The Passage Page 59

At last he reached the top. A final door and, on the wall above it, far out of reach, a tiny window, its edges scalloped by broken glass, yellowed by soot and time.

The door was padlocked.

A dead end. After everything, the girl had led him to a dead end. A furious clang shook the stairwell as the first viral hit the door below him. Birds lifted off and scattered all around him, swirling the air with feathers.

That was when he saw it, so encrusted with guano it had blended invisibly into the wall around it. He used his elbow to smash the glass, then yanked the axe free. A second crash from below. One more push and the virals would be through the door and streaming up the stairs.

Peter lifted the axe over his head and gave it a hard swing, aiming for the padlock. The blade glanced off, but he could tell he'd done some damage. He took a deep breath, calculating the distance, and gave the axe another swing, putting everything he had behind it. A clean hit: the lock split and shattered. He leaned into the door with all his might and with a groan of age and rust it fell open, spilling him into sunlight.

He was on the roof at the north side of the mall, facing the mountains. He hobbled quickly to the edge.

The drop was fifteen meters at least. He'd break his leg or worse.

Lying immobile on the hardpan, waiting for the virals to take him. It wasn't how he wanted things to end. He was bleeding freely from his elbow; a trail of his blood had followed him from the open door. Though he had no memory of pain, he must have cut it when he'd smashed the panel. But a little blood would hardly make a difference now. At least he had the axe.

He was turning to face the door, preparing to swing, when a cry reached him from below.


Alicia and Caleb, coming around the corner of the building on horseback, riding fast. Alicia was waving to him, her body arched forward from the stirrups. "Jump!"

He thought of Theo, lifted up. He thought of his father, standing at the edge of the sea, and of the sea and stars. He thought of the girl, covering his body with her own, the warmth and sweetness of her breath on his neck and on his cheek where she had kissed him.

His friends were calling and waving from below, the virals were coming up the stairs, the axe was in his hand.

Not now, he thought, not yet, and he closed his eyes and jumped.


It was summer again and she was alone. Alone with no one but the voices she heard, everywhere and all around.

She remembered people. She remembered the Man. She remembered the other man and his wife and the boy and then the woman. She remembered some more than others. She remembered no one at all. She remembered one day thinking: I am alone. There is no I but I. She lived in the dark. She taught herself to walk in the light, though it was not easy. For a time it pained her, made her sick.

She walked and walked. She followed the mountains. The Man had told her to follow the mountains, to run and keep on running, but then one day the mountains ended; the mountains were no more. She never could find them again, those same ones. Some days she went nowhere at all. Some days were years. She lived here and there, with these and those, with the man and his wife and the boy and then the woman and finally with no one at all. Some of the people were kind to her, before they died. Others were not so. She was different, they said. She was not like them, not of them. She was apart and alone and there were no others like her in all the world. The people sent her away or they did not, but in the end they always died.

She dreamed. She dreamed of voices, and the Man. For some time of months or years she could hear the Man in the howl of the wind and the scrape of the stars if she listened just so, and it gave her a longing in her heart for his care. But over time's passage his voice became all mixed in her mind with the voices of the others, the dreaming ones, both there and not there, as the dark was a thing but not a thing, a presence and an absence joined. The world was a world of dreaming souls who could not die. She thought: there is the ground below my feet, there is the sky over my head, there are the empty buildings and the wind and rain and stars and everywhere the voices, the voices and the question.

Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?

She was not afraid of them, as the Man had been, and the others also, the man and his wife and the boy and then the woman. She had tried to lead the dreaming ones away from the Man and she had, she had done it. They followed her with their question, dragging it like a chain, like the one she'd read about in the story of the ghost, Jacob Marley. For a time she thought they might be ghosts, but they were not so. She had no name for them. She had no name for herself, for the thing she was. One night she awoke and she beheld them all around, their needful eyes, glowing like embers in the dark. She remembered the place because it was a barn and cold and raining out. Their faces crowded around her, their dreaming faces, so sad and lost, like the lonely world she walked in. They needed her to tell them, to answer the question. She could smell their breath on her, the breath of night, and of the question, a current in the blood. Who am I? they asked her.

who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I who am I

She ran from that place then. She ran and kept on running.

The seasons changed. They rolled round and round, and round some more. It was cold and then it was not. The nights were long and then they were not. She carried on her back a pack of things she needed, as well as the things she wanted to have because they were a comfort. They helped her to remember, to hold the time of years in her mind, both the good and the bad. Such things as: the story of the ghost, Jacob Marley. The locket of the woman, which she had taken from around her neck after the woman had died in the manner of all people dying, with great commotion. A bone from the field of bones and a stone from the beach where she had seen the ship. From time to time she ate. Some of the things in the cans she found were not good anymore. She would open a can with the tool in her pack and a terrible smell would rise from within it like the insides of the buildings where the dead people lay in rows or not in rows, and she knew she couldn't eat that one but would have to eat another. For a time there was the ocean beside her, huge and gray, and a beach of smooth, wave-rubbed stones, and tall pines stretching their long arms above the surface of the water. At night she watched the stars turning, she watched the moon soaring and dipping over the sea. It was the same moon as over all the world and she was happy in that place for a time. It was in that place she saw the ship. Hello! she cried, for she had seen no one in ever and ever, and was joyful at the very sight of it. Hello, ship! Hello, you big boat, hello! But the ship said no words back to her. It went away for some time of days, past the edge of the sea, and then returned, moving on the tides of the moon at night. Like a dream of a boat with no one to dream it but her. She followed it over the days and nights to the place of the rocks and the broken bridge the color of blood, where its great bow came to rest, among the others large and small, and by then she knew the ship like its fellows upon the rocks was empty with no people on it; and the sea was black with a foul smell like that which came from the cans that were no good. And she moved on from that place also.

