Emma and Miss Peregrine tried again to drag me toward the door, but now Caul was coming after us. He stomped out of the spirit pool and bellowed in a bone-rattling voice: “ALMA, COME BACK HERE!”
Caul raised his awful hands. Some unseen force ripped Miss Peregrine and Emma away from me. They were pulled into the air and hovered there, flailing, ten feet off the ground, until Caul flipped his palms down again. Quick as a bounced ball, they slammed back to earth.
“I’LL GRIND YOU BETWEEN MY TEETH!” Caul howled, starting across the cavern toward them, his every footfall an earthquake.
Adrenaline, it seemed, had begun to focus my vision and hearing. I could imagine no crueler death sentence than this: to spend my last moments watching the women I loved be torn apart. And then I heard a dog bark, and something worse occurred to me: watching my friends die, too.
Emma and Miss Peregrine ran. They had no choice. To come back for me now was impossible.
The others began pouring out of the corridor. Kids and ymbrynes, all mixed up. Sharon and the gallows riggers, too. Addison must have led them here, as he led all of them now, a lantern dangling from his mouth.
They had no idea what they were up against. I wished I could warn them—don’t bother fighting it, just run—but they wouldn’t have listened to me. They saw the towering beast and threw all they had at it. The gallows men pitched their hammers. Bronwyn hurled a chunk of wall she’d carried in, winding back and letting it go like a shot-put. Some of the kids had guns they’d taken from the wights, which they fired at Caul. The ymbrynes transformed into birds and swarmed his head, pecking him wherever they could.
None of it had the slightest effect on him. The bullets bounced off. He batted away the chunk of wall. He caught the hammers between his giant teeth and spat them out. Like a swarm of gnats, the ymbrynes seemed merely to irritate him. And then he spread his arms and his knotty fingers, the little feeder roots that dangled from them dancing like live wires, and slowly brought his palms together. As he did, all the ymbrynes circling his head were pushed away, and all the peculiars were smashed together in a clump.
He brought his palms together and folded them over and over as if crumpling a piece of paper. The ymbrynes and the peculiars rose from the ground in a spherical crush of limbs and wings. I was the only one left alone (except Bentham—where was Bentham?) and I tried get up, to stand and do something, but I could only lift my head. My God, they were being pulverized, their terrified screams echoing off the walls—and I thought that was it, that in a moment blood would pour from them like juice from a squeezed fruit, but then one of Caul’s hands flew up and began to flap in front of his face, waving something away.
It was bees. A stream of Hugh’s bees had flown out of the crush and now they were in Caul’s eyes, stinging him as he let out a shattering howl. The ymbrynes and peculiars fell to the ground, the ball they’d formed collapsing, bodies spilling out everywhere. They hadn’t been crushed, thank God.
Miss Peregrine, screeching and flapping in bird form, pulled people to their feet and propelled them toward the corridor. Run. Run. Go!
Then she winged off for Caul. He had dealt with the bees and was again spreading his arms, ready to scoop everyone up and splatter them against a wall. Before he could, Miss Peregrine dive-bombed him with her talons and raked deep cuts across his face. He spun to take a lumbering swipe at her, smacking her so hard she flew across the room, bounced off the wall, and fell to the ground, where she lay motionless.
By the time he turned back to deal with the others, they had nearly disappeared into the corridor. Caul extended his palm toward them, closed his hand and scooped it back—but they were farther away, apparently, than his powers of telekinesis would reach. Bellowing in frustration, he ran after them, then flopped onto his belly and tried to wriggle into the corridor after them. He could just fit inside, though it was a tight squeeze.
That’s when, finally, I saw Bentham. He had rolled into the channel of water to hide, and now he was climbing out again, soaking wet but otherwise unaffected. He was bent over, his back to me, working at something—I couldn’t see what.
I felt like I was coming back to life. The pain in my chest was receding. I tried to move my arms—an experiment—and found that I could. I slid them up my body and over my chest, expecting to find a couple of holes and a lot of blood. But I was dry. Instead of holes, my hands found a piece of metal flattened like a coin. I closed my hands around it, picked it up to look.
It was a bullet. It had not pierced my body. I was not dying. The bullet had embedded itself in my scarf.
The scarf Horace had knit for me.
He had known, somehow, that this would happen and had made me this scarf from the wool of peculiar sheep. Thank God for Horace …
I saw something flash across the room and lifted my head—I could just do it—to see Bentham standing with his eyes ablaze, cones of hot white light beaming from his sockets. He dropped something and I heard a tinkle of glass.
He’d taken a vial of ambro.
I used all my strength to turn onto my side, then curled and began to sit up. Bentham hurried along the walls, looking up at the jars. He was studying each one carefully.
As if he could see them.
And then I realized what he’d done, what he’d taken. He’d been saving my grandfather’s stolen soul all these years, and now he’d consumed it.
He could see the jars. He could do what I did.
I was on my knees. Palms to the ground. Pulled one foot under me, then pushed myself up to standing. I was back, risen from the dead.