The Passage Page 80

"Come with me now," he said.

He led her to the Lighthouse, where Michael and Elton were waiting. Moving through the same explanation he had given Peter, Michael told his sister what he knew. When he came to the part about the signal and showed her the words in the logbook, Sara took it from his hands and examined it.


Michael frowned. "What do you mean 'okay'?"

"Michael, it's not that I doubt you. I've known you too long. But what are we supposed to do with this information? Colorado is, what, a thousand kilometers from here?"

"About sixteen hundred," Michael said. "Give or take."

"So how are we supposed to get there?"

Michael paused. He glanced past his sister to Elton, who nodded.

"The real problem is what happens if we don't."

And that was when Michael told them about the batteries.

Peter absorbed this news with a strange detachment, a feeling of inevitability. Of course the batteries were failing; the batteries had been failing all along. He could feel it in everything that had happened; he felt it in the core of him, as if he'd always known. Like the girl. This girl, Amy, the Girl from Nowhere. That she had arrived in their midst when the batteries were failing was more than coincidence. All that remained was for him was to act upon this knowledge.

He became aware that no one had spoken for a while. "Who else knows about this?" he asked Michael.

"Just us." He hesitated. "And your brother."

"You told Theo?"

Michael nodded. "I always wished I hadn't. He was the one who told me not to tell anyone. Which I didn't, until now."

Of course, Peter was thinking. Of course Theo had known.

"I think he didn't want people to be afraid," Michael explained. "As long as there wasn't anything we could do."

"But you think there is."

Michael paused to rub his eyes with the tips of his fingers. Peter could see the long hours catching up with him. None of them had slept at all.

"You know what I'd do, Peter. The signal's probably automated. But if the Army's still out there, I don't see how we can just do nothing. If she did what you said at the mall, maybe she could protect us."

Peter turned his face toward Sara. After what Michael had just told them, he was surprised to find her so composed, her face revealing no emotion. But she was a nurse; Peter knew that toughness.

"Sara? You haven't said anything."

"What do you want me to say?"

"You've been with her all this time. What do you think she is?"

Sara released a weary sigh. "All I know is what she isn't. She's not a viral, that's obvious. But she's not an ordinary human being, either. Not the way she heals."

"Is there any reason she can't speak?"

"Nothing I can find. If she's as old as Michael says, maybe she's forgotten how."

"And no one else has been in to see her."

"Not since yesterday." She hesitated. "I get the feeling everyone's sort of ... afraid of her."

"Are you?"

Sara frowned. "Why would I be afraid of her, Peter?"

But he didn't know. The question had felt strange to him even as he'd asked it.

Sara rose to her feet. "Well, I'm going to have to get back. Ben will start to wonder." She placed a hand on Michael's shoulder. "Try to get some rest. You too, Elton. The two of you, you look like hell."

She had nearly reached the door when she turned, focusing her attention on Peter again.

"You're not really serious about this, are you? Going to Colorado."

The question seemed too simple. And yet everything they'd been saying pointed to this conclusion. Peter felt much as he had outside the library, Theo asking him, What's your vote?

"Because if you were," Sara said, "with the way things are going, I wouldn't wait much longer to get her out of here." And then she slipped from the Lighthouse.

In Sara's absence, a deeper silence settled over the room. Peter knew she was right. And yet his mind still could not grasp the totality of what they were contemplating, to bring it into focus. The girl, Amy, and the voice in his head, telling him his mother missed him; the failing batteries, which Theo had known about; the message on Michael's radio, like a transmission that had crossed not just a width of space but time itself, speaking to them out of the past. It was all of a piece, and yet its shape remained elusive, as if some crucial bit of information was still absent from its design.

Peter found himself looking at Elton. The old man hadn't spoken a word; Peter thought he might have fallen asleep.



"You're pretty quiet."

"Nothing to say," he replied, his blank eyes roaming upward. "You know who you need to talk to. You Jaxon boys, it's always the same. I don't have to tell you."