Oh, she could feel them, feel them all. She could stretch out her hands and stroke the darkness and feel them in it, everywhere. Their sorrowful forgetting. Their great and terrible brokenheartedness. Their endless needful questioning. It moved her to a sorrow that was a kind of love. Like the love she'd felt for the Man, who in his care for her had told her to run and keep on running.

The Man. She remembered the fires and the light like an exploding sun in her eyes. She remembered his sadness and the feeling of the Man. But she could not hear him anymore. The Man, she thought, was gone.

There were others she did hear, in the dark. And she knew who these were, too.

I am Babcock.

I am Morrison.

I am Chavez.

I am Baffes-Turrell-Winston-Sosa-Echols-Lambright-Martinez-Reinhardt-Carter.

She thought of them as the Twelve, and the Twelve were everywhere, inside the world and behind the world and threaded into the darkness itself. The Twelve were the blood running below the skin of all things in the world at that time.

· · ·

All this, through the years and years. She remembered one day, the day of the field of bones, and another, the day of the bird and the not-talking. This was in a place with trees, so tall. There it was, just a small fluttering thing in the air before her face. Her feet were bare on the grass in the sunshine that she had learned to walk in. To and fro it moved on a blur of wings. She looked and looked. It seemed to her as if she had been beholding this small thing for many a day. She thought the word for what it was, but when she tried to say it, she realized she had forgotten how. Bird. The word was inside her but there was no door for it to come out of. Humming ... bird. She thought of all the other words she knew and it was just the same. All the words, all locked away inside.

And one night in the moonlight and after much time had passed, she was lonesome and without a friend in the world for company and she thought: Come here.

They came. First one and then another and more and more.

Come to me.

They stepped from the shadows. They dropped from the sky above and the high places all around, and soon they were a company without number, as they had been in the barn, only more so. They crowded around her with their dreaming faces. She touched them, caressed them, and did not feel alone. She asked: Are we the all? For I have seen no one, no man or woman, in all the years and years. Is there no I but I? But as long as she asked, they had no answer for her, only the question, fierce and burning.

Go now, she thought, and closed her eyes; and when she opened them again she found she was alone.

That was how she learned to do it.

Then, through the seasons of nights and the years of nights, she came upon the place of the buried city, where in the paling light of dusk she saw the men on their horses. Six of them, atop six dark horses of great muscularity. The men had guns, like other men that she recalled, in the time after the man and his wife and the boy and then the woman; and she hid herself away in the shadows, waiting for night to fall. What she would do then she did not know, but then the forgetful ones came to her as they always did in the dark and although she told them not to, they descended upon the men swiftly and with a great commotion and in this fashion the men began to die and then did so, three of their number.

She moved to where the bodies lay, the men and also their horses who were dead with no blood in them as was the case with all things that had died in this manner. Three of the men were nowhere to be found but the soul of one man was still near, watching from some nameless place without the form of solid things as she bent to regard his face and the look written upon it. It was the same look she had seen upon the face of the man and his wife and the boy and then the woman. Fear, and pain, and the letting go. It came to her that the man's name had been Willem. And the ones who had done it to Willem were sorry, so sorry, and she rose and said to them, It's all right, go now and do not do this again if you can help it, though she knew that they could not. They could not help it because of the Twelve who filled their minds with their terrible dreams of blood and no answer to the question but this:

I am Babcock.

I am Morrison.

I am Chavez.

I am Baffes-Turrell-Winston-Sosa-Echols-Lambright-Martinez-Reinhardt-Carter.

I am Babcock.



She followed them across the sand, even though the light was a great brightness to her eyes and on some days she could not hide from it. She wrapped herself in a cloth she had found and on her face she had the glasses. The days were long, the sun in its arc cutting a swath in the sky above and plowing the earth below it with the long blade of its light. At night the desert grew still with only the sound of her moving across it and the beating of her heart and the dreaming world around.

Then it was a day when there were mountains once again. She never had found those men on their horses or where they had come from that some of their number should have died in the buried city before her eyes. The floor of the valley between the mountains was dotted with trees that turned with the wind, and that was where she came upon the building with the horses inside; and when she beheld them in their stillness and solitude she thought, Perhaps these are the horses I saw. The horses weren't alive but they seemed so, and the look of them brought a peacefulness to her mind and a feeling of the Man and his cares for her that made her think she should stay in that place, that the time for running was ended. That this was the place where she had come to rest.

But now that time had ended, too. The men had returned at last on their horses and she had saved one of their company; she had covered his body with her own as her instincts had dictated in the moment and she'd told the dreaming ones to go, go now and do not kill this one; and for a while these urgings had worked upon them, but the other voice within their minds was strong and the hunger was strong also.

In her space in the dark and dust below the horses she thought of the one she had saved, hoping he was not dead, and listened for the sounds of the men and their horses and guns returning. And after a certain time of days, when she had detected no trace of them, she departed that place as she had departed all the others before it and stepped into the moonlit night of which she was a part, one and indivisible.

-Where are they? she asked the darkness. Where are the men on their horses that I should go to them and find them? For I have been alone through all the years and years, no I but I.

And a new voice came to her from the night sky, saying, Go into the moonlight, Amy.

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