The Passage Page 118

The screen flickered to life.


She pressed Y.


For a moment she paused. Then she typed 5.


She pressed Y once more. On the screen, a clock began to run.




She sealed the panel and rose.

"Quickly," she had said to the two of them, leading them briskly down the hall. "We must get out of here now."

Then she'd locked them out.

Lacey, please! I don't know what to do! Tell me what to do!

You will, Amy, when the moment comes. You will know what is inside you then. You will know how to set them free, to make their final passage.

Now she was alone. Her work was nearly done. When she was certain Peter and Amy were gone, she freed the bolts and opened the door wide.

Come to me, she thought. Standing in the doorway, she breathed deeply, composing herself, sending out her mind. Come to the place where you were made.

Lacey waited. Five minutes: after so many years, it seemed like nothing, because it really was.

Dawn was breaking over the mountain.

The three of them were racing toward the shots. They crested a ridge; below them, Michael saw a house, the horses outside. Sara and Alicia were waving to them from the door.

The creatures were behind them now, in the trees. They tore down the embankment and dashed inside. Greer and Hollis appeared from behind a curtain, carrying a tall chest of drawers.

"They're right behind us," Michael said.

They wedged the bureau against the door. A hopeless gesture, thought Michael, but it might buy them a second or two.

"What about these windows?" Alicia was saying. "Anything we can use?"

They tried to move the cupboard, but it was too heavy. "Forget it," Alicia said. She drew a pistol from her waistband and pressed it into Michael's hands. "Greer, you and Hollis take the window in the bedroom. Everyone else stays here. Two on the door, one on each window, front and back. Circuit, you watch the chimney. They'll go for the horses first."

Everyone took their positions.

From the bedroom, Hollis shouted, "Here they come!"

Something was wrong, Lacey thought. They should have been here by now. She could feel them, everywhere around her, filling her mind with their hunger, their hunger and the question.

Who am I?

Who am I?

Who am I?

She stepped into the tunnel.

Come to me, she answered. Come to me. Come to me.

She moved quickly down its length; she could make out the opening, a circle of softening gray, the elongated dawn of the mountain. The first true light of sunrise would hit them from the west, reflecting off the far side of the valley, its fields of snow and ice.

She reached the tunnel's mouth and stepped out. She could see, below her, the tracks and debris of the virals' ascent up the icy slope. A thousand thousand strong, and more.

They had gone right past.

Despair gripped her. Where are you, she thought, and then she said it, hearing the fury in her voice as it echoed over the valley: "Where are you?" But there was silence from heaven.

Then, from the stillness, she heard it.

I am here.

The virals hit the doors and windows at once, a furious crash of breaking glass and splintering wood. Peter, bracing the bureau with his shoulder, was blown backward, into Amy. He could hear Hollis and Greer shooting from the bedroom, Alicia and Michael and Sara and Amy, too, everyone firing.

"Fall back!" Alicia was yelling. "The door's collapsing!"

Peter grabbed Amy by the arm and pulled her into the bedroom. Hollis was at the window. Greer was on the ground beside the bed, bleeding from a deep gash in his head.

"It's glass!" he yelled over the report of Hollis's weapon. "It's just glass!"

Alicia: "Hollis, stay on that window!" She dropped her empty clip and slammed a new one into place and pulled the bolt. Here they would make their stand. "Everyone, get ready!"

They heard the front door give way. Alicia, closest to the bedroom curtain, spun around and began to fire.

The one that got her wasn't the first, or the second, or even the third. It was the fourth. By then her gun was drained. Later, Peter would recall the scene as a sequence of discrete details. The sound of her last shell casings ricocheting on the floor. The swirl of gunpowder smoke in the air and the descent of Alicia's empty clip as she reached to pull a new one from her vest; the viral hurling itself toward her through the tattered curtain, the pitiless smoothness of its face and the flash of its eyes and open jaws; the barrel of her useless gun lifting, and the dart of her hand to draw her blade, too late; the moment of impact, cruel and unstoppable, Alicia falling backward to the floor, the viral's burrowing jaws finding the curve of her neck.

