The Passage Page 60

-Where? Where should I go?

Bring them to me. The way will show you the way.

She would. She would do it. For she had been alone too long, no I but I, and she was filled then with a sorrow and a great desire for others of her kind, that she should be alone no longer.

Go into the moonlight and find the men that I should know them as I know you, Amy.

-Amy, she thought. Who is Amy?

And the voice said, You are.




You who do not remember

Passage from the other world

I tell you I could speak again: whatever

returns from oblivion returns

to find a voice.


"The Wild Iris"


Log of the Watch

Summer 92

Day 51: No sign.

Day 52: No sign.

Day 53: No sign.

Day 54: No sign.

Day 55: No sign.

Day 56: No sign.

Day 57: Peter Jaxon stationed at FP 1 (M: Theo Jaxon). No sign.

Day 58: No sign.

Day 59: No sign.

Day 60: No sign.

During this period: 0 contacts. No souls killed or taken. Second Captain vacancy (T. Jaxon, deceased) referred to Sanjay Patal.

Respectfully submitted to the Household,

S. C. Ramirez, First Captain

Dawn of the eighth morning: Peter's eyes snapped open at the sound of the herd, coming down the trace.

He remembered thinking, some time after half-night: Just a few minutes. Just a few minutes off my feet, to gather my strength. But the moment he'd allowed himself to sit, bracing his back against the rampart, and rested his weary head upon his folded arms, sleep had taken him fast.

"Good, you're up."

Lish was standing above him. Peter rubbed his eyes and rose, accepting without comment the canteen of water she was handing him. His limbs felt heavy and slow, as if his bones had been replaced by tubes of sloshing liquid. He took a drink of tepid water and cast his gaze over the edge of the rampart. Beyond the fireline, a faint mist was rising slowly from the hills.

"How long was I out?"

She squared her shoulders toward him. "Forget it. You'd been up seven nights without a break. You had no business being out here as it was. Anybody who says different can take it up with me."

Morning Bell sounded. Peter and Alicia watched in silence as the gates commenced to retract into their pockets. The herd, restless and ready to move, began to surge through the opening.

"Go home and sleep," Alicia said, as the logging crews were preparing to leave. "You can worry about the Stone later."

"I'm going to wait for him."

She steadied her eyes on his face. "Peter. It's been seven nights. Go home."

They were interrupted by the sound of footsteps ascending the ladder. Hollis Wilson hoisted himself onto the catwalk and looked at the two of them, frowning.

"You standing down, Peter?"

"All yours," Alicia answered. "We're done here."

"I said, I'm staying."

The day shift was commencing. Two more Watchers clambered up the ladder, Gar Phillips and Vivian Chou. Gar was telling some kind of story, Vivian laughing along, but when they saw the three of them standing there, they abruptly fell silent and moved briskly down the catwalk.

"Listen," Hollis said, "if you want to take this post, it's okay with me. But I'm the OD, so I'll have to tell Soo."

"No, he's not," Alicia said. "I mean it, Peter. It's not a request. Hollis won't say it, but I will. Go home."

The urge to protest rose within him. But as he opened his mouth to speak he was met with a blast of grief that stunned him into surrender. Alicia was right. It was over; Theo was gone. He should have felt relieved, but all he felt was exhausted-a bone weariness that ran so deep he felt as if he'd be dragging it for the rest of his life like a chain. It took nearly all of his strength just to lift his cross from the floor of the rampart.

"I'm sorry about your brother, Peter," Hollis said. "I guess I can say that now since it's been seven nights."

"I appreciate that, Hollis."

"I guess that makes you Household now, huh?"

Peter had barely considered this. He supposed he was. His cousins, Dana and Leigh, were both older, but Dana had taken a pass when Peter's father had stepped down, and he doubted Leigh would be interested in the job now, with a baby to look after in the Sanctuary.

"I guess it does."

"Well, um, congratulations?" Hollis gave an awkward shrug. "Funny to say it, but you know what I mean."

He'd told no one about the girl, not even Alicia, who might have actually believed him.

