CHAPTER NINETEEN

Out of the kitchen, down the hall, past the dogleg corridor that led to the locked manager's office, Freddy led her through the building, and only when he opened the door to Pirate Cove did Ana get the first faint inkling of where he was taking her.

If Foxy was on stage, he said nothing. He must be used to hearing Freddy pass through. And that was fine. Once distracted, Freddy might 'forget' he'd ever agreed to take her to the basement and Ana wasn't sure she had it in her to ask again. So she kept quiet, matching her footsteps to Freddy's as she followed him into the Treasure Cave.

Ana had a decent sense of direction and as Foxy had observed earlier, there was only one way through the maze. She'd mapped the place out on her roombuilder before, and although she hadn't exactly memorized the layout, she knew there were no secrets. Take away all these modular panels and it was just four long walls at right angles, no nooks, no crannies. Even the hidden Grotto wasn't hidden all that well.

"HERE," said Freddy, moving her ahead of him at a crossways and into a snaking corridor that narrowed at every bend until he was scraping the foam off the walls on both sides.

"This turns into a dead-end," said Ana.

"I. KNOW. KEEP. GOING."

"Go where?" she asked, her voice level but her heart beginning to pound. "It doesn't go anywhere. It just quits."

He put his hand on her shoulder and gently pushed. "KEEP. GOING."

She walked, winding back and forth and around until the corridor ended. The fake rock surface had been flattened in a rough square and a suitably creepy skull shape carved into it to laugh at her failure to find her way through the painfully uncomplicated kiddie maze. Looking into its dusty eyes, Ana asked, "Now what?"

"MOVE. THE. WALL."

"This isn't a moveable panel," said Ana, indicating the left-hand edge. "Look. There's no lockplate. It doesn't come off."

"YES. IT. DOES."

Dropping to one knee, she felt along the edges of the panel for the connecting clasp she could already see wasn't there, then did it again, exploring every inch from the floor to the ceiling on both sides. Nothing. She pushed anyway, to no effect. The foam walls of the maze were all modular panels, but this one was flush up to the perimeter wall. It wouldn't slide left or right, wouldn't so much as wiggle.

"I don't understand," she said, keeping her eyes on her hands and pretending that itch between her shoulder-blades was just a trickle of sweat and not the anticipation of a huge fist crushing her spine in one punch. "It doesn't move."

Freddy reached over her shoulder and poked two fingers into the socket-eyes of the carved skull. Not far, not even up to the first knuckle, but further than the sockets were deep.

Freddy withdrew his arm. "YOU. HAVE. TO. DO. IT," he said. "I. CAN'T. FEEL. I. MIGHT. BREAK. IT."

Stunned, Ana looked more closely at the skull's shallow sockets and saw only painted foam. But it didn't feel like foam when she touched it. Plastic. Hard, textured. When she put a little force behind it, the sockets moved, depressing like the buttons they were. She pushed her thumbs into the skull's eyes, all the way in.

They clicked, first one and then, with effort, the other.

"PUSH," said Freddy.

She did, first with her arms, then setting her shoulder against the foam, heaving to very little progress until Freddy reached over her again and added his strength to hers. Disused mechanisms groaned, scraped, and finally began to move. The door rolled back into the wall with excruciating slowness, revealing the layers of the wall—foam, sheetrock, wooden stud, insulation, vinyl membrane, and at last, a thin concrete slip painted over rough rock. When the door cleared that, the guide-arms locked, fully extended. The room beyond was black and still. The air that blew out of it was cool, stinking of minerals and maybe old, dried death.

Ana breathed it in and when the taste had no more power over her, she set her shoulder against the door and heaved it to one side.

And there they were, three springtrap suits, side by side by side, silvered by dust, seeming to be connected somehow…were they holding hands? Wait, where were their heads? And their legs? Where was Aunt Easter?

"What the hell am I looking at?" Ana asked, stepping forward and to one side so that the light of Freddy's eyes would stop throwing her shadow over everything and more fully illuminate the room beyond.

