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Eve of destruction, p.16
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       Eve of Destruction, p.16

           Patrick Carman
 
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  “Eve?” he said.

  “The one and only,” Amy said.

  But it wasn’t Amy. There had never been an Amy. It had only ever been Mrs. Goring all along. My mind, and that of everyone else who knew Fort Eden the way I did, understood what was happening in an instant. It was one of those wonderful tricks of the mind—the way it can calculate so much in the blink of an eye—the way everything falls together.

  “How did you do it?” I asked, the first to speak, though I had a pretty good idea.

  Rainsford took a step closer, like a man who hadn’t seen his young lover in a very long time, trying to decide if it was really true.

  “Seven hours instead of seven days,” Mrs. Goring said. “Same result, it’s just a little more complicated. Nothing I couldn’t handle.”

  She’d had seven new subjects, ones we’d never seen, and she’d done their cures before we arrived and while we were belowground. Each hour a new one, each hour turning into Amy or Eve or—whoever—the point was she turned young again, but only for a little while.

  She’d known all along, every step of the way, all that was happening underground. She’d been Amy and Goring.

  “You look even better than I remember,” Rainsford said, taking one more step closer, tentative but excited.

  “There’s twisted and then there’s twisted,” said Kate. “This is insane.”

  Rainsford and Mrs. Goring were both young again, and as the shadows of night began to fall on Fort Eden, every angle told the same story: an old feeling was new again. Rainsford was in love.

  And this, above all other mistakes he could have made, was the one that did have the power to undo him. A shotgun, a metal pipe, a frozen pond, a floor of radioactive waste—all of those things paled in comparison to the power of a woman scorned. For young Eve Goring had let out more than just Rainsford, she’d also let out a ghostly-looking girl named Avery Varone. With night coming on, she really did look more like a ghost than a living, breathing girl as she crept silently closer to Rainsford.

  “Davis?” she said, when she had come up directly behind him. For a moment he wouldn’t turn, so captivated was he by the sight of young Eve Goring. It was a moment he would come to regret as his fatal mistake. It told Avery everything she needed to know about the man she thought she knew. She was the one with something important hidden behind her back, not Eve Goring.

  As Rainsford finally did turn to look at Avery, it came to me. I knew what it was before I watched Rainsford hold out his arms to embrace Avery one last time. Alex was the one with the pouch filled with insulin shots, but I hadn’t seen the pouch in quite some time, not since he swam across the water into the room of vials.

  Avery Varone had taken some precautions of her own. She was going to be ready if Rainsford ever betrayed their love. I think it was me that saw the needle first, but it might have been Eve Goring. She was closer.

  Avery accepted Rainsford’s hug, putting her own arms around him, and when she did, the needle went into the meat of his shoulder and she squeezed out the seven parts of blood swirling around inside. My blood, from my fear, and the blood of everyone else: Alex, Connor, Ben, Kate, Marisa, and Avery. It was the perfect poison, the one thing that could end the unending.

  Rainsford knew. As sure as he knew his own name, whatever it had been at the beginning, he knew: death had finally found him.

  The horror of decay shivered across his body and hobbled him to his knees. He looked at each of us in our turn, the knowledge of doom spreading on his face.

  “The final mystery comes to me now,” he said, and in the time that the words passed his lips, he aged twenty years.

  Eve Goring—or Amy—posed a cruel question. “You never loved her, did you? I was the only one.”

  But Rainsford had more pressing matters to attend to.

  Death was on him. He had no time. Twenty more years passed in the span of Eve Goring’s words. He was creeping up on sixty in a hurry.

  “I loved no one,” he said, but I knew it was a lie. He had loved them both, but more than that, he had loved himself.

  He was eighty, wrinkled and old as Mrs. Goring had been, his back curled in an arc that forced his face to the ground. The pipe fell out of his hand and rolled into the wild grass of the wood.

  “Well, for whatever it’s worth,” Amy said, and she did seem like an Amy to me, young and dominant, “I never loved you, either. I always thought you were a little on the dumb side.”

  God, she was so beautiful! I could see how Rainsford would have fallen for her. Strong like Kate, cunning like the Goring we knew, yet soft like Marisa. A horrible, powerful beauty.

  The very last went quickly, just as dusk turned to night in the forest and the air began to chill. There was just a little light left, enough to see a man go from eighty to one hundred and beyond. Things accelerated after that. All the death Rainsford had managed to avoid landed square on his face as he lifted his head and screamed in terror at the coming night of his soul. Small craters punched into his face, his eye sockets deepened until there were no eyes at all, and dust began to fall.

  Death had found him at last. Turning him to particles before our very eyes. Even the bones blew apart with a harrowing pop! that seemed to fill his empty, wet clothes with air. Only the shirt and the pants and the shoes remained, all else was turned to dust in the shadow of Eden.

