The Passage Page 62

He could have used a bath too. Hell, they both could.

What was it? Theo's death? Since the supply party's return, an anxious hush had settled over the whole Colony. The thing with Zander made no sense to anyone. Stranding Caleb on the tower like that. Sanjay and the others had tried to keep it quiet, but gossip traveled quickly. People were saying they'd always known there was something a little off about that guy, that all those months down the mountain had done something to his brain. That he hadn't been right since that thing with his wife and the baby who had died.

And then that peculiar business with Sanjay. Michael didn't know what the hell to make of it. Two nights ago he had been sitting at the panel when suddenly the door had swung open and there was Sanjay, standing there with a round-eyed look on his face that seemed to say: Aha! That's it, Michael had thought, the earphones still clamped to his head-his crime couldn't have been more obvious-I'm dead meat now. Somehow Sanjay found out about the radio; I'm going to be put out for sure.

But then a funny thing happened. Sanjay didn't say anything. He just stood in the doorway, looking at Michael, and as the silent seconds passed, Michael realized that the expression on the man's face wasn't quite what he'd thought at first glance: not the righteous indignation of crimes uncovered in the night but an almost animal dumbfoundedness, a blank amazement at nothing. Sanjay was wearing bedclothes; his feet were bare. Sanjay didn't know where he was; Sanjay was sleepwalking. Lots of folks did it, there were times when it seemed half the Colony was up and cruising around. It had something to do with the lights, the way it was never quite dark enough to really settle in. Michael had taken a turn or two himself, once awakening to find himself in the kitchen, smearing his own face with honey from a jar. But Sanjay? Sanjay Patal, Head of the Household? He hardly seemed the type.

Michael's mind was working fast. The trick would be to get Sanjay out of the Lighthouse without waking him up. Michael was concocting various strategies for this-he wished he had some honey to offer him-when Sanjay suddenly frowned sharply, cocked his head to the side as if processing some distant sound, and shuffled rigidly past him.

"Sanjay? What are you doing?"

The man had come to a halt before the breaker panel. His right hand, which hung loosely at his side, gave a little twitch.

"I don't ... know."

"Isn't there," Michael ventured, "I don't know, someplace else you have to be?"

Sanjay said nothing. He lifted his hand and held it before his face, turning it slowly back and forth as he gazed at it with the same mute puzzlement, as if he couldn't quite decide whom it belonged to.

"Bab ... cock?"

More footsteps outside; suddenly Gloria was in the room. She, too, was wearing her bedclothes. Her hair, which she tied up in the daytime, fell halfway down her back. She seemed a little out of breath, having evidently run from their house to follow him. She ignored Michael, who by now felt less alarmed than embarrassed, like an incidental witness to some private marital drama, and marched straight to her husband's side, taking him firmly by the elbow.

"Sanjay, come to bed."

"This is my hand, isn't it?"

"Yes," she replied impatiently, "it's your hand." Still holding her husband by the elbow, she glanced toward Michael and mouthed the word "sleepwalking."

"It's definitely, definitely mine."

She heaved a sigh. "Sanjay, come on now. Enough of this."

A flicker of awareness came into the man's face. He turned to look about the room, his eyes alighting on Michael.

"Michael. Hello."

The earphones were gone, hidden under the counter. "Hey, Sanjay."

"It seems I have ... taken a walk."

Michael stifled a laugh; though what, he wondered, had Sanjay been doing at the breaker box?

"Gloria has been good enough to come after me to take me home. So that is where I'm going to go now."


"Thank you, Michael. I'm sorry to have disturbed you in your important work."

"It's no problem."

And with that, Gloria Patal had led her husband from the room, taking him, presumably, back to bed to finish whatever it was he'd started in his restless, dreaming mind.

Now, what to make of that? When Michael had told Elton about it the next morning, all he'd said was, "I guess it's getting to him like the rest of us." And when Michael had said, "What it? What do you mean by it?" Elton had said nothing at all; he seemed to have no answer.