Just a room. Poured concrete floor with a narrow drain that showed red staining around the mouth, not blood and not rust, but only traces of that red desert earth that must have bubbled up from time to time when Mammon's crazy storms were sufficient to push water all the way up this pipe. The vaguely man-shaped objects she had initially mistaken for springtrap suits were instead a series of pipes, pumps, tanks and other plumbing-related machinery, larger and newer than the ones at Aunt Easter's house, but still a perfectly ordinary water treatment system for a well. The boxy contraption that squatted next to it was not as easily identifiable, but it had one of those mystery posts sprouting out of its back and up into the ceiling with a bare-bulb fixture plugged directly into it, so it was electrical in nature, whatever else it was.

Apart from this machinery, the room held only those appliances and junk she would expect to find in the basement of Freddy's—a push-sweeper to keep the maze clean, a few cans of spray-foam and cave-colored paint to cover the inevitable crude graffiti, a box of plastic doubloons and several plastic tubs full of fake kelp and coral. No cages holding the bodies of missing Mammon children. No rotting gold bunny-suit with Erik Metzger's corpse stuffed inside like a slightly less-appetizing pizza pocket than the one on the menu upstairs. Most importantly, there was no wizened mummy with Aunt Easter's blonde hair slumped beneath a scratch-mark calendar dotted with her own broken fingernails. It was just a room.

…with a poured concrete floor.

Ana scraped her boot across it thoughtfully, looked around and ultimately up. The ceiling was low and perfectly featureless. No pipes, no beams, no wiring…no ventilation shafts.

"Where's the rest of it?" she asked.

"THIS. IS. ALL. THERE. IS."

"Sure, okay. Lie to me. I'll find it myself." Ana went to the corner where the storage tubs were stacked and began to move them.

She found a door, but not the one she was expecting.

Identical to the door to Kiddie Cove, it was metal with a wheel hatch in the center, like something on a submarine or a space station.

"Is this what I think it is?" Ana asked, mentally retracing her steps through the maze and comparing it to what she could remember of the map her roombuilder had helped her lay out. "Is that…Is that the Mermaid's Grotto?"

"THIS AREA IS RESTRICTED TO AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY," Freddy replied, but she didn't need him to confirm anything. Hell, she knew where she was. Back wall, off-center, almost directly below the wrecked ship at the rear of Pirate Cove. And that meant she knew what was on the other side of this door.

Ana put both hands on the wheel and tried to turn it. It didn't budge and probably wouldn't even if she'd had all night to try, but Freddy came at once to take her arm and pull her bodily away from the door.

"I. SAID. NO," he told her, not angrily, but not gently either.

"But it is, isn't it? The Mermaid's Grotto?"

Freddy looked at the door, frowning, and back at her. "YES."

"Then what's the big deal? You're not keeping the Lost Fazbear Gold in there, open it!"

"THIS DOOR IS TO REMAIN LOCKED AT ALL TIMES. THE RULES ARE FOR YOUR SAFETY. PLEASE. THERE'S. NOTHING. IN. THERE. LET'S. JUST. GO. BACK. UPSTAIRS."

Shaking him off, Ana went around him and back out into the maze, scanning the left-hand wall until she found where the interlocking panels connected. She took them apart, heaved them aside, and started looking for the next one.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" Freddy asked, following her. "AN-N-A. PLEASE."

There. A not-so-secret handle that opened a sort of obvious concealed door. Ana opened it and walked into the tiny cave-like chamber beyond.

The Mermaid's Grotto. There were her footprints in the thin film of dust on the floor, and Bonnie's big bunny-prints, too. There was her name written on the dirty glass (she'd laughed when she found that on her mapping excursion, but left it alone; someday, she'd have to bring Bonnie back down here so she could 'discover' it with him), and on the other side, the Mermaid slumped behind a limp bed of plastic seaweed, awaiting another turn of the crank. Freddy's eyelight, diffused through the glass wall ahead of her, cast an eerie almost greenish light across the web-filled interior, but it was enough to just glimpse a faint rectangular outline on the back wall. There was no latch or doorknob, but she knew what she was looking at.

