FIRE & FLOOD by Victoria Scott
Scholastic, February 2014
First Excerpt Reveal
I drove across the US of A, left my family without an explanation, and now I’ m either too late or
there was never anything here to begin with. F my life. Rearing back, I kick the door as hard as I
can. Then I wrap both hands around the door handles and release a noise like a wild banshee as
I pull back.
The doors swing open.
I’ m not sure whether to celebrate or freak out. I decide to do neither and slip inside. As I walk
around the inside of the museum, listening to the sound of my footsteps echo off the walls, I
imagine I am moments from death. It’ s sad, I think, that this is all it takes to break my sanity.
Two curling flights of stairs bow out from the first-floor lobby, and red and white tiles cover
the floors. There are gilded picture frames everywhere. So many that I think the placement of
the frames — and not their contents — is the real art. Everything, absolutely everything, smells
like wax. I mosey up to an abandoned reception desk and leaf through the glossy pamphlets
littering the surface. I hold one of the pamphlets up to my nose. Yep, wax.
I glance around, having no idea what to look for. Will there be a sign like at school registration?
Students with last names A–K this way?
On my left, I notice a long hallway dotted with doors on either side. Nothing looks particularly
unusual. But when I glance to my right, I spot something. There’ s a door at the end of the
corridor that has a sliver of light glowing beneath it. I’ m sure it’ s just an administration office,
one where someone forgot to flip the switch. But I’ ve got nothing better to go on, so I head
I pause outside the door, wondering if I’ m about to get busted for B&E. Then I turn the handle
and find myself at the top of another winding staircase.
You’ ve got to be kidding me. What is this, Dracula’ s bachelor pad?
I’ ve watched a lot of scary movies, and I’ ve learned nothing good is ever at the bottom of a
winding staircase. Pulling in a breath and preparing myself to be eaten alive, I head down. My
shoes are loud against the steps. So loud, I imagine they are intentionally trying to get me killed.
When I reach the final few stairs, I ready myself to look around the bend. My heart is racing,
and I secretly pray the worst I encounter is an angry janitor with a wax addiction. I turn the
bend — and my eyes nearly pop from my skull.
The enormous room is perfectly circular, dotted with candles to light the space. Surrounding
the walls are rows and rows of dark, rich mahogany bookshelves. A large round table stands
in the center of the red-and-white-tiled floor. The room is spectacular, but what it holds is so
jarring, my ears ring.
Across every shelf, every spot on the table, every tile on the floor — are small sculptures of
hands. And in a few of those hands — the ones still performing their duty — are eggs. There are
only nine eggs left, it seems. For a moment, I imagine how amazing it would have been to see
each hand holding an egg, but it’ s enough just to see these nine.
The eggs seem to dance in the candle flame, and as I move closer, I realize why. The surfaces of
the eggs are almost iridescent, their colors changing depending on how you look at them. They
are different sizes, too; some as big as a basketball, others as small as a peach.
I don’ t need the device in my pocket to tell me what my gut already knows.
This is the Pandora Selection Process.