Unhinged Page 80

My throat goes dry. “What do you mean?”

“The looking-glass world—AnyElsewhere. Did Morpheus ever tell you about it?”

“Not enough.” Obviously.

“It’s where all of Wonderland’s exiles are banished, where Queen Red was supposed to go, before she escaped. There’s a dome of iron that surrounds it, holding them all in, and two knights who guard each gateway, one Red and one White. The place is Wonderland on steroids. The creatures”—her face pales—“the landscapes, they’re wild and untamed, mutated beyond anything you can imagine. It’s no wonder your father’s dreams were so captivating to the restless souls. His experiences from that place probably fed their hunger for violent frivolity to the brim. Not to mention how formidable his nightmares must’ve been. The rabbit hole was never safer than when he was providing the mome wraiths.”

Discomfort slinks into my bones as I consider the wraiths I tamed in the gym. To imagine Dad’s nightmares as any more ghastly than those makes my skin crawl. “How could he have found his way to the looking-glass world as a child? I thought the only entrance was through Wonderland, the tulgey forest.”

“Morpheus once told me there’s another way in, from the human realm. There’s a way to open mirrors without keys, an ancient trick that only the anointed knights know.”

I stand, needing to move or I’ll throw up. “So, you think when Dad was a kid, he got inside through a mirror and ended up crossing AnyElsewhere all the way to the other gate that leads to the tulgey wood … inside Wonderland?”

Mom shrugs. “That would explain how he fell into Sister Two’s keep. The answer is in his lost memories. But I can’t watch them again. It felt like I was betraying him. Viewing pieces of his life that he would never have access to. That’s not right. No. We just have to move forward. We’re his family now, and that’s enough.”

I sit again and try to digest everything she’s told me. The quiet becomes unbearable. I’m hyperaware of the time passing, and of Jeb in the next room filling his head with lost memories. There’s nothing I can do now about my family’s messed-up past, but there’s still a mosaic to find and a battle to fight.

“You’re right,” I say to get us back on track. “We need to move forward. Why are you here? Did Dad tell you what happened at school?”

She nods and plays with the straps on her tote bag. “I knew he was keeping something from me. I finally got it out of him. He wanted me to go with him to look for you because he was afraid to leave me alone. But I insisted on staying behind in case you came home. When he left, I called for Chessie. He led me here.”

“But we don’t have any mirrors at home. And you don’t drive.”

“I have a mirror in the attic, Allie. A netherling always has an escape plan. Surely that’s one of the first lessons Morpheus taught you.”

I smile sadly. I hope he remembered his own lessons. I hope he had an escape plan to get out of Sister Two’s web.

I consider telling Mom that he lied to me, that it’s his fault everything is such a mess in the human realm, but after seeing what he did for my dad and watching my mom betray him—no matter how happy I am that she made those choices—it doesn’t feel right to let her rake Morpheus over the coals.

I understand now, why he needed me to experience Dad’s memories for myself. He knew I wouldn’t have believed him if he just told me. It’s so hard for me to accept the good in him.

Though that’s starting to change.

I see why he hid so much from me about the tests last summer. Why he kept me in the dark as I fulfilled his plan, bit by bit. He was honest with Mom in the beginning, and she made him believe she’d be the one to help him. Then she backed out at the last minute.

He wasn’t about to take the chance I would do the same, not with his spiritual eternity in the balance. Although it doesn’t excuse everything he’s done, it does make his motivations sympathetic. More human than he’d ever dare admit.

“What’s in the bag?” I ask as Mom tugs the canvas straps toward us.

She pulls three mosaics from the tote. “Chessie said you found the others, but he wouldn’t tell me where.” She waits, as if thinking I’ll fill in the blanks. When I hold my tongue, she continues. “These are the ones I had hidden.”

My blood races, and I get on my knees to help her lay them out. “Mom, you’re the best.”

She beams.

Some of Chessie’s sparkly silt remains on them. I copy Ivory and smear the residue around on the one mosaic I have left to decipher.

The animation shows some sort of celebration. A crowd of creatures weaves through barren trees. A few have crowns; others have beaks or wings. All of them wear masks. Some glide and float, as if standing on magic carpets. Chaos erupts when feral toys bust out from the shadows, attacking the creatures.

An uneasy dread uncoils in my chest as the image blurs away. I look at Mom, who’s watching over my shoulder.

“Red,” I murmur.

She tucks the mosaics away in her bag again, her mouth pressed into a worried line.

“I was wrong.” I nibble my lip. “I thought that the one I hadn’t seen yet was the end of the war. But that was the first one I made, Mom. It’s the catalyst. You’ve been to Wonderland. You saw places I haven’t seen yet. Can you tell me where the party is?”

“It looked like a forest,” she answers, her voice shaky. “But I didn’t recognize it.” She rubs her temple. “I don’t understand how Red could release the restless souls. Sister Two isn’t one to let her guard down. Especially not since she lost your father.”

I gulp. Mom doesn’t realize Sister Two has discovered who stole her prize in the first place.

I take both her hands in mine, putting on a brave face so she won’t see my fear. “Sister Two’s not in Wonderland to watch her side of the cemetery. She’s here. She knows you stole Dad all those years ago.”

Mom pales. Her fingers go limp, and for a minute I think she’s going to faint. “She’s coming after Thomas?” she whispers.

“Dad’s safe. No one knows who the dream-boy grew up to be, other than Morpheus and Ivory. Sister Two just wants revenge.” I try not to let my voice waver. “She has her sights on Jeb.”

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