"That's the door to the other room," murmured Ana, cupping her hands around her eyes right up to the glass to see it better. "The one we were just in. But I don't…see…Freddy, I need your eyes."

He came a little closer, making shadows leap and dance as his gaze moved from point to point around the Grotto. "WHAT. ARE. YOU. LOOKING. AT."

"The floor."

He looked down, casting a fuzzy spotlight over layers and layers of webbing, so much that it might as well be snow. The floor of the interior Grotto might be concrete, like in the utilities room, or it might be high-traffic carpet, as it was on this side of the glass and elsewhere in the maze, or it might be molded foam like the walls and ceiling. Hell, it could be anything…but in this case, no answer was all the answer Ana needed.

She stepped back, frustrated but not defeated. "Where's the rest of the basement?"

"THIS. IS. ALL. THERE. IS. AN-N-A," he said, reaching out his empty hand like he was trying to pull her out of the ocean and not standing right next to her in an extremely small space. "I'VE. GONE. AS. FAR. AS. I. CAN. GO. PLEASE. BELIEVE. ME."

She pointed at him. "Stop right there, bear. Before you lie to me again, you should know that I dropped a glowstick down a pipeshaft when I was up in the ceiling maze—"

Freddy turned around and clapped both hands over his eyes. Without their glow, darkness dropped like a curtain after the show.

"Yeah, and I saw it hit the floor! A concrete floor," she emphasized, stomping her boot. "But if you go back to that room and look up, you'll notice there is no fucking pipeshaft, and if you look down, you'll notice there's no glowstick either. So how about you stop lying," she said in a sudden cracked shout, "and show me the real goddamn basement!"

Freddy did not answer. He hardly seemed to be in the same room with her. He kept his back to her, his head shaking now and then in some internal dialogue where his only answer seemed to be no.

"I'll find it with or without your help," said Ana, watching him. "I'll take every piece of this maze apart until I find that door. If it's locked, I'll break it down and if I can't do that, I will go get my torch and cut through it. I have been putting buildings up for a long time, Freddy, and believe you me, I can take this one down. I'll take it apart brick by fucking brick if I have to."

Slowly, Freddy's arms lowered. His head turned, but not enough to look at her. Staring at her name on the glass of the Grotto, he said, "BONNIE. IS. WAITING. FOR. YOU."

"Don't you dare use him against me. I am not leaving until I find either that fucking glowstick or the real basement door. What are you going to do, bear?"

He stood a long time without answering, just staring at her. His fan revved and revved, filling the space between them with sounds of strain, but face showed no expression. At last, he turned away. "I'LL. OPEN. THE. DOOR. YOU. CAN. LOOK. FOR. YOUR. TOY."

Ana heaved a curt sigh. "It's not in there, Freddy. The floor isn't remotely the same."

"YOU. HAVE. TO. AT. LEAST. LOOK," Freddy said, limping back through the direct route she'd carved through the maze to the utilities room. His bad leg dragged more than she remembered. "BEFORE. YOU. TELL. ME. I. HAVE. NO. CHOICE."

"Fine." Ana followed him, following mostly the echoes of his footsteps and his fan, and then the snap-shriek of a long-unused wheel-hatch turning. As she assembled a hand-broom of sorts from various kinds of fake seaweed so she had something to brush the cobwebs aside, Ana said, "If I find that glowstick here, I swear you'll never hear the word 'basement' out of me again, but if I don't, I'm going to keep looking for it. You understand what that means?"

"YES. I. KNOW. WHAT. IT. MEANS." Freddy pulled the narrow door fully open and stood aside, one hand still on the wheel.

"This is pointless," Ana grumbled, clearing the doorway of webs and shaking off the first startled spiders. "Do you see a concrete floor here, bear?"

"I. WAS. DIFFERENT. ONCE."

She looked up at him, one foot on the threshold. "What?"

