Unhinged Page 74

My mind races for some way to keep her talking. “Who was this boy?” Although, in some private, horrified corner of my soul, I’m starting to think I already know.

Curling and uncurling her venomous fingertips, Sister Two bows over me. “What difference does a name make? He’s long gone now. Ye can die without that answer, just as I’ve lived without it. All ye need is the knowledge that I’ll take yer mortal knight to be our new dreamer. He has an artist’s mind. I’ve seen his work. He’ll give me spirits many years of peace and entertainment.”

“No, please. Don’t hurt Jeb …” I try to break free of the web, but it only tightens around my wing. Cold panic sluices through my blood, making me shiver.

“Aw. Don’t ye worry, little fly, he’ll never know he’s suffering.” Sister Two’s palm rakes my face. I grip her wrist and wrestle her, but those eight legs give her a better center of gravity.

“Back off!” I snarl through gritted teeth, mind shifting into netherling mode. I remember her blind spot and silently call my skeleton marionette in from the storeroom to attack her from behind. “I won’t let you have Jeb without a fight.” I wince as a stinger presses my cheek, about to break the skin. Poison wells from the tip and drizzles down my face.

“I be counting on that, devil-bug,” Sister Two says. “I like me food to have some bite.”

“You want bite?” Morpheus’s voice interrupts from somewhere on the other side of the room, breaking my concentration. Bones rattle in the storeroom as my skeletal puppet falls limp. “Take me in her stead.”

My heart soars … only to seize again when I realize what he’s just offered. I can barely make out his silhouette through the webs, standing in front of the display window: his body, his wings.

“Morpheusssss.” Sister Two shoves me backward, unintentionally freeing my wing of its trap. I swipe the poison from my face and regain my balance.

Morpheus’s wings flap slowly and cautiously. “Right here, my lovely wretch. I was feeling neglected. You were aiming all that beautiful fury at the wrong insect. After all, I’m as responsible as Alison for stealing the boy. You must know that by now.”

Hissing, she scuttles toward Morpheus.

“Alyssa,” Morpheus says, unmoving from his position, “you have a trip to take. Everything you’ll need is in my jacket.”

Wait … that was why he insisted I put the jacket on Jeb, so I'd have the tickets if we got separated. It had nothing to do with Jeb’s bloodstained shirt. He thinks I’m going on the train without him.

“No,” I insist. “Not without you.”

“Would you sacrifice the mortal you love for the netherling you hate?” he asks, and the conviction in his voice hurts as bad as a blow. I don’t know what’s more excruciating, the fact that I’ve told him I hate him enough times to make him believe it or that I’m starting to realize how far it is from the truth.

I hesitate, wishing I could rescue both of them. It’s a risk, and if I fail trying, Jeb doesn’t stand a chance against Sister Two.

Morpheus, on the other hand, does.

Eyes stinging, I sprint toward the storeroom. I make the mistake of throwing one last glance over my shoulder. Sister Two casts a web that covers Morpheus’s silhouette, and I scream.

He shouts, “Go, Alyssa!” His voice is strained and muffled as she twists him toward her like she’s reeling in a fish, building a cocoon around him on the way.

I turn because I have to, because Jeb needs me and Wonderland is running out of time. Although every pounding step I take rips my heart further down the middle.

There isn’t time to hide my wings.

For safety, Jeb and I stay in the bathroom and take the mirror above the sink to London. He’s cooperative, not even asking questions as I twist the key into the crackled glass and open the portal to the bridge in the distance. Wooden slats partially block the view, as if a gate is closed just on the other side of the mirror.

I climb onto the sink and reach inside to push it open, then I plunge through. The motion sickness is as bad as the first few times I traveled via mirror. I guess it’s been too long.

Once I have my balance, I stand to face the London side of the portal—a six-foot-tall garden mirror that has two wooden panels giving the illusion of a gated entrance. There’s no one else around, and I breathe a sigh of relief.

The sun hangs low on the horizon, streaking orange across a clear sky. A village sits on the other side of the river, complete with busy streets, people, and charming buildings set so close they could be Legos snapped together. Trees cover the hill I’m standing on, casting shade in thick patches of blue on the grassy ground. A brick cottage hunkers a few yards away from me. Though it looks abandoned, the garden is vibrant and flourishing.

Gardenia, larkspur, and hyacinth fill the air with sweet scents. Bees and butterflies flutter around the petals and leaves. Their unified whispers tickle my ears:

You’re not the first to trek this ground. Your mother was here before you.

Yes, she was. Yesterday, when she hid my mosaics. I’m about to ask if they happened to see exactly where she hid them on the bridge when Jeb ducks through the mirror wearing my backpack. He sways but takes the disorientation in stride, thinking it’s all part of the dream.

If only it were a dream.

I fight the prick of tears behind my eyes again. Morpheus has to be okay. I can’t believe he gave himself up so I could take Jeb with me. Of course he wants me to find the final mosaic. He wants me to save Wonderland. Maybe there’s even a deeper plan, some secret scheme. I can’t be sure where he’s involved.

Still. It took courage. And he also alluded to having a part in stealing Sister Two’s dream-boy. If the dream-boy is who I think he is, it changes everything I’ve ever thought about my mom … about my life … even about Morpheus.

“Hey,” Jeb says, touching my cheek. He draws back his hand and studies a tear I didn’t realize had escaped. “This can’t be right. You’re never sad in my dreams.”

“It’s nothing.” I rub my face. “It’s just the rain.”

He looks up. “There’s not a cloud in the sky.” Then he levels his gaze on our surroundings. “Where is this place? I’ve never imagined it before.”

“Maybe this is my dream.” I attempt to ease his mind. “Yeah. You’re sharing mine.”

Prev Next