Welcome back to our worldwide The Passage readalong with Fantasy Faction. This week we’ve been busy reading (or re-reading) The Passage in the sunshine because things are about to get very dark. Are you ready for the rise of the viral? Warning for spoilers for everything in the first fifteen chapters of The Passage.
Don’t forget to join us in our Goodreads group for all the discussion as we continue our readalong. Over to Marc Aplin from Fantasy Faction . . .
Chapter 11 – Recap
Wolgast and Doyle have narrowly avoided capture over the course of a 3-hour police chase. Doyle tells Wolgast that he is sorry about what he did back at the gas station, but says that he loved his job. Wolgast says it is OK. He has decided it is time to surrender and Doyle asks what will happen when they do. Wolgast admits that he isn’t sure.
Knowing they’ve not long left, they stop at a run down diner for food. Whilst Amy uses the rest room, Wolgast tells Doyle that he doesn’t want to risk driving into the border. He thinks the cops there will be too edgy and too excited when they pull up. It is very likely they will all end up getting shot. Instead, Wolgast recommends they hand themselves in to the local police in this small town that they’ve found themselves in. Doyle suggests that Wolgast’s only reason for doing things this way is because it is safer for Amy, as opposed to them, but is willing to go through with it. He says she is a ‘good kid’.
Whilst Amy eats pancakes, Wolgast calls Lila, but there is no answer. Once they’ve finished eating, he asks the waitress for directions to the Sheriff’s office. She says it is only three blocks away, but points out that the Sheriff’s Deputy is in the diner. Wolgast thanks her and approaches the Deputy Sheriff. He announces that he and Doyle are the FBI agents with the girl that everyone is looking for.
The Deputy is shocked. Having worked in a small town, he rarely has to deal with anything more than the odd theft – if that. He admits that he is totally unprepared for what happens next and doesn’t even have handcuffs. Wolgast says not to worry, he will loan him some.
Wolgast is talking the Deputy through how to process them. He tells the Deputy to impound his car and drive them to the town’s jail. Whilst in the car, Wolgast feels a sense of relief that his work collecting test subjects and his short bout on the run from the police is over. He tells himself he is doing the right thing and is sure that Amy will be OK now.
The Deputy asks – very kindly – if Doyle and Wolgast wouldn’t mind sharing the single cell in the Sheriff’s office, which is located in the town hall. They say sure and walk their way into it. Amy asks if she can go into the cell too and the Deputy says she can. He makes a comment about this being the strangest kidnapping he has ever heard of.
When the Sheriff arrives he is equally shocked to have three such high profile people in his cells. He asks the Deputy why the girl is in the cell and tells Amy that, whether she wants to be in there or not, she can’t be. Once Amy is out of the cell, the Sheriff tells his Deputy to ‘phone it in’. Doyle laughs to himself about the amateur procedure and attitude.
Wolgast observes the Deputy talking to himself, trying to decide which agency to call. In another room a woman is trying to get Amy to talk to her about what happened. Whilst watching and listening to the things going on around him, Wolgast considers how he is likely to spend the rest of his life behinds bars and this leads his to think about Anthony Carter.
The Sheriff comes back into view and passes Wolgast and Doyle some handcuffs. He says to put them on. On the way to the Sheriff’s office, they pass Amy who says they need to all leave right away. She continues to maintain that Wolgast is her father, saying: “Daddy, we need to go right now.”
A man is heard at reception talking to the woman who was questioning Amy a few moments ago. Without warning, there is a gunshot – Wolgast turns and sees it is Richards. He has shot the woman in the forehead without a second thought.
The Sheriff and Deputy stare in shock and Richards tells them it is ‘super-duper’ they have been kind enough to stand still for him before shooting them both too. Wolgast looks at the bodies and thinks about how unfair it is they’ve had to die this way; so quickly and without warning. Doyle shouts out, “you fucking shot them!”
Richards pats down the Sheriff, retrieves the keys for the cuffs, and chicks them to Wolgast. He says he isn’t going to shoot them, for now at least. Amy is crying and Wolgast immediately goes towards her and gives her a hug. Richard’s isn’t impressed. He says this is all very touching, but if they don’t leave he is going to have to shoot a lot more people before the day is over.
Richards leads the three out of the building and towards a helicopter. He seems remarkably relaxed, as always, and Wolgast is left feeling as though he is in some kind of dream where everything he wanted has been taken away.