"I. UNDERSTAND. WHY. YOU. DON'T. LIKE. ME. VERY. MUCH." His expression did not change, but his ears shifted slightly back and down. "MOST. DAYS. KNEE. THERE. DO. I. BUT. I. WAS. DIFFERENT. ONCE. WILL. YOU. TRY. TO. REMEMBER. THAT."

She didn't know what to say, but he was looking at her and his eyes—plastic and glass, servos and springs—were too hard to meet. She nodded.

"I. TRIED. TO. MAKE. THIS. WORK," said Freddy. "NOT. AS. SOON. AS. I. COULD. HAVE. AND. NOT. AS. HARD. AS. I. SHOULD. HAVE. BUT. I. TRIED. REMEMBER. THAT. TOO. AND. TELL. BONNIE. WHEN. YOU. SEE. HIM."

Something about that—the words themselves or the patchwork way he said them or even just the dull-eyed look on his face—put an apprehensive tickle up her spine. She told herself it was the spiders, some of which were even now creeping out the open door and across her boot, but even in her head, she wasn't convincing.

The thought came to her that, like the freezer and Kiddie Cove, there was no way to open the Grotto's door if it should happen to close and that wheel-hatch accidentally spin. Not that she had to worry about Freddy locking her in here…but all the same, she'd better look around and get out.

Uneasy, she moved deeper into the room, sweeping up cobwebs and winding them around her makeshift broom in sheets. The floor she revealed was covered in some kind of rubbery mat, similar to the stuff that had padded the interior of the ductwork maze, painted and textured to look like sand, which made the spiders scattering across it look a bit like crabs. One of them ran up her arm. She crushed it under her thumb and flicked it to the floor. "Can you come…oh."

He had moved in the short time her back had been turned so that he was no longer to one side of the door but in the doorway itself, where he could no longer close it on her, but where he just as effectively blocked her in.

"In," she finished unnecessarily as he took a rather long step toward her, squeezing his huge body through the narrow opening with almost magical ease. "I need your eyes to see."

He did not aim them at the floor, but took another step, looking at her and only at her.

Ana backed up and promptly bumped her head on a low-hanging stalactite. Several living spiders, a dozen dead ones and a hundred imaginary ones rained down over her. She slapped them away, stumbling blindly deeper into the room as Freddy reached out to keep her from falling, and then the heel of her boot came down on something long and round with a sound that was half crack and half crunch.

All other thought went white and still.

Ana looked down. She lifted her boot and held it there, stupidly raised, staring until Freddy looked down too.

With the help of his glowing eyes, she could see it even better: a small plastic object about the size and shape of a cigar, pale, translucent, taking on some of the greyish color of the dust on which it lay, but still plainly recognizable as a glowstick. Lightless now. She guessed that made it just a stick. A broken stick, now that she'd stepped on it.

A spider ran across her face, breaking the moment. She slapped it hard enough to make her eyes water, then looked up as she wiped spider guts from her cheek. In the ceiling, tucked behind a stalactite where she'd never be able to see it from the other side of the glass, was a dark circular shape, barely perceptible even now. There were no webs immediately around it, or maybe there had been and they'd just been torn away. Like by something falling through them.

"IS. THAT. IT," Freddy asked, looking just as uncertain and surprised as she.

"It can't be," said Ana, but bent and picked it up. Whatever slime filled the tube dribbled out through the cracks, but just because it was still wet didn't necessarily mean it was fresh. She wasn't exactly an authority in the field of glowsticks, so for all she knew, the stuff would stay liquid forever unless it was broken open by someone like her. On the other hand, inexpert as she was, it sure looked like the kind she used, right up to the clip on the side, specifically, the broken clip.

It was the same glowstick.

It couldn't be. She'd seen the floor through the dropshaft in the ducts, a concrete floor. Poured concrete, grey and mottled, smooth.

Like layered sheets of spiderwebs…?

No, it was concrete! And she'd been clear on the other end of the building…hadn't she? She'd had to crawl forever to get to the party room, which was, come on, just two rooms down from Pirate Cove!