The distance from the mall roof to the ground had been less than Peter had thought. He had been unable to detect, as Alicia could from below, how high the sand was piled against the base of the building-a tall, sloping dune that had absorbed the impact of his fall as he tumbled headlong down it. Still clutching the axe, he'd climbed onto Omega's back behind Alicia; it wasn't until they were clear on the other side of Banning, and could reasonably conclude that no pursuit was forthcoming, that he'd thought to wonder how they'd gotten away, and why the horses themselves were not dead.

Alicia and Caleb had fled the atrium through the kitchen of the restaurant. This connected through a series of hallways to a loading dock. The big bay doors were rusted tight, but one was open a crack, letting in a thin beam of sunlight. Using a length of pipe as a wedge, the two of them had managed to force it open wide enough to scramble through. They rolled out into sunlight to find themselves on the south side of the mall. That was when they spotted two of the horses, obliviously chewing on a stand of tall weeds. Alicia couldn't believe their luck. She and Caleb were making a circuit around the building when she heard the crash of the door and saw Peter on the edge of the roof.

"Why didn't you just go when you found the horses?" Peter asked her.

They had stopped on the power station road to water the animals, not far from the place where they had seen the viral in the trees, six days earlier. They had only what was in their canteens, but after they had each taken some, they poured what was left into their hands and let the horses lick it off. Peter's bleeding elbow was wrapped in a bandage they'd cut from his jersey; the wound wasn't deep but would probably need stitches.

"I don't second-guess these things, Peter." Alicia's voice was sharp; he wondered if he'd offended her. "It seemed like the right thing to do, and it was."

That was when he could have told them about the girl. And yet he'd hesitated, feeling the moment pass away. A young girl alone, and the thing she'd done under the carousel, covering him with her body; the look that passed between them, and the kiss on his cheek, and the suddenly slamming door. Maybe in the heat of the moment he had simply imagined all of it. He told them he'd found a stairwell and let it go at that.

They returned to a great commotion; they were four days overdue, on the verge of being declared lost. At the news of their return, a crowd had assembled at the gate. Leigh actually fainted before anyone could explain that Arlo was not dead, that he had stayed behind at the station. Peter didn't have the heart to go find Mausami in the Sanctuary, to give her the news about Theo. In any case, someone would tell her. Michael was there, and Sara too; it was she who washed and stitched his elbow while he sat on a rock, wincing at the pain and feeling cheated that the trancelike numbness brought on by the loss of his brother did not also apply to having one's skin sewn closed with a needle. She wrapped it in a proper bandage, hugged him quickly, and burst into tears. Then, as darkness fell, the crowd parted, making room for him to pass, and as Second Bell began to ring, Peter ascended the rampart, to stand the Mercy for his brother.

He left Alicia at the bottom of the ladder, promising that he'd go home and sleep. But home was the last place he wanted to go. Only a few of the unmarried men still used the barracks; the place was filthy and reeked as bad as the power station. But that would be where Peter lived from now on. He needed a few things from the house, that was all.

The morning sun was already warm on his shoulders when he arrived at the house, a five-room cabin facing the East Glade. It was the only home that Peter had ever known, since coming out of the Sanctuary; he and Theo had barely done more than sleep there since their mother's death. They certainly hadn't done much to keep the place tidy. It always bothered Peter what a mess it was-dishes piled in the sink, clothing on the floor, every surface tacky with grime-and yet he could never quite bring himself to do anything about this. Their mother had been nothing if not neat, and had kept the house well-the floors washed and rugs beaten, the hearth swept of ashes, the kitchen clear of debris. There were two bedrooms on the first floor, where he and Theo slept, and one, his parents', tucked under the eaves on the second. Peter went to his room and quickly packed a rucksack with a few days' worth of clothing; he'd look over Theo's belongings later, deciding what to keep for himself before carting the rest to the Storehouse, where his brother's clothes and shoes would be sorted and stowed, to await redistribution among the Colony at Share. It was Theo who had seen to this chore after their mother's death, knowing that Peter could not; one winter day, almost a year later, Peter had seen a woman-Gloria Patal-wearing a scarf he recognized. Gloria was in the market stalls, sorting jars of honey. The scarf, with its bit of fringe, was unmistakably his mother's. Peter had been so disturbed he'd darted away, as if from the scene of some misdeed in which he was implicated.

