And Juliette has no idea.
She has no idea she’s being played and preyed upon. She has no idea that she has no real power here. No chance at change. No opportunity to make a difference in the world. She was, and will forever be nothing more than a toy to them—a science experiment to watch carefully, to make certain the concoction doesn’t boil over too soon.
But it did.
Juliette failed their tests over a month ago, and my father tried to kill her for it. He tried to kill her because he’d decided that she’d become a distraction. Gone was the opportunity for this Unnatural to grow into an adversary.
The monster we’ve bred has tried to kill my own son. She’s since attacked me like a feral animal, shooting me in both my legs. I’ve never seen such wildness—such blind, inhuman rage. Her mind shifts without warning. She showed no signs of psychosis upon first arrival in the house, but appeared to dissociate from any structure of rational thought while attacking me. Having seen her instability with my own eyes makes me only more certain of what needs to be done. I write this now as a decree from my hospital bed, and as a precaution to my fellow commanders. In the case that I don’t recover from these wounds and am unable to follow through with what needs to be done: You, who are reading this now, you must react. Finish what I could not do. The younger sister is a failed experiment. She is, as we feared, disconnected from humanity. Worse, she’s become a distraction for Aaron. He’s become—in a toxic turn of events—impossibly drawn to her, with no apparent regard for his own safety. I have no idea what she’s done to his mind. I only know now that I should never have entertained my own curiosity by allowing him to bring her on base. It’s a shame, really, that she is nothing like her elder sister. Instead, Juliette Ferrars has become an incurable cancer we must cut out of our lives for good.
—AN EXCERPT FROM ANDERSON’S DAILY LOG
Juliette threatened the balance of The Reestablishment.
She was an experiment gone wrong. And she’d become a liability. She needed to be expunged from the earth.
My father tried so hard to destroy her.
And I see now that his failure has been of great interest to the other commanders. My father’s daily logs were shared; all the supreme commanders shared their logs with one another. It was the only way for the six of them to remain apprised, at all times, of each other’s daily goings-on.
So. They knew his story. They’ve known about my feelings for her.
And they have their orders to kill Juliette.
But they’re waiting. And I have to assume there’s something more—some other explanation for their hesitation. Maybe they think they can rehabilitate her. Maybe they’re wondering whether Juliette cannot still be of service to them and to their cause, much like her sister has been.
I’m haunted at once by a memory of her.
Brown-haired and bony. Jerking uncontrollably underwater. Long brown waves suspended, like jittery eels, around her face. Electric wires threaded under her skin. Several tubes permanently attached to her neck and torso. She’d been living underwater for so long when I first saw her that she hardly resembled a person. Her flesh was milky and shriveled, her mouth stretched out in a grotesque O, wrapped around a regulator that forced air into her lungs. She’s only a year older than Juliette. And she’s been held in captivity for twelve years.
Still alive, but only barely.
I had no idea she was Juliette’s sister. I had no idea she was anyone at all. When I first met my assignment, she had no name. I was given only instructions, and ordered to follow them. I didn’t know who or what I’d been assigned to oversee. I understood only that she was a prisoner—and I knew she was being tortured—but I didn’t know then that there was anything supernatural about the girl. I was an idiot. A child.
I slam the back of my head against the wall, once. Hard. My eyes squeeze shut.
Juliette has no idea she ever had a real family—a horrible, insane family—but a family nonetheless. And if Castle is to be believed, The Reestablishment is coming for her. To kill her. To exploit her. So we have to act. I have to warn her, and I have to do it as soon as possible.
But how—how do I tell her any of this? How do I tell her without explaining my part in all of this?
I’ve always known Juliette was adopted, but I never told her this truth simply because I thought it would make things worse. My understanding was that Juliette’s biological parents were long dead. I didn’t see how telling her that she had real, dead parents would make her life any better.
But that doesn’t change the fact that I knew.
And now I have to confess. Not just this, but the truth about her sister—that she is still alive and being actively tortured by The Reestablishment. That I contributed to that torture.
That I am the true monster, completely and utterly unworthy of her love.
I close my eyes, press the back of my hand to my mouth and feel my body break apart within me. I don’t know how to extricate myself from the mess made by my own father. A mess in which I was unintentionally complicit. A mess that, upon its unveiling, will destroy the little bit of happiness I’ve managed to piece together in my life.
Juliette will never, ever forgive me.
I will lose her.
And it will kill me.
I wonder what they’re thinking. My parents. I wonder where they are. I wonder if they’re okay now, if they’re happy now, if they finally got what they wanted I wonder if my mother will have another child. I wonder if someone will ever be kind enough to kill me and I wonder if hell is better than here. I wonder what my face looks like now. I wonder if I’ll ever breathe fresh air again.
I wonder about so many things.
Sometimes I’ll stay awake for days just counting everything I can find. I count the walls, the cracks in the walls, my fingers and toes. I count the springs in the bed, the threads in the blanket, the steps it takes to cross the room and back. I count my teeth and the individual hairs on my head and the number of seconds I can hold my breath.
But sometimes I get so tired that I forget I’m not allowed to wish for things anymore and I find myself wishing for the one thing I’ve always wanted. The only thing I’ve always dreamt about.
I wish all the time for a friend.
I dream about it. I imagine what it would be like. To smile and be smiled upon. To have a person to confide in, someone who wouldn’t throw things at me or stick my hands in the fire or beat me for being born. Someone who would hear that I’d been thrown away and would try to find me, who would never be afraid of me.
Someone who’d know I’d never try to hurt them.
Someone who’d know I’d never try to hurt them.
I fold myself into a corner of this room and bury my head in my knees and rock back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and I wish and I wish and I wish and I dream of impossible things until I’ve cried myself to sleep.
I wonder what it would be like to have a friend.
And then I wonder who else is locked in this asylum. I wonder where the other screams are coming from.
I wonder if they’re coming from me.
—AN EXCERPT FROM JULIETTE’S JOURNALS IN THE ASYLUM
I feel strange this morning.
I feel slow, like I’m wading through mud, like my bones have filled with lead and my head, oh—
My head has never been heavier.
I wonder if it’s the last dregs of the poison still haunting my veins, but something feels wrong with me today. My memories of my time in the asylum are suddenly too present—perched too fully at the forefront of my mind. I thought I’d managed to shove those memories out of my head but no, here they are again, dredged out of the darkness. 264 days in perfect isolation. Nearly a year without access or outlet to the outside. To another human being.
So long, so long, so very, very long without the warmth of human contact.
I shiver involuntarily. Jerk upward.
What’s wrong with me?
Sonya and Sara must’ve heard me moving because they’re now standing before me, their voices clear but somehow, vibrating. Echoing off the walls. My ears won’t stop ringing. I squint to make sense of their faces but I feel dizzy suddenly, disoriented, like my body is sideways or maybe flat on the ground or maybe I need to be flat on the ground, or oh