But the design of the ductwork maze did not allow for travel in straight lines. She might have indeed crawled the length of the building and back; that had no bearing on her starting point.

Besides, here was the glowstick. Obviously, neither the door to the Grotto nor to the utility room had been opened in years. Unless someone had, by pure coincidence, dropped a glowstick in here during the few days the restaurant was in operation, this was hers and that was the pipe it had come down through.

She tossed it away, listening in confusion to the weak paf as it landed, so different from the crisp tap and rattle she remembered. But memory…memory lied, so much more than people thought.

The Mermaid slouched in the plastic weeds, its glass eyes dull with dust, unfocused. Metal bones showed where its once-iridescent vinyl skin had opened. Rotted padding hung like corpse-flesh. Spiders crawled through its pale hair and laid their eggs in the cavity of its body. But it was just the Mermaid—as Bonnie had said, not even an animatronic, only a wind-up toy—and not her Aunt Easter.

"There's nothing here," said Ana. Despair welled up where relief should be. She turned, slapping blindly at spiders and tears, and bulled past Freddy back into the utilities room. She would have run from there, from the Treasure Cave and maybe even the whole building, but she tripped on all the nothing that had been buried in this corpseless basement and fell against the blocky machine of unknown function situated beside the pump. Huddled against its cold, unfeeling body, she cried in breathless shuddery silence.

The Grotto door shut with a moan and a bang. Freddy turned the wheel-hatch until its internal gears ground and then turned it some more, ensuring she'd never be able to open it again without mechanical aide. After that, he just stood and faced the door, not speaking or moving until long after she'd emptied herself of useless tears. Then and only then did he say, "I'M. SORRY. I. TOOK. YOUR. THINGS."

Ana roused herself from a dull-eyed, thought-free stare and dragged a hand across her face. "So not about that anymore, bear."

"WHAT. IS. IT. ABOUT."

"Nothing to do with you." The threat of another crying spree surged, but she was out of fuel and when it washed out, she was left with a deep calm. She had seen things, too many to fully disbelieve Mike Schmidt's story, but there were too many other pieces that just wouldn't fit in the holes he'd carved out, no matter how hard she hammered at them. Whatever Faust had built this place to be, whatever Metzger had made of the other pizzerias, this one was just…Freddy's.

"It's nothing to do with you," she said again and heaved herself to her feet. "Sorry I keep calling you bear. I don't think I'm doing it on purpose. Not all the time, anyway. It's just that…Freddy feels so…"

"FRIENDLY," said Freddy and grunted. He took his hat off and rubbed at his forehead. "I. HAVEN'T. BEEN. VERY. FRIENDLY. AND. I'M. SORRY. ABOUT. THAT. TOO."

"It's not your fault. You are what I made you. Me and all my fucking emotional baggage," she sighed, leaning up against the wall where she could play with a valve wheel on the well-pump. "Making you pay for something someone else did more than twenty years ago."

"WHAT. HAPPENED."

"Nothing," she said automatically, then laughed. "I got hit by a car. Me and cars, Freddy. I got hit by one. I got taken away in one. I almost drowned in one. Same car every time. But I can't go around being angry at every Honda Civic I see, because that would be crazy, and I can't be angry at the driver, because she's already dead, so instead, I take out my repressed hostility on you, because that's the mature and responsible thing to do. See how much sense that makes?"

He grunted.

"Any chance we could start over?" Ana asked without much hope.

"START. OVER." Freddy let out a sound that was equal parts grumble, groan and bearish laugh, and said, "AN-N-A. I. JUST. DON'T. THINK. I. CAN. GO. THROUGH. ALL. THAT. AGAIN." He put his hat on and stretched out his arm to give her an awkward sort of pat on the shoulder. "BUT. I'LL. TRY. TO. DO. BETTER. FROM. NOW. ON."

"Me, too. I've…I've been kind of fucked up lately. Something…happened…and I'm not dealing with it very well."

