It was quiet in the fog. Even the birds—so busy in the trees just moments before—had fallen silent. All I could hear: my breath, my footsteps—my slow, deliberate footsteps. I tried to take the advice I’d offered to Harriet just moments before. Shuffling steps. Trying to tell by sound and feel if I were still on the path. I knew from the maps we’d seen at the Headquarters that the trail was a big oval—if I just kept on it, the path would take me back to where we started. To the bus. To others. To safety.
But the fog was so thick, the silence so perfect, that soon I was not certain at all that I was anywhere near the trail anymore. I tried calling out, but the fog sucked away my words, absorbing them like a thick towel.
And then I thought I heard something—just a little to my right. Was it the chirp of a sparrow? It continued, sharp, lilting. But somehow … comforting. I moved toward it, slowly.
And then … muffled sounds. But I was fairly certain I was hearing the human voice—probably more than one. Had I wandered that far off? How could anyone be on that side of me? But I decided to move that way, slowly, and find out.
The voices did indeed grow louder as I drew closer to them. They were not children’s voices. But there was something familiar about them—both of them. I crept closer. And just ahead of me, a shaft of sunlight pierced the fog and I could see with absolute clarity where I was. I had wandered off the trail, to my right, and I had ended up back near the little road. Right near the old grave marker.
Two figures with shovels were digging around it, neither of them noticing me. But I recognized both of them immediately. One was Dr. Eastbrook; the other, Blue Boyle.
Alarmed, I inhaled sharply, a sound loud enough that both of them turned my way. The fog was lifting, the shafts of sun slicing through here and there like waterfalls of light. One was now illuminating me like a spotlight. I don’t know who was more shocked at that moment. Dr. Eastbrook I had not seen since he left his family. And Blue Boyle had grown even more since first grade. He looked … impossible. He had to be six feet tall, thick and solid as if carved from a tree. In his hand, he held a large sack. He dropped it in surprise.
“What is she doing here!” Dr. Eastbrook cried to no one in particular.
Blue Boyle didn’t answer; he just stared at me with a look of bafflement. At least, I guess that’s what it was because at that moment I felt myself slumping to the ground, as if someone had let all the air out of me. Or my bones had changed to soft rubber.
I was not unconscious—just, well, disabled. I couldn’t move. I heard the two of them move over toward me, then looked up to see them, standing over me. Dr. Eastbrook again spoke—again speaking about me rather than to me. “We’re going to have to do something with her,” he said. “She’s seen us.”
Then he did look at me, and his glance contained nothing human in it whatsoever. And for the first time in my life, death became to me something more than what I’d read about in books. It became someone I knew, someone standing right next to me. Looking at me. Calculating …
I looked over at Blue Boyle. In his yellowish eyes I saw only the faintest of lights, a fireplace ember nearly expired. But not quite. Not quite …
I heard myself groan. And I heard Blue Boyle say—in a voice impossibly deep: “Leave her alone.” He moved between me and Dr. Eastbrook.
There was a pause. And then I heard the doctor sigh.
“All right,” he said. “We’re going to have to leave the island anyway. We don’t have much time to cover up what we’ve done. And he turned and disappeared into the fog that was thickening once again.
Blue Boyle leaned over to me and whispered huskily. “This is the only time. I cannot …” His breath was foul—like rotting meat. His teeth a disgusting greenish-yellow. I closed my eyes only a moment. And when I opened them, he was gone, his mysterious sentence unfinished.