As the helicopter takes off, Wolgast sees 9 police cars arrive below them. “Watch this,” says Richards and Wolgast watches the Tahoe in the compound explode.
Chapter 11 – Commentary
After a couple of chapters spent building up the tension, Justin Cronin gives his reads some relief in the mixture of humour and action. The Deputy Sheriff is so out of his depth that you can’t help feel as though the scenes in the diner and station would suit a sitcom.
The light-heartedness and relaxed behaviour of the two officers is a complete contrast to events that take place at the end of the chapter, however. Amy warns us of what is to come when she asks to leave – so we know something bad is about to happen, but the ruthlessness of Richards stops us dead in our tracks.
Where the story could have come to a close, we find our selves at a new beginning…
Chapter 12 – Recap
Wolgast accepts he is dead and that’s a fact. He expects Richards to come along and calmly kill him, just like he did the people in the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Office. He finds himself feeling it would be nice if Richards would take him outside when he shoot him. He has been stuck in this room (a makeshift cell within the compound) for 27 days (it is the third week of April) and not seen Amy and Doyle since they arrived.
Anyone who has come to him – bringing him food and such – hasn’t said a word and he is left wondering why he is still alive. The room has nothing in it except a bed and a small window that he spends most of the day looking out of. One night there is an almost biblical storm. It seems to announce the arrival of spring. Wolgast continues trying to talk to the men who bring him food, but they continue to ignore him. Wolgast thinks of them as zombies. They seem to shuffle along and look incredibly tired.
Wolgast thinks about how life can become a long series of mistakes. Whether this chain starts with Anthony Carter taking the job working for Rachel or the way he had acted after Eva had died, each small mistake leads to a worse and worse place until you feel you are trapped and can’t find your way back. Eva had died 3 weeks short of her first birthday and he has walked the Earth since then without purpose. That’s why, Wolgast believes, he was able to connect with Carter: because they both walked that same path.
All the while he is imprisoned, Wolgast holds on to the idea that Amy is safe – so much so it has become almost a prayer. On the 34th day, Sykes comes to visit him. Wolgast is initially angry and demands answers, but a scruffy and physically tired Sykes tells Wolgast that he is here to ask a favour that involves Amy. Sykes hands Wolgast a photo of Amy’s mother taken for her High School Yearbook. Wolgast thinks about how pretty she is, how much she looks like Amy and how full of hope she looks in the picture. Sykes tells Wolgast that she turned out to be a prostitute and shot the son of a Judge. Wolgast shrugs it off, saying that Amy didn’t do it. When he asks what happened to Jeanette, Sykes says he doesn’t know. Wolgast asks about the nuns and Sykes won’t give a straight answer – Wolgast presumes they were killed.
Wolgast asks what Sykes needs from him and Sykes tells Wolgast that he thinks Amy may be dying.
Wolgast is told he cannot interact with anyone or leave the sight of Sykes on the way to see Amy. By the time they reach her, Wolgast believes they are about 50ft beneath ground. Amy is unconscious on a bed in an observation room. Sykes introduces an exhausted looking doctor named Fortes. Fortes explains that the vitals displayed around the room are Amy’s and come as a result of a chip in her neck. When Wolgast asks what happened to the other test subjects, he is told they were just the preliminaries to Amy.
Amy is in a coma and her high temperature is causing problems with her organs. There is serious risk of her liver and kidneys failing. The doctor says that it may help if Wolgast talks to her and tries to get her to come around. Wolgast is told to put on a bio-suit, but refuses. The doctor allows it, as the disease ‘should’ be inert by now. It feels right for Wolgast to do this, because their fates are tied.
Grey has been showing up for work, but almost as soon as he enters the building he enters something like a trance and remembers nothing about his shift. Grey is unsure whether this is because he is sick: he has a runny nose and keeps getting the sensation of eating animals. At the common table, Grey notices that everyone has gone silent. They never spoke too much before, but now not a single person is talking and they are shovelling food into their mouths like robots.
Even the loudest, jokey guard, Davis, who gave Grey the key card on the day he was ill has gone distant. Grey decides to approach him and ask what he knows about Paulson. Davis says only to keep away from him and this leads Grey to wonder why everyone is so afraid of him. What will he do?
