Gateway (The Gateway Trilogy, Book 1)

Gateway (The Gateway Trilogy, Book 1) by Christina Garner Read Free Book Online

Book: Gateway (The Gateway Trilogy, Book 1) by Christina Garner Read Free Book Online
Authors: Christina Garner
closet to hide in became more terrifying than facing what was in the hall.
    He didn't wait for my answer. “Now!”
    He bolted from the room, dragging Callie with him, her still shrieking her ABC's. I leapt to follow.   The stairwell seemed farther away than I remembered. Of course, fifteen minutes ago I was only worried about getting caught by an orderly, not a psychotic patient. The door to the stairs stood open and, amazingly, unoccupied.   We raced through and continued down the stairs. We'd reached the landing for our floor when the door burst open. We skidded to a halt in front of Lauren and Josh.
    “It's coming, it's coming, go!” Lauren babbled hysterically.
    Something, some thing large and terrifying appeared in the doorway.
    “Run!” Lauren shrieked and tore past us, up the stairs, Josh following.
    Callie's eyes widened with recognition. “You said they weren't here, you said—”
    She began convulsing, her eyes rolling back in her head.
    The creature had eyes like slits and a nose like a squashed bug, but its mouth… Its mouth took up the better part of its face. A gooey red liquid oozed from both corners and when it opened, four rows of jagged teeth gleamed in the fluorescent light.
    “Get her out of here,” Taren said, pushing Callie into my arms. “Drag her if you have to.”
    He took a step toward the beast.
    “What? What are you doing? Run!” I screamed.
    “I'll be right behind you,” he said calmly, dislodging a fire extinguisher from its case on the wall.
    Whether due to self-preservation or his commanding tone, I left him there, pulling Callie along with me. I don't know how many floors I ran up—I didn't even know how many floors the building had—but when I reached the roof my lungs were on fire and I was gasping for air. I slumped against the doorframe, letting Callie collapse into a heap.
    Moments later Taren stepped onto the rooftop.
    “How is she?” he asked.
    He was barely short of breath, his clothing drenched in a foul-smelling black slime.
    It was my shock at seeing him again that made me realize that I'd been certain he would die. Certain he was sacrificing his life, if not for me, then for the young woman in a heap at my feet.
    “Ask her,” I said. Not the best way to say thank you—he had saved my life, however incidental—but in the past half hour of sneaking down hallways, then running for my life, I'd begun to wonder, “What the hell is so special about her, anyway?”
    He was kneeling, trying to rouse her. “You wouldn't understand.”
    “Oh yeah? Try me.” I could hear the hysterical edge in my voice but could do nothing to stop it. “And while you're at it, why don't you explain to me what that thing down there was. And why you seem not at all fazed that a giant bug with the mouth of Jaws is running around a mental institution, or anywhere for that matter—”
    “You need to calm down, Ember. Take a deep breath.” Taren didn't spare me a glance, instead he scanned the rooftop.
    “Oh, no, you don't get to be patronizing,” I said. “I've put up with plenty of very weird behavior from both you, and now I want some answers.”
    “I'm not trying to patronize you,” he said, turning to face me. “But there are things happening right now that are more important than your curiosity. Callie needs the help of professionals. Do you really want me to waste time explaining myself to you?”
    I looked back at Callie, still motionless, and knew he was right.
    With great care Taren lifted her in his arms and moved away from the stairwell.
    “I know a safe place if you want to come with us,” he said.
    If? I certainly wasn't going back downstairs, and I wasn't naive enough to think the roof would remain quiet for long.
    I followed Taren to the roof's edge and peered over. We were only five flights up. It had felt so much further when I was running for my life and dragging an uncooperative Callie. In the distance, I could just make out two shapes sprinting across

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