The Passage Page 33

He told her the story, told it all. And when the story was ending, the day was ending with it.

-And then you came, Amy, he said. Then I found you. Do you see? It was like she'd come back to me. Come back, Amy. Come back, come back, come back.

He lifted his face. He opened his eyes.

And Amy opened hers, too.


Lacey in the woods: she moved at a crouch, darting tree to tree, putting distance between herself and the soldiers. The air was cold and thin, sharp in her lungs. She stood with her back against a tree and let herself breathe.

She wasn't afraid. The soldiers' bullets were nothing. She'd heard them ripping through the underbrush, but they hadn't even come close. And so small! Bullets-how could bullets hurt a person? After the long distance she'd traveled, against such odds, how could they hope to scare her away with something as meager as that?

She peeked around the barrel-like trunk. She could see, through the undergrowth, the glow of the sentry hut, hear the two men talking, their voices carrying easily across the moonless night. Black woman, some kind of accent, and the other one saying over and over, Shit, he's going to have our ass for this. How the f**k did we miss her? Huh? How the f**k! You didn't even f**king aim!

Whoever they were talking to on the phone, they were afraid of him. But this man-Lacey knew he was nothing, no one. And the soldiers, they were like children, without minds of their own. Like the ones in the field, so long ago. She remembered how, through the long hours, they'd done and done. They'd thought they were taking something from her-she could see it in the dark smiles streaked across their mouths, taste it in their sour breath on her face-and it was true, they had. But now she'd forgiven them and taken this thing back, which was Lacey herself, and more besides. She closed her eyes. But you are a shield around me, O LORD, she thought:

You bestow glory on me and lift up my head.

To the LORD I cry aloud

and he answers me from his holy hill.


I lie down and sleep;

I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.

I will not fear the tens of thousands

drawn up against me on every side.

Arise, O LORD!

Deliver me, O my God!

Strike all my enemies on the jaw;

break the teeth of the wicked.

She was moving through the trees again. The man on the other end of the sentry's phone: he would send more soldiers to hunt her down. And yet a feeling like joy was coursing through her-a new, nimble energy, richer and deeper than anything she'd felt in her life. It had been building through the weeks as she made her way to-well, where? She didn't know what it was called. In her mind it was simply the place where Amy was.

She'd taken some buses. She'd ridden awhile in the back of someone's truck with two Labrador retrievers and a crate of baby pigs. Some days she'd awakened wherever she was and known it was a day to walk, just walk. From time to time she ate or, if it felt right, knocked on a door and asked if it would be all right if she slept in a bed. And the woman who answered the door-for it was always a woman, no matter what door Lacey knocked on-would say, Of course, come right in, and lead her to a room with a bed all made up and waiting, without saying one more word about it.

And then one day she was climbing a long mountain road, the glory of God in the sunshine all around her, and knew that she'd arrived.

Wait, the voice said. Wait for sunset, Sister Lacey. The way will show you the way.

And so it did: the way showed the way. More men were pursuing her now; each footfall, each snap of a twig, each breath was as a gunshot, louder than loud, telling Lacey where they were. They were spread out behind her in a wide line, six of them, pointing their guns into the darkness, at nothing, at a place where Lacey had stood but stood no longer.

She came to a break in the trees. A road. To the left, two hundred yards distant, stood the sentry hut, bathed in its halo of light. To the right the road turned into the trees and descended sharply. From somewhere far below, was the sound of the river.

Nothing about this place revealed its meaning to her; and yet she knew to wait. She dropped and pressed her belly against the forest floor. The soldiers were behind her, fifty yards, forty, thirty.

She heard the low, labored sound of a diesel engine, its pitch dropping as the driver downshifted to ascend the final rise. Slowly it pushed its light and noise toward her. She rose to a crouch as its headlights burst over the crest of the hill. Some kind of Army truck. The pitch of the engine changed as the driver shifted again and began to gather speed.


And the voice said: Now.