We enter the point of view of Carter and he is thinking about how he has now become known only as ‘number 12’. He doesn’t mind it too much. He is sick and his withering form doesn’t deserve a human name. He feels he will be sick forever and is beginning to hate the very idea of time.
People are moving around Carter and talking and taking samples, but he doesn’t really understand what is going on. He notices when they take his blood that it seems alive and as though it belongs to someone else. All the time this is happening, Carter is thinking about how good it would be to die and how Rachel had chosen exactly the right moment to do so. As his mind wonders he begins to hear more voices, 12 of them in total. They work as though they are a single mind, but they don’t speak in a language he knows.
Suddenly, the clicks become more distinct and Carter realises they are calling to him. He breaks from his restraints and a great hunger comes over him. He moves swiftly and falls upon the first man he sees. As Carter tears into him, he considers how he has never felt better.
Richards is thinking about how dumb Pujol, the man Carter ate, was. It had taken 36 days for Carter to become a vampire, which is the longest so far. Richards knows this was the last test version of the virus. They’d given the final version to Amy. Richards doesn’t seem to care whether Amy lives or dies. Instead, his thoughts go to how tiny Anthony Carter had managed to launch himself 20ft through the air and rip a man to pieces. Richards thinks about how great this disease is going to be for the military – in the caves of Pakistan or deserts of Iran, for example.
Richards thinks about Sykes and knows that should he find out about the military’s true inventions it would finish him. He still thinks he is trying to save the world from death. He then thinks about Paulson and how it is risky that he has worked out what is going on. He thinks Paulson is probably dreaming the vampire inspired dreams and so are the sweeps and techs. His own dreams aren’t full of Zero so much anymore though… Now they are filled with the nuns he killed. He hadn’t enjoyed doing it as it reminded him of the nuns he’d known growing up in a Catholic school. He respected them and how firm they were. They always meant and did what they said.
Richards isn’t concerned that Lacey managed to escape. He thinks that with the other nuns all killed and the cops dead too, the story of rogue FBI agents will die out quickly. The trail has been cut. The thoughts of Wolgast lead Richards to look towards the screen showing Amy’s bed. Wolgast is still there – he hasn’t left since Sykes took him there.
Richards thinks about how he has watched Wolgast by Amy’s bed almost as much as he has Babcock in recent days. He flicks to Babcock’s screen and he is looking right at Richards. His jaws are moving and Richards hears his voice inside his head: “I am yours and you are mine, Richards. We are all meant for someone, and I am meant for you.” “Fuck you,” is all that Richards offers him in return.
A buzzer sounds and Richards is told a black woman with an accent is at the front gate. Richards asks why she hasn’t been told to go away, but then hears shouting and gunfire; the guard reports that the woman asked for Wolgast and then ran off into the woods.
Wolgast tells Amy that when his daughter was born her heart was his heart and as it died within her a piece of him died too. He tells Amy about the pain he experienced not being able to help and about how his love for Lila became sadness with Lila.
Chapter 12 – Commentary
Time. The book’s title ‘The Passage’ seems a nod towards time and this chapter seems to contain the most thought-provoking discussion on it so far.
Wolgast thinks about how tiny little mistakes add up and take you down a path you’d never purposely walk down. For him this is a path that has caused him to waste a large percentage of his life. For Carter, this is a path that has led him to death row. Justin Cronin wants us to think about our own little mistakes – the ones made already and the ones we could make. Where will they take us?
It is interesting to hear that Richards went to a Catholic school. However, the most notable part of his thoughts about his former life are how uncomfortable they make him. He says he didn’t like shooting the nuns, but it seems that this is because it sent him back to a time where he was a person within society as opposed to a man who operates above and outside of it. Richards seems to avoid any kind of emotion and humanity and so the memory of a time he couldn’t do that is unwelcome.
At the same time, Richards seems fascinated with Wolgast’s love of Amy. He spends hours and hours watching him stand by her bed – on the monitor. Richards would never admit it, but is this something he wishes he could experience? Or is he just curious about the feelings that he himself has never had and can never have?
Chapter 13 – Recap
Lacey feels no fear as she runs from the men chasing her – it’s only gunfire after all. She listens to the soldiers who argue about missing her. She thinks that the soldiers are just children without minds – just like the men who came for her in the fields back home. Where those men think they took from her however, they gave to her. She has a shield now in the form of the lord himself. She says a prayer that includes the words, “I will not fear the tens of thousands.” Joy and energy courses through her, it has been building all the while she made her way towards Amy.