  The man was gone, but Eve remained. An Eve of destruction, or so she must have thought.

  “Were you ever going to cure us?” asked Marisa. She had moved without my really paying attention, without any of us knowing, to within a few feet of Mrs. Goring. Mrs. Goring turned to face Marisa. It was hard not to think of her as Amy when I looked at her, though I could see the same mocking spark in those eyes.

  “I’m not as cruel as you might think,” said Eve. “If you have the vials, you have your cure. I was telling you the truth. Assuming Avery was smart enough not to use it all, you got what you came for. Mix it with some water. It will cure what ails you.”

  We did not leave Fort Eden until the next morning, because there was work to be done and records to be gathered. We destroyed all the mechanisms used by Goring and Rainsford—anger therapy of the finest variety for each and every one of us. And I discovered tapes from monitor and audio feeds, things I later used to build a narrative of everything that had happened underground. It was the darkest part of the night before our work was complete, and I sat with Marisa on the same couch where I first met her. It was an unusual late evening for at least two reasons. For one, Marisa was wide awake. I missed the warm limbs and soft breath I had come to know so well, but the chasm of silence was filled with the second reason the night was so unusual: I could hear everything. Small creatures moving in the forest outside, feet padding along the floor, the whispers across the room. Even the sound of mist gathering on the tall trees did not seem to elude me.

  “I don’t know, I sort of liked you better when you were half deaf,” Marisa whispered.

  “You weren’t bad asleep, either. Less chatty.”

  “You’re funny. And gross. You were kind of falling for an old lady.”

  I pulled Marisa close and felt her soft skin.

  “You have to admit, she was kind of a knockout as a teenager. But you’re cuter.” She sat up straight and took my hand in hers. Something about the events of the day fell heavy and tired in her eyes, and for a second I thought maybe she wasn’t cured after all.

  “I’m going to love you just the same when you’re old, Will Besting. Don’t go letting me down.”

  I pulled her up, kissing her with a new kind of confidence I hadn’t felt before. But what could I say that would make her feel safe? What would any girl want to hear that they could actually believe? Would I be there when she was ninety? Would we even remember the moments that shaped our lives together, drawing us down, ever closer to death’s door? I told her what I could: that I knew the secrets of Fort Eden, that I knew her heart and my own, and that we would go down fighting to
gether.

  “Not bad,” she said, pulling me toward the door. “Come on, I’ve got energy to burn.”

  By the time we got outside Marisa was reenergized. In the deep night of Eden, we listened to the world around us and the rhythm of each other’s laughing, and felt the wonder of being alive, just the two of us.

  More time has passed. Some things I know better, some questions still remain. Of these things I am sure:

  The apparatus for conducting the fears has been destroyed. This was mostly Connor with the metal pipe, a job he wanted sole ownership of, though he could not withhold at least a few swings from each and every one of us. Some parts have found their way to the bottom of the pond, others are smashed to bits and pieces. A thousand years of science or magic or both are now fallen into ruin.

  Our vials cured us of what Rainsford took away. Why he wouldn’t have just let us have those cures to begin with I don’t know. It is a very peculiar being who wants suffering in the world purely for the pleasure of it, and I don’t claim to understand what makes it bloom in an otherwise normal human being. I will say this: to let suffering endure needlessly will blacken the kindest heart over time. Maybe Rainsford began only as a heartless man, not a wicked one. Maybe having no heart and a lot of time leads only to the abyss in the end. Who can know the ways of a man after his nine hundredth birthday? They get complicated at that age.

  I feel very happy for everyone. Kate is radiant and less angry, much more prone to laughter than she used to be. Not having a splitting headache will do that for a person. Connor is captain of the football team again and he has, as I suspected, joined the ROTC. He has every intention of becoming a Marine, and I think he’ll be a good one. A great one, actually. Alex is just “better,” which is to say I don’t really keep up with him too much. I suspect he’s happier without the fanny pack and the needles. Avery has made a full recovery, and she is probably Marisa’s closest companion if Ben isn’t around. Ben and Avery, a couple, something I would not have predicted. But then again, they’re similar in spirit: reserved, lost, hopeful, confused. And they came out of the experience damaged more than the rest of us. They saved each other in the end, it seemed to me, willing each other to get healthy.

  Mrs. Goring did, indeed, discover a way in which to use the fear chambers and the machinery at Fort Eden to work Rainsford’s black magic on herself. When we arrived at Fort Eden, there were seven participants hidden away in their own basement fear chambers, awaiting their moment. They never knew what hit them, and by the time we escaped from the underground missile silo someone had already taken them all away. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Mrs. Goring went from Amy back to herself over and over between cures. When she was Amy, she called as Amy. When she was Goring, she called as Goring. It was only Eve Goring all along.

