pushing through the doors leading out of the theater.

The ringing was coming from the box office.

He sat down behind the ticket window, lifted the receiver to his ear.

“How you doing, Sheriff?”

Pilcher’s voice sounded whiskey-thickened and uncharacteristically happy.

“We should meet tomorrow,” Ethan said.

“Would you like to know what you’ve done?”

“I’m sorry?”

Pilcher spoke more slowly, deliberately. “Would you like to know what you’ve done?”

“I think I’ve got a pretty good idea.”

“Do you now? Well, I’ll tell you anyway. You just bought yourself a town.”

“I’m afraid I don’t know what that means.”

People were coming out of the theater and gathering around the ticket window.

“You don’t know what that means? Means they’re yours now. Each and every one of them. Congratulations.”

“I know what you did to your daughter.”

On the other end of the line—silence.

Ethan said, “What kind of a monster—”

“She betrayed me. Me and everyone in this mountain. She put the residents of Wayward Pines in danger. She didn’t just tell people about the blind spots in town. She created them. Sabotaged everything I—”

“Your daughter, David.”

“I gave her every opportunity to—”