She was up and running with all her might, aiming her body at the rear of the truck. A wide bumper and, above it, an open cargo area, concealed by swaying canvas. For a moment it seemed as if she'd moved too late, that the truck would race away, but in a burst of speed she caught it. Her hands found the lip of the gate, one bare foot and then the other left the road. Lacey Antoinette Kudoto, airborne: she was up and over and she was rolling in.

Her head hit the floor of the cargo compartment with a thump.

Boxes. The truck was full of boxes.

She scrambled to the front, against the rear wall of the cab. The truck slowed again as it approached the sentry hut. Lacey held her breath. Whatever happened now would happen; there was nothing she could do.

The hiss of air brakes; the truck jerked to a halt.

"Let me see the manifest."

The voice belonged to the first sentry, the one who'd told Lacey to stop. The man-boy with his gun. She could discern, from the angle of his voice, that he was standing on the running board. The air suddenly tanged with cigarette smoke.

"You shouldn't smoke."

"Who are you, my mother?"

"Read your own manifest, dickhead. You're carrying enough ordnance to blow us all halfway to Mars."

A snickering laugh from the passenger seat.

"It's your funeral. You see anyone down the road?"

"You mean, like a civilian?"

"No, I mean the abominable snowman. Yes, a civilian. A black woman, about five-six, wearing a skirt."

"You're kidding." A pause. "We didn't see anyone. It's dark. I don't know."

The sentry climbed down from the running board. "Hang on while I check the back."

Don't move, Lacey, the voice said. Don't move.

The canvas flaps opened, closed, opened again. A beam of light shot into the back of the truck.

Close your eyes, Lacey.

She did. She felt the beam of the flashlight rake her face: once, twice, three times.

You are a shield around me, O Lord-

She heard two hard pounds on the side of the truck, right beside her ear.


The truck pulled away.

Richards wasn't one bit happy. The crazy nun-what the blue f**k was she doing here?

He decided not to tell Sykes. Not until he knew more about it. He'd sent six men. Six! Just f**king shoot her! But they'd come back with nothing. He'd sent them back out, around the perimeter. Just find her! Put a bullet in her! Is that so hard?

The business with Wolgast and the girl had gone on too long. And Doyle-why was he still alive? Richards checked his watch: 00:03. He retrieved his weapon from the bottom drawer of his desk and checked the load and tucked it against his spine. He left his office and took the back stairs to Level 1 and exited through the loading dock.

Doyle was stashed over in civilian housing; the room had belonged to one of the dead sweeps. The sentry at the door was dozing in his chair.

"Get up," Richards said.

The soldier jerked awake. His eyes floated with incomprehension; he didn't look like he knew where he was. When he saw Richards standing above him, he rose quickly to attention. "Sorry, sir."

"Open the door."

The soldier keyed in the code and stepped away.

"You can go," Richards said.


"If you're going to sleep, do it in the barracks."

A look of relief. "Yes, sir. Sorry, sir."

The soldier jogged down the catwalk, away. Richards pushed the door open. Doyle was sitting on the end of the bed, his hands folded in his lap, looking at the empty square on the wall where the TV had once been. An untouched tray of food rested on the floor, exuding a faint smell of rotting fish. As Doyle lifted his face, a thin smile creased his lips.

"Richards. You f**k."

"Let's go."

Doyle sighed and slapped his knees. "You know, he was right about you. Wolgast, I mean. I was just sitting here thinking, When is my old friend Richards going to pay me a visit?"

"If it was up to me, I would have come sooner."

Doyle looked like he was about to laugh. Richards had never seen such a good mood in a man who had to know what was about to happen to him. Doyle shook his head ruefully, still smiling. "I should have gone for those shotguns."

Richards withdrew his weapon and thumbed the safety. "It would have saved some time, yes."

He led Doyle across the compound, toward the lights of the Chalet. It was possible Doyle would take off running, but how far would he get? And, Richards wondered, why hadn't he asked about Wolgast or the girl?

