Part X

He did as she suggested and took a walk the next day. Whatever she was giving him seemed to be doing its job, as he managed to shuffle all the way up the hallway after leaving his room and turning left. At the end of the hall, he came to a set of gunmetal grey double doors, each with an inset window roughly a foot square. Already feeling the strain of his effort, he didn’t dare try to push either open. The result likely would have left him sprawled out on the floor, wedged between the door he’d pushed and the one still closed. Even if he did manage to open it and shuffle across the threshold, getting the mobile IV hook through while trying to hold a steel fire door didn’t seem much like a good idea.

He settled for cupping his hands to his face and peering through the window. He couldn’t see much beyond the doorway, though; it looked like just another hallway running perpendicular to his own. Along the far side of the hall was a wall of windows, which appeared to overlook some kind of courtyard.

He turned around and shuffled back toward the open door of his room, passing a number of other closed doors along the way. Looking through the window in each doorframe, he found classroom after classroom, each dedicated to a branch of physical science. Seeing all the other science classrooms confirmed his suspicions about where Ana had him stashed.

“Why’d she pick a school?” he wondered quietly to himself. Of all the places in a supposedly empty world, it seemed strange to take him to an old school. Why not a huge high-rise, with hundreds of floors in which to hide and limited points of entry? Or some random suburban house, nestled in a cookie-cutter neighborhood. For whoever was looking for him, that seemed like it would be trying to find a needle in a haystack. For some reason, though, this place gave him the eerie feeling of being exposed.

He reached his doorway, paused, and then continued past it. The price for so much walking around would likely be steep tomorrow morning, but he wasn’t quite ready to climb back in bed yet, not while the other end of the hallway beckoned. He chuckled to himself at the thought of being “adventurous” by walking to both ends of the same hall in one day.

“You’re a regular action hero, Tommy boy” he mumbled under his breath.

Passing another group of closed doors, Thom found more science rooms just like at the other end of the hall. When he reached the big double doors, though, he found something much more interesting. Looking through the window, he saw another perpendicular hallway, but no matching windows looking out into the world. Instead, a set of stairs wound downward to his right, and beyond the hallway he could see into an enormous open room, lined with dozens and dozens of bookshelves. He was just down the hall from the school’s library.

Besides finding himself alive after waking from a decade-long coma, it was the only really good news he’d gotten in a week. With the library close enough to make regular trips without taxing himself, he’d finally have something to do with all the time he had alone. Reading had never really been his favorite hobby, but it was certainly better than waiting to hear voices in your head.

Exhaustion was creeping up as returned to the room, a not too subtle reminder of exactly how far away “feeling normal” seemed. He climbed into bed and made a note for Ana, in case he was asleep when she checked on him next. He wrote that he’d like to do without the IV, if possible; wandering the empty hallways would be much easier without it.

Thom expected to be asleep quickly, after the day’s tremendous effort, but plans for spending the coming weeks rereading favorite novels and researching the events of a decade missed had his mind racing. For the first time in weeks, sleep came only with effort.

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