- Library of Souls
“Absolutely not!” she said. “We can’t just abandon the others. Never mind how I feel.”
“We aren’t. But we need to be realistic. We’re hurt and defenseless, and the others are probably miles away by now, out of the underground and halfway to somewhere else. How will we even find them?”
“The same way I found you,” said Addison. “With my nose. Peculiar folk have an aroma all their own, you see—one which only dogs of my persuasion can sniff out. And you happen to be one powerfully odoriferous group of peculiars. Fear enhances it, I think, and skipping baths …”
“Then we go after them!” Emma said.
She pulled me toward the tracks with a surprising burst of strength. I resisted, tug-of-warring our linked arms. “No, no—there’s no way the trains are still running, and if we go in there on foot …”
“I don’t care if it’s dangerous. I won’t leave them.”
“It isn’t just dangerous, it’s pointless. They’re already gone, Emma.”
She took back her arm and started hobbling toward the tracks. Stumbled, caught herself. Say something, I mouthed to Addison, and he circled around to block her.
“I’m afraid he’s right. If we follow on foot, our friends’ scent trail will have dissipated long before we’re able to find them. Even my profound abilities have limits.”
Emma gazed into the tunnel, then back at me, her expression tortured. I held out my hand. “Please, let’s go. It doesn’t mean we’re giving up.”
“All right,” she said heavily. “All right.”
But just as we were starting toward the escalator, someone called out from the dark, back along the tracks.
The voice was weak but familiar, the accent Russian. It was the folding man. Peering into the dark, I could just make out his crumpled form by the tracks, one arm raised. He’d been shot during the melee, and I assumed the wights had shoved him onto the train with the others. But there he lay, waving to us.
“Sergei!” cried Emma.
“You know him?” Addison said suspiciously.
“He was one of Miss Wren’s peculiar refugees,” I said, my ears pricking at the wail of distant sirens echoing down from the surface. Trouble was coming—maybe trouble disguised as help—and I worried that our best chance at a clean exit was slipping away. Then again, we couldn’t just leave him.
Addison scuttled toward the man, dodging the deepest reefs of glass. Emma let me take her arm again and we shuffled after. Sergei was lying on his side, covered in glass and streaked with blood. The bullet had hit him somewhere vital. His wire-framed spectacles were cracked and he was adjusting them, trying to get a good look at me. “Is miracle, is miracle,” he rasped, his voice thin as twice-strained tea. “I heard you speak with monster’s tongue. Is miracle.”
“It’s not,” I said, kneeling beside him. “It’s gone, I’ve already lost it.”
“If gift inside you, is forever.”
Footsteps and voices echoed from the escalator passage. I cleared away glass so I could get my hands under the folding man. “We’re taking you with us,” I said.
“Leave me,” he croaked. “I’ll be gone soon enough …”
Ignoring him, I slipped my hands beneath his body and lifted. He was ladder-long but light as a feather, and I held him in my arms like a big baby, his skinny legs dangling over my elbow while his head lolled against my shoulder.
Two figures banged down the last few escalator steps and then stood at the bottom, rimmed by pale daylight and peering into the new dark. Emma pointed at the floor and we sank quietly to our knees, hoping they’d miss us—hoping they were just civilians come to catch a train—but then I heard the squelch of a walkie-talkie and they each fired up a flashlight, the beams shining against their bright reflective jackets.
They might’ve been emergency responders, or wights disguised as such. I wasn’t sure until, in synchrony, they peeled off wraparound sunglasses.
Our options had just narrowed by half. Now there were only the tracks, the tunnels. We could never outrun them, damaged as we were, but escape was still possible if they didn’t see us—and they hadn’t yet, amidst the chaos of the ruined station. Their searchlights dueled across the floor. Emma and I backed toward the tracks. If we could just slip into the tunnels unnoticed … but Addison, damn him, wasn’t moving.
“Come on,” I hissed.
“They are ambulance drivers and this man needs help,” he said too loudly, and right away the beams of light bounced up from the floor and whipped toward us.
“Stay where you are!” one of the men boomed, unholstering a gun while the other fumbled for his walkie-talkie.
Then two unexpected things happened in quick succession. The first was that, just as I was about to drop the folding man onto the tracks and dive after him with Emma, a thunderous horn blew from inside the tunnel and a single brilliant headlight flashed into view. The rush of stale wind belonged, of course, to a train—running again, somehow, despite the blast. The second thing, announced by a painful twinge in my gut, was that the hollow had come unstuck and was loping in our direction. The instant after I felt it, I saw it, too, plowing at us through a billow of steam, black lips peeled wide, tongues thrashing the air.
We were trapped. If we ran for the stairs we’d be shot and mauled. If we jumped onto the tracks we’d be crushed by the train. And we couldn’t escape onto the train because it would be ten seconds at least before it stopped and twelve before the doors opened and ten more before they shut again, and by then we’d be dead three ways. And so I did as I often do when I’m out of ideas—I looked to Emma. I could read in the desperation on her face that she understood the hopelessness of our situation and in the stony set of her jaw that she meant to act anyway. I remembered only as she began to stagger forward, palms out, that she couldn’t see the hollow, and I tried to tell her, reach for her, stop her, but I couldn’t get the words out and couldn’t grab her without dropping the folding man, and then Addison was alongside her, barking at the wight while Emma tried uselessly to make a flame—spark, spark, nothing, like a lighter low on juice.