The Passage Page 102

Day 36 (again)

A mistake. The fires are close now, no way to outrun them. We have taken shelter in a garage off the highway. Peter isn't sure what town this is, or if there even is a town. We used the tarps and some nails and a hammer we found to cover the broken windows in the front and now all we can do is wait and hope the wind shifts. The air is so thick I can barely see what I'm writing.

[Pages missing.]

Day 38

We're past Richfield now, on Highway 70. In places it's washed away but Hollis was right about the major roads, how they follow the passes. The fire came straight through here. There are dead animals everywhere, and the air smells like charred meat. Everyone thinks the sound we heard that night was the screams of virals, caught in the fire.

Day 39

The first dead virals. They were beneath a bridge, three of them huddled together. Peter thinks we haven't seen any before because they'd driven all the game up into the higher elevations. When the wind changed, they got trapped by the fire.

Maybe it was just the way they looked, all burned up and their faces pressed to the ground, but I found myself feeling sorry for them. If I didn't know they were virals I would have sworn they were human, and I know it could just as easily have been us lying dead there. I asked Amy do you think they were afraid and she said yes, she thought that they had been.

We're going to stay an extra day in the next town we come to, to rest and scavenge supplies. (Amy was right about the cans. As long as the seams are tight and it feels heavy in your hand, they're OK.)

[Pages missing.]

Day 48

Moving east again, the mountains behind us. Hollis thinks we've seen the last game for a while. We are crossing a dry, open tableland, stitched by deep gullies. There are bones everywhere you look-not just small game but deer and antelope and sheep, and something that resembles a cow only larger, with a huge knobby skull (Michael says they're buffalo). At half-day we stopped to rest by an outcrop of boulders and saw, scraped into the rocks, "Darren loves Lexie 4Ever" and "Green River SHS '16, PIRATES KICK ASS!!!" The first part everybody understood but nobody knew what to make of the rest. It made me feel a little sad, I can't quite say why, maybe it was just that the words had been there so long with no one to read them. I wonder if Lexie loved Darren back?

We got off the highway and are sheltering near the town of Emery. Nothing really left here, just foundations and a few sheds with rusted farm equipment, full of mice. There's no pump we can find, but Peter says there's a river near here and tomorrow we'll go look for it.

Stars everywhere. A beautiful night.

Day 49

I have decided to marry Hollis Wilson.

Day 52

Going south now from Crescent Junction, on Highway 191. At least we think it's 191. We actually walked straight past the turnoff at least five clicks and had to double back. There's not much of a road to follow, which was why we missed it in the first place. I asked Peter why we had to get off the 70 and he said we're too far north for where we're going. Sooner or later we'll have to head south, so it might as well be now.

Hollis and I have decided not to tell anyone about what's happened. It's funny how when I made up my mind about him I realized I had been thinking it for a long time without knowing it. I wish all the time I could kiss him again but everyone's around or else we're on watch. I still feel kind of guilty about the other night. Also, he really needs a bath. (So do I.)

No towns at all. Peter doesn't think we'll hit one till Moab. We are spending the night in a shallow cave, really just a recess with an overhang, though it's better than nothing. The rocks here are all a kind of orange-pink color, very lovely and strange.

Day 53

Today was the day we found the farmstead.

At first we thought it was just a ruin, like all the others we've seen. But as we got closer, we saw it was in much better shape-a cluster of woodframe houses, with barns and outbuildings and paddocks for animals. Two of the houses are empty, but one of them, the largest, looks like someone was actually living here not so long ago. The table in the kitchen was actually set with places and cups; there are curtains in the windows, clothing folded in the drawers. Furniture and pots and pans and books on the shelves. In the barn we found an old car, covered in dust, the shelves lined with jugs of lantern fuel, empty jars for canning, tools. There's what looks like a graveyard, too, four plots marked with circles of stones. Michael said we should dig one up to see who's down there. But nobody took this suggestion seriously.