We hear that Lacey’s journey to the compound from the Covent was almost non-stop. It was walk-sleep-walk. Whenever she was tired she would just sleep where she was in the wilderness or knock on a door. It was always a woman who opened the door she knocked on and there would always be a bed waiting for her. No one told her where to go – the way showed her the way.
More soldiers arrive, but she knows intrinsically where to hide. She waits, pressed to the floor until the voice tells her ‘now’. With incredible athleticism she leaps into the cargo area of a truck and lies down.
The truck drives towards the compound and is stopped by a ‘man-boy’ soldier who wants to check its contents. Before he does so he asks the driver of the truck whether he has seen anyone. The man driving says no – laughing at the description of a short, black woman – and the man-boy soldier grabs the manifest – which shows that the truck is loaded with weapons and explosives – and proceeds to the cargo area.
Lacey is lying down in the truck praying that God keeps her safe. The torchlight flashes across her face a number of times and yet the guard passes the truck – seemingly not having seen her.
Back with Richards and he is unhappy with Lacey’s arrival. He decides it is probably a good idea not to tell Sykes. Richards wonders how the guards had missed Lacey and also, more broadly, why the Doyle and Wolgast business was still on-going – they should be long dead by now.
Richards decides to pay Doyle a visit and is annoyed to find the guard at Doyle’s cell is fast asleep: he wakes him up and dismisses him. When Richards walks into Doyle’s cell, Doyle laughs. Richards knows that he knows what is going to happen (he is going to shoot him) and yet he seems carefree, as though he was waiting for him. There even seems to be a strange blue light shining from his eyes.
Doyle asks about Lacey and Richard asks how he knows about her. Doyle replies that he could ‘hear her coming’.
“Grey. It’s Time,” says Zero. At this point, his thoughts, experiences and aspirations seem merged with the vampire’s. He is both Zero and not Zero at once. In a way, events forthcoming seem to already have happened.
Grey opens the doors to Zero’s chamber and Zero immediately uncurls from the ceiling and sinks his teeth into Grey’s neck.
Chapter 13 – Commentary
So, this chapter seems to confirm that there is a divine presence of some kind working behind the scenes. We know that trained soldiers would not miss a nun at point black range – especially not a lot of them with automatic weapons. In addition to that though, what other explanation can we have for Lacey finding the compound without directions?
Even if that’s not enough to convince us, how about Doyle’s eyes glowing blue or his knowing that Lacey was coming despite being sealed away? How about the guard not seeing Lacey despite shining a torch directly on her face whilst she was in the cargo truck?
That’s interesting and raises lots of questions. If the divinity is in attendance then why does he/she allow the world to end? Why does he/she allow the survivors to survive and those who are killed to die? Does he/she not have control of some of these things or does he/she have a purpose?
This chapter definitely seemed to fit better in the supernatural / horror genre. However, one of my favourite comments of the week was from Sheri who wrote: “I consider it Science Fiction. I’ve seen it called Horror, as well as Fantasy. I put it in the “Good Books” genre, actually.”
Chapter 14 – Recap
An alarm sounds as Richards is moving Doyle to somewhere he can shoot him discreetly and Richards knows there has been a security breach. He turns around instinctively and Doyle takes the opportunity to run.
Richards sprints to Level 2 so that he can check his monitors and sees that none of the vampires are in their chambers. He sends out a call for sentries to report to him, but gets no response. Eventually a terrified voice comes over the radio and shouts, “they let them out!” Before Richards and get any more information there are screams and gunfire and then, “they’re all loose!”
Richards sees through the monitors that Davis is dead and then spots Paulson. He looks straight at the camera, pulls the pin from a grenade and then throws it into an elevator. He then shoots himself in the head. Within seconds the elevator explodes and all the lights go out.
Wolgast is trapped in a room with Amy. He is shouting for someone to help, to let them out of the room and then the lights go off. A backup generator kicks in, but it only seems to cover the lights above her bed. The IV pump has stopped. Seeing as he has no other option and her fever is down substantially, Wolgast decides to unhook her and try to find a way out of the compound. He senses that although her body is unconscious, her mind knows more about what is going on around them than he does.
