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Page 88

Panicked.

I understand the situation with neon clarity. Chloe is in danger. Ingrid, too, if they ever find her. I need to help them.

Right now.

I look to the open door. The room is dark, the hallway silent. Nary a whisper or sneaker squeak to be heard.

“Hello?” Thirst has distorted my voice, turning it into an ungainly croak. “I need—”

To call the police.

That’s what I want to say. But my throat seizes up, cutting me off. I force out a cough, more to get the attention of a nurse than to revive my voice.

I try again, louder this time. “Hello?”

No one answers.

The hall, for the moment, appears to be empty.

I search the table by the bed for a phone. There isn’t one. Nor is there a call button with which to summon a nurse.

I slide out of bed, relieved to discover I can walk, although not very well. My legs are wobbly and weak, and my entire body is gripped with pain. But soon I’m out of the room and into a hallway that’s shorter than I expected. Just a dim corridor with doors leading to two other rooms and a small nurses’ station that’s currently empty.

There’s no phone there, either.

“Hello?” I call out. “I need help.”

Another door sits at the end of the hall, closed tight.

It’s white.

Windowless.

And heavy, a fact I learn when I try to pry it open. It takes an extra tug and a pain-flaring grunt to finally get it to budge.

I pass through it, finding myself in another hallway.

One I think I’ve seen before. Like all my recollections of late, it’s vague in my mind. A half memory made hazy by pain and worry and sedatives.

The hallway turns. I turn with it, rounding the corner into another hall.

To my right is a kitchen done up in muted earth tones. Above the sink is a painting. A snake curled into a perfect figure eight, chomping on its own tail.

Beyond the kitchen is a dining room. Beyond that are windows. Beyond them is Central Park colored orange by the setting sun, making it look like the whole park is on fire.

Seeing it sends a stark, cold fear pulsing through me.

I’m still in the Bartholomew.

I have been the whole time.

The realization makes me want to scream even though my throat won’t allow it. Fear and thirst have clenched it shut.

I start to move, my bare feet smacking the floor in worried, hurried steps. I get only a few feet before a voice rises from somewhere behind me.

Hearing it opens my throat, despite the thirst and fear. A scream erupts from deep inside me, only to be pushed back by a hand clamping over my mouth. Another hand spins me around so I can see who it is.

Nick.

Lips flat.

Eyes angry.

To his right is Leslie Evelyn. To his left is Dr. Wagner, a needle and syringe in his hand. A bead of liquid quivers on the needle’s tip before he jabs it into my upper arm.

Everything instantly goes woozy. Nick’s face. Leslie’s face. Dr. Wagner’s face. All of them blur and waver like a TV on the fritz.

I gasp.

I let out another scream.

Loud and pitiable and streaked with terror.

It careens down the hall, echoing off the walls, so that I’m still hearing it when everything fades to nothingness.

ONE DAY LATER

44


I dream of my family in Central Park, standing in the middle of Bow Bridge.

This time, I’m with them.

So is George.

It’s just the five of us on the bridge, looking at our reflections in the moonlit water below. A slight breeze blows through the park, forming ripples on the water and making our faces look like funhouse-mirror versions of their true selves.

I stare at my reflection, marveling at how it wobbles and wavers. Then I look at the reflections of the others and notice something strange.

Everyone is holding a knife.

Everyone but me.

I turn away from the water and face them. My family. My gargoyle.

They raise their knives.

“You don’t belong here,” my father says.

“Run,” my mother says.

“Run away as fast as you can,” Jane says.

George says nothing. He simply watches with stoic stone eyes as my family lurches forward and begins to stab me.

TWO DAYS LATER

45


I wake slowly. Like a swimmer uncertain about surfacing, pulled against my will from dark waters. Even after I regain consciousness, sleep lingers. A fog curling through me, languorous and thick.

My eyes stay closed. My body feels heavy. So heavy.

Although there’s pain in my abdomen, it’s distant, like a fire on the other side of the room. Just close enough that I can feel its heat.

Soon my eyelids move, flickering, fluttering, opening to the sight of a hospital room.

The same one as before.

No windows. Chair in the corner. Monet hanging from the white wall.

Despite the fog in my head, I know exactly where I am.

The only thing I don’t know is what will happen to me next and what’s already happened.

My body refuses to move, no matter how much I try. The fog is too heavy. My legs are useless. My arms are the same. Only my right hand moves—a weak flop against my side.

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