We freeze as the Somnologist walks in, a gun aimed at Jude. Jude raises his arms in the air, still facing the cabinet.
“Don’t shoot him!” My desire for Jude to live is stronger than my self-preservation.
The Somnologist doesn’t lower his gun but looks at me pityingly through his round glasses.
“I never thought he’d actually manage to reel someone in with his tomfoolery,” he says.
“It isn’t tomfoolery,” I say, tightening my grip around the pills. “He’s right. Reality and dreams are starting to mix together. Don’t you see it happening?”
“My dear girl,” the Somnologist says, “what makes you think this isn’t reality?”
“Because I’m starting to remember,” I say.
The Somnologist nods as if accepting my point. “And when did you suddenly start to remember? When you met Jude, right? How do you know he didn’t just plan those memories in your head? How do you know they’re real?”
“Because–because–” I break off because I really don’t have any way of knowing. I turn to Jude, who still stands with his hands up. Could he really have done that?
“Piper,” Jude says, moving only his eyes over to me.
I remember us being children. I remember him saying my name in that beseeching way when we were younger. How can that possibly not be real? But Graham and everything about him feels real too–the way it felt when he touched me, the smell of his skin.
“You came here to destroy the pills, didn’t you, Piper?” the Somnologist says. “Did Jude ever tell you who he is or why there’s a shortage?” I don’t say anything, which seems to be all the encouragement the Somnologist needs to keep going. “Jude invented the sleeping pills. He was an intern for me. As an intern, the credit for any of his inventions went to the Somnology Institute and to me.”
“Piper,” Jude says again.
“He’s angry about not getting credit for the pills so he wants to destroy them now. You see, there is no shortage of ingredients. The truth is, he stole the formula he wrote for us so we can’t make any more. Now he’s going to destroy these because he’d rather see the world burn than have somebody else get credit for his creations.”
I stare at Jude. Why didn’t he tell me he was the one who invented the pills?
There’s a crash downstairs, followed by the stench of sulfur and acid. The Nightwalkers are inside the building.
“Piper,” Jude says a third time. There’s desperation to his tone now. I know as well as he does that we need to get out right away, but I don’t know what to believe anymore.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I ask him.
He closes his eyes, seeming not to have an answer for that. It surprises me when he speaks. “I didn’t want you to think less of me because I created something with such disastrous consequences.”
“But when you say it like that–”
“I don’t care about credit,” Jude bursts. “I don’t even want it. I’m ashamed that I ever invented them. I thought I was doing the right thing, I swear. I never knew they would turn out like this.”
“He’s a liar, Piper,” the Somnologist says. “Think about this. There’s Jude, who didn’t even tell you who he is, Then there’s me. I’ve been honest to everyone from the beginning. I shared these pills and cured the Insomnia epidemic. I told everyone when I figured out that these pills provide protection against the Nightwalkers.”
I hear the Nightwalkers’ footsteps. The stench is getting stronger and harder to bear.
“I remember Graham,” the Somnologist says quickly. He shoots a nervous glance at the door behind him. “I know Ryan too. If we get the pill formula back from Jude, you can have Graham back.”
I flater, staring down at the pills in my hands. I can have Graham back. Graham, who I’ve loved most of everyone I’ve ever met.
“Okay,” I say and throw the pills to the Somnologist, hoping I’m doing the right thing.
Snippet Saturday is my chance to share bits and pieces of my writing.