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My hands are suddenly ice cold.

“The torture room,” I gasp.


“I suppose you could call it that.” Warner shrugs. “We call it a simulation chamber.”

“You made me torture that child,” I say to him, the anger and the rage of that day rising up inside of me. How could I forget what he did? What he made me do? The horrible memories he forced me to relive all for the sake of his entertainment. “I will never forgive you for that,” I snap, acid in my voice. “I will never forgive you for what you did to that little boy. For what you made me do to him!”

Warner frowns. “I’m sorry—what?”

“You would sacrifice a child!” My voice is shaking now. “For your stupid games! How could you do something so despicable?” I throw my pillow at him. “You sick, heartless, monster!”

Warner catches the pillow as it hits his chest, staring at me like he’s never seen me before. But then a kind of understanding settles into place for him, and the pillow slips from his hands. Falls to the floor. “Oh,” he says, so slowly. He’s squeezing his eyes shut, trying to suppress his amusement. “Oh, you’re going to kill me,” he says, laughing openly now. “I don’t think I can handle this—”

“What are you talking about? What’s wrong with you?” I demand.

He’s still smiling as he says, “Tell me, love. Tell me exactly what happened that day.”

I clench my fists, offended by his flippancy and shaking with renewed anger. “You gave me stupid, skimpy clothes to wear! And then you took me down to the lower levels of Sector 45 and locked me in a dirty room. I remember it perfectly,” I tell him, fighting to remain calm. “It had disgusting yellow walls. Old green carpet. A huge two-way mirror.”

Warner raises his eyebrows. Gestures for me to continue.

“Then . . . you hit some kind of a switch,” I say, forcing myself to keep talking. I don’t know why I’m beginning to doubt myself. “And these huge, metal spikes started coming out of the ground. And then”—I hesitate, steeling myself—“a toddler walked in. He was blindfolded. And you said he was your replacement. You said that if I didn’t save him, you wouldn’t either.”

Warner is looking at me closely now. Studying my eyes. “Are you sure I said that?”


“Yes?” He cocks his head. “Yes, you saw me say that with your own eyes?”

“N-no,” I say quickly, feeling defensive, “but there were loudspeakers—I could hear your voice—”

He takes a deep breath. “Right; of course.”

“I did,” I tell him.

“So after you heard me say that, what happened?”

I swallow hard. “I had to save the boy. He was going to die. He couldn’t see where he was going and he was going to be impaled by those spikes. I had to pull him into my arms and try to find a way to hold on to him without killing him.”

A beat of silence.

“And did you succeed?” Warner asks me.

“Yes,” I whisper, unable to understand why he’s asking me this when he saw it all happen for himself. “But the boy went limp,” I say. “He was temporarily paralyzed in my arms. And then you hit another switch and the spikes disappeared, and I let him down and he—he started crying again and bumped into my bare legs. And he started screaming. And I . . . I got so mad at you . . .”

“That you broke through concrete,” Warner says, a faint smile touching his lips. “You broke through a concrete wall just to try and choke me to death.”

“You deserved it,” I hear myself say. “You deserved worse.”

“Well,” he sighs. “If I did, in fact, do what you say I did, it certainly sounds like I deserved it.”

“What do you mean, if you did? I know you did—”

“Is that right?”

“Of course it’s right!”

“Then tell me, love, what happened to the boy?”

“What?” I freeze; icicles creep up my arms.

“What happened,” he says, “to that little boy? You say that you set him on the ground. But then you proceeded to break through a concrete wall fitted with a thick, six-foot-wide mirror, with no apparent regard for the toddler you claim was wandering around the room. Don’t you think the poor child would’ve been injured in such a wild, reckless display? My soldiers certainly were. You broke down a wall of concrete, love. You crushed an enormous piece of glass. You did not stop to ascertain where the blocks or the shattered bits had fallen or who they might’ve injured in the process.” He stops. Stares. “Did you?”

“No,” I gasp, blood draining from my body.

“So what happened after you walked away?” he asks. “Or do you not remember that part? You turned around and left, just after destroying the room, injuring my men, and tossing me to the floor. You turned around,” he says, “and walked right out.”

I’m numb now, remembering. It’s true. I did. I didn’t think. I just knew I needed to get out of there as fast as possible. I needed to get away, to clear my head.

“So what happened to the boy?” Warner insists. “Where was he when you were leaving? Did you see him?” A lift of his eyebrows. “And what about the spikes?” he says. “Did you bother to look closely at the ground to see where they might’ve come from? Or how they might’ve punctured a carpeted floor without causing any damage? Did you feel the surface under your feet to be shredded or uneven?”

I’m breathing hard now, struggling to stay calm. I can’t tear myself away from his gaze.

“Juliette, love,” he says softly. “There were no speakers in that room. That room is entirely soundproof, equipped with nothing but sensors and cameras. It is a simulation chamber.”

“No,” I breathe, refusing to believe. Not wanting to accept that I was wrong, that Warner isn’t the monster I thought he was. He can’t change things now. Can’t confuse me like this. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to work. “That’s not possible—”

“I am guilty,” he says, “of forcing you to undergo such a cruel simulation. I accept the fault for that, and I’ve already apologized for my actions. I only meant to push you into finally reacting, and I knew that sort of re-creation would quickly trigger something inside of you. But good God, love”—he shakes his head—“you must have an absurdly low opinion of me if you think I would steal someone’s child just to watch you torture it.”