"Tell me one thing," Doyle said, as they reached the parking area. A handful of cars were still there, belonging to the lab's night shift. "Is she here yet?"

"Is who here?"


Richards stopped.

"So she is," Doyle said, and chuckled to himself. "Richards, you should see your face."

"What do you know about it?"

It was strange. A cool, blue light seemed to be shining from Doyle's eyes. Even in the ambient glow of the parking lot, Richards could see it. Like looking into a camera at the moment the shutter opened.

"Funny thing, but you know?" Doyle said, and lifted his gaze toward the dark shapes of the trees. "I could hear her coming."


He was on L4. On the monitor, the glowing shape of Zero.

Grey. It's time.

He remembered then, remembered all of it at last: his dreams and all those nights he'd spent in Containment, watching Zero, listening to his voice, hearing the stories he told. He remembered New York City and the girl and all the others, every night a new one, and the feel of the darkness moving through him and the soft joy in his jaw as he flew down upon them. He was Grey and not Grey, he was Zero and not Zero, he was everywhere and nowhere. He rose and faced the glass.

It's time.

It was funny, Grey thought. Not funny ha-ha but funny strange, the whole idea of time. He'd thought it was one thing but it was actually another. It wasn't a line but a circle, and even more; it was a circle made of circles made of circles, each lying on top of the other, so that every moment was next to every other moment, all at once. And once you knew this you couldn't unknow it. Such as now, the way he could see events as they were about to unfold, as if they'd already happened, because in a way they had.

He opened the air lock. His suit hung limply on the wall. He had to close the first door to open the second, the second to open the third, but there was nothing that said he had to put the suit on, or that he had to be alone.

The second door, Grey.

He stepped into the inner chamber. Above his head, the showerhead hung like the face of some monstrous flower. The camera was watching him, but no one was on the other side; he knew that. And he was hearing other voices now, not just Zero's, and he knew who these were, too.

The third door, Grey.

Oh, it was such happiness, he thought. Such relief. This letting go. This putting down and away. Day by day he'd felt it happening, the good Grey and the bad Grey coming together, forming something new, something inevitable. The next new Grey, the one who could forgive.

I forgive you, Grey.

He turned the wide handle. The gate was open. Zero uncurled before him in the dark. Grey felt his breath on his face, on his eyes and mouth and chin; he felt his hammering heart. Grey thought of his father, on the snow. He was weeping, weeping with happiness, weeping with terror, weeping weeping weeping, and as Zero's bite found the soft place on his neck where the blood moved, he knew at last what the tenth rabbit was.

The tenth rabbit was him.


It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.

"What did you say?" Richards said, and then he heard-both of them heard-the sound of the alarm. The one that was never, ever supposed to ring, a great, atonal buzzing that ricocheted across the open compound so that it seemed to come from everywhere at once.

Security breach. Subject Containment, Level 4.

Richards turned quickly to look toward the Chalet. A quick decision: he swung around to point his gun at the spot where Doyle had stood.

Doyle was gone.

Goddamn, he thought, and then he said it: "Goddamn!" Now there were two of them on the loose. He quickly scanned the parking lot, hoping for a shot. Lights came on everywhere, bathing the compound in a harsh, artificial daylight; he heard shouts from the barracks, soldiers running.

No time to deal with Doyle now.

He raced up the steps of the Chalet, past the sentry who was yelling at him, something about the elevator, and took the stairs to L2, his feet barely touching the steps. The door to his office was open. He quickly scanned the monitors.

Zero's chamber was empty.

Babcock's chamber was empty.

All of the chambers were empty.

He hit the audio feed. "Sentries, Level Four, this is Richards. Report."

Nothing, not a word in reply.

"Main Lab, report. Somebody tell me what the f**k is going on down there."

A terrified voice came through: Fortes? "They let them out!"

"Who? Who let them out?"

Prev Next