That swarm of abbies appeared to be on the move.

He could hear them screeching and screaming as they pushed on up the valley, leaving him a clear path to home.

Tobias wrote:

Day 1,308

I’ll keep this short and sweet. My last night in the wild and so many emotions. I can see the mountains that surround Wayward Pines from my camp, and with any luck, I’ll come out of the cold tomorrow afternoon. There are so many things I’m looking forward to. A warm bed. A warm meal. To speak to another human being again. To sit down with a glass of whiskey and tell people everything I’ve seen.

I alone have the key to what will save us all. I’m literally the one man in the world who can save the world. I carry that knowledge on my shoulders, but none of it really matters.

Because the closer I get to Wayward Pines, all I can think about is you.

Not a single day has passed when I haven’t thought about you. About our time together. About how it felt to hold you that last night.

And now, tomorrow, I’ll see you again.

My sweet, dear angel.

Can you feel that I’m close? Don’t you know it in your bones somehow, that in a matter of hours, we’ll be together again?

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I love you, Theresa Burke.

Always.

Never thought I’d get to write these words but…

This is Adam Tobias Hassler…

Signing off.

27

The torched car was still smoking. The traffic light was dark and the streetlamps had gone out. Absent a single light in operation in the entire valley, the stars burned down with a vivid, icy intensity.

Ethan walked out into the middle of the street, Theresa clinging to one arm, Kate on the other side of him. If it irked Theresa for the three of them to be so close, she didn’t show it. Truth be told, Ethan wasn’t sure how he felt walking between them.

So much love and passion and pain.

Like he was caught between repelling forces.

The same poles of two magnets in dangerous proximity.

People were beginning to filter out of the theater.

Ethan handed Kate the bullhorn, said, “Do me a favor. Keep everybody here. I need to go check on something.”

“What’s happening?” Theresa asked.

“I’m not entirely sure.”

He pulled away from her and headed toward the Bronco.

The abby had wrecked it. There was a large hole in the center of the windshield and the front seats were covered in glass and eviscerated, foam padding spilling out. He couldn’t even see through the windshield, so he climbed up on the hood and stomped out the rest of the glass.

He drove south up Main, wind streaming through the open window frame and his eyes watering against it.

When he reached the curve, he veered off the road and followed the tire tracks from his last foray into the forest, high beams shooting through the trees.

He found his way back to the dead pine stump and turned off the engine.

Stepped out into the dark forest.

Something was wrong, and as he approached the fence, he realized it was the silence that unnerved him.

It shouldn’t be this quiet.

Those conductors and studded cables should be humming.

He walked west beside the dead fence.

Began to jog.

Then run.

After a hundred yards, he came to the gate—a thirty-foot, hinged section that provided egress from the valley. It was how nomads left, and—rarely—returned. Pilcher sometimes sent trucks through it into the wild to harvest firewood or obtain short-range reconnaissance.

Until this moment, Ethan had never actually experienced the terror of seeing it locked wide open.

As he stood staring through the gate into the unimaginably hostile country beyond, he was gripped with the cold, sinking conclusion that he had misread Pilcher completely.

A scream rose up out of the woods.

No more than a mile away.

Another scream answered.

Then another.

And another.

The noise expanding and growing until the ground seemed to tremble with it, as if all of hell was running through the forest.

Toward the dead fence.

The open gate.

Toward Wayward Pines.

For two seconds, Ethan stood frozen, a single question looping through his head as the panic and the fear and the terror swelled inside of him.

What. Have. You. Done?

And he began to run.



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