A stranger walks into the room. He is scruffy and Wolgast gets an otherworldly feeling about him. He says, “She knows” and won’t answer when Wolgast asks what she knows. The man begins to ask himself, “all of this… is this what I wanted?” Wolgast asks what he is talking about and the man replies that, “I wanted there to be at least one.”
Wolgast asks where Sykes is and the man says he is most likely dead – in pieces. The man then says that he is Lear and that he was once in charge of everything here, but not anymore… as Wolgast will soon see. Lear then turns to Amy and says, “It’s all over, isn’t it, Amy?” When Wolgast asks what it is that is over, Lear answers, “everything.”
Wolgast is carrying Amy and following Lear through the compound. The first body that Wolgast comes across is that of Fortes. Plenty more follow and he is shocked at the amount of blood.
Grey stumbles from a room and seems to be mortally wounded. He is mumbling about dreams and saying that this wasn’t just him: it was “all of us.” Wolgast says he is sorry that he can’t stay to help him and continues through the compound with Lear. The route Lear shows him includes a 50ft ladder and various ducks. It will eventually take him outside. Wolgast realises he will not be able to carry Amy unconscious up a ladder or through tight ducts. Wolgast asks Lear to tell him what killed those men, but Lear just tells him to “Keep her close … she’s everything”. As Wolgast enters the duct, Lear seals it behind them – he had never meant to leave.
Back with Richards and he is looking for Sykes. People are dying all around him. He eventually finds Sykes sitting on the floor of his office with a huge gash on his arm. He asks Richards why they didn’t kill him, before throwing up a mixture of blood and bile. Richards jumps back, realising he has almost certainly been infected by the virus and that means he would have now caught it too. He raises his gun and points it at Sykes. Just before he pulls this trigged, Sykes says “please” and Richards isn’t sure if he meant please kill me or please don’t.
With Lacey now and she has leapt from the truck and made her way back to the forest. She watches the first vampire fly from a window of the compound. She listens to the two soldiers sitting inside the truck argue about whether or not to flee. Before they can though, vampires descend on the truck and within moments the two are dead. At this point, Lacey isn’t sure whether the demons are invulnerable to bullets or whether they just move too fast to be caught by one.
She thinks about her mission: she has come to save Amy. A soldier is about to question her when a demon falls on him too. The voice reappears and tells Lacey to move quickly.
Richards is presuming he is going to die at this point and wonders whether this whole situation is what Cole had in mind. The first though Richards has following this short contemplation is that he needs a bigger gun – so heads towards the armoury to get one. Soldiers are everywhere – shooting, dying, dead. Before he gets to the armoury, Richards spots the truck that he knows is full of weaponry.
There is plenty to choose from and Richards decides upon a rocket/grenade launcher. He swings it towards the treetops where the vampires are and says, “here kitty, kitty!”
Lacey finds Agent Doyle waiting for her in the Chalet. He says that he has heard her all these weeks and she says takes his hands and tells him that it wasn’t her.
Wolgast is in the ventilation shaft, struggling to make progress with Amy. She won’t wake up, so he has to climb the ladder with one arm by hooking his elbow through each rung. Quickly he begins to struggle and near the top he is unsure about whether he is going to make it. He is exhausted and he is sweating. He barely manages to get Amy into the next duct and collapses alongside her as he gets in himself. He thinks about how only Amy and adrenaline stopped him from falling during that almost impossible task.
It’s not over yet though, as he drags him and Amy down through the duct, he comes to a grill that leads outside – it’s sealed with screws on the other side. Wolgast wants to cry: he feels defeated. Just as he thinks it is time to give up he hears Doyle’s voice.
Doyle and Lacey help Wolgast and Amy from the duct once they manage to get it open. Wolgast asks Doyle what is going on and Doyle says he doesn’t get any of it either.
They begin to head off and all around them is gunfire and dead bodies. Wolgast says they need a vehicle and Doyle disappears, returning moments later with keys and a gun. He calls Wolgast to the window and points to a nice Lexus and hands him the keys. Wolgast tries to protest, but Doyle says it has to be this way – if Wolgast and Amy make it to the car, even without him and Lacey, he needs to leave. Wolgast looks to Lacey who nods and moves to kiss Amy on the head and Wolgast on the cheek. Calm and certainty wash over him. He has never felt anything like it.
