The Passage Page 78

That's all, Ian said. That's what we know.

Something was happening, Peter thought; the crowd could feel it too. Never had anybody witnessed an attack like this, its tactical quality. The closest analogue was Dark Night itself, but even then, the virals had given no evidence of presenting an organized assault. When the lights had gone out, Peter had run with Alicia from the trailer park to the Wall to fight with everyone else, but Ian had ordered them both to the Sanctuary, which in the confusion had been left undefended. So what they'd seen and heard had been both softened by distance and made worse because of it. He should have been there, he knew. He should have been on the Wall.

A voice cut through the murmuring of the crowd: "What about the power station?"

The speaker was Milo Darrell. He was holding his wife, Penny, to his side.

"As far as we know, it's still secure, Milo," Ian said. "Michael says there's current still flowing."

"But you said there was a power surge! Somebody should be going down there to check it out. And where the hell is Sanjay?"

Ian hesitated. "I was coming to that, Milo. Sanjay has taken sick. For now, Walter here is serving as Head."

"Walter? You can't be serious."

Walter seemed to regain focus, stiffening in his seat to lift his bleary face toward the assembly. "Wait just a damn minute-"

But Milo cut back in. "Walter's a drunk," he said, his voice rising, becoming bolder. "A drunk and a cheat. Everybody knows it. Who's really in charge here, Ian? Is it you? Because as far as I can tell, nobody is. I say open the Armory, let everybody stand the Wall who wants to. And let's get somebody down to the station right now."

A buzz of acknowledgment shivered the crowd. What was Milo trying to do? Peter thought. Start a riot? He glanced at Alicia; she was staring intently at Milo, her body in a posture of alert, arms held from her sides. All eyes.

"I'm sorry about your boy," Ian said, "but this isn't the time to go off half-cocked. Let the Watch handle this."

But Milo paid him no attention. He swept his gaze over the assembly. "You heard him. Ian said they were organized. Well, maybe we need to be organized, too. If the Watch won't do anything, I say we should."

"Flyers, Milo. Calm down. People are scared, you're not helping."

It was Sam Chou, stepping forward, who spoke next: "They should be scared. Caleb let that girl in here, and now, what, eleven people are dead? She's the reason they're here!"

"We don't know that, Sam."

"I know it. And so does everybody else. Caleb and that girl, that's where this all started. I say let it end with them, too."

Peter heard it then, voices rising here and there: the girl, the girl, people were saying. He's right. It was the girl.

"Just what do you want us to do about it?"

"What do I want you to do?" Sam said. "What you should have done already. They should be put out." He swiveled to face the crowd. "Everyone, listen to me! The Watch won't say it, but I will. Crosses can't protect us, not against this. I say we put them out now!"

And with that, the first echoing voice rose from the crowd, then another and another, gathering into a chorus:

Put them out! Put them out! Put them out!

It was, Peter thought, as if a lifetime of worry had come suddenly un-dammed. Up front, Ian was waving his arms, bellowing for silence. The scene seemed poised on the verge of violence, some terrible act. There was nothing to stop it; the pretense of order had been stripped away.

He knew it then: he had to get the girl out of here. Caleb too, whose fate was now bound up with hers. But where could they go? What place would be safe?

He turned to Alicia, but she was gone.

Then Peter saw her. She had barged her way through the roiling mass of people. With an agile hop she mounted the table and spun to face the assembly.

"Everybody!" she cried. "Listen to me!"

Peter felt the crowd tense around him. A fresh dread bored through his veins. Lish, he thought, what are you doing?

"She's not the reason they're here," Alicia said. "I am."

Sam hurled his voice toward her: "Get down, Lish! This isn't up to you!"

"All of you. This is my fault. It's not the girl they want, it's me. I was the one who torched the library. That's what started this. It was a nest, and I led them all right back here. If you're going to put anybody out, I should be the one. I'm the reason those people are dead."

