The Blade of Shattered Hope (The 13th Reality #3)

by James Dashner

Prologue

The Lake

Bryan Cannon looked at the catfish—its bone-like whiskers, its slimy skin, its dark, unblinking eyes—and he saw death. For the creature, of course, not himself. Dinner would be fine and tasty tonight.

The day was beautiful. A slight coolness crisped the air, balanced perfectly by the brilliant sun shining down on Bryan’s boat, sparkling off the waters that surrounded him, dancing like fairies of light. Too bad this fish wasn’t enjoying things as much as he was.

Bryan had caught the fish in the little body of water in which he floated—called, quite pretentiously, Lake Norman. But if that tiny spit of rain-washed sludge was classified as a lake, then Bryan’s toilet at home constituted a big pond. He chuckled to himself, as he often did at his own jokes, and spiked another squirmy worm onto his hook. Bryan shifted to get comfortable then he cast the line.

His small canoe rocked at the movement, sending gentle waves rippling across the lake’s surface. He watched the

outermost wrinkle, enjoying how it traveled along like it didn’t have a care in the world. Bryan always loved it when he could keep his eyes trained on the tiny wave until it actually hit the shore. It wasn’t as easy as it sounded, and his eyes watered with the effort.

There it goes, he thought, getting smaller and smaller, smaller and smaller . . . there! It hit right over by that sandy—

Splash!

A disturbance in the water, right where the lake met the shore. Then another splash, a huge one, that sprayed droplets all over the small beach. Bryan had been staring right at the spot, so he knew no one had jumped in.

Yet another splash. Then another. It looked like some kid thrashing about with his arms, trying to douse all of his friends in the face. Bryan used to love doing that when he’d been a kid.

There was only one problem. There wasn’t a kid anywhere in sight. Or an adult, for that matter. Nobody.

The disturbance continued. Curious, Bryan laid his fishing pole along the length of the canoe and reached for his paddle. Never taking his eyes off the white-water display, he lowered the tip down into the lake and began paddling his way over to check things out. He figured only one of three things was possible.

One, they had themselves a ghost right here in Lake Norman.

Two, some vicious sea monster had found itself a way to the lake from the ocean.

Or three, Bryan Cannon had finally flipped his lid and gone bonkers.

The closer he approached, the worse the splashing. Great cascades of water shot up everywhere—five, ten feet in the air. A curtain of spray unfurled next to him as he rowed along, the water soaking him and sluicing down the sides of the boat. For the first time, terror crept through Bryan’s innards, and he realized it might not have been the smartest thing in the world to come so close to whatever thing was under the water.

He stopped paddling, slowing to a drift. As he did so, the splashing abruptly ceased. In a matter of seconds, the surface of the lake grew relatively calm, the small waves lapping against his canoe the only evidence anything had happened at all. If anything, the sudden stillness only scared Bryan more. He stared at the spot.

Something started rising out of the water.

Bryan shrieked as he saw what looked like an upside-down glass bowl break the surface of the lake like a bubble, shimmering like wet crystal. The bubble formed into the rough shape of a head, although there were no eyes or nose or mouth. Rising higher, the thing had a neck, and then shoulders, all made out of water. Up and up it rose, forming itself, growing out of the lake’s surface like a demon rising from its grave. Before long, a human-shaped creature of water stood in front of Bryan, floating on clear feet, the sun casting spectrum-colored glimmers of light as it shone through the apparition.

Bryan sucked in a huge gulp of air, ready to let out the biggest scream of his life. But before he could do it, the watery ghost held up its arms and a sudden wave of water exploded from under its feet, crashing forward and down toward the canoe. Hundreds, maybe thousands of gallons of water, slammed on top of Bryan like a deluge from ancient and angry gods.

Bryan Cannon would never eat a catfish again.

If the waterkelt had a brain, it might’ve been impressed with its display of power. If the creature had a heart, it might’ve felt ashamed for causing the death of an innocent person. It had neither, so it simply walked its way to the shore and up into the surrounding trees, leaving behind a wet and muddy trail.

It knew where to go and what to do when it got there. So did its companion, which had been created on the other side of the lake. Their bodies sparkled and flashed in the sunlight like glistening quicksilver as they marched toward their duty.

Only their creator, Mistress Jane, understood the irony of the situation as she observed from a place very far away. Water, the basic element which sustains all human life, was about to be used for quite the opposite.

First stop, the Higginbottom house.

And then—revenge.

Part 1

The Dark Basement

Chapter 1

Two Very Different Missions

Sato shivered, then grimaced. His rain-soaked clothes felt icky against his skin; it felt as if an army of leeches clung to him for dear life. He’d stood in the open for barely a minute, trying to figure out where he’d arrived exactly. Drenched already, he looked about, confused.

The air had the feel of twilight, though he knew it was almost noon in this Reality. The reason for the darkness floated above him—massive, heavy clouds of gray-black that were emptying their contents on his sopping-wet head. The clouds seemed close enough to touch. George had warned him that this Reality was a dreary, dreadful place where it rained constantly. Sato couldn’t have agreed more.

But he saw no tombstones, no plaques planted in the ground to mark graves. He stood on concrete—or something like it. Hard and flat, the ground was dotted with regularly-spaced holes to drain away the water as quickly as it fell. Sato was glad for that. He didn’t relish the idea of standing in a deep pool of water.

Why do I always get stuck with these jobs? Sato thought to himself. If it wasn’t a windy, snow-swept mountaintop insane asylum, it was a rainy parking lot supposedly full of dead people. Fun stuff.

He noticed a small, square building about forty feet away, a scarce shadow in the wet darkness. No lights shone from any windows or outdoor fixtures. Seeing nothing else in any direction except the flat expanse of hole-dotted pavement, Sato walked toward the dark building.

As he sloshed his way across the ground, he wished he had a companion with him. Grumbling alone was no fun. Why hadn’t George at least given him an umbrella? Maybe next time the red-faced geezer would send Sato to the middle of the ocean without a boat, or maybe to the desert without water, or skydiving without a parachute.