"DO. YOU. WANT. TO. TALK—"

"No."

Freddy nodded, but his eyes remained troubled, searching. "YOU. DON'T. HAVE. TO. TALK. TO. ME. BUT. YOU. SHOULD. TALK. TO. SOMEONE."

"Like who?"

Freddy clicked through a number of options on his list of trusted adults a child could turn to for help and came up with, predictably, "THE. POLICE."

"Oh Jesus. Freddy, I know you mean well, but the cops in this town are spectacularly disinterested in solving any crimes connected with my family. I'm not even sure they'd consider it a crime," she muttered, thinking that if she had found her aunt's mummy tucked away in the corner behind the water heater, the coroner would have shown up with the suicide report already filled out and Ana would be arrested for breaking and entering, assuming a vigilante mob led by Wendy Rutter didn't brick her and her aunt's bones back up in the basement.

"WHAT. ABOUT. YOUR. FRIENDS," Freddy asked, rousing her from that vivid little fantasy.

"Who, Rider?" Laughter scraped out of her. She rubbed her eyes some more. "God, I can't even imagine what he'd tell me, but it would probably start with, 'That's what you get for going off in the first place,' and end with, 'Now get your dumb ass back home.'"

Freddy's ears lowered slightly on their pins. "AN-N-A," he began, then looked away, servos whining through a hundred small, fidgety movements before he braced himself and looked at her again. "AN-N-A. DON'T. YOU. HAVE. ANYONE."

Another time, that might have hurt, but she'd cried all the tears she had and there was nothing left inside her that could feel much of anything anymore. She said, "Freddy, if I did, would I be here?"

They looked at each other. Faintly, more like a memory than a sound, Ana heard Foxy singing in the Cove above them, the Ballad of the Flying Fox. And that meant he'd probably heard her shouting the place up. She hadn't realized sound would carry so well in this place.

"BONNIE. IS. PROBABLY. WORRIED. ABOUT. YOU," Freddy said at last. "ARE. YOU. READY. TO. GO."

"Yeah, I guess so. Still got a lot of work to do today. Freddy?"

He stopped, caught in an awkward hunch as he attempted to squeeze himself through the narrow secret door, and looked back at her. "YES?"

"Why did this place close?"

He looked at her for a long time, nothing moving but the fur around his joints as his cooling system cycled air through him. Then he let go of the jamb and pulled himself back into the utilities room with her. "NO. ONE. EVER. TOLD. US. SO. ALL. I. CAN. TELL. YOU. IS. WHAT. I. SAW. IS. THAT. ENOUGH."

Ana nodded, waiting.

"WE. OPENED. ON. A. MONDAY. IT. WAS. THE. PLAN. TO. HAVE. GIVEAWAYS. EVERY. DAY. AND. EVERY. WEEK. NAMES. WOULD. BE. DRAWN. FOR. SMALL. PRIZES. LEADING. UP. TO. A. SPECIAL. GRAND. PRIZE. AT. THE. END. OF. THE. MONTH." Freddy paused, his eyes dimming slightly as his lenses opened wider and slowly shrank small again. "BUT. ON. THAT. FIRST. NIGHT. A. GROUP. OF. KIDS. BROKE. IN. AFTER. HOURS."

"What happened to them?"

"THEY. DREW. PICTURES. THEY. BROKE. THINGS. THEY. DRANK. THEY. SMOKED. THEY. GOT. WILD." Again Freddy grew quiet, not clicking through soundfiles, but only looking at her. At last, he said, "I. WAS. NOT. PROGRAMMED. TO. UNDERSTAND. HOW. THIS. WAS. BAD. ALL. I. KNEW. WAS. THAT. THEY. WERE. HAVING. FUN." Another pause. His ears twitched, not in a glitchy way, just thinking. "ONE. OF. THEM. TRIED. TO. JUMP. ONTO. THE. CAROUSEL. FROM. THE. ROCK CLIMBING WALL. IN THE GYM." Pause. "HE. ALMOST. MADE. IT."

