The Passage Page 65

"Lish brought her in."

"Lish? Lish is shot?"

Caleb shook his head, still trying to catch his breath. "Not her. The girl."

"What girl?"

His eyes were amazed. "She's a Walker, Sara."

By the time they reached the Infirmary the sky beyond the lights had begun to pale. No one was there, which struck her as strange. From what Caleb had told her, she'd expected a crowd. She mounted the steps and rushed into the ward.

Lying on the nearest cot was a girl.

She was lying face-up, the bolt still embedded in her shoulder; a dark shape was pinned beneath her back. Alicia was standing over her, her jersey spattered with blood.

"Sara, do something," Alicia said.

Sara moved quickly forward and eased her hand behind the girl's neck to check her airway. The girl's eyes were closed. Her breathing was rapid and shallow, her skin cool and clammy to the touch. Sara felt her neck for a pulse; her heart was banging like a bird's.

"She's in shock. Help me roll her over."

The bolt had entered the girl's left shoulder just below the spoon-shaped curve of her clavicle. Alicia wedged her hands under the girl's shoulders while Caleb took her feet, and together they eased the girl onto her side. Sara retrieved a pair of scissors and sat behind her to cut the blood-soaked knapsack away, then the girl's flimsy T-shirt, snipping it at the neck and tearing the rest of it free, revealing the slender frame of an early adolescent-the small, curving buds of her br**sts and her pale skin. The bolt's barbed tip was poking through a star-shaped wound just above the line of her scapula.

"I have to clip this off. I'll need something bigger than these shears."

Caleb nodded and ran from the room. As he passed through the curtain, Soo Ramirez rushed in. Her long hair had come undone; her face was streaked with dirt. She stopped abruptly at the foot of the cot.

"I'll be goddamned. She's just a kid."

"Where the hell is Other Sandy?" Sara demanded.

The woman appeared dazed. "Where on earth did she come from?"

"Soo, I'm all alone in here. Where's Sandy?"

Soo lifted her face, focusing on Sara. "She's ... in the Sanctuary, I think."

Footsteps and voices, a buzz of commotion from without: the outer room was filling with onlookers now.

"Soo, get these people out of here." Sara lifted her voice to the curtain. "Everybody, out! I want this building cleared now!"

Soo nodded and darted outside. Sara checked the girl's pulse again. Her skin appeared to have taken on a faintly mottled appearance, like a winter sky on the edge of snow. How old was she? Fourteen? What was a fourteen-year-old girl doing out in the dark?

She turned to Alicia. "You brought her in?"

Alicia nodded.

"Did she say anything to you? Was she alone?"

"God, Sara." Her eyes seemed to float. "I don't know. Yes, I think she was alone."

"Is that blood yours or hers?"

Alicia dropped her eyes to the front of her jersey, seeming to notice the blood for the first time. "Hers, I think."

More commotion from without the room, and Caleb's voice yelling, "Coming through!" He burst through the curtain, waving a heavy cutter, and thrust it into Sara's hands.

A greasy old thing, but it would do. Sara poured spirits over the blades of the cutter and then her hands, wiping them dry on a rag. With the girl still lying on her side, she used the cutters to clip the arrowhead free, and poured more alcohol over everything. Then she directed Caleb to wash his hands as she had done while she took a skein of wool from the shelf and snipped off a long piece, rolling it into a compress.

"Hightop, when I back the bolt out, I want you to hold this against the entry wound. Don't be gentle, press hard. I'm going to suture the other side, see if I can slow this bleeding."

He nodded uncertainly. He was in over his head, Sara knew, but the truth was they all were. Whether or not the girl survived the next few hours depended on the extent of the bleeding, how much damage there was inside. They rolled the girl onto her back again. While Caleb and Alicia braced her shoulders, Sara took hold of the bolt and began to pull. Sara could sense, through the bolt's metal shaft, the fibrous gristle of destroyed tissue, the clack of fractured bone. There was no way to be gentle; it was best to do it fast. With a hard tug, the bolt pulled away in a sighing gush of blood.

