The Passage Page 101

Death had begun to ease across the boy's face. "Oh," he said. "Oh." Then something seemed to catch in his chest and he was still.

Sara was crying, everyone was crying. She got on the ground beside Alicia and touched her elbow. "He's dead, Lish."

Alicia shrugged her violently away. "Don't say that!" She pulled the boy's limp form to her chest. "Caleb, you listen to me! You open your eyes! You open your eyes right now!"

Peter crouched beside her.

"I promised him," Alicia pleaded, hugging Caleb close. "I promised him."

"I know you did." It was all he could think to say. "We all know it. It's all right. Let go now."

Peter gently freed the body from her arms. Caleb's eyes were closed, his body motionless where it lay in the dust. He was still wearing the yellow sneakers-one of the laces had come untied-but the boy he was, was nowhere. Caleb was gone. For a long moment, nobody said anything. The only sounds were the birds and the wind in the tips of the grass and Alicia's damp, half-choked breathing.

Then, in a sudden burst, Alicia shot to her feet, snatched Jude's pistol from the ground, and strode to where Olson was sitting on the dirt. A furious look was in her eyes. The gun was huge, a long-barreled revolver. As Olson looked up, squinting at the dark form looming over him, she reared back and struck him across the face with the butt of the gun, knocking him flat to the ground, cocked the hammer with her thumb, and aimed the barrel at his head.

"Goddamn you!"

"Lish-" Peter stepped toward her, his hands raised. "He didn't kill Caleb. Put the gun down."

"We saw Jude die! We all saw it!"

A trickle of blood was running from Olson's nose. He made no motion to defend himself or move away. "He was familiar."

"Familiar? What does that mean? I'm sick of your double-talk. Speak English, goddamnit!"

Olson swallowed, licking the blood from his lips. "It means ... you can be one of them without being one of them."

Alicia's knuckles were white where she clutched the butt of the revolver. Peter knew she was going to fire. There seemed no stopping this; it was simply what was going to happen.

"Go ahead and shoot if you want." Olson's face was impassive; his life meant nothing to him. "It doesn't matter. Babcock will come. You'll see."

The barrel had begun to waver, driven by the current of Alicia's rage. "Caleb mattered! He was worth more than your whole f**king Haven! He never had anyone! I stood for him! I stood for him!"

Alicia howled, a deep animal sound of pain, and then she pulled the trigger-but no shot came. The hammer fell on an empty chamber. "Fuck!" She squeezed again and again; the gun was empty. "Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" Then she turned to Peter, the useless pistol dropping from her hand, leaned into his chest, and sobbed.

In the morning, Olson was gone. Tracks led away into the culvert; Peter didn't have to look to know which way he was headed.

"Should we go look for him?" Sara asked.

They were standing by the empty train, assembling the last of their gear.

Peter shook his head. "I don't think there's any point."

They gathered around the place where they had buried Caleb, in the shade of a cottonwood. They'd marked the spot with a scrap of metal Michael had popped from the hull and etched with the tip of a screwdriver, then affixed to the trunk of the tree with sheet-metal screws.




Everyone was there except Amy, who was standing apart, in the tall grass. Beside Peter were Maus and Theo. Mausami was leaning on a crutch Michael had fashioned from a length of pipe; Sara had examined her wound and said she could travel, as long as they didn't push it. Theo had slept straight through the night, awakening at dawn, and now seemed if not better, then at least on the mend. Yet, standing beside him, Peter could feel something missing in his brother; something had changed, or broken, or been taken away. Something had been stolen from him, in that cell. In the dream. With Babcock.

But it was Alicia who worried him most of all. She was standing at the foot of the grave with Michael, a shotgun cradled across her chest, her face still swollen from crying. For a long time, the rest of the day and all that night, she had said almost nothing. Anyone else might have supposed she was simply grieving for Caleb, but Peter knew differently. She had loved the boy, and that was a part of it. They all had, and Caleb's absence felt not just strange but wrong, as if a piece of them had been cut away. But what Peter saw now, as he looked into Alicia's eyes, was a deeper kind of pain. It was not her fault that Caleb was dead, and Peter had told her so. Still, she believed she had failed him. Killing Olson would not have solved anything, though Peter couldn't help but think it might have helped. Perhaps that was why he hadn't tried harder-tried at all, really-to take Jude's gun away from her.

