Listen to an audio excerpt of White:
Kara Hunter angled her car through the Johns Hopkins University campus, cell phone plastered against her ear. The world was starting to fall apart, and she knew, deep down where people aren’t supposed to know things, that something very important depended on her. Thomas depended on her, and the world depended on Thomas.
The situation was about as clear as an overcast midnight, but there was one star shining on the horizon, and so she kept her eyes on that bright guiding light.
She snugged the cell phone between her ear and shoulder and made a turn using both hands. “Forgive me for sounding desperate, Mr. Gains, but if you won’t give me the clearance I need, I’m taking a gun in there.”
“I didn’t say I wouldn’t get it for you,” the deputy secretary of state said. She should be talking to the president himself, Kara thought, but he wasn’t exactly the most accessible man on the planet these days. Unless, of course, your name was Thomas. “I said I would try. But this is a bit unconventional. Dr. Bancroft may . . . Excuse me.” The phone went quiet. She could hear a muffled voice.
Gains came back on, speaking fast. “I’m gonna have to go.”
“What is it?”
“It’s need to know—”
“I am need to know! I may be the only link you have to Thomas, assuming he’s alive! And Monique for that matter, assuming she’s alive. Talk to me, for heaven’s sake!”
He didn’t answer.
“You owe me this, Mr. Secretary. You owe this to the country for not responding to Thomas the first time.”
“You keep this to yourself.” His tone left her with no doubt about his frustration at having to tell her anything. But of all people he must know that she might be on to something with this experiment of hers.
“We’ve just had a nuclear exchange,” Gains said.
“More accurately, Israel fired a missile into the ocean off the coast of France, and France has responded in kind. They have an ICBM in the air as we speak. I really have to go.”
“Please, sir, call Dr. Bancroft.”
“My aide already has.”
“Thank you.” She snapped the phone closed.
Surely it couldn’t end this way! But Thomas had warned that the virus might be only part of the total destruction recorded in the Books of Histories. In fact, they’d discussed the possibility that the apocalypse predicted by the apostle John might be precipitated by the virus. Wasn’t Israel featured prominently in John’s apocalypse?
She swerved to avoid a lone bicycler, muttered a curse, and pushed the accelerator. Dr. Bancroft was her last hope. Thomas had been missing for nearly three days, and Monique had disappeared yesterday. She had to find out if either was alive—if not here, then in the other reality.
Bancroft was in his lab; she knew that much from a phone call earlier. She also knew that her brother’s records were under the control of the government. Classified. Any inquiry about his earlier session with Dr. Bancroft would require authorization beyond the good doctor. With any luck, Gains had given her at least that much.
Kara parked her car and ran down the same steps she’d descended over a week earlier with CIA Director Phil Grant. The blinds on the basement door were drawn. She rapped on the glass.
The door flew inward almost instantly. A frumpy man with bags under fiery eyes stood before her. “Yes, I will,” he said.
“You will? You’ll what?”
“Help you. Hurry!” The psychologist pulled her in, leaned out for a quick glance up the concrete stairwell, and closed the door. He hurried toward his desk.
“I’ve been poring over this data on Thomas for a week now. I’ve called a dozen colleagues—not idiots, mind you—and not one of them has heard of a silent sleep brain.”
“Did the deputy secretary of state—”
“Just talked to them, yes. What’s your idea?”
“What do you mean by a ‘silent sleep brain’?” she asked.
“My coined term. A brain that doesn’t dream while sleeping, like your brother’s.”
“There has to be some other explanation, right? We know he’s dreaming. Or at least aware of another reality while he’s sleeping.”
“Unless this”—Bancroft indicated the room—“is the dream.” He winked.
The doctor was sounding like Thomas now. They’d both gone off the deep end. Then again, what she was about to suggest would make this dream business sound perfectly logical by comparison.
“What’s your idea?” he asked again.
She walked to the leather bed Thomas had slept on and faced the professor. The room’s lights were low. A computer screen cast a dull glow over his desk. The brain-wave monitor sat dormant to her left.
“Do you still have the blood you drew from Thomas?” she asked.
“The blood work—do you still have it?”
“That would have gone to our lab for analysis.”
“And then where?”
“I doubt it’s back.”
“If it is—”
“Then it would be in the lab upstairs. Why are you interested in his blood?”
Kara took a deep breath. “Because of something that happened to Monique. She crossed over into Thomas’s dreams. The only thing that links the realities other than dreams is blood, a person’s life force, as it were. There’s something unique about blood in religion, right? Christians believe that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. In this metaphysical reality Thomas has breached, blood also plays a criti-cal role. At least as far as I can tell.”
