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 bright spring sunshine because things have gotten very dark. Virals are on the rise and its the end of the world as we know it . . . Warning for spoilers for everything in the first twenty 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 21 – Recap
Michael considers the main difference between the old world and the new world to be electricity. He knows this is a bold statement, considering the virals or the lack of stars, but give him enough electricity and the world would be very different – he would keep the virals out forever.
Michael has taken time to work out the number of virals that exist on the continent. By using documents he has found from the old library, he believes there is 42.5million virals. This is based on the fact that virals take only 1 in 10 and that there was a population of about 500million. He has then accounted for about 15% of the virals dying somehow.
Michael spends most of his days in the lighthouse where, in addition to maintaining the lights, he dreams of days where he’d have access to unlimited amounts of technology and fixes old electrics for the sheer fascination of doing so. He considers himself alone, although a blind man named Elton works there too.
Michael thinks about how much is out there in the world – batteries, electrics and… nukes. Michael thinks that without someone to keep them subdued, a nuke could go off at any moment and wipe out everyone and everything. However, that doesn’t even really matter. Michael has a secret that he and Elton have only told to one other person – Theo – and it’s a big one. Michael knows that within a few years the batteries will fail. Batteries don’t last forever, they degrade and these ones are coming to the end of their usage. As he told Theo: “The. Lights. Will. Go. Off.”
Theo tells Michael to tell no one else about the batteries. Michael senses that something left Theo the moment he told him and it may have been the reason that Theo and Maus never ended up together, as everyone had expected. Michael is surprised that Theo doesn’t have any desire to begin looking for somewhere else. Michael would immediately un-ban the usage of radio – they’ve not been in use for 75 years now and the idea that they would lead walkers to the colony now is ridiculous. In his eyes, the only possible outcomes of using the radio would be to find nothing or to find other colonies.
One day, weeks after telling Theo about the lights, Michael is sat in the lighthouse looking for something to read and stumbles across an old notebook by his great-great grandfather. It is a log of all the radio conversation he had before the Household banned it from use.
Morning bell sounds and Michael powers off the lights. He can’t help but wonder about Alicia and whether she is OK, which annoys him because she is the most annoying person he knows. Michael goes to check on Elton and sees the 50 year old asleep in his chair, which is pretty normal. Michael wakes him up and Elton complains, saying he was just getting ‘to the good bit’ of his dream featuring a beautiful woman. Elton always makes out he was a ladies man in his prime, but Michael can’t see that being possible – he just sees a lonely old man.
Michael asks Elton how the batteries are and is told there are not at all good. Elton says they’ve about 6 months until they start running into flickers and about 30 months until there is complete failure. Thinking on this, Michael asks Elton whether he knows how to build a radio.
Elton explains building the radio isn’t going to be the biggest problem. The biggest problem will be getting a signal up in the mountains. Previously they ran an antenna all the way up at the peak, but the Household destroyed it upon banning any outside signals. They can’t build a new one and run it in the same way (that would mean explaining the lights running out and killing much needed hope), so Michael decides to boost the signal through other means. He decides upon this decision that if there is no one out there in the world, he will keep the secret of the lights to himself and allow people to live without fear of imminent death.
It doesn’t take Michael long to build a radio from a CPU chassis and an old stereo receiver. Elton helps Michael by listening to the incoming transmissions and recording anything of interest.
Whilst contemplating Elton’s happy-go-lucky personality, Michael thinks about how the old man’s parents were walkers themselves. They arrived at the colony 50 years ago. Sadly, they’d been infected with radiation (the same radiation that resulted in Elton’s blindness) and Elton’s mother, in addition to 28 others, died painfully.
Sara, Michael’s sister, arrives and tells Michael that dinner is ready – she has managed to find a huge rabbit (which is a real treat for anyone living on the colony). Michael shares his home with Sara and she often visits him at work. For this reason, he has had to tell her about the radio and although she wouldn’t tell the Household, she is very worried about the possible ramifications.
Michael and Sara eat the rabbit stew and talk about how much they miss their parents. Michael is keen to tell Sara about the batteries and log book, but thinks it would be more for his peace of mind than hers and decides this would be selfish. Sara admits to Michael that she is worried about the watch. This leads Michael to thinking about how much she loves Peter and Michael tells her not to worry because Alicia is with them. Sara snaps back that it is Alicia who worries her most.
We enter the POV of Sara. Sara works at the hospital, but when she is not there she is always helping someone do something – usually out on the fields tending to the animals or helping in the Sanctuary. It is the Sanctuary she decides to visit now. She recalls the time she lived here as a child – a time until she was 8 years old when she felt completely safe (as children within the Sanctuary live completely unaware of the virals and darkness outside of its walls).