Peter realized he was waiting out of habit for his brother to speak, to issue the command that would set the day in motion. When he didn't, Peter hitched up his pack and spoke.

"Well," he said, his throat thick, "we should probably get going. Use the daylight."

"Forty million smokes out there," Michael said glumly. "What chance do we have on foot?"

Amy stepped into the circle then.

"He's wrong," she said.

For a moment no one spoke. None of them seemed to know where to look-at Amy, at one another-a flurry of startled and amazed glances passing around the circle.

"She can talk?" Alicia said.

Peter stepped gingerly toward her. Amy's face seemed different to him, now that he had heard her voice. It was as if she were suddenly present, fully among them.

"What did you say?"

"Michael is wrong," the girl stated. Her voice was neither a woman's nor a child's but something in between. She spoke flatly, without intonation, as if she were reading the words from a book. "There aren't forty million."

Peter wanted to laugh or cry, he didn't know which. After everything, for her to speak now!

"Amy, why didn't you say anything before?"

"I am sorry. I think I had forgotten how." She was frowning inwardly, as if puzzling over this thought. "But now I have remembered."

Everyone fell silent again, gaping at her in astonishment.

"So, if there aren't forty million," Michael ventured, "how many are there?"

She lifted her eyes to them all.

"Twelve," said Amy.




I am all the daughters of my father's house, And all the brothers too.


Twelfth Night


From the Journal of Sara Fisher ("The Book of Sara")

Presented at the Third Global Conference on the North American Quarantine Period

Center for the Study of Human Cultures and Conflicts

University of New South Wales, Indo-Australian Republic

April 16-21, 1003 A.V.

[Excerpt begins.]

... and that was when we found the orchard-a welcome sight, since none of us has had anything like enough to eat since three days ago, when Hollis shot the deer. Now we are loaded up with apples. They're small and wormy and if you eat too many of them all at once you get cramps, but it's good to have a full belly again. We're bedding down tonight in a rusted metal shed that's full of old cars and stinks like pigeons. It seems we've lost the road for good now, but Peter says that if we continue walking straight east, we should hit Highway 15 in a day or so. The map we found at the gas station in Caliente is all we have to go by.

Amy is talking a little bit more every day. It all still seems new to her, just to have someone to talk to, and sometimes she seems to struggle for the words, like she's reading a book in her mind and looking for the right ones. But I can tell that talking makes her happy. She likes to use our names a lot, even when it's clear who she's speaking to, which sounds funny but by now we are all used to it and even doing it ourselves. (Yesterday she saw me stepping behind a bush and asked me what I was doing, and when I said, I have to pee, she beamed like I'd just given her the best news in the world and said, too loudly, I have to pee also, Sara. Michael burst out laughing, but Amy didn't seem to mind, and when we were done with our business she said, very politely-she is always polite-I'd forgotten that was what it's called. Thank you for peeing with me, Sara.)

Which isn't to say that we always understand her, because half the time we don't. Michael says it reminds him of talking to Auntie only worse, because with Auntie you always knew she was fooling with you. Amy doesn't appear to remember anything about where she comes from, except that it was a place with mountains and that it snowed there, which could be Colorado, though we don't really know. She doesn't seem afraid of the virals at all, not even the ones, like Babcock, who she calls the Twelve. When Peter asked her what she did in the ring to make him not kill Theo, Amy shrugged and said, as if this were nothing, I asked him to please not do it. I didn't like that one, she said. He's full of bad dreams. I thought it would be better to use my please and thank you.

A viral, and she actually said please!