We found the wellhead but the pump was rusted tight; it took three of us to free it, but once we did the water that came out was cold and clear, the best we've had in a long while. There's a pump in the kitchen that Hollis is still trying to free up and a woodstove for cooking. In the basement we found more shelves stacked with cans of beans and squash and corn, the seals still good. We still have the tins we scavenged in Green River, plus some of the smoked venison and a bit of lard we saved. Our first real meal in weeks. Peter says there's a river not far and tomorrow we're going to go look for it. We're all bedding down in the biggest house, using mattresses we dragged from upstairs and set around the fireplace.

Peter believes the place has been abandoned at least ten years, but probably not more than twenty. Who lived here? How did they survive? The place has a haunted feeling to it, more than any of the towns we've seen. It's as if whoever lived here went out one day, expecting to be back for supper, and simply never returned.

Day 54

We are staying an extra day. Theo is insistent, says Maus can't keep up this kind of pace, but Peter says we have to leave soon if we want to make it to Colorado before the snow. Snow. I hadn't thought about that.

Day 56

Still at the farmstead. We decided to stay a few more days, though Peter is antsy and wants to get moving. He and Theo actually argued about this. I think [indecipherable]

[Pages missing.]

Day 59

We are leaving in the morning, but Theo and Maus are staying behind. I think everyone knew this was coming. They made the announcement right after supper. Peter objected, but in the end there was nothing he could say to change Theo's mind. They have shelter, there's plenty of small game around plus the cans in the basement, they can ride out the winter here and have the baby. We'll see you in the spring, brother, Theo said. Just don't forget to stop in on your way back from whatever it is you find.

I'm supposed to be on watch in a few hours, and I really should be sleeping. I think Maus and Theo are doing the right thing, even Peter has to know it. But it's sad to be leaving them behind. I think it's making us all think about Caleb, Alicia especially, who clammed up completely after Maus and Theo gave their news and has yet to say a word to anyone. I think everyone's remembering those graves in the yard, wondering if we'll ever see Maus and Theo again.

I wish Hollis were awake. I told myself I wouldn't cry. Oh damn, damn.

Day 60

Traveling again. Theo was right about one thing-without Maus, we are making better time. The six of us got to Moab well before dusk. There's nothing here; the river has washed everything away. A huge wall of debris is blocking the way, trees and houses and cars and old tires and every kind of thing, filling the narrow canyon where the town once was. We've sheltered for the night in one of the few remaining structures, up in the hills. A complete derelict, just the framing and a patchy roof over our heads. We might just as well be out in the open, and I doubt anyone's going to get much sleep tonight. Tomorrow we're going to walk up the ridge, try to find a way through to the other side.

[Pages missing.]

Day 64

We found another animal carcass today, some kind of large cat. It was hanging in the limbs of a tree, like the others. The body was too rotted to tell, but everyone is thinking it was a viral that killed it.

Day 65

Still in the La Sal Mountains, heading east. The sky has turned from white to blue, the color of autumn. There's a damp, delicious smell to everything. The leaves are coming down, and there's frost at night, and in the morning, a heavy, silver mist hugs the hills. I don't think I've ever seen anything so lovely.

Day 66

Last night Amy had another nightmare. We were sleeping out in the open again, under the tarps. I had just come off watch with Hollis and was prying my boots off when I heard her mumbling in her sleep. I was thinking maybe I should wake her up when suddenly she sat bolt upright. She was all wrapped up in her bag, only her face showing. She looked at me for a long moment, her eyes unfocused, like she didn't know who I was. He's dying, she said. He keeps on dying and can't stop. Who's dying, I said, Amy, who? The man, she said. The man is dying. What man? I asked her. But then she lay back down and was fast asleep again.

Sometimes I wonder if we are heading toward something terrible, more terrible than any of us can imagine.

Day 67

Today we came to a rusted sign by the road that said, "Paradox pop. 2387." I think we're here, Peter said, and showed us all on the map

We are in Colorado.


The mountains declined at last to a broad valley, wide in the autumn sunlight, beneath an azure dome of sky. The grass was tall and parched, the limbs of the trees barren or else dotted with a few remaining leaves, the stragglers, bleached to the color of bone. They lifted in the breeze like waving hands, rustling like old paper. The ground was dry, but in the culverts water ran freely. They filled their canteens with it, cold as ice against their teeth. Winter was in the air.

