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“No.”

He looks at me. Picks me apart with his eyes. “You don’t really believe that.”

I do not respond.

“Mr Warner—”

“Not like that,” I say. “If it comes back, it won’t be like that. Anger, maybe—yes—but not rage. Not uncontrolled, uninhibited rage—”

Castle smiles. It’s so sudden, so unexpected, I stop midsentence.

“Mr Warner,” he says. “What do you think is going to happen when the truth of her past is finally revealed to her? Do you think she will accept it quietly? Calmly? If my sources are correct—and they usually are—the whispers underground affirm that her time here is up. The experiment has come to an end. Juliette murdered a supreme commander. The system won’t let her go on like this, her powers unleashed, unchecked. And I have heard that the plan is to obliterate Sector 45.” He hesitates. “As for Juliette herself,” he says, “it is likely they will either kill her, or place her in another facility.”

My mind spins, explodes. “How do you know this?”

Castle laughs briefly. “You can’t possibly believe that Omega Point was the only resistance group in North America, Mr Warner. I’m very well connected underground. And my point still stands.” A pause. “Juliette will soon have access to the information necessary to piece together her past. And she will find out, one way or another, your part in all of it.”

I look away and back again, eyes wide, my voice fraying. “You don’t understand,” I whisper. “She would never forgive me.”

Castle shakes his head. “If she learns from someone else that you’ve always known she was adopted? If she hears from someone else that you tortured her sister?” He nods. “Yes, it’s true, she will likely never forgive you.”

For a sudden, terrible moment, I lose feeling in my knees. I’m forced to sit down, my bones shaking inside me.

“But I didn’t know,” I say, hating how it sounds, hating that I feel like a child. “I didn’t know who that girl was, I didn’t know Juliette had a sister—I didn’t know—”

“It doesn’t matter. Without you, without context, without an explanation or an apology, all of this will be much harder to forgive. But if you tell her yourself and tell her now? Your relationship might still stand a chance.” He shakes his head. “Either way, you must tell her, Mr Warner. Because we have to warn her. She needs to know what’s coming, and we have to start planning. Your silence on the subject will end only in devastation.”

JULIETTE

I am a thief.

I stole this notebook and this pen from one of the doctors, from one of his lab coats when he wasn’t looking, and I shoved them both down my trousers. This was just before he ordered those men to come and get me. The ones in the strange suits with the thick gloves and the gas masks with the foggy plastic windows hiding their eyes. They were aliens, I remember thinking. I remember thinking they must’ve been aliens because they couldn’t have been human, the ones who handcuffed my hands behind my back, the ones who strapped me to my seat. They stuck Tasers to my skin over and over for no reason other than to hear me scream but I wouldn’t. I whimpered but I never said a word. I felt the tears streak down my cheeks but I wasn’t crying.

I think it made them angry.

They slapped me awake even though my eyes were open when we arrived. Someone unstrapped me without removing my handcuffs and kicked me in both kneecaps before ordering me to rise. And I tried. I tried but I couldn’t and finally six hands shoved me out the door and my face was bleeding on the concrete for a while. I can’t really remember the part where they dragged me inside.

I feel cold all the time.

I feel empty, like there is nothing inside of me but this broken heart, the only organ left in this shell. I feel the bleats echo within me, I feel the thumping reverberate around my skeleton. I have a heart, says science, but I am a monster, says society. And I know it, of course I know it. I know what I’ve done. I’m not asking for sympathy. But sometimes I think—sometimes I wonder—if I were a monster—surely, I would feel it by now?

I would feel angry and vicious and vengeful. I’d know blind rage and bloodlust and a need for vindication.

Instead, I feel an abyss within me that’s so deep, so dark I can’t see within it; I can’t see what it holds. I do not know what I am or what might happen to me.

I do not know what I might do again.

—AN EXCERPT FROM JULIETTE’S JOURNALS IN THE ASYLUM

I’m dreaming about birds again.

I wish they would go away already. I’m tired of thinking about them, hoping for them. Birds, birds, birds—why won’t they go away? I shake my head as if to clear it, but feel my mistake at once. My mind is still dense and foggy, swimming in confusion. I blink open my eyes slowly, tentatively, but no matter how far I force them open, I can’t seem to take in any light. It takes me too long to understand that I’ve awoken in the middle of the night.

A sharp gasp.

That’s me, my voice, my breath, my quickly beating heart. Where is my head? Why is it so heavy? My eyes close fast, sand stuck in the lashes, sticking them together. I try to clear the haze—try to remember—but parts of me still feel numb, like my teeth and toes and the spaces between my ribs and I laugh, suddenly, and I don’t know why—

I was shot.

My eyes fly open, my skin breaking into a sudden, cold sweat.

Oh my God I was shot, I was shot I was shot

I try to sit up and can’t. I feel so heavy, so heavy with blood and bone and suddenly I’m freezing, my skin is cold rubber and clammy against the metal table I’m sticking to and all at once

I want to cry

all at once I’m back in the asylum, the cold and the metal and the pain and the delirium all confusing me and then I’m weeping, silently, hot tears warming my cheeks and I can’t speak but I’m scared and I hear them, I hear them

the others

screaming

Flesh and bone breaking in the night, hushed, muffled voices—suppressed shouts—cellmates I’d never see—

Who were they? I wonder.

I haven’t thought about them in so long. What happened to them. Where they came from. Who did I leave behind?

My eyes are sealed shut, my lips parted in quiet terror. I haven’t been haunted like this in so long so long so long

It’s the drugs, I think. There was poison in those bullets.

Is that why I can see the birds?

I smile. Giggle. Count them. Not just the white ones, white with streaks of gold like crowns atop their heads, but blue ones and black ones and yellow birds, too. I see them when I close my eyes but I saw them today, too, on the beach and they looked so real, so real

Why?

Why would someone try to kill me?

Another sudden jolt to my senses and I’m more alert, more myself, panic clearing the poison for a single moment of clarity and I’m able to push myself up, onto my elbows, head spinning, eyes wild as they scan the darkness and I’m just about to lie back down, exhausted, when I see something—

“Are you awake?”

I inhale sharply, confused, trying to make sense of the sounds. The words are warped like I’m hearing them underwater and I swim toward them, trying, trying, my chin falling against my chest as I lose the battle.

“Did you see anything today?” the voice says to me. “Anything . . . strange?”

“Who—where, where are you—” I say, reaching blindly into the dark, eyes only half open now. I feel resistance and wrap my fingers around it. A hand? A strange hand. It’s a mix of metal and flesh, a fist with a sharp edge of steel.

I don’t like it.

I let go.

“Did you see anything today?” it says again.

I mumble.

“What did you see?” it says.

And I laugh, remembering. I could hear them—hear their caw caws as they flew far above the water, could hear their little feet walking along the sand. There were so many of them. Wings and feathers, sharp beaks and talons.

So much motion.

“What did you see—?” the voice demands again, and it makes me feel strange.

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