Richards feels the presence of Anthony Carter before he sees him. Blood glistens from Carter’s face and he has transformed now: he has claws and sword-like teeth. His movements are almost doglike and he is clicking like the others.
As Carter jumps towards Richards, Richards tells him to ‘open up’ and launches a grenade into his mouth. The moment it strikes him, there is a huge explosion and Richards feels the sensation of being torn in half.
Lacey, Doyle and Wolgast carrying Amy all run from the building and towards the Lexus, but there is a huge explosion (that is the grenade that Richards fired off). By the time Wolgast gets up, there is smoke everywhere and he can’t find Lacey or Doyle. He bundles Amy into the Lexus, as instructed, and starts it up. The moment he does, something lands on the hood. It is Carter. Wolgast sees that he throbs with a pale green light. He puts the car in drive and begins to speed off. He sees Carter rolling on the ground via the rear-view mirror and swings the car around. Carter launches into the air and Wolgast stops as he spots Lacey. She jumps into the car carrying a gun and is covered in blood. She isn’t sure where Doyle is, but he appears moments later a few feet away from Carter. Wolgast looks towards him, but Doyle shouts for him to go – now! And begins heading towards Carter, shooting at him. It works and Carter stops his pursuit of the car in order to jump at Doyle. Doyle gets off a couple more shots, but Wolgast watches Carter tear Doyle apart.
Upon seeing his partner killed, Wolgast speeds off, but Lacey says he needs to stop the car. She tells Wolgast that she cannot go with him, that they will follow the scent of her blood. Wolgast notices the smile she is wearing is the final smile of benediction. She is both sad and happy.
“Take care of her. Amy is yours. You will know what to do.” And with that, Lacey opens the car door and runs in the direction of the vampires, calling them towards her.
Chapter 14 – Commentary
Wow. I don’t think I’ve seen a deathcount like that since Rambo! Oh, OK, there was John Wick recently too – but yes… that was a lot of death and it all came very quickly. So quickly, in fact, that we don’t get much time to mourn the death of each of our viewpoint characters. That, again, is likely on purpose. The author is showing us that death isn’t always heroic, it isn’t always meaningful, but it is almost always quick and can come from any direction.
Here is the current death toll: Davis, Fortes, Grey, Paulson, Sykes, Carter, Richards, Lacey and Doyle are all dead. We didn’t see Lear die and we aren’t sure about whether Jeanette is dead or not (it is likely that if anyone connected to Richards and Co picked her up, she was murdered so she could not claim Amy back). That leaves us with Wolgast and Amy.
I asked on our Goodreads Group whose death affected us the most and which was most true to their character.
To answer the latter question first, I think Richards’s death was most true to his character. Richards doesn’t give a crap about anything and that turned out to include even his own death. Richards was a few weeks away from retiring or having an extended period of leave ice fishing away from society (his choice!) and yet he decided to pick up a grenade launch and seek out a vampire, taking him head on, rather than try to escape. Whether this is because he had that ‘cannot die’ attitude you need as a ‘007’ type archetype or something else, Richards was Richards right until he died.
We reached the unanimous conclusion that Doyle’s death was the most emotionally tough to handle. Glenna wrote: “Doyle’s death stands out most to me. I didn’t like him at all at first, but he grew on me. Then when he told Richards he could hear Lacey coming and Richards saw a light shining from his eyes, it became obvious he was special. His death was a sacrifice. He and Wolgast were chosen to protect Amy, and he sacrificed himself so she and Wolgast could get away.”
I completely agree with this. I think that Doyle had always been a character the author wanted us to feel unsure about. Why did he take the job? What were his motivations? We know he signed up after a terrorist attack, but he seems cocky around women and wanted to be a lawyer (urgh)… so there must be some kind of catch, right? When it came down to it though, Doyle gave his life up not necessarily to save Wolgast and Amy, but just to give them a few extra seconds and increase their chances. It’s the ultimate sacrifice and how can we not love him for it?
Chapter 15 – Recap
It is the year of zero. The narrator tells us that time is about to end and the world will lose its memory: man will recede from view. There is just one year left and that is to be of mountains, turning seasons and Amy.
