By Charles Matthews

Friday, October 15, 2010

8. The Passage, by Justin Cronin, pp, 328-355

The PassageIV. All Eyes, First Colony, San Jacinto Mountains, California Republic, 92 A.V., Twenty-Two through Twenty-Three
After the rescue of Caleb and the killing of Zander, Theo questions why Caleb, Peter and Alicia are still alive. Caleb's story still provokes suspicion, and he tells them that six days earlier Zander had begun acting oddly. Among other things, "he smelled bad. I mean, he stank." And then, three days ago, her ordered Caleb to go with him to the west field of turbine generators, but instead headed to the east field, in which none of the towers were operational.

Caleb climbed the tower that Zander insisted he should repair, but he heard the jenny, the female mule, scream and looked down to see Zander with a knife, covered in blood. Zander, Caleb tells them, didn't look different, except for the blood. His eyes had not turned orange, for one thing. When Caleb came down from the tower, armed with a wrench, in a desperate attempt to get the key to the fence away from him, Zander told him, "You're safe if you go back up the tower." Caleb stayed up there three days until he saw the relief crew coming. During his time on the tower, Caleb wasn't bothered by the virals, whom he spotted only at a distance. Finally, when he knew the relief crew had arrived at the station, he climbed down and made a run for it.

Still puzzled by Zander's behavior, they start to talk about the cache of guns. Theo is adamantly against taking them to the colony and using them, and reveals that he had already known about them: They had been put there by his and Peter's father, who had raided the Marine Corps base at Twentynine Palms. Alicia realizes what Demetrius Jaxon had been up to: "He wanted to make an army. To fight the smokes." She thinks it's "a great idea," but Theo insists that doing that is hopeless: "The Army had guns, and what happened to them? Did they ever come back for us? With their guns and rockets and helicopters? No, they didn't, and I'll tell you why. Because they're all dead."

They dispose of the bodies of the dead "smokes," including Zander, from whom they retrieve the key. They stay on at the station for five days, while the ankle that Peter had injured heals. Peter worries about his brother's pessimism, particularly when he had told Arlo, who favored the idea of arming themselves, "that there was no point, that the only thing to do was keep the lights on as long as they could -- saying this to Arlo, of all people, who had a Little in the Sanctuary -- this was not the Theo he knew. Something had changed in his brother. He wondered what it could be."

Finally, Peter, Theo, Alicia and Caleb set out for home. Arlo stays behind with Rey and Finn, until the next replacement crew will arrive. On the way, Caleb reveals that "Zander was always sneaking off to the library to get more books," so they realize that this may have been where Zander was infected. The library is near the shopping mall that they have been regularly looting for supplies, so they stop to investigate. They discover that the library is filled with the bodies of children, and that there are dozens of syringes on the floor: At the front desk is the body of a woman with a bullet hole in her head and a revolver still clutched in her hand.

They decide to torch the library, but the flames drive out the virals that had been hiding in and around it. Theo freezes, "the barrel of his gun pointed uselessly at the ground, his face slack, eyes wide and impassive: What's the use?" Alicia and Peter grab onto him and make him start running. Caleb appears on his horse and they follow him to the mall, where they race inside, leaving the horses behind as bait. They head for the sun-filled atrium as the safest place, but once they're there a pair of virals appear from above and grab Theo, tossing him to the roof.

The virals are in the rafters, but they move too fast for Peter to shoot them. One attacks Alicia and she shoots it through the mouth, deterring the attack long enough for them to run. Peter races down the hallway, but soon realizes that he's alone and that the virals aren't pursuing him. He assumes that the others are dead, but keeps running until he reaches another atrium. In it is a carousel, which he recognizes as such from a picture book he had seen. And there, standing before him, is a girl.

She seems to be in her early teens and is dressed in rags, her long dark hair matted. She signals to him not to speak and he hears the sound of the virals in the hall. She leads him to the center of the carousel in which there is a trapdoor. He follows her silent instructions to lie down and be still, and she covers him with her body as the virals search the carousel. When they're gone, she leads him through a passageway to a sign that says "ROOF ACCESS." Then she kisses him on the cheek and leaves.

He climbs to the door to the roof, which he finds padlocked. He breaks the glass of a firebox and retrieves an ax to smash the lock, and makes it out onto the roof. Having cut his elbow when he smashed the glass, he has left a trail of blood. It's too high to jump from the roof, so he waits there, expecting to be attacked. But Alicia and  Caleb appear on horseback and urge him to jump, which he does.

Amy has followed the mountains, as Wolgast told her to do, training herself to withstand the pain caused by daylight. She remembers Wolgast as "the Man": "She had tried to lead the dreaming ones away from the Man and she had, she had done it." They followed her, constantly questioning, "Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?" They remind her of "the one she'd dread about in the story of the ghost, Jacob Marley." She remembers bits of her life with the Man, including the nuclear explosion. And she hears voices saying their names, which include Babcock and Carter. "She thought of them as the Twelve, and the Twelve were everywhere.... The Twelve were the blood running below the skin of all things in the world at that time." Years pass, and she begins to communicate with the virals. She also witnesses the attack on the Long Riders.

She tries to follow the trail of the surviving Riders, but loses track of them. Finally she comes upon the mall and the carousel, whose horses she at first confused in her mind with those of the Riders. After saving Peter, she leaves the mall and eventually hears a voice that tells her,
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.

[Well, of course she is. You'd have to be a very inattentive reader not to have figured that out already. Still, it's an effective tease because it flatters the reader into thinking he or she is pretty smart to have anticipated it, probably from the moment Peter spots a girl with long dark hair.]

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