Peter rose to his feet.

"Where are you going?" Michael asked.

"To get the answer," he said.

Sanjay Patal couldn't sleep. Lying in his bed, he couldn't even close his eyes.

It was the girl. This Girl from Nowhere. She'd gotten into him somehow, into his mind. The girl was there with Babcock and the Many-what Many? he wondered; why was he thinking about the Many?-and it was as if he was somebody else now, somebody new and strange to himself. He'd wanted ... what? A little peace. A little order. To stop the feeling that everything wasn't what it seemed to be, that the world was not the world. What had Jimmy said about the girl's eyes? But her eyes were closed, he'd seen that plainly; her eyes were closed and never opened. They were inside him, those eyes, as if he were viewing everything from two angles at once, within and without, Sanjay and not Sanjay, and what he saw was a rope.

Why was he thinking about a rope?

He'd meant to find Old Chou. That was why he'd left the house last night, leaving Gloria asleep in the kitchen. The need to find Old Chou was the force that had called him from bed, down the stairs and out the door. The lights, Sanjay remembered. As soon as he'd stepped into the yard they had filled his eyes like a bomb, the brightness exploding on his retinas, searing his mind with a pain that wasn't real pain, exactly, it was like a memory of pain, washing away any thoughts of Old Chou or the Storehouse or what he'd intended there. What he had next done seemed to have unfolded in a state without volition. The images in his memory lacked any coherence, like a pack of cards spilled on the floor. It was Gloria who had found him afterward, huddled in the bushes at the base of their house, whimpering like a child. Sanjay, she was saying, what did you do? What did you do, what did you do? He could not answer her-at that point, he honestly had no idea-but he could tell from her face and voice that it was awful, unthinkable, as if he might have killed someone, and he let her lead him back inside and up to bed. It wasn't until the sun was rising that he remembered what he'd done.

He was going mad.

So the day had passed. It was only by remaining awake-not merely awake but lying absolutely still, bringing all the force of his will to bear-that he believed he might restore some coherence to his troubled mind and avoid a repetition of the previous night's events. This was his new vigil. For a time, shortly after dawn and then later, as darkness was coming on, there had been a commotion of voices downstairs (Ian's and Ben's and Gloria's; he wondered what had happened to Jimmy). But this had ended too. He felt himself to be in a kind of bubble, everything unfolding at a distance, beyond his reach. At intervals he became aware of Gloria's presence in the room, her worried face hovering above him, asking questions he could not bring himself to answer. Should I tell them about the guns, Sanjay? Should I? I don't know what to do, I don't know what to do. Why won't you speak to me, Sanjay? But still he could say nothing. Even to speak would break the spell.

Now she was gone. Gloria was gone, Mausami was gone, everyone was gone. His Mausami. It was her image he was holding in his mind now-not the grown woman she had become but the tiny baby she'd been, this bundle of warm new life that Prudence Jaxon had placed into his arms-and as this image faded away, and Sanjay closed his eyes at last, he heard the voice, the voice of Babcock, coming out of the darkness.

Sanjay. Be my one.

He was in the kitchen now. The kitchen of the Time Before. Part of him was saying: You have closed your eyes, Sanjay. Whatever you do, you must not close your eyes. But it was too late, he was in the dream again, the dream of the woman and the telephone and her laughing voice of smoke and then the knife; the knife was in his hand. A great, heavy-handled knife that he would use to cut the words, the laughing words, from her throat. And the voice rose to him out of the darkness.

Bring them to me, Sanjay. Bring me one and then another. Bring them to me that you should live in this way and no other.

She was sitting at the table looking at him with her great padded face, smoke puffing from her lips in tiny clouds of gray. Watchoo doing with that knife? Huh? Is that supposed to scare me?

Do it. Kill her. Kill her and be free.

He lunged toward her and brought the knife down hard, all his force behind it.

