Home > Sanctum (Asylum #2)(10)

Sanctum (Asylum #2)(10)
Madeleine Roux

“It’s good to see you again,” she said, blushing. “Here, let’s get Jordan’s stuff.”

She turned to assist Jordan, who wore his usual dark, stylish clothes—a leather jacket and skinny jeans, with woolly socks just visible above the tops of his scuffed ankle boots.

Dan had forgotten how tragically unhip he felt in their presence. He also noticed slips of scrap paper poking out of Jordan’s jacket pockets.

“I don’t suppose those are hangman games?” Dan asked.

“These?” Jordan pulled out one of the slips. “Just messing around.”

From what Dan could see, “just messing around” meant hundreds of rows of mathematical calculations. He had to wonder what it was like inside Jordan’s genius head. They picked up their bags and waited for the street to clear, then they crossed to the paved path winding up toward the college itself.

“How was the trip?” Dan asked, walking as close to Abby as he could without tripping her. “It’s been raining like this since the second I stepped off the plane.”

“Jordan wouldn’t shut up about his host,” Abby replied. “He looked him up on Facebook. Very rich. Very athletic. And very handsome with a capital H-O-T.”

Dan laughed nervously.

“And probably very straight with a capital Disappointment,” Jordan added.

“I doubt we’ll see much of them anyway,” Dan pointed out. “We’re here on a mission.” He tried to say this lightly, like it was all a funny joke, but neither Jordan nor Abby laughed. “Besides, they probably don’t have time for lame high school students like us.”

“Yeah.” Jordan tossed his curly hair and gave Abby a sideways look. “Let’s hope they don’t pay too much attention to the Scooby gang sneaking off.”

“I don’t remember this hill being so steep,” Abby said, puffing. “Man, this place must get freezing in the winter.”

With every step they took up the hill toward the college, Dan felt his breath becoming shorter and his mood darker. It was one thing to talk about coming back here; it was another thing entirely to be here, to be back. Felix, possessed or inspired by the Sculptor, had tried to kill them. Dan had seen an actual dead body. But as anxious as the place made him, it was as if someone had opened him up and hidden a magnet in his chest—he felt pulled back to this place and its as-yet-undiscovered secrets.

A buzz in his pocket jarred Dan out of his thoughts. He pulled out his phone to find a new text message from Sandy.

Hey! Make it to Jordan’s safely? Just checking in. Have fun on your visit!

Dan chewed the inside of his cheek, his finger dodging over the screen to type back a vague if reassuring message.

“Jordan’s?” Jordan himself eyed the phone over Dan’s shoulder as Dan typed a quick reply. “What exactly did you tell your folks about this weekend?”

“Not the whole truth, if you want to be technical about it.” It hadn’t felt good to lie to his mom, but it hadn’t exactly been hard, either. “I mentioned you were checking out a tour at Georgetown this weekend and said I was going to tag along. And then I might have changed my flight with the emergency credit card.”

“At least I’m not the one obscuring my whereabouts this time,” Jordan said with a wry smile. “I’m sure we’ll have a blast at Georgetown. But seriously, Dan, let me know if you need help paying back that credit card.”

“You should’ve just told them the truth,” Abby said.

“Then I wouldn’t be here talking to you two. My parents don’t want me to have anything to do with this place.” And maybe they’re right.

They reached the top of the hill and Dan stopped abruptly, stunned as if someone had punched him in the gut and knocked out what little breath he had left.

“What the . . .” The words died on his lips.

They’re the same, he thought, staring dumbly at a sea of tents set up in the grassy central area of the campus. They’re just like in my dream. Or really, just like in the warden’s dream. And more alarming still: just like in their mysterious photos.

He tugged the picture out of his coat pocket and held it up for all of them to see. Jordan and Abby did the same, standing in a row and completing the panorama.

“What’s stronger than déjà vu?” Jordan whispered.

“Whatever this is,” Abby answered.

The carnival tents were only just visible through the gaps between brick buildings; from where they stood, they could see the broad orange, purple, and black stripes. Dan half expected to smell the scent of burned fuel—to see the fire breather from his dream, and the man on the stage. . . . But all he could smell was the mud clinging to their shoes and the unidentifiable cooking-meat stench that always seemed to float over from the Commons.

Dan tucked the photo back into his jacket pocket.

“I wasn’t expecting a carnival,” Abby said. “Do you think it’s for the prospective students?”

“There was nothing about it in the pamphlet they sent out,” Jordan said, leading them forward and deeper into campus. Tall trees sprang up on either side of the path, their fall leaves shiny with wetness. “Kind of a big thing to leave out, don’t you think?”

Dan wouldn’t know; he hadn’t bothered to read the pamphlet. It said it was for prospective students, not people pretending to be prospective students.

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