“Oh God, don’t say that.”
“I love you, my girls. Now I have to shut this door.”
“Quiet, Jess,” he whispered.
Jim Turner kissed his wife.
He kissed his daughter.
Then he shut them into the bedroom closet on the second floor of their lavender-colored Victorian.
His toolbox was already open on the floor.
He flicked on his flashlight and chose a suitable two-by-four from the pieces of scrap lumber he’d carried in from the shed—remnants of a doghouse he’d built last summer.
Those warm afternoons working in the backyard . . .
Mrs. Miller’s screaming jettisoned the memory into oblivion.
“No-no-no-no-no-no-no! Oh Goooooooddddd!”
Jessica was crying in the closet, Gracie struggling to comfort her.
Jim grabbed a hammer. He started nails on each end of the board. Screws would have been preferable but there was no time. He held the pine board across the doorframe and drove the nails into the studs.
His mind wouldn’t stop.
He kept replaying what the sheriff had said, but he couldn’t wrap his head around it.
How could this be all that was left of humanity?
By the time he had four boards nailed across the doorframe, the Millers had gone quiet across the street.
He dropped the hammer, wiped his brow.
Dripping with sweat.
Kneeling down, he put his lips to the closet door.
“I can hear you,” his wife said.
“You’re nailed in,” Jim said. “Now I have to go find a place to hide.”
“Please be safe.”
He put his hand on the door.
“I love you both so much.”
Gracie said something back but he couldn’t hear the words. Too muffled. Too faint. Too ruined by tears.
Rising to his feet, he grabbed the flashlight and the hammer—the nearest thing to a weapon in his toolbox.
At the bedroom door, he turned the lock and closed it gently behind him.
The hallway was dark.
The last half hour had been so filled with shouting and shrieks that the silence struck him wrong, like a lie.
Where will you hide?
How will you survive?
He stopped at the top of the staircase. He was tempted to use the light, but feared it might draw attention.
With a hand on the bannister for a guide, he went slowly down the creaking steps. The living room stood in impenetrable shadow. Jim moved to the front door. He’d locked the dead bolt, but he had a feeling that didn’t matter. From what he’d seen, these things were running through the windows.
On the other side of the door, he heard something scrape.
Leaned into the peephole.
There were no streetlamps working, but he could actually see outside, the pavement and the picket fences and the cars just faintly illuminated by residual starlight.
Three of those things were crawling up the flagstones that led from the picket fence to the front door.
He’d caught glimpses of them streaking down the street from his second-floor bedroom window, but he hadn’t yet seen one up close.
None of them were larger than he was, but their muscle tone was extraordinary.
Like humanity wrapped in the trappings of a monster.
Equipped with talons instead of fingers, teeth designed for cutting and tearing, and they brandished arms that seemed too long in proportion to the rest of their body. Longer even than their legs.
He said under his breath, like a prayer, “What the hell are you?”
They reached the porch.
Fear suddenly wore him like a glove.
He backed away from the door, moving through the dark again, between the sofa and the coffee table, and then into the kitchen, where the starlight filtered through the window over the sink just sufficiently to brighten the linoleum and light the way.
Jim set the hammer on the counter and took the back-door key off the nail beside the door.
Something crashed into the front door as he worked the key into the lock.
A wood-splintering, lock-rattling collision.
He turned the key, the dead bolt retracting.
Ripped open the back door as the front door punched open.
The steps leading up to the second floor, to the bedroom, to the closet where his girls were in hiding would be the first thing those monsters saw.
Jim walked several steps back into the kitchen, and said, “Hey, guys? Over here!”
An eardrum-riving shriek filled the house.
He couldn’t see a thing, but he heard those creatures slamming through tables and chairs as they came for him. He tore back through the kitchen, shutting the door after him and launching down the single step into his perfect square of grass.
Past the doghouse.
Toward the fence.
Glass broke behind him.
As he reached the gate that opened into the alley, he glanced back, saw one of those things climbing through the kitchen window as the other two flung themselves into the back door.
He flipped open the hasp and dug his shoulder into the gate.
The shrieks of the abbies were less than a block away as Ethan lowered himself through the opening, grabbed hold of the handle on the underside of the trapdoor, and pulled it closed above him.
The tunnel swelled with the reverberating noise of a hundred voices down below, loud enough to drown out the abbies.
He searched, but there was no lock on this side of the hatch, no method of securing it against the world above.
Ethan descended the ladder, twenty-five rungs down to the floor of a tunnel brimming with the firelight of a dozen torches.
It was a six-by-six culvert of crumbling concrete, broken by roots and vines, and a couple thousand years old. It ran beneath the town, and, aside from the cemetery, it represented the last original construction leftover from twenty-first-century Wayward Pines.
It felt cold and dank and ancient.
People stood single file, their backs against the walls like schoolchildren assembled for some terrifying drill. Tense. Expectant. Shivering. Some wide-eyed, others blank-faced, as if in complete denial of what was happening.
Ethan jogged up the tunnel to Kate.
“Everybody in?” she asked.
“Yeah. Lead the way. Hecter and I will bring up the rear.”
As Ethan moved back down the line, he held his finger to his lips, urging silence.
When he passed his wife and son, he caught Theresa’s eye and winked, squeezing her hand as he hurried by.
They had already begun to move as he neared the end.
He pulled the last torchbearer out of line. She tended bar at the Biergarten on weekends. Maggie something.