But the thing that sticks in my mind most of all is what happened when Michael asked her how she'd known to blow the coupler. A man named Gus told me, Amy said. I never even knew that Gus was on the train, but Peter explained what had happened to Gus and Billie, that they'd been killed by the virals, and Amy said, nodding, That was when. Peter got very quiet for a moment, staring at her. What do you mean that was when? he said, and Amy answered, That was when he told me, after he'd fallen off the train. The virals didn't kill him, I think he broke his neck. But he was around for a little bit after. He was the one who put the bomb between the cars. He saw what was going to happen to the train and thought someone should know.

Michael says there has to be some other explanation, that Gus must have said something to her earlier. But I can tell Peter believes her, and I know I do, too. Peter is more convinced than ever that the signal from Colorado is the key to all of this, and I agree. After what we saw in the Haven, I am beginning to think that Amy is the only hope we have-that any of us has.

Day 31

A real town, the first since Caliente. We are spending the night in some kind of school, like the Sanctuary, with the same little desks in rows in all the rooms. I was worried that it would have more slims in it, but we haven't found any. We've been taking the watch in shifts of two. I'm on second shift with Hollis, which I thought would be hard, sleeping a few hours and then waking up again, then trying to sleep a couple more before dawn. But Hollis makes the time pass easily. For a while we talked of home, and Hollis asked me what I missed the most, and the first thing that came to mind was soap, which made Hollis laugh. I said, What's so funny and he said, I thought you were going to say the lights. Because I sure as hell miss those lights, Sara. And I said, What do you miss and he was quiet for a moment, and I thought he was going to say Arlo, but he didn't. He said, The Littles. Dora and the others. The sounds of their voices in the courtyard, and the smell in the Big Room at night. Maybe it's this place, that it kind of reminds me of them. But that's what I'm missing tonight, the Littles.

Still no virals. Everybody's wondering how long our luck will hold out.

Day 32

It looks like we're going to spend an extra night here-everybody needs to rest.

The big news is the store we found, Outdoor World, full of all kinds of supplies we can use, including bows. (The gun case was empty.) We got knives and a hand axe and canteens and packs with frames and a pair of binoculars and a camp stove and fuel that we can use to boil water. Also maps and a compass and sleeping sacks and warm jackets. Now we all have new gaps to wear, and warm socks for our boots, and thermal underwear, which we don't really need yet but probably will soon. There was one slim in the store, we didn't see him until we were almost done, lying under the counter with the binoculars. It made us all feel a little bad that we'd been pulling stuff off the shelves and not even noticing he was there. I know Caleb would have made a joke about it to cheer everyone up. I can't believe he's gone.

Alicia and Hollis went hunting and came back with another deer, a yearling. I wish we could stay long enough to cure the meat but Hollis thinks there'll be more where we're going. What he didn't say because he didn't need to was that if there's game there's probably smokes, too.

It's cold tonight. I think it must be fall.

Day 33

Walking again. We're on Highway 15 now, headed north. The highway is quaked out but at least we know we're going the right way. Lots of abandoned vehicles. They seem to come in clusters, you see a bunch of them together and then nothing for a while and then you hit a line of twenty or even more. We've stopped to rest by a river. Hoping to make Parowan by late afternoon.

Day 35

Still walking. Peter thinks we are covering about 25 kilometers a day. Exhausted. I am worried about Maus. How can she keep this up? She's clearly showing now. Theo never leaves her side.

It's suddenly hot again, scorching. At night there's lightning to the east, where the mountains are, but never any rain. Hollis got a jack on the bow so that's what we're eating, roast jack split eight ways, plus a few leftover apples. Tomorrow we're going to try to look for a grocery and see if there are any cans there that are still okay to eat. Amy says that you can eat plenty of what's there if you have to. More 100-year-old food

Why no virals?

Day 36

We smelled the fires last night and by morning we knew the forest was burning over the ridgeline to the east. We debated if we should turn around or wait or try to go around somehow, but that would mean leaving the highway, which no one wants to do. We've decided to press on and if the air gets worse we'll have to make a decision.

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