It was Milo Darrell who made the first move, lunging toward the table. Whether or not he was trying to get to Alicia, or Ian, or even Walter was unclear; but with this provocation a force of violence was suddenly unleashed in a wave of pushing and shoving, the crowd surging forward, a vaguely coordinated mass propelled only by itself. The table was overrun; Peter saw Alicia tumbling backward, enveloped by the mob. People were screaming, shouting. Those with children seemed to be trying to move away, while others wanted only to get to the front. The only thought in Peter's mind was to reach Alicia. But as he labored to move forward, he, too, was caught in the crush of bodies. He felt his feet snarling up below him-he sensed that he was stepping on someone-and as he tumbled forward he saw who this person was: Jacob Curtis. The boy had dropped to his knees and was holding his hands protectively over his head against the rain of trampling feet. They impacted with a mutual grunt, Peter somersaulting over the boy's broad back; he scrabbled to his knees and launched forward again, rising through a mass of arms and legs, propelling himself like a swimmer through a sea of people, flinging bodies aside. Something struck him then-a blow to the back of the head that felt like a punch-and as his vision flared he turned, swinging, his fist connecting solidly with a bearded, heavy-browed face that only later did he realize belonged to Hodd Greenberg, Sunny's father. He had by this moment neared the front of the crowd; Alicia was on the ground, fleetingly visible through the throng that surrounded her. Like Jacob, she had drawn her hands up over her head, curling her body into a ball as a pummeling storm of hands and feet fell down upon her.

It wasn't even a question. Peter drew his blade.

What might have happened next, Peter never learned. From the direction of the gate came a second rush of figures: the Watch. Ben and Galen, holding crosses. Dale Levine and Vivian Chou and Hollis Wilson and the others. Weapons drawn, they quickly formed a battle line between the table and the crowd, their presence immediately sending everyone scurrying back.

"Go to your homes!" Ian shouted. Blood was soaking his hair, running down the side of his face into the neck of his jersey. His cheeks were crimson with anger; spit was soaring in bright specks from his lips. He swept his cross across the crowd, as if unable to decide whom to fire on first. "The Household is suspended! I am declaring a state of martial law! An immediate curfew is in effect!"

Everything seemed held in a brittle silence. The mob had separated around Alicia, leaving her exposed. As Peter dropped to his knees beside her, she pivoted her dirt-streaked face toward him, the whites of her eyes enormous in their urgency.

She mouthed a single word: "Go."

He rose and backed away, melting into the throng-some standing, some on the ground, a few who had fallen being lifted to their feet. Everybody was covered in dust; Peter realized his mouth was choked with it. Walter Fisher was sitting by the overturned table, clutching the side of his head. Sam and Milo were nowhere visible; like Peter, they had faded away.

A pair of Watchers, Galen and Hollis, came forward and pulled Alicia upright; she offered no resistance as Ian stripped her of her blades. Peter could tell she was injured but did not know how; her body seemed both limp and rigid at the same time, as if she were holding the pain in check. A smear of blood was on her cheek, another on her elbow. Her braid had come undone; her jersey was torn at the sleeve, hanging by threads. Ian and Galen were holding her now, each on a side, like a prisoner. It was then that Peter understood: by drawing the fury of the crowd down upon herself, she had deflected it away from the girl and bought them some time. If only to keep control of the crowd, Ian would have to put her in the lockup now. Be ready, her eyes had told him.

"Alicia Donadio," Ian said, loudly enough for all to hear, "you are under arrest. The charge is treason."

"Put the bitch out now!" someone yelled.

"Quiet!" But Ian's voice was thin, trembling. "I mean what I say. Go to your homes now. The gates will stay closed until further notice. Anyone seen out and about will be subject to arrest by the Watch. Anyone carrying a weapon will be fired on. Don't think I won't do it."

And while Peter looked on helplessly, in a world that had become completely strange to him, among people he felt he no longer knew, the Watch led Alicia away.


In the Sanctuary, Mausami Patal, having passed a restless night and an even more restless morning in the second-floor classroom among the Littles-the story of the night's terrible events having reached her via Other Sandy, whose husband, Sam, had come in at first light-had made a decision.

The idea had come upon her with quiet suddenness; she hadn't even known she was thinking it. But she had awakened with the distinct impression that something had changed inside her. The decision had made itself known simply, almost arithmetically. She was going to have a baby. The baby was Theo Jaxon's. Because this baby was Theo Jaxon's, Theo could not be dead.