But something was wrong. The knife had stopped, its gleaming brilliance frozen mid-plunge. Some force had come into the dream and stayed his hand; he felt its grip upon him. The woman was laughing. He was tugging and pulling, straining to bring the knife down, but it was no use. The smoke was pouring from her mouth and she was laughing at him, laughing laughing laughing ...

He jerked awake. His heart was lurching in his chest. Every nerve in his body seemed to be firing at once. His heart! His heart!

"Sanjay?" Gloria had come into the room, carrying a lantern. "Sanjay, what is it?"

"Get Jimmy!"

Her face, disturbingly close to his own, was distorted with fear. "He's dead, Sanjay. Don't you remember? Jimmy's dead!"

He hurled the covers aside, was standing, now, in the middle of the bedroom, a wild force galloping through him. This world, with its little things. This bed, this dresser, this woman named Gloria, his wife. What was he doing? Where had he meant to go? Why had he been calling for Jimmy? But Jimmy was dead. Jimmy was dead, Old Chou was dead, Walter Fisher and Soo Ramirez and the Colonel and Theo Jaxon and Gloria and Mausami and even he himself-all of them were dead! Because the world was not the world, that was the thing, that was the terrible truth he had discovered. It was a dream world, a veil of light and sound and matter that the real world hid behind. Walkers in a dream of death, that's what they were, and the dreamer was the girl, this Girl from Nowhere. The world was a dream and she was dreaming them!

"Gloria," he croaked. "Help me."

A lantern was still on in Auntie's kitchen, spilling mullioned rectangles of yellow light onto the ground. Peter knocked on the door first, then quietly let himself in.

Peter found the old woman sitting at her kitchen table. She was neither writing nor drinking her tea, and as he entered she lifted her face toward him, simultaneously reaching into the tangle of eyeglasses around her neck. The right pair found her face.

"Peter. Been thinking I'd see you."

He took a chair across from her. "How did you know about her, Auntie?"

"Who that now?"

"You know who, Auntie. Please."

She gave a little wave. "The Walker, you mean? Oh someone must have come by and told me. That Molyneau man, I think it was."

"I meant two nights ago. You said something. Told me she was coming. That I knew who she was."

"I said that?"

"Yes, Auntie. You did."

The old woman frowned. "Can't imagine what was on my mind. Two night ago, you say?"

He heard himself sigh. "Auntie-"

She held up a hand to quiet him. "Okay, don't work yourself up into a condition. I was just having a bit of fun. Haven't done that in so long I couldn't resist it. You looking like you do." She met his eye with an unblinking gaze. "So tell me. Before I go offering my own opinion. What you think she is? This girl?"


"Don't know what she's called. You want to call her Amy, go right on with it."

"I don't know, Auntie."

Her eyes grew suddenly wide. "Of course you don't!" She chuckled to herself, then broke into a spasm of coughing. Peter rose to help her, but she waved him back down. "Go on, sit," she croaked. "My voice just gets rusty is all it is." She took a moment to settle herself, clearing her throat with a wet harrumph. "That's what you have to find out. Everybody got something to find out in they lives, and this is your one thing."

"Michael says she's a hundred years old."

The old woman nodded. "Best look out then. A older woman. Careful this Amy don't boss you around too much."

He was getting nowhere. Talking to Auntie was always a challenge, but he'd never seen her quite like this, so weirdly cheerful. She hadn't even offered him tea.

"Auntie, you said something else the other night," he pressed. "Something about chance. A chance."

"Reckon I might have. Sounds like something I'd say."

"Is she?"

Her pale lips curled into a frown. "I'd say that depends."

"On what?"

"On you."

Before Peter could speak, the woman continued: "Oh, don't be looking like that, all woebegone like you are. Feeling lost is just a part of it." She pushed away from the table and rose stiffly to her feet. "Come on with you then. Got something to show you. Might help you make up your mind."

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