He finished his packing and stepped into the main room of the house, a combined kitchen and living area under exposed beams. The stove hadn't been lit in months; the woodpile out back was probably full of mice by now. Every surface in the room was coated in a sticky skin of dust. Like nobody lived there at all. Well, he thought, I guess they don't.

A last impulse took him upstairs to his parents' bedroom. The drawers of the small dresser were vacant, the sagging mattress stripped of bedding, the shelves in the old wardrobe barren except for a filigree of cobwebs that swayed in the shifting air when he opened the door. The small bedside table where his mother had kept a cup of water and her glasses-the one thing of hers Peter would have liked to keep, but couldn't; a decent pair of glasses was worth a full share-was ringed with ghostly stains. Nobody had opened the windows in months; the atmosphere of the room felt trapped and ill-used, one more item that Peter had dishonored with his neglect. It was true: he felt like he'd failed them, failed them all.

He toted his pack out into the gathering heat of the morning. From all around him came the sounds of activity: the tamp and whinny of the horses in the stables, the ringing music of a hammer from the smithing shop, the calls of the day shift from the Wall, and, as he moved into Old Town, the laughing squeals of the children, playing in the courtyard of the Sanctuary. Morning recess, when for an exhilarating hour Teacher would let them all run wild as mice; Peter recalled a winter day, sunlit and cold, and a game of take-away in which he had, with miraculous effortlessness, seized the stick from the hands of a much older, larger boy-in his memory it was one of the Wilson brothers-and managed to keep it to himself until Teacher, clapping and waving her mittened hands, had summoned them all inside. The sharpness of cold air in his lungs, and the dry, brown look of the world in winter; the steam of his sweat rising on his brow and the pure physical elation as he had dodged and weaved his way through the grasping hands of his attackers. How alive he'd felt. Peter searched his memory for his brother-surely Theo had been among the Littles on that winter morning, part of the galloping pack-but could find no trace of him. The place where his brother should have been was empty.

He came to the training pits then. A trio of wide depressions in the earth, twenty meters long, with high earthen walls to constrain the inevitable stray bolts and arrows, the wildly misthrown blades. At the close end of the middle trench, five new trainees were standing at attention. Three girls and two boys, ranging in ages from nine to thirteen: in their rigid postures and anxious faces, Peter could read the same effortful seriousness he'd felt when he'd come into the pits, an overwhelming desire to prove himself. Theo was ahead of him, three grades; he recalled the morning his brother had been chosen as a runner, the proud smile on his face as he turned and made his way to the Wall for the first time. The glory was reflected, but Peter had felt it, too. Soon he would follow.

The trainer this morning was Peter's cousin Dana, Uncle Willem's girl. She was eight years older than Peter and had stood down to take over the pits after the birth of her first daughter, Ellie. Her youngest, Kat, was still in the Sanctuary, but Ellie had come out a year ago and was one of the trainees in the pit, first grade, tall for her age and slender like her mother, with long black hair plaited in a Watcher braid.

Dana, standing before the group, examined them with a stony expression, as if she were picking a ram for slaughter. All part of the ritual.

"What do we have?" she asked the group.

They answered with one voice. "One shot!"

"Where do they come from?"

Louder this time: "They come from above!"

Dana paused, rocking back on her heels, and caught sight of Peter. She sent him a sad smile before facing her charges once again, her face hardening into a scowl. "Well, that was horrible. You've just earned yourselves three extra laps before chow. Now, I want two lines, bows up."

"What do you think?"

Sanjay Patal: Peter had been so lost in thought he hadn't heard the man approach. Sanjay was standing beside him, arms folded over his chest, his gaze directed over the pits.

"They'll learn."

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