They were six now. They moved across the empty land like visitors to a forgotten world, a world without memory, stilled in time. Here and there the shell of a farmhouse, the skull-like grille of a rusted truck; no sound but the wind and the creak of the crickets, flicking through the grass as they walked. The terrain was easy, but this wouldn't last. A distant white shape, painted across a far horizon, told a story of mountains to come.

They rested for the night in a barn by a river. Old tack hung on the walls, buckets for milking, lengths of chains. An old tractor sat on flattened tires. The house was gone, collapsed into its foundation, its walls improbably folded one on top of another like the flaps of a box, not so much destroyed as packed away. They divvied the cans they'd found and sat on the floor to eat the contents cold. Through the ragged tears in the roof they could see stars, and then, as the night drew down, the moon, ringed by scudding clouds. Peter took first watch with Michael; by the time Hollis and Sara relieved them, the stars were gone, the moon no more than a region of paleness in the cloud-thickened sky. He slept, dreaming of nothing, and when he awoke in the morning, he saw that it had snowed in the night.

By midmorning the air had warmed again; the snow had melted away. On the map, the next town was named Placerville. Eight days had passed since they'd seen the body of the cat in the trees. The feeling that something was following them had dissipated over the long days of walking, the silent, star-strewn nights. The farmstead was a distant memory; the Haven, and all that had occurred there, seemed like years ago.

They were tracing a river now. Peter thought it was the Dolores, or the San Miguel. The road was long gone, absorbed by the grass, the wash of earth and time. They marched in silence, two rows of three. What were they looking for, what would they find? The journey had acquired a meaning of its own, intrinsic: to move, to keep moving. The thought of stopping, of reaching the end, seemed beyond Peter's power to imagine. Amy was walking beside him, her back sloped forward against the heft of her pack, her sleeping sack and winter jacket lashed to the bottom of the frame. She was dressed, like all of them, in clothing scavenged at Outdoor World: a pair of gaps cinched to her h*ps and, on her upper body, a loose-fitting blouse of red and white checks, the sleeves unsnapped and flapping around her wrists. On her feet, a pair of leather sneakers; her head was bare. She had given up the glasses long ago. She kept her eyes forward, squinting against the brightness. In the days since they'd left the farmstead, a shift had occurred, subtle but unmistakable. Like the river, she was leading them now; their job was simply to follow. With each passing day, the feeling grew stronger. Peter thought, as he often did, of the message Michael had shown him, that long-ago night in the Lighthouse. Its words formed a backbeat to the rhythm of his walking, each footfall carrying him forward, into a world he didn't know, into the hidden heart of the past, to the place where Amy came from.

If you found her, bring her here. If you found her, bring her here.

He had discovered, in the days since they'd left the farmstead, that he did not miss Theo as he'd thought he would. As with the Haven and all that had happened before it-even the Colony itself-thoughts of his brother seemed to have fallen away, subsumed like the grassy road by the project of simply moving forward. At first, that night when Theo and Maus had called them all together and announced their decision, Peter had been angry. He had not shown this, or hoped he hadn't. Even in the midst of it, he knew this anger was irrational; it was obvious that Maus could not continue. Part of him simply didn't want his brother to leave him again so soon. But Theo had the facts on his side, and in the end, Peter could only agree.

But he had also come to see, over the days, a deeper truth behind his brother's decision. His path and Theo's had been destined to diverge again, because their cause was not the same. Theo did not seem to doubt their story of Amy, or at least he had said nothing to make Peter think so. He had absorbed Peter's explanation, fantastic as it was, with no more or less skepticism than it deserved. Yet Peter could detect in his brother's compliance a feeling of detachment; Amy meant nothing to him, or meant very little. If anything, he seemed a little afraid of her. It was clear that he had come as far as he had only because that's where the group was headed; at the first opportunity, and under the circumstances of Mausami's pregnancy, he had quickly given this up. Selfishly, Peter would have wished for more, if only for Theo to have expressed some regret, however small, at their separation. But he hadn't done this. The morning of their departure, as the six of them had walked away from the farmhouse, Peter had turned to see his brother and Mausami watching them. A small thing, but it had seemed important to Peter that Theo remain where he was, standing on the porch, until the six of them were out of sight. But when Peter looked again, his brother was gone; only Mausami was there.

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