"Oh," said Ana. It was all she could think of to say. Nothing like this had been in Mike Schmidt's binder. "How…How bad was he…?"

"HIS. HEAD. WAS. BROKEN. OPEN."

"Oh."

"THE. OTHERS. GOT. SCARED. AND. LEFT. HIM," said Freddy. "I. DIDN'T. KNOW. HE. WAS. HURT. I. REAL. EYES. HOW. THAT. MUST. SOUND. TO. YOU. NOW. BUT. BACK. THEN. I. WAS. NEW. IT. WAS. ALL. NEW." He touched one of the wider cracks in his own head. "WE. BREAK. WE. DON'T. GET. HURT. IF. HE. HAD. BEEN. CRYING. MAYBE…BUT. HE. WAS. QUIET. I. DIDN'T. EVEN. THINK. OF. IT. AS. SLEEP. I. THOUGHT. HE. HAD. SHUT. DOWN."

"What did you do?"

"WHAT. I. KNEW. TO. DO." Freddy gestured toward the interior of the building. "I. PUT. HIM. IN. THE. PARTS. ROOM."

"You didn't…You didn't try to fix him, did you?"

"NO. BUT. WHAT. I. DID. WAS. BAD. ENOUGH."

"What did you do?"

"NOTHING," said Freddy simply.

"Did he die?"

"YES."

Ana started to nod, then frowned. "Wait, you said this was the first night? And then, what? They'd already ordered the cake, so they just kept partying?"

Freddy shook his head slowly, holding her gaze. "WE. WEREN'T. SCHEDULED. FOR. MAINTENANCE. UNTIL. THE. WEEKEND. NO. ONE. HAD. ANY. REASON. TO. GO. INTO. THE. PARTS. ROOM. ACCESS IS RESTRICTED."

"No one knew he was there." And as bad as that was, a worse thought occurred almost immediately. "How long…When they found him, how long had he been dead?"

"TWO. DAYS."

"Oh God, Freddy."

"I. DIDN'T. KNOW."

"It's not your fault," she said mechanically, but she wasn't sure how effective her assurance was when even she could hear the appalled tone in her voice and feel it stamped across her staring face. Had he ever regained consciousness? She almost hoped not. It was so much worse to picture him calling for help and banging weakly on those vault-like metal walls, what little sound he made utterly eclipsed by the cacophony of shrieking kids, singing animatronics, and the clatter of any busy restaurant.

"THEY. CLOSED. AND. THEY. MIGHT. HAVE. OPENED. AGAIN. AFTER. A. WHILE. BUT. THEN. ALL. THAT. FREDDY. LIVES. NONSENSE. STARTED. UP. AGAIN. KIDS. DRAWING. PICTURES. ON. THE. WALLS. AND. TRYING. TO. BREAK. IN. EVERY. NIGHT." He showed her his empty hands in a gesture of frustration. "THE. NEXT. THING. I. KNEW. THE. WINDOWS. WERE. DARK. THE. DOORS. WERE. LOCKED. AND. WE. WERE. ALONE. NO. ONE. EVER. CAME. BACK. FOR. US. NOT. EVEN. TO. TURN. US. OFF. THAT'S. IT. AN-N-A," he said, dropping his arms. "A. BOY. D-D-DIED. I. HELPED. IT. HAPPEN. DOES. THAT. MAKE. ME. A. MONSTER."

"No." She took a breath and let it out slow, then offered him a small, heartfelt smile. "No, it doesn't. I know that was hard for you to talk about and I won't ask again. Thanks for telling me."

He grunted, looking away at the far wall with hard eyes and too many dark thoughts behind them.

"Thanks for trusting me," Ana said.

Freddy closed his eyes. He breathed. He opened them and looked at her. "WE'RE. NOT. GOING. TO. HUG. ARE. WE."

"No."

"THEN. LET'S. GO." He sighed, looking up through the ceiling as he waved Ana on ahead of him. "BEFORE. BONNIE. DECIDES. YOU'RE. NEVER. COMING. BACK."