It was Hollis who took the shot, stepping forward as the viral lifted its face and spearing the barrel of his rifle into its mouth and firing, spraying the back of its head against the wall of the bedroom. Peter scrabbled forward and grabbed Alicia under the arms, dragging her away from the door. The blood was running freely from her neck, a deep crimson, soaking her vest. Someone was yelling, saying her name over and over, but maybe that was him. Braced against the wall, he hugged Alicia to his chest, holding her upright between his legs, reflexively putting his hands over the wound to try to stop the bleeding. Amy and Sara were on the floor now, too, huddled against the wall. Another creature came through the curtain and Peter lifted his pistol and fired, his last two rounds. The first one missed but not the second. In his arms, Alicia was breathing strangely, all hiccups and gasps. There was blood, so much blood.

He closed his eyes and pulled her tightly against him.

• • •

Lacey turned; Babcock was perched above her, at the top of the tunnel's mouth. As great and terrible a thing as God had ever made. Lacey felt no fear, only wonder at the magnificent workings of God. That He should make a being so perfect in his design, fit to devour a world. And as she gazed upon him glowing with his great and terrible radiance-a hallowed light, like the light of angels-Lacey's heart swelled with the knowledge that she had not been wrong, that the long night of her vigil would end as she'd forseen. A vigil begun so many years ago on a damp spring morning when she had opened the door of the Convent of the Sisters of Mercy in Memphis, Tennessee, and beheld a little girl.

Jonas, she thought, do you see that I was right? All is forgiven; all that has been lost can be found again. Jonas, I am coming to tell you. I am practically with you now.

She darted back into the tunnel.

Come to me. Come to me come to me come to me.

She ran. She was in that place but also another; she was running down the tunnel, drawing Babcock inside; but she was also a little girl again, in the field. She could smell the sweetness of the earth, feel the cool night air on her cheeks; she could hear her sisters and her mother's voice, calling from the doorway: Run, children, run as fast as you can.

She hit the door and kept on going, down the hall with its buzzing lights, into the room with its gurney and beakers and batteries, all the little things of the old world and its terrible dreams of blood.

She stopped, pivoting to face the doorway. And there he was.

I am Babcock. One of Twelve.

As am I, thought Sister Lacey, as, behind her, the bomb's timer reached 0:00, the atoms of its core collapsed into themselves, and her mind filled up forever with the pure white light of heaven.


She was Amy, and she was forever. She was one of Twelve and also the other, the one above and behind, the Zero. She was the Girl from Nowhere, the One Who Walked In, who lived a thousand years; Amy of Multitudes, the Girl with the Souls Inside Her.

She was Amy. She was Amy. She was Amy.

She was the first to rise. After the thunder and the shaking, the trembling and the roaring. Lacey's little house bucking and rocking like a horse, like a tiny boat at sea. Everyone yelling and screaming, huddled against the wall and holding on.

But then it was over. The earth below them came to rest. The air was full of dust. Everyone coughing and choking, amazed to be alive.

They were alive.

She led Peter and the others out, past the bodies of the dead ones, into the light of dawn where the Many waited. The Many of Babcock no more.

They were everywhere and all around. A sea of faces, eyes. They moved toward her in the vastness of their number, into the dawning sunlight. She could feel the empty space inside them where the dream had been, the dream of Babcock, and in its place the question, fierce and burning:

Who am I who am I who am I?

And she knew. Amy knew. She knew them all, each to a one; she knew them all at last. She was the ship, just as Lacey had said; she carried their souls inside her. She had kept these all along, waiting for this day, when she would return what was rightfully theirs-the stories of who they were. The day when they would make their passage.

Come to me, she thought. Come to me come to me come to me.

They came. From out of the trees, from across the snowy fields, from all the hidden places. She moved among them, touching and caressing, and told them what they longed to know.

You are ... Smith.

You are ... Tate.

You are ... Duprey.

You are Erie you are Ramos you are Ward you are Cho you are Singh Atkinson Johnson Montefusco Cohen Murrey Nguyen Elberson Lazaro Torres Wright Winborne Pratt Scalamonti Mendoza Ford Chung Frost Vandyne Carlin Park Diego Murphy Parsons Richini O'Neil Myers Zapata Young Scheer Tanaka Lee White Gupta Solnik Jessup Rile Nichols Maharana Rayburn Kennedy Mueller Doerr Goldman Pooley Price Kahn Cordell Ivanov Simpson Wong Palumbo Kim Rao Montgomery Busse Mitchell Walsh McEvoy Bodine Olson Jaworksi Ferguson Zachos Spenser Ruscher ...