Wolgast has arrived at a camp in Oregon. He had switched the plush Lexus for a beat up Corolla somewhere along the way. He laughs about the note he left on the dashboard saying to ‘keep it’ and wishes he could see the shock in the eyes of the owner when he realises what a great car – the most impressive Wolgast has ever driven – he has been gifted for the Corolla that threatens to break down at any moment. The Lexus had been Fortes. He had found his wallet with $600 and a couple of VISAS beneath the driver’s seat.
Wolgast looks at Amy, who is asleep on the backseat. She is making a recovery and is now out of her coma – she even ate this morning. Wolgast thinks about her sensitivity to light. Direct sunlight seems to cause her real pain and he has purchased some pink shades and a baseball cap to protect her from it. Wolgast wakes her and tells her to look at the mountains. She says it is too bright though and wants to go back to sleep.
Wolgast thinks about his memories of this area. He had come here out of pure instinct. It is a place he visited with his father and a place he came to camp as a child: Bear Mountain Camp. Wolgast thinks about how incredible it is that it has survived this long. Wolgast had last been here at 12 years old, he was a junior counsellor and can’t think of a time in his life he was happier.
The boot of his car is full of supplies from Wal-Mart and a small store he came across on the way. It isn’t much, but it should last them a few weeks – until they are settled.
Wolgast uses a tire iron to break open the door of the main lodge and once he is inside he tries the light switch. Obviously the lights don’t work, but Wolgast isn’t too worried. The main room of the lodge is relatively small and there is a wood-burning stove, so once it is up and running the place will heat and brighten up pretty quickly. There are a number of rooms within the lodge including a kitchen and a room with a short-waved radio.
Wolgast goes back to the car and wakes up Amy. She asks where they are and Wolgast says, “home”.
Whilst they make themselves comfortable, Wolgast begins to think about Lila. He’d met her after he ruptured his Achilles during a department basketball match. His two friends had needed to carry him to the hospital and she was the specialist who gave him the bad news about the 6-month recovery period.
Lila asks Wolgast what he does for a living and is surprised when she doesn’t react to the fact he is an FBI agent. She asks if anyone at home can help him during the recovery period and he says he lives alone. Lila smiles and says, “well good.” Two weeks later they had their first date. Wolgast is on crutches and Lila is in Hospital scrubs, as she is on call.
Wolgast thinks about how it took a long time until they had even their first kiss. Mostly, during that first month, they just met up and talked and Wolgast had loved every moment of it. They were married in what seemed like no time at all and Wolgast thinks that was probably the highlight of his life. He remembers how heavily her friends and family outweighed his. Despite this, none of them seemed to notice that Lila was 4 months pregnant.
Shortly after the wedding they buy a nice house in a nice area. Most of the deposit is paid for with Lila’s impressive salary. Wolgast doesn’t earn nearly as much as she does.
One day, Wolgast returns home and finds Lila crying at the end of the bed. She says something is wrong. Being a doctor, she realises that the fevers she has been experiencing have reached a pinnacle and they could now be having an effect of the baby. They go to the hospital and Lila’s blood pressure is indeed in an area that is dangerous for both her and the baby. The doctors decide to induce the birth and the process ends up lasting many hours. Wolgast feels completely helpless as he watches the extended period of pain Lila goes through. Suddenly though, it is all behind them. Eva is born and he is holding a 5lb baby.
Back in the present, Amy is growing stronger by the day, but she still can’t spend much time in daylight. Amy asks again where they are, but not why they are there. Wolgast presumes she either knows already or doesn’t care.
Most of their days are spent fixing things outside, cooking and reading. It is all small, ordinary choses and Wolgast enjoys the lifestyle.
One day they head down to the lake and Wolgast decides he is going to teach Amy to swim. At first she seems a little apprehensive, but within seconds she is swimming like a fish. Wolgast is amazed at the grace she has in the water and Amy says that it is ‘easy … like flying’. Once they get out, Amy thanks Wolgast for teaching her to swim and he says he can’t possibly have – she must have learnt before. She says she hadn’t. This leads Wolgast to think about how much of Amy and her past is a mystery to him. He wonders about the fact she can’t go into daylight, but also that her hair and nails seem to have stopped growing. In addition, he still doesn’t understand what the things were back in Colorado or what Lacey meant when she said that Amy was his.