  “I got what I wanted,” Eve told me before we left. She was sitting by the pond again, staring at the pile of clothes that used to contain Rainsford.

  “What was that?” I asked her.

  “I outlived him. It was worth it just to see him fall head over heels for me again. Priceless.”

  “Being sixteen isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” I said. “You might not like it as much as you think.”

  She smiled mischievously, as if I had no idea what I was talking about.

  “Here, so you can save the world again. You’re getting pretty good at it.”

  Eve gave me a list of names and addresses, along with seven vials. I made it my special mission to find the Goring seven, to make sure they got cured of whatever disease they’d picked up at Fort Eden. “You could have killed us down there,” I said. “It was wrong what you did.”

  Eve stared at the pond with those piercing eyes—eyes that were much too sharp for a young girl. “I’m not a sorry person, never have been,” she said, and I felt the bitterness that had settled in her bones. It was a bitterness she would die with, I knew. “You got cured and Rainsford is dead. We both got what we wanted.”

  It’s 10:30 PM and Marisa is still awake, playing video games with her sister while I lie on her bed half asleep. I can hear every sound they make. And there’s another voice, a closer one, deeper inside.

  I have to admit, that whole Amy/Goring thing had me fooled. I wouldn’t have bet they were the same person. Gotta give Goring some credit—she did in seven hours what Rainsford needed seven days to accomplish. She was only Amy for, like, fifteen minutes at a time. Crazy.

  Good thing you’ve got me to watch over you, bro.

  Yeah, good thing. That’s your job though, right? Big brothers are supposed to know this stuff.

  Yeah, it’s my job. I got it covered. Air hockey?

  Now you’re talking!

  I drifted off to sleep, the sounds of Marisa and my little brother laughing until I couldn’t tell for sure which of them was dead and which was alive. But life, I was coming to find, was like that. There were things a person couldn’t be cured of, like falling in love or missing a lost little brother. I carry them around like glass eggs and hope I don’t drop them, because those are the things that make me who I am. The things I won’t let go of.

  When at last I face the specter of death at my side, the deep-down things are all I will have to comfort me.

  They are who I am, who I was, who I will be.

  About the Author

  PATRICK CARMAN is the New York Times bestselling author of such acclaimed series as the Land of Elyon and Atherton, the teen superhero novel THIRTEEN DAYS TO MIDNIGHT, and the first Dark Eden book. A multimedia pioneer, Patrick authored THE BLACK CIRCLE, the fifth title in the 39 Clues series, and the groundbreaking Skeleton Creek and Trackers books. An enthusiastic reading advocate, Patrick has visited more than one thousand schools, developed village library projects in Central America, and created author outreach programs for communities. You can visit him online at www.patrickcarman.com.

  Visit www.AuthorTracker.com for exclusive information on your favorite HarperCollins authors.

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  Praise for

  Dark Eden

  “DARK EDEN is a fast-paced thrill ride. . . . A compelling read that transposes the best aspects of classic horror storytelling onto a modern backwoods adventure reluctantly experienced by seven terrified teens.”

  —Los Angeles Times

  “A spooky, psychological thriller. With seven different characters who have seven different fears, there is bound to be someone for readers to relate to in one way or another. . . . The supernatural twist at the end will leave teens with more questions than answers.”

  —School Library Journal

  “Engrossing and deliciously unexpected, DARK EDEN is a tale that slithers across our skin, a cool breath on the back of our necks that raises the fine hairs and has us frozen in place, held immobile by the paralyzing fear of turning around and facing what’s there.”

  —Supernatural Snark

  “This book blew me away. The big ‘revelation’ was jaw-dropping and utterly fantastic.”

  —I Just Wanna Sit Here and Read

  “DARK EDEN was quick, clever, and completely satisfying.”

  —Bookish Brunette

  “Patrick Carman’s new YA novel is a sure winner.”

  —Between the Pages

  “DARK EDEN was just pure awesomeness.”

  —IceyBooks

  “The star of this book is the setting. Carman has created an austere landscape where a new horror lurks around every corner.”

  —The Well-Read Wife

  “DARK EDEN had me hooked in the first few sentences.”

  —The Page Turners

  “Carman excellently plays up the creepy factor in DARK EDEN, with an eerie setting and lots of tension. . . . You never know who might be lurking around that next corner.”

  —Novel Novice

  Credits

  Cover photograph © 2012 by

  Margaret Malandruccolo/MergeLeft Reps, Inc.

  Cover design by Joel Tippie

  Copyright
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  Katherine Tegen Books is an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

  Dark Eden: Eve of Destruction

  Text copyright © 2012 by PC Studio

  Interior illustrations copyright © 2012 by Patrick Arrasmith

  All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse-engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.

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  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available.

  ISBN 978-0-06-210182-2

  EPub Edition © April 2012 ISBN: 9780062101853

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  FIRST EDITION

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