"Flyers, it's her."

Sara turned her head to see Peter standing in the doorway. What did he mean, it's her? As if he knew her, as if he knew who this girl was? But of course that was impossible.

"Turn her on her side. Peter, help them."

Sara positioned herself behind the girl, taking up a needle and a spool of thread, and began to stitch the wound. There was blood everywhere now, pooling on the mattress, dripping onto the floor.

"Sara, what should I do?" Caleb's compress was sodden already.

"Just keep pressure on it." She drew the needle through the girl's skin, pulling a stitch taut. "I need more light over here, someone!"

Three stitches, four, five, each one pulling the edges of the wound together. But it was no use, she knew. The bolt must have nicked the subclavian artery. That's where all the blood was coming from. The girl would be dead within minutes. Fourteen years old, Sara thought. Where did you come from?

"I think it's stopping," Caleb said.

Sara was tying off the last stitch. "That can't be right. Just keep pressure on it."

"No, really. Look for yourself."

They rolled the girl onto her back again, and Sara pulled the sodden compress aside. It was true: the bleeding had slowed. The entry wound even looked smaller, pink and puckered at the edges. The girl's face was gently composed, as if she were napping. Sara placed her fingers at the girl's throat; a hard, regular beat met her fingertips. What in the world?

"Peter, hold that lantern over here."

Peter swung the lantern over the girl's face; Sara gently peeled back the lid of her left eye-a dark, dewy orb, the disklike pupil contracting to reveal the ribbed iris, the color of wet earth. But something was different; something was there.

"Bring it closer."

As Peter shifted the lantern, blazing the eye with light, she felt it. A sensation like falling, as if the earth had opened under her feet-worse than dying, worse than death. A terrible blackness all around and she was falling, falling forever into it.

"Sara, what's wrong?"

She was on her feet, backing away. Her heart was lurching in her chest, her hands were shaking like leaves in the wind. Everyone was looking at her; she tried to speak but no words came. What had she seen? But it wasn't something she'd seen, it was something she'd felt. Sara thought the word: alone. Alone! That's what she was, what they all were. That was what her parents were, their souls falling forever in blackness. They were alone!

She became aware that others were in the ward now. Sanjay and, beside him, Soo Ramirez. Two more Watchers hovered behind them. Everyone was waiting for her to say something; she could feel the heat of all their eyes upon her.

Sanjay stepped forward. "Will she live?"

She took a breath to calm herself. "I don't know." Her voice felt weak in her throat. "It's a bad wound, Sanjay. She's lost a lot of blood."

Sanjay regarded the girl a moment. He appeared to be deciding what to think of her, how to account for her impossible presence. Then he turned toward Caleb, who was standing by the cot with the blood-soaked compress in his hands. Something seemed to harden in the air; the men at the door came forward, hands on their blades.

"Come with us, Caleb."

The two men-Jimmy Molyneau and Ben Chou-grabbed the boy by the arms; he was too surprised to resist.

"Sanjay, what are you doing?" Alicia said. "Soo, what the hell is this about?"

It was Sanjay who answered. "Caleb is under arrest."

"Arrest?" the boy squealed. "What am I under arrest for?"

"Caleb opened the gate. He knows the law as well as anyone. Jimmy, get him out of here."

Jimmy and Ben began to pull the struggling boy toward the curtain. "Lish!" he cried.

She quickly blocked their way, positioning herself in front of the door. "Soo, tell them," Alicia said. "It was me. I was the one who went over. If you want to arrest someone, arrest me."

Standing beside Sanjay, Soo said nothing.


But the woman shook her head. "I can't, Lish."

"What do you mean you can't?"

"Because it isn't up to her," Sanjay said. "Teacher is dead. Caleb is under arrest for murder."


By midmorning, everyone in the Colony knew the story of the night before, or some version of it. A Walker had appeared outside the walls; Caleb had opened the gate, letting in a viral. The Walker, a young girl, was in the Infirmary, dying, shot by a bolt from a Watcher's cross. The Colonel was dead, an apparent suicide-how he'd gotten over the Wall, no one knew-and Arlo too, killed in the Sanctuary by his brother.

