So, I was looking at my final revision of CURED today and discovered that I had written two possible endings. I let my editor pick which one we used. Here is the one we did not use:
Kevin and I walk into the town. Every log cabin has the remains of a massive vegetable garden in the yard, with cold weather plants, like acorn squash and gourds, still in the dirt. Ears of corn and baskets filled to overflowing with potatoes are sitting out on front porches, as if no one is worried about them being stolen. And I guess they’re not. If a person has enough to eat, he doesn’t need to steal food.
One log cabin has blue metal boxes in front of it, and I can hear the quiet vibration of bees when we pass them. “What are those?” I ask.
“Beehives,” Kevin explains. “My grandpa’s.”
I can’t help but smile. Bees! I stop walking for a minute and listen to them. “Where is your grandpa?” I ask.
“Zeke’s wife says he’s at the fortress.”
“You’ll see.” He takes my hand in his and we keep walking to the other side of the town, to a huge, rectangular building made of weathered logs. The air changes, growing heavy with animal smells, and I am reminded of the zoo. I wrinkle my nose. “What is this place?”
“It’s the fortress—where we keep the tainted ones. The beasts. It is where my sister is.”
My legs slow without me meaning to let them. “Wait. How do you keep them from attacking people?”
“If they’re well fed, they’re not as violent. We keep them in cages and feed them. Once a week or so, they’re sedated and washed, and their cages are cleaned.” Kevin pulls me toward the building. He opens a thick, wooden door, and I can’t help but put my sleeve over my nose and mouth to try and dull the smell.
I am standing in a huge room, with knot-covered wooden columns supporting the ceiling, and metal bars blocking the windows. There are more metal bars, which rise from floor to ceiling. Behind these bars are individual rooms, divided with thick wooden walls that are covered with dents and scratches, and inside each room is a beast. I look from cage to cage, counting. There are nineteen beasts, and one empty cage.
A disheveled, white-haired man is standing in the room, pressing pieces of hard, flat bread into the cages. There are fresh scabs down the side of his face, and he has a black eye. On his left hand is a bandage, where his pointer finger should be—but isn’t. His watery, blue eyes focus on Kevin and the man’s lips thin before he sucks them in against his teeth. He walks over to us but doesn’t say anything.
“Grandpa,” Kevin says, taking the man’s injured hand in his. “What happened to you?”
The old man’s eyes move past Kevin and focus on the empty cage. Kevin turns around and follows his grandpa’s gaze.
“Where’s my sister?” he asks in a strangled whisper.
“She attacked me and got away.”
THE (ALTERNATIVE) END