He tells Amy he needs to go down the mountain for supplies and she seems completely fine with being left on her own in the cabin. Whilst driving to the store, Wolgast notices how incredibly empty all the roads are. They are so empty that it bothers him a great deal. When he arrives at the store it seems quiet too. He picks up a paper and reads the headline…
The paper has an article headlined: ‘Chaos In Colorado’. The US is in a state of high alert as the result of what it is calling ‘an unprecedented terrorist threat’. The president claims he has obtained proof that the disease was unleashed on America by anti-American extremists and promises to take action necessary to contain the spread. He adds that this is the worst ever crime against humanity.
All air travel has been grounded and this is causing chaos amongst those who are miles away from home. The various other travel networks are gridlocked.
The paper says that it takes as little as 6 hours for the disease to transform people into crazed monsters who will kill anyone and everyone in sight. The paper reports that roughly 50,000 are dead at the time of publication and a significant number have succumbed to the disease – it seems there is a 50/50 chance of dying/recovery – and become vampires. The result is that Hospitals are reminiscent of warzones.
Disease control has set up a quarantine zone, but admit they’ve no real idea what is going on inside it. Additionally, reports suggest that the disease has appeared in Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming. Despite Martial Law being placed on various cities, people are still fleeing and making their way across the country,
Wolgast is stunned. All this has happened in 18 days since they left the compound. The paper is 4 days old, so who knows what has happened since then.
There is movement in the store behind where he is standing and Wolgast makes his way in slowly. A man behind his counter nods to Wolgast – he has a gun at his hip. Wolgast asks if the man has a more recent newspaper, but he is told that the copy he is holding is the last one to have arrived. Next Wolgast asks for ammunition for his gun. The man asks to see the gun and Wolgast carefully hands it to him. The man instantly recognises it as an agency issued weapon and asks whether Wolgast is a fed. Wolgast says he was in a former life. The man goes out back and brings some ammo for Wolgast that was for another customer who hasn’t shown up. He says not a single customer has arrived in about a week.
As Wolgast is about to leave the man tells him that he needs to shoot the vampires in the centre of the chest if they come for him. He says that you will only get one shot and whoever it is, even your Grandma, if you miss you will be torn to pieces without a second chance. He has been watching video and reports from a blogger over the Internet. They move best through trees he says and adds that there are conspiracy theories about this being the Government’s fault in some way.
The man tells Wolgast his name is Carl. He helps Wolgast carry his supplies to the car and asks whether he is staying up in the mountains, based on the direction he came from he presumes that must be the case. Wolgast says he is and says that Carl should think about coming up into the mountains too. Carl asks Wolgast to follow him back into the store. He does and he is shown Carl’s wife, who is asleep on a bed propped up at a 45-degree angle. She has MS and is surrounded by medicines. Carl explains that she has help come to visit the store, but no one has been for over a week. Wolgast understand he can’t leave. Carl tells Wolgast he used to work as an electrician, but retired here and bought the store. He also has two sons: one is in California and the other is in Floria.
On the way back to the mountains, Wolgast considers phoning Lila, but he thinks that the life with Lila is now over. He is beginning a new life now and that one is no longer his.
Chapter 15 Commentary
Well, that’s it then… everyone is dead!
This chapter continues the themes introduced to us in the previous few chapters: how time is always moving and how things can change very, very quickly. No mater what the situation, within a few short seconds, hours, days or weeks, things can change. Whether this is Wolgast’s life with Lila (now, finally, behind him) or the peace in Colorado (now in disarray) change is always possible and ready to be chosen or waiting to strike you. As discussed in the last chapter in relation to time, this seems purposely relatable to our own lives. Perhaps there is something we are taking for granted or something we are unhappy about but not doing anything about. Justin Cronin’s argument against either situation we find ourselves in seems to be that change is easy and always waiting. Don’t be complement.
In terms of the characters, Wolgast seems to have fallen for his new life. He now has a purpose: maintaining the lodge and looking after Amy. He enjoys nothing more than being with her and not having to worry about anything other than what to cook, read or fix. That said, he does notice that there is a mystery surrounding Amy. She learns to swim within seconds of being shown how and her hair seems to have stopped growing. Wolgast ignores these things for now, but readers can’t help but wonder what on earth is going on with Amy. Many of her strange traits were apparent long before her stay at the compound and we don’t know what that stay has added/taken away from her yet either.
How far we’ve come! See you next week for the end of the world!