The sun was lifting over the mountain, a blinding brightness. Come, thought Amy. Come into the light and remember.

You are Cross you are Flores you are Haskell Vasquez Andrews McCall Barbash Sullivan Shapiro Jablonski Choi Zeidner Clark Huston Rossi Culhane Baxter Nunez Athanasian King Higbee Jensen Lombardo Anderson James Sasso Lindquist Masters Hakeemzedah Levander Tsujimoto Michie Osther Doody Bell Morales Lenzi Andriyakhova Watkins Bonilla Fitzgerald Tinti Asmundson Aiello Daley Harper Brewer Klein Weatherall Griffin Petrova Kates Hadad Riley MacLeod Wood Patterson ...

Amy felt their sorrow, but it was different now. It was a holy soaring. A thousand recollected lives were passing through her, a thousand thousand stories-of love and work, of parents and children, of duty and joy and grief. Beds slept in and meals eaten, and the bliss and pain of the body, and a view of summer leaves from a window on a morning it had rained; the nights of loneliness and the nights of love, the soul in its body's keeping always longing to be known. She moved among them where they lay in the snow, the Many no more, each in the place of their choosing.

The snow angels.

Remember, she told them. Remember.

I am Flynn I am Gonzalez I am Young Wentzell Armstrong O'Brien Reeves Farajian Watanabe Mulroney Chernesky Logan Braverman Livingston Martin Campana Cox Torrey Swartz Tobin Hecht Stuart Lewis Redwine Pho Markovich Todd Mascucci Kostin Laseter Salib Hennesey Kasteley Merriweather Leone Barkley Kiernan Campbell Lamos Marion Quang Kagan Glazner Dubois Egan Chandler Sharpe Browning Ellenzweig Nakamura Giacomo Jones I am I am I am ...

The sun would do its work. Soon they would be dead, then ashes, then nothing. Their bodies would scatter to the winds. They were leaving her at last. She felt their spirits rising, sailing away.


Peter was beside her now. She had no words for the look upon his face. She would tell him soon, she thought. She would tell him all she knew, all she believed. What lay ahead, the long journey they would take together. But now was not a time for talk.

"Go inside," she said, and took his empty pistol from him, dropping it into the snow. "Go inside and save her."

"Can I save her?"

And Amy nodded.

"You have to," she said.

Sara and Michael had lifted Alicia onto the bed and stripped off her blood-soaked vest. Her eyes were closed, fluttering.

"I need bandages!" Sara yelled. More blood was on her hands, her hair. "Someone get me something to stanch this bleeding!"

Hollis used his blade to cut a length of cloth from the sheets. They weren't clean, nothing was, but they would have to do.

"We have to tie her down," Peter said.

"Peter, the wound is too deep," Sara said. She shook her head hopelessly. "It's not going to matter."

"Hollis, give me your blade."

He told the others what to do, cutting Lacey's bed linens into long strips, then twisting them together. They bound Alicia's hands and feet to the posts of the bed. Sara said the bleeding seemed to be slowing-an ominous sign. Her pulse was high and thready.

"If she survives," Greer warned from the foot of the bed, "these sheets will never hold her."

But Peter wasn't listening. He moved to the main room, where among the wreckage he found his pack. The metal box was still inside, with the syringes. He removed one of the vials and returned to the bedroom, where he passed it to Sara.

"Give her this."

She took it in her hand, examining it. "Peter, I don't know what this is."

"It's Amy," he said.

She gave Alicia half the vial. Through the day and into the night they waited. Alicia had lapsed into a kind of twilight. Her skin was dry and hot. The wound at her neck had sealed, taking on a bruised appearance, purple and inflamed. From time to time she would seem to awaken, emerging into a kind of twilight, moaning. Then she closed her eyes again.

They had dragged the corpses of the dead virals outside, with the others. Their bodies had fallen quickly into a gray ash that was still swirling in the air, coating every surface like a layer of dirty snow. By morning, Peter thought, they would all be gone. Michael and Hollis had boarded up the windows and set the door back on its hinges; as darkness fell, they burned what was left of the bureau in the fireplace. Sara stitched up Greer's head, wrapped it in another bandage made from bed linens. They slept in shifts, two to watch Alicia. Peter said he would stay up all night with her, but in the end his exhaustion got the better of him and he slept as well, curled on the cold floor by her bed.

Prev Next