Brood, brood, brood-Sara was right; he spent far too much time with his head stuck down the hole of worry. The signal was between cycles; he'd have to wait another forty minutes to listen to it again. With nothing else to occupy his mind, he called up the battery monitors on the screen, hoping for good news, not finding it. Bell plus two, a hard wind blowing all day through the pass, and the cells were below 50 percent already.

He left Elton in the hut and went to take a walk, to clear his mind. The signal: 1,432 megahertz. It meant something, but what? There was the obvious thing, namely that the numbers were the first four positive integers in a repeating pattern: 1432143214321432 and so on, the 1 closing out the sequence, which reloaded with the 4. Interesting, and probably just a coincidence, but that was the thing about the ghost signal: nothing about it felt like a coincidence.

He came to the Sunspot, where often there would be people milling about well into the night. He blinked into the light. A single figure was sitting at the base of the Stone, dark hair tumbling over her folded arms, which rested on top of her knees. Mausami.

Michael cleared his throat to alert her of his approach. But as he neared, she glanced his way with only passing curiosity. Her meaning was clear: she was alone and wanted to stay that way. But Michael had been in the hut for hours-Elton hardly counted-chasing ghosts in the dark, and was more than willing to risk a little rejection for even a few meager crumbs of company.

"Hey." He was standing above her. "Would it be okay if I sat?"

She lifted her face then. He saw that her cheeks were streaked with tears.

"Sorry," Michael said. "I can go."

But she shook her head. "It's all right. Sit if you want."

Which he did. It was awkward, because the only way to sit properly was to take a place beside her, their shoulders practically touching, his back braced by the Stone as hers was. He was beginning to think this hadn't been such a great idea after all, especially as the silence lengthened. He realized that by staying he had tacitly agreed to ask what was bothering her, even, perhaps, to find the right words to comfort her. He knew that being pregnant could make women act moodily, not that they weren't moody to begin with, their behavior at any given moment as changeable as the four winds. Sara made sense to him most of the time, but that was only because she was his sister and he was used to her.

"I heard the news. I guess, congratulations?"

She wiped her eyes with her fingertips. Her nose was running, but he didn't have a rag to offer her. "Thanks."

"Does Galen know you're out here?"

She gave a dismal laugh. "No, Galen does not."

Which made him think that what was bothering her wasn't just a mood at all. She had come to visit the Stone because of Theo; her tears were for him.

"I just ... " But he couldn't find the words. "I don't know." He shrugged. "I'm sorry. We were friends too."

She did something that surprised him then. Mausami placed her hand on top of his, twining their fingers together where they rested at the top of his knee. "Thank you, Michael. People don't give you enough credit, I don't think. That was exactly the right thing to say."

For a while they sat without speaking. Mausami didn't withdraw her hand but left it where it was. It was strange-not until this moment had Michael truly felt Theo's absence. He felt sad, but something else, too. He felt alone. He wanted to say something, to put this feeling into words. But before he could, two more figures appeared at the far end of the plaza. The pair came striding toward them. Galen and, behind him, Sanjay.

"Listen," Mausami said, "my advice is, don't let any of Lish's shit get to you. That's just how she does things. She'll come around."

Lish? Why was she talking about Lish? But there was no time to consider this; Galen and Sanjay were suddenly towering over them. Galen was perspiring and breathing hard, as if he'd been running laps around the walls. As for Sanjay: the befuddled sleepwalker of two nights ago was nowhere to be seen. Standing in his place was a scowling figure of pure paternal self-righteousness.

"What do you think you're doing?" Galen's eyes were pulled into an angry squint, as if trying to bring the image of her into focus. "You're not supposed to be out of the Sanctuary, Maus. You're not."

"I'm fine, Gale." She banished him with a wave. "Go home."

Sanjay shouldered forward so he was standing above the two of them, an imperious presence, bathed in the lights. His skin seemed to glow with his fatherly disappointment. He glanced down at Michael once, casting his presence aside with a quick clenching of his generous eyebrows-dashing, with this single gesture, any hope Michael might have had for some light-hearted acknowledgment of the other night's events.

"Mausami. I've been patient with you, but that is at its end. I don't understand why you have to be so difficult about this. You know where you're supposed to be."

