Kristen’s heart raced as her footfalls pounded against the smooth floor. When was the last time she’d felt so scared? It came to her easily. Her little sister, Martha, had been climbing the tree out in the backyard. Her brother, Joseph was running around like a crazed dog. He’d gotten into the cookie jar and then found some of Father’s gadgets. Would have been cute, but this time the gadget was that super old gun that Father kept in his study. For emergencies. And Mother and Father were both at work and it was Kristen’s job to watch her siblings but that collector was supposed to come by and she had to make up some story about why the bills were late, so late…
Right. The man. Mac Jaclow. She’d heard some things about him from the other ladies.
He told lies.
She had to carry out Lady Harmony’s task, or have her face eaten by their long, sharp teeth. And once Mac Jaclow found out that she was helping Lady Harmony, he’d leave her alone to face whatever fate the First Lady had in store for her.
Her family would never see her again.
She swallowed a sob. “Yes?” Each word had to be controlled. She’d let herself go on the promenade. What if the Ladies were watching? They could burst through walls now. Who knew what else they could do.
“You said that you just had to do one thing, and then you could go home…but you live here on the Lunar Dome, right?”
Careful, careful. Kristen slowed her run. Just three more corridors, and then they would be there. The Ladies’ Quarters. That wasn’t home, not really, no matter how much Kristen wished it were. The Charter, that was her home. It had saved her.
“I’m from Earth.”
She snuck a glance at him. He wasn’t looking at her, though. He was watching where they were going. Of course. He didn’t care if she was ripped apart by Lady Harmony the Monster. He didn’t even know that she was a monster. Not unless she told him, which would be very, very, very bad.
“Where on Earth are you from?”
Kristen peeked around the corner. Deserted. Too deserted. Maybe what Mac Jaclow had said about the soldiers rounding up people and escorting them away was true. Or maybe Lady Harmony had eaten them all. She could still hear Lady Méline’s tortured, gurgled screams as Lady Harmony and Lady Dominique devoured her face.
If Lady Harmony ate her face, her family wouldn’t be able to recognize her when she died.
“Sorry. I was just trying to be friendly,” Mac Jaclow said. “I’m from Earth too, you know.”
Lies, he probably wasn’t from Earth at all. He probably grew up on this lifeless rock without any worries at all. That was why he was always bothering other people, because he didn’t know what it was like to be bothered. She crept down the dark corridor. Just two more and they would be there. He was so close behind her that she could feel his hot breath on her neck.
“I just…want to make sure you’re all right.”
Butterflies fluttered in her stomach. Now was definitely not the time to get all flattered. But what if he really was from Earth, and what if he really was trying to help her?
“Just between you and me,” he went on, “I don’t think this is a typical quarantine. This is going to sound crazy, and just because I work for the Daily Dome…well, maybe you don’t read that. I don’t know what Ladies read. But…Lady Harmony isn’t herself because of any…Earthly…or Lunar…disease.”
They were closing in on the next fork in the twisty hallways when Kristen stopped. “What do you mean, not an Earthly or Lunar disease? Like, do you mean…” She dropped her voice to a whisper and leaned forward. The Ladies could be listening. They probably were listening, and now, she was going to die. But if Mac Jaclow knew something that could help her, and he probably did, since he was a journalist and all…
Mac’s eyes darted around the corridor as he lowered his voice. “I don’t have all the evidence yet. That’s why I need to get into the Ladies’ Quarters–that’s where Lady Harmony was last, before the incident in the throne room. But something attacked her, and I think that same something is why we’re all quarantined now. Because it’s still here. Maybe…still inside her. I…I saw the footage.”
Footage! Proof that she wasn’t crazy…and that she had another reason to fear the monster Lady Harmony had become.
Kristen studied Mac’s face. Her mother always said that you could tell an honest man from a cheat by looking into his eyes. And there was something there, in his irises, that screamed truth. That he wasn’t just trying to get a story out of her, or expose her to Lady Harmony. She’d always trusted the older ladies, but now, she couldn’t. All she had was this stranger who said he’d help her do a potentially awful thing.
Her lips parted. Lady Harmony is a monster. That was all she had to say. And she was good at saying things.
Words failed her.
“We’re almost there,” she said quietly.