By Charles Matthews

Friday, October 22, 2010

15. The Passage, by Justin Cronin, pp. 735-766

The PassageXI. The New Thing; Postscript: Roswell Road
Winter sets in and the group is snowed in an abandoned hotel. After 112 days on the mountain, the spring thaw begins and they make their way off the mountain on a Sno-Cat that Michael and Greer have found and refurbished. With them is Alicia, who broke her restraints and seized Peter's hand just as he was about to stab her. The virus has given her something like superpowers: she is able to leap through the air like a viral, and although her eyes are more sensitive to light and have turned orange, she is able to withstand the sun.
The New Thing. That's what they were calling her. Neither one nor the other, but somehow both. She couldn't feel the virals, as Amy could; couldn't hear the question, the great sadness of the world. In every respect she seemed herself, the same Alicia she had always been, save one: When she chose to, she could do the most astounding things. 
After the Sno-Cat dies, they take to cross-country skis. Along the way, they see no virals, but they're aware that although Babcock's Many have died off, there must be others sired by the remaining eleven. Michael compares them to bees: "'These Twelve original subjects,' he went on, gesturing over the files, 'they're like the queens, each with a different variant of the virus. Carriers of that variant are part of a collective mind, linked to the original host.'" He posits that there must be "eleven more big hives" like Babcock's somewhere. And Peter thinks, "They always go home." He has the files that tell him where each of the subjects came from.

They reach the site of the garrison and switch to the Humvee that was left there. They arrive at Theo and Mausami's house three days after they were attacked, and find them all alive, Theo incapacitated by a broken leg. But neither Theo nor Mausami knows how they survived: The viral had been killed by a gun, but neither of them had fired it. When Peter and Alicia go to the barn and find the viral's body, they identify it as Galen Strauss.

They settle in at the farmstead while Theo's leg heals and the weather grows warmer. One day Peter comes to the decision that he will let himself be injected with the virus, on the assumption that he would gain superpowers like Alicia's. The others agree, although Sara is reluctant -- she thinks the virus is evil -- and Amy is kept unaware of the plan. But when they go to inject him, they find the vials missing from the box: Amy has taken them, and they find her dropping the last vial into the fire. She agrees with Sara that the virus is evil, and says, "it would have made you like me. And I couldn't let that happen."

They decide to separate: Sara, Hollis, Theo, Mausami and the baby will take the Humvee to Roswell. Peter, Amy, Michael, Alicia and Greer will go on foot to the site of the colony in California. They plan to reunite eventually in Kerrville.

When Peter's group reach the power station for the colony, they find it abandoned and filled with spent rifle cartridges. The guns had been taken and the place shot up, but there are no bodies and no blood. They find the power still on, but when Michael checks he realizes that no current has been drawn from the batteries for 323 days. The conclusion is that the lights have been off at the colony. And when they reach it, they find it empty except for two bodies: Gloria Patal has hanged herself, and Auntie has died, apparently peacefully. They bury Auntie and that night they turn the lights on.

Just before dawn, Amy goes outside the walls, where Wolgast comes to her and she bids him farewell as the sun rises.

Sara's journal recounts their trip to Roswell. She is pregnant. Virals begin to appear and try to break into the places where they shelter at night, eventually destroying the Humvee. They set out on foot, except for Theo, who is still unable to walk that far, and are rescued by a patrol and taken to the Roswell garrison.

The journal ends with Sara sensing the baby inside her and feeling happy. Then she hears shots and goes outside to see what's happening. There is a note that the the journal was "Recovered at Roswell Site ("Roswell Massacre").

[Yeah, I don't know for sure what the business with Wolgast is at the end. His ghost? Has he been turned by the virals yet somehow held onto his humanity? Is he the one who killed Galen Strauss and saved Theo and Mausami and the baby? And if not, who did? I only hope Cronin remembers to tell us in the next book.]

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