Rachel woke up in a bed. In her bed. Not the creaky brass bed in the flowery bedroom of her grandmother's cottage in Triskellion, but in her own bed, in her own room. Her own room in New York City.
She lay still for a moment, letting her eyes travel around the room, afraid to close them again in case it disappeared. Everything was there: the well-thumbed copy of Where's Waldo? that was a childhood favourite; the china piggybank that only ever held a couple of dollars in change; the furry, glass-eyed cat and a battered and grubby teddy bear that had belonged to her mother. Everything was in its place, each item a touchstone to memories that now seemed part of a distant past. Rachel's gaze drifted past the Johnny Depp poster to the window, where narrow shafts of light were squeezing their way through the wooden slats of the blind. She could hear the low rumble and honk of traffic on the street outside. The sounds of Manhattan coming to life...
The room was still there. She was not dreaming. But how, she wondered, did she get here?
She remembered the helicopter ride - the flight from Triskellion with Adam, her mother and Laura Sullivan - and the landing, a grey and misty place, miles from anywhere. She remembered being separated from Adam and being bundled into a building, weak with exhaustion from the day's events.
Her thoughts began to spool back in fast rewind...
Rachel shuddered and felt a fearful lurch in her stomach as she remembered what Gabriel had revealed to them. That they were like him. That she and Adam were human but had ... something else in their blood. In their genes. Something that made them very different. Her stomach knotted as she realized that one fact would inform every moment of the rest of their lives: their bloodline had been created centuries before, by the union of a human and someone from another world. Rachel felt a wave of nausea and, for a moment, thought she might be sick.
She breathed deeply and closed her eyes until the feeling had passed.
Whatever had happened, at least she and Adam had been reunited with their mother. At least they were home. She just couldn't remember how she had got here. She must have slept for days. Maybe she'd been given something to help her sleep...
But she took comfort from the fact that, however she had got here, she was a safe distance from England, from the village where it had all started. It would be a huge relief to talk to her mum about everything, to Adam...
Then Rachel realized that, for the first time in her life, she couldn't hear her brother's voice in her head. Nor Gabriel's voice, or any voices at all. Not even the insistent humming, like the drone of bees, that told Rachel she was on their wavelength; that she was ready to receive their thoughts.
Rachel felt a little panicked and climbed out of bed. She needed to find Adam and see if he felt the same. Her head was fuzzy and her tongue was thick and heavy inside her mouth. She felt unsteady on her feet and, guessing that she'd stood up too quickly, she reached out for the desk beside the bed to steady herself.
The desktop was as tidy as she'd left it a month or so before; pens in the plastic pot, a stack of CDs and the little round red mirror. Rachel picked it up and stared at herself. She looked terrible. Her curly chestnut hair was greasy and matted and her face looked pale and puffy, as if she had been crying for days. She put the mirror face down and, as she raised her head, another thought struck her. This room - her room - looked and felt and sounded like it should, but it didn't smell right. It smelled synthetic, like the inside of a new car. Rachel slipped on her red plastic flip-flops and walked over to the door. The handle felt unusually stiff. She gave it a jerk and let out an involuntary cry as the door flew back. It didn't open on to the carpeted hallway that led to her parents' room, but into a brightly lit, white corridor.
And somewhere near by an alarm went off.
Stepping from the shadows of her room, Rachel squinted up at the harsh white light flooding from the fluorescent tubes that ran the length of the passage. The corridor resonated with the faint, low-level buzz given off by the lights and with the distant beep of the alarm that had started the moment she'd opened the door.
The alarm that she had activated.
Rachel was frightened and confused, but more than anything she was astonished by the bizarre feeling of stepping from her own room into an institutional corridor.
She felt as if she was a figure in a Surrealist picture - one of those her mom liked so much - walking from one room to another in a dream-like landscape with the slap-slap-slap of her flip-flops echoing like a ticking clock.
There were other doors every few metres or so, and Rachel began to push gently at each one, as much to confirm their existence as anything else. She glanced up in alarm as a man passed quickly in front of her, a few metres ahead, where the corridor met another in a T-junction. He stopped and looked at her briefly before hurrying on.
Rachel stood, frozen. He'd had been wearing white overalls and she'd seen a flash of panic pass across his features when he'd spotted her. She'd watched him fumbling to push in small earphones before walking quickly away.
He'd looked scared of her.
Rachel moved on past another two doors, stopping at a third which had something written on it. She looked closely at the small printed label and her heart lurched once again. It read:
Rachel tried the handle. The door was unlocked. She opened it and walked into her brother's room...From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Triskellion 2: The Burning by Will Peterson. Copyright © 2009 by Will Peterson. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.