But worst of all was Teacher.

They found her under the window in the Big Room; Hollis's line of sight had been obscured by a line of empty cots. Probably she had heard the viral coming down off the roof and tried to make a stand. A blade was in her hand.

There had been many Teachers, of course. But in a truer sense there had only been one. Each woman who took the job down through the years became that person. The Teacher who had died that night was actually a Darrell-April Darrell. She was the woman Peter remembered laughing at his questions about the ocean, though she had been younger then, not much older than he was now, and pretty in a soft, pale way, like an older sister who was kept indoors by some physical ailment; she was the woman Sara recalled from the morning of her release, leading her with her chain of questions, like a flight of stairs taking her down to a dark basement in which lay the terrible truth, then giving her into her mother's arms, to weep over the world and what it was. It was a hard job, being Teacher, everyone knew that, a thankless job, to live locked away with the Littles with barely any grown-up company except for women who were pregnant or nursing, with nothing on their minds but babies; and it was also true that because Teacher was the one to tell you-tell everyone-she bore the collective resentment of this trauma. Except for First Night, when she might make a brief appearance in the Sunspot, Teacher hardly ever set foot outside the Sanctuary, and when she did, it was as if she moved in an invisible container of betrayal. Peter felt sorry for her, but it was also true that he could barely bring himself to meet her eye.

The Household, which assembled at first light, had declared a state of civil emergency. Runners were dispatched from house to house, passing the word. Until more was known, all activities beyond the Wall would be suspended; the herd would stay inside, as well as any HD crews; the gate would remain closed. Caleb had been remanded to the lockup. For the time being, it was agreed, with so many souls lost, and such fear and confusion having gripped the Colony, no sentence would be passed.

And then there was the question of the girl.

In the early-morning hours, Sanjay had led the members of the Household to the Infirmary to examine her. The wound to her shoulder was obviously serious; she had yet to regain consciousness. There was no sign of viral infection, but it was also the case that her appearance was completely inexplicable. Why had the virals not attacked her? How had she survived, all alone in the dark? Sanjay ordered anyone who had been in contact with her to be stripped and washed, their clothing burned. The girl's backpack and clothing went into the fire as well. The girl had been placed under strict quarantine; no one but Sara would be allowed in the Infirmary until more was known.

The inquest was held in an old classroom in the Sanctuary-the same room, Peter realized, that Teacher had taken him to on the day of his release. An inquest: that was the term Sanjay had used, a word Peter had never heard before. It seemed to Peter that it was a fancy name for looking for someone to blame. Sanjay had instructed the four of them-Peter, Alicia, Hollis, and Soo-not to speak to one another until each had been questioned in turn. They waited outside in the hall, wedged into undersized desks shoved in a line against the wall, with a single Watcher-Sanjay's nephew, Ian-waiting with them. Around them the building was oddly silent; all the Littles had been moved upstairs while the Big Room was washed down. Who knew what they would make of the night's events-what Sandy Chou, who had stepped in for Teacher, would tell them. Probably she would tell them they had simply all dreamed it; with the youngest children, that likely would do the trick. As for the older ones, Peter had no idea. Maybe they would have to be released early.

Soo had been called first, emerging from the room a short time later and striding down the hall with a harried look. Hollis was then summoned inside. Unfolding his long legs from under the desk, he appeared completely devoid of energy, as if some essential piece of him had been carved away. Ian was holding the door open, eyeing the group with a look of impatient warning. At the threshold Hollis stopped and turned to look at all of them, uttering the first words any of them had spoken in an hour.

"I just want to know it wasn't for nothing."

They waited. Through the door to the classroom, Peter could hear the murmur of voices. Peter wanted to ask Ian if he knew anything, but the expression on the man's face told him not to try. Ian was Theo's age, part of a group that had come up at around the same time; he and his wife, Hannah, had one young daughter, Kira, in the Sanctuary. So, Peter thought, that explained the look on Ian's face: it was the look of a parent, a father.

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