The lights of Wayward Pines glowed against the cliffs that boxed it in, and for the first time, those steep mountain walls seemed inviting.
Fortifications against all the horror that lay beyond.
Shelter for the last town on earth.
Would it ever feel like home?
Would it be all right if it did?
You think man can destroy the planet? What intoxicating vanity. Earth has survived everything in its time. It will certainly survive us. To the earth...a million years is nothing. This planet lives and breathes on a much vaster scale. We can’t imagine its slow and powerful rhythms, and we haven’t got the humility to try. We’ve been residents here for the blink of an eye. If we’re gone tomorrow, the earth will not miss us.
From Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, copyright © 1990 by Michael Crichton. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
He sits in the quiet of his office, his boots up on the desk, studying the brass star in his hand and running his fingers over the WP inset in the center, the lettering in some black stone—obsidian perhaps. He wears dark brown canvas pants and a hunter-green long-sleeved button-down, just like his predecessor. The fabric feels new and over starched.
There is an extensive briefing scheduled with Pilcher and his team tomorrow, but today has been uneventful.
For eight hours, he sat in the stillness of his office, lost in thought, and the phone interrupted him only once—Belinda, the receptionist, at the noon hour asking if he’d like her to pick up anything for lunch.
He watches the second hand and the minute hand click over to the twelve.
It is five o’clock.
Sliding his boots off the desktop, he rises and puts on his Stetson, slips his brass star into his pocket. Maybe tomorrow he’ll bring himself to finally pin it on.
Or maybe not.
Like the first day of any new thing, it has been a long one, and he’s glad to see it end.
He looks at the three antique gun cabinets—a lustful, fleeting glance—and exits his office, heading down the hallway toward reception.
Belinda’s desk is covered in playing cards.
“I’m taking off,” Ethan says.
The white-haired woman lays down an ace of spades and looks up with a warm smile that does absolutely nothing to divulge a single telling aspect of who she really is. “How was your first day?”
“It was fine.”
“You have a good night, Sheriff. We’ll see you in the morning.”
* * *
It is a cool, clear evening.
Already the sun has slipped behind the mountain walls, and there is a crisp chill settling in that may herald the first frost of the season.
Ethan heads down the sidewalk of a quiet neighborhood.
An old man sitting in a rocking chair on a covered porch calls out, “Evening, Sheriff!”
Ethan tips his hat.
The man raises a steaming mug.
Raises it like a toast.
Somewhere in the near distance, a woman calls out, “Matthew! Time for dinner!”
“Come on, Mom! Just five more minutes!”
“No, right now!”
Their voices echo and fade across the valley.
On the next street down, he walks alongside an entire block devoted to a community garden, several dozen people hard at work, filling large baskets with fruit and vegetables.
The scent of overripe apples skirts along on the breeze.
Everywhere Ethan looks, lights are coming on inside houses, the air becoming fragrant with the smell of suppers cooking.
Through cracked windows, he hears clanging dishes, indistinct conversations, ovens opening, closing.
Everyone he passes smiles and says hello.
Like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life.
* * *
He crosses Main and follows Sixth Street for several blocks until he arrives at the address Pilcher gave him.
It is a three-story Victorian, canary yellow with white trim, its most prominent feature a window shaped like a teardrop centered just below the pitch of the tin roof.
Through a large window on the first floor, he sees a woman standing at a kitchen sink, dumping a pot of boiling pasta into a colander, bellows of steam rising into her face.
As he watches her, he feels an anxious thumping in his chest.
It is his wife.
Up the stone path through the front yard, up three brick steps, and then he is standing on the porch.
He knocks on the screen door.
After a moment, the light winks on.
She opens the door crying and staring at him through the screen while footsteps clomp down a staircase.
Ethan’s son walks up behind her, puts his hands on his mother’s shoulders.
Not the voice of a little boy.
“Jesus, you’re taller than your mother.”
There is still the screen between them and through the wire mesh, Theresa looks much the same, although her blonde hair is as long as she’s ever worn it.
“I heard they made you sheriff,” Ben says.
“That’s right.” A long, emotion-packed moment crawls by. “Theresa.”
She wipes her eyes with both hands.
“It smells wonderful,” Ethan says.
“I’m cooking spaghetti.”
“I love your spaghetti.”
“I know.” Her voice breaking.
“They told you I was coming?”
She nods. “You’re really here, Ethan?”
“To stay this time?”
“I will never leave you again.”
“We’ve waited so long.” She has to keep wiping her face. “Ben, go stir the sauce, please.”
The boy hurries off to the kitchen.
“Would it be all right if I came inside?” Ethan asks.
“We lost you in Seattle. Then we lost you here. I can’t take it. He can’t take it.”
“Theresa, look at me.” She looks at him. “I will never leave you again.”
He worries she’s going to ask what happened. Why he isn’t dead. It’s a question he’s been dreading and preparing for all day.
But it doesn’t come.
Instead, she pushes open the door.
He has feared seeing a hardness in her face, feared it more than anything, but under the glow of the porch light, there is no bitterness here. Some brokenness. The beginnings of wrinkles around her mouth that weren’t there before. Around those bright green eyes that slayed him all those years ago. A lot of tears. But also love.