"I'm staying right here with Michael. Anybody who thinks different will have to take it up with him."

Michael felt his stomach drop. "Listen-"

"You stay out of this, Circuit," Galen snapped. "And while we're at it, what do you think you're doing out here with my wife?"

"What am I doing?"

"Yeah. Was this your idea?"

"For godsakes, Galen," Mausami sighed. "Do you know how you sound? No, it wasn't Michael's idea."

Michael became aware that everyone was looking at him now. That he'd come to find himself in the middle of this scene, when all he'd wanted was a little company and fresh air, seemed like the cruelest trick of fate. The expression on Galen's face was pure burning humiliation; Michael considered whether the man was, in fact, capable of doing him real harm. There was something vaguely ineffectual about the way he carried himself, his attention always seeming to lag a step behind the goings-on around him, but Michael wasn't fooled: Galen had a good thirty pounds on him. On top of which, and more to the point, Galen viewed himself at this moment as defending something like his honor. Michael's knowledge of male combat was limited to a few childhood skirmishes in the Sanctuary over not very much, but he had swapped enough punches to know that it helped if your heart was in it. Which Michael's certainly wasn't. If Galen could actually manage to aim a blow, it would all be over fast.

"Listen, Galen," he began again, "I was just taking a walk-"

But Mausami didn't let him finish. "It's all right, Michael. He knows you were."

She rolled her face to look at him; her eyes were swollen and heavy-lidded from crying. "We've all got our jobs to do, right?" She took his hand again and squeezed it, as if to seal a bargain between them. "Mine apparently is to do as I'm told and not be difficult. So for now, that's what I'm going to do."

Galen reached down to help her to her feet, but Mausami ignored him, rising on her own. Still glowering, Sanjay had stepped back, his hands on his hips.

"I don't see why this has to be so hard, Maus," Galen said.

But Mausami acted like she hadn't heard him, turning away from the two men to face Michael instead, still seated with his back against the Stone. In the glance that passed between them, Michael could feel the diminishment of her surrender, the shame of marching to her orders.

"Thanks for keeping me company, Michael." She gave him a sad smile. "That was nice, what you said."

Sara, in the Infirmary, was waiting for Gabe Curtis to die.

She had just returned from riding when Mar had appeared at her door. It was happening, Mar said. Gabe was moaning, thrashing, fighting for breath. Sandy didn't know what to do. Could she come? For Gabe?

Sara retrieved her med kit and followed Mar to the Infirmary. As she stepped through the curtain into the ward, the first thing she saw was Jacob, awkwardly leaning over the cot on which his father lay, pressing a cup of tea to his lips. Gabe was choking, coughing up blood. Sara moved quickly to his side and gently took the tea from Jacob's hand; she rolled Gabe onto his side-the poor man weighed almost nothing, just skin and bones-and with her free hand reached to the cart to retrieve a metal basin, which she tucked under his chin. Two more hacking gasps: the blood, Sara saw, was a rich red, and spotted with small black clumps of dead tissue.

Other Sandy stepped from the shadowed recess behind the door. "I'm sorry, Sara," she said, her hands fluttering nervously. "He just started coughing like that and I thought maybe the tea-"

"You let Jacob do this by himself? What's wrong with you?"

"What's the matter with him?" the boy wailed. He was standing by the cot, his face stricken with confused helplessness.

"Your dad is very sick, Jacob," Sara said. "No one's mad at you. You did the right thing, helping him."

Jacob had begun to scratch himself, digging the fingernails of his right hand into the scraped flesh of his forearm.

"I'm going to do my best to take care of him, Jacob. You have my word."

Gabe was bleeding internally, Sara knew. The tumor had ruptured something. She ran her hand over his belly and felt the warm distention of pooling blood. She reached into her kit for a stethoscope, clamped it to her ears, pulled Gabe's jersey aside, and listened to his lungs. A wet rattle, like water sloshed in a can. He was close, and yet it might take hours. She lifted her eyes to Mar, who nodded. Sara understood what Mar had meant when she'd said that Sara was Gabe's favorite, what she was asking her to do now.

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