“Go on. What does this have to do with Monique’s dreams?”
“Monique fell asleep with an open wound. She was with Thomas, who also had an open wound on his wrist. I know this sounds strange, but Monique told me she thought she crossed into this other reality because her blood was in contact with his when she dreamed. Thomas’s blood is the bridge to his dream world.”
Bancroft lifted a hand and adjusted his round glasses. “And you think that . . .” He stopped. The conclusion was obvious.
“I want to try.”
“But they say that Thomas is dead,” Bancroft said.
“For all we know, so is Monique. At least in this reality. The problem is, the world might still depend on those two. We can’t afford for them to be dead. I’m not saying I understand exactly how or why this could work, I’m just saying we have to try something. This is the only thing I can think of.”
“You want to re-create the environment that allowed Monique to cross over,” he stated flatly.
“Under your supervision. Please . . .”
“No need to plead.” A glimmer of anticipation lit his eyes. “Believe me, if I hadn’t seen Thomas’s monitors with my own eyes, I wouldn’t be so eager. Besides, I’ve been tested positive for the virus he predicted from these dreams of his.”
The psychologist’s willingness didn’t really surprise her. He was wacky enough to try it on his own, without her.
“Then we need his blood,” she said.
Dr. Myles Bancroft headed toward the door. “We need his blood.”
it took less than ten minutes to hook her up to the electrodes Bancroft would use to measure her brain activity. She didn’t care about the whole testing rigmarole—she only wanted to dream with Thomas’s blood. True, the notion was about as scientific as snake handling. But lying there with wires attached to her head in a dozen spots made the whole experiment feel surprisingly reasonable.
Bancroft tore off the blood-pressure cuff. “Pretty high. You’re going to have to sleep, remember? You haven’t told this to your heart yet.”
“Then give me a stronger sedative.”
“I don’t want to go too strong. The pills you took should kick in any moment. Just try to relax.”
Kara closed her eyes and tried to empty her mind. The missile that France had fired at Israel had either already landed or was about to. She couldn’t imagine how a nuclear detonation in the Middle East would affect the current scenario. Scattered riots had started just this morning, according to the news. They were mostly in Third World countries, but unless a solution surfaced quickly, the West wouldn’t be far behind.
They had ten days until the Raison Strain reached full maturity. Symptoms could begin to show among the virus’s first contractors, which included her and Thomas, in five days. According to Monique, they had those five days to acquire an antivirus. Maybe six, seven at most. They were all guessing, of course, but Monique had seemed pretty confident that the virus could be reversed if administered within a day or two, maybe three, of first symptoms.
Too many maybes.
Five days. Could she feel any of the symptoms now? She focused on her skin. Nothing. Her joints, fingers, ankles. She moved them all and still felt nothing. Unless the slight tingle she felt on her right calf was a rash.
Now she was imagining.
Her mind suddenly swam. Symptom? No, the drug was beginning to kick in.
“I think it’s time,” she said.
The doctor fiddled with his machine and finally came over. “You’re feeling tired. Woozy?”
“Do you want any local anesthetic?”
She hadn’t considered that. “Just make the cut small.” She wanted a mark so that if she did wake up in another reality, she would have the proof on her arm.
“Large enough to bleed,” Bancroft said.
“Just do it.”
Bancroft wet her right forearm with a cotton ball and then carefully pressed a scalpel against her skin. Sharp pain stabbed up her arm and she winced.
“Easy,” he said. “Finished.”
He picked up a syringe with some of Thomas’s blood. The sample was small—they would use nearly half with this experiment of theirs.
“It would have been easier to inject this,” he said.
“We don’t know if it would work that way. Just do it the way it happened with Monique. We don’t have time to mess around.”
He lowered the syringe and pushed five or six drops of Thomas’s blood onto her arm. It merged with a tiny bubble of her own blood. The doctor smeared the two together with his gloved finger. For a long moment they both stared at the mixed red stain.
Their eyes met. Soft pop music played lightly over the speakers—an instrumental version of “Dancing Queen” by Abba. He’d turned the lights even lower than when she’d first entered.
“I hope this works,” she said.
“Go to sleep.”
Kara closed her eyes again.
“Should I wake you?”
Thomas had always claimed that an hour sleeping could be a year in a dream. Her crossing to his world would be precipitated by falling asleep here. Her crossing back would be precipitated by dreaming there.
“Wake me up in a hour,” she said.