Mausami was going to find him, and tell him about their baby.

The moment to make her exit would be just before Morning Bell, at the changing of the shift. That would afford both the cover she needed and a full day's light to make it on foot down the mountain; from there she could figure out where to go. The best place to exit would be over the cutout, with its limited angles of sight. Once Sandy and the others had gone to sleep, she would slip away to the Storehouse and equip herself for the journey: a strong rope to ride down the Wall, food and water, a cross and blade, a pair of good sturdy boots and a change of clothes and a pack to carry everything in.

With the curfew, no one would be about. She would make her way to the cutout, keeping to the shadows, and wait for dawn to come.

As the plan blossomed in her mind, assuming shape and detail, Mausami came to see what she was doing: that she was staging her own death. She'd actually been doing it for days. Since the resupply party had returned, she had given every indication of a mind in distress: breaking curfew, moping like a crazy person, making everyone scramble around, worried for her safety. She couldn't have built a more convincing case if she'd tried. Even that tearful scene at Main Gate, when Lish had made her stand down, would play its part in the backtracking narrative people would assemble to explain her fate. How did we fail to see this coming? they would all say, mournfully shaking their heads. She gave us all the signs. Because in the morning, when Other Sandy awoke to discover that Mausami's cot was empty, perhaps waiting a few hours before noting the oddness of this fact but eventually reporting it, and others in due course went to search for her, the rope over the cutout would be discovered. A rope with only one possible meaning: a rope to nowhere and nothing. There would be no other conclusion people could draw. She, the Watcher Mausami Patal Strauss, wife of Galen Strauss, daughter of Sanjay and Gloria Patal, First Family, pregnant and afraid, had chosen to let it go.

Yet here was the day. Here she was, knitting her booties in the Sanctuary-she'd made almost no progress-listening to Other Sandy chattering away, keeping the Littles occupied with games and stories and songs, the news of Mausami's death like a fact delayed-like an arrow that, once launched from its bow, had merely to sink itself into its target to reveal the meaning of its aim. She felt like a ghost. She felt like she was gone already. She thought about visiting her parents one last time, but what was there to say? How could she say goodbye without saying it? There was Galen to consider, but after last night she didn't want to see him ever again in her life. He hadn't gone down to the station after all, Other Sandy had told her, thinking this would be good news to her. Galen was among the Watchers who had arrested Alicia. Mausami wondered if Galen would be the first person they told, or the second, or the third. Would he be sad? Would he cry? Would he imagine her sliding down the Wall and feel relieved?

Her hands had paused over her knitting. She wondered if she really might be crazy. Probably she was. You'd have to be crazy, to think that Theo wasn't dead. But she didn't care.

She excused herself to Other Sandy, who waved her distractedly away-she had cleared a space for the Littles to sit in circle and was trying to quiet them, to begin their lesson for the day-and stepped into the hall, sealing the door and the voices of the children behind her. A blast of quiet that felt like noise; she stood a moment in the hushed corridor. At such a moment, it was almost possible to imagine that the world was not the world. That there was some other world in which the virals did not exist, as they did not exist for the Littles, who lived in a dream of the past. Which was probably the reason the Sanctuary had been built in the first place: so there was still a place like that. She moved down the hall, her sandals slapping the cracked linoleum, past the doors of the empty classrooms, and descended the stairs. The odor of spirits was still strong in the Big Room, enough to bring tears to her eyes, and yet as Mausami settled down with her knitting, she knew that she would remain there the rest of the day. She would sit in the quiet and finish knitting the baby booties, so that she could take them with her.


If asked to name the worst moment of his life, Michael Fisher wouldn't have hesitated to give his answer: it was when the lights went out.

Michael had just rolled the spool off the catwalk when it happened: a plunge into blackness so total, so consuming in its three-dimensional nothingness, that for a heart-seizing instant he wondered if he had rolled off after the spool and simply failed to notice-that this was the darkness of death. But then he heard Kip Darrell's voice-"Sign, we have sign! Holy shit, they're everywhere!"-and the information shot into his brain that not only was he still alive but the lights, in fact, were out.

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