“Alice,” Jamie read aloud, placing the little package on the desk Ace had provided in her new room. “Can you feel me? I’m coming closer. I’m sure you’ve noticed already, but just in case I’ve left a gift for you. Sincerely the White Rabbit.”
She put the stiff cream stationary – different, she noticed, than the ordinary, creased paper of the last note – down beside the envelope. “Strange note, but not really as disturbing as that first one.” The wrapping paper came off the ‘gift’ in a single tear, revealing a clear plastic case with a disk inside. Another note was tucked into the cover.
“Alice, watch this with the Cheshire Cat.”
“Whatever. Screw that.” Jamie slid the disk into the slot on her computer, waiting for the new machine to power up. It took a moment, and then she had to try to remember her password, but that was easy enough. Ravensgate. Not something or someplace she’d ever forget.
“God, no no no no no! I have important things to do, and not enough time as it is. I have no time for stupid memories to pop up uninvited.”
“What about stupid people?” Jamie practically had a heart attack when Zack stuck his head into the room. He’d grown kinder these past few days, especially so since she’d helped save him from a certain prison sentence. Still, when he entered her room without asking and closed the door behind himself, she was quite annoyed.
“Whatever. Stay if you want.”
It wasn’t like he would listen to her if she told him to leave anyway. It was much easier and saved quite a bit of dignity if she acquiesced voluntarily rather than out of irritation. “What’s this?” Still, having the older boy digging through her things bothered her. The fact that he’d picked up the creepy note made it even worse.
“Just something I found outside my door. It’s some kind of prank or something.”
Zack looked at her like she was crazy. “I don’t know what kind of life you lived before this, and I really don’t care. But leaving messages like this isn’t really considered a prank in this context. Did you even consider the possibility that it’s real?”
Of course she had. And she’d decided that, if it was, then it was a good idea to pretend to ignore it. Maybe then this “White Rabbit” would decide to show himself, reveal a little more. Or it was just a joke and she was being smart by not making a big deal out of it and making herself look like a moron.
“Yes,” Jamie answered simply, saved from any more questions by the ding of the computer screen announcing that the video-window-thing was open. Jamie knew less than nothing about computers, just recently acquiring one thanks once again to Ace’s generosity. It seemed that this family had quite a bit of extra money, enough that living like this was easy. “Now shut up and watch this with me. It came with the note. Said something about that weird disappearing cat from ‘Alice in Wonderland.’”
Zack came closer, and Jamie clicked the start button. At first the screen was blank, and the boy reached over her to turn the volume up. Jamie sucked in a breath when his arm touched her shoulder. Once it would have been from being touched at all, back when the memories plagued her and people scared her. But somehow seeing Zack at his worst had made it alright. He hadn’t hurt her, even though he could have. Thinking back on it, Jamie realized that he’d never hurt her, not once since that first day in the cemetery.
So when she gasped, she knew it wasn’t fear. No, it was a strange energy. It clung to him, barely sensed yet still there, still so thrilling. It was like an electric shock, every time he bumped her.
And then the talking started, and Jamie had no more time to think about the strange relationship between herself and Zack.
“Hello, Alice. Is Zes there with you? I will assume he is, or that you paused this video and found him at this point. And now we will continue under the assumption that you are both present.”
Jamie didn’t recognize the voice. It was metallic and fake and clearly synthesized. But as he – for she knew it was a man, if nothing else – spoke, the screen lightened, just a little at a time, until she was looking at a room. Built of concrete, it was a small square box barely bigger than a prison cell. The only things in it were a chair, a shelf, and, laying on the shelf, Blake.
“I also assume you recognize this boy? Good. Then let’s continue. He is probably going to wake up soon, but unfortunately, he won’t be doing much taking in this little movie.” The camera zoomed in on Blake’s face, and Jamie saw that he was gagged and blindfolded. Zack was tense beside her, his hands in fists, blood seeping through the bandages. She wanted to tell him to relax his hands, because otherwise he’d hurt them, but Jamie couldn’t find her voice.
“Now, this is something you probably don’t recognize. In fact, it’s a specially made chemical serum.” A small syringe appeared on the screen filled with a dull orange liquid. “It’s a very special thing. Actually, Alice, it was meant for you. Too bad you didn’t stick to the plan, right?”
“Oh god,” she breathed, one hand coming up to cover her mouth. Jamie felt suddenly sick. Whatever happened now, it really was her fault. She’d let Blake change the plan, let him be a distraction while she wandered the halls uselessly. She hadn’t done any good anyway! And now Blake was lying there, probably dying, probably in pain, and it was all her fault.
When the monsters come for you, I want you to take this knife. Jamie let the memory wash her away, because nothing could be worse than this. Nothing could be worse than the guilt. And I want you to hold it, just like this. But instead of going across the road – blood, red and thick and sticky, poured from her thin wrist, spilling from the straight incision running directly across her vein – I want you to go up the street. A finger, long and slim and familiar yet so very very foreign traced a line up her arm, traced that branching line from wrist to elbow.
Even as a child her mother had taught her how to end it. Jamie realized that that was probably the most precious gift her mother had given her. And she knew then, what had happened to her. Grace Cunning had been the last Tera, dying five years ago. She’d had the same task as Jamie: hunt down and discover treachery. The stress, the pressure and the pain, they had broken her.
Just as they would now break Jamie.