These thoughts lead her on to an explanation of what living in the Sanctuary is like for a child. Your parents visit you in the evenings and usually stay with you until night-time. You don’t really understand where they go or why they leave, but it seems normal when you are younger. As you get older, you start asking yourself why it has to be this way and why you can’t see more of these people who you see as the best people in the entire world.
Excitement starts to mount as you approach 8 years old. Obviously the children know not to push for answers about where the children disappear to on their 8th birthday, but speculation amongst the other children seems to suggest it is a princess-like existence within a castle.
Michael, however, doesn’t believe this. Even as a child he knew that there was nothing bad outside the Sanctuary. At the time, Sara had presumed he was just upset she was going to find out first or perhaps he was just upset that she would be leaving him, but when they got older he told her that he could see in their parents’ eyes that whatever was outside was nothing good.
Sara thinks of the day she actually left. Teacher took her from the Sanctuary into a small room and asked her what she expects to find outside. Sara is full of optimism and Teacher tells her, without emotion, about the virals and the rules of the colony. Sara begins to cry and doesn’t stop crying even when her parents arrive to take her home. This is the memory, the crying and disappointment, that plays in Sara’s mind over and over as she approaches the Sanctuary.
As she arrives, she finds Hollis, Arlo’s brother, standing guard with a crossbow. Sara thinks about how slow and heavy a crossbow is. Hollis smiles upon seeing Sara and asks what is in the pot she is carrying. Sara replies that it is rabbit stew and he begs her from some. She tells him it is for Elton and he asks if he could at least smell it. She lets him, reluctantly. Once he has finished enjoying the smell of the stew, Hollis warns Sara that Maus Patel is inside. He tells her that Maus and her husband, Galen, have been arguing too. Sara braces herself and walks in.
The first person Sara sees is Arlo’s wife, Leigh. She is sat with their newborn daughter, Dora. We are told that mothers can stay with children for the first year of their life, but it is at this point they must leave them for the next 7 years.
Sara walks past Leigh and begins to think about how rumour has it that Maus only said yes to marrying Galen because Theo either refused her or never got round to asking. She wonders if accepting the proposal was simply a way of tempting Theo into action – it obviously didn’t work. This makes her sad, because she feels the lack of attention from Theo is similar to her situation with Peter – he has never acted on her either.
It is the sadness and loss that Peter carries, which makes Sara love him so much. The fact he feels that and it is so authentic and justified means a great deal to her. She wants to take it all away from him and relieve him of the burden. Sara thinks about how, whilst working as an apprentice nurse, she would often want to ask Peter’s mother how to make him love her.
Sara reveals that they’d kissed once after a few drinks and whilst Sara wanted more – everything – Peter had quickly pushed her away. She knew right away that there was someone else and has worked out more recently that it must be Alicia.
Sara arrives at the bedside of a cancer sufferer named Gabe. She has taken some dillonweed tea from a nurse to give to him. Although it isn’t going to do anything to help his long-term suffering, it does have some short-term effects of relieving pain and stopping stomach upsets.
Beside Gabe’s bed is his wife, Mar. She is a thin and birdlike woman. Together they have a son called Jacob. Jacob works on the fields with their father, but is ‘simple’. He is only capable of basic actions upon being given detailed direction. It makes Sara sad to think that Gabe, the man wasting away on the bed before her, was once a burly farmer – strong and muscular. He’d come in with a bit of back-pain and indigestion and left with a cancer diagnosis.
Mar tells Sara that she has told Gabe it is time for him to move on now. She knows he wants to fight the cancer in order to help her and Jacob through life, but she has told him they will be OK. The problem is, Gabe is stubborn and won’t pass on: he keeps fighting. Mar then begins to cry. As Sara comforts Mar, Mar tells Sara that Gabe always remarked how fond of Sara he was.
It is getting late by the time Sara leaves the Sanctuary and she hurries to the lighthouse to give the stew to Elton. Elton senses Sara watching her eat and jokes about it. Sara blushes and he tells her he doesn’t mind such a pretty girl watching him. Sara laughs and tells Elton he couldn’t possibly know Sara is pretty. He says he can by the way she speaks to and cares about people: ‘pretty is as pretty does’. Sara says she doesn’t feel pretty, but, secretly, Elton has really cheered her up. She thinks that he is by far the happiest person she knows: blindness isn’t something missing – it is just a difference that he embraces.
As Sara is about to leave, Elton tells Sara he has a gift for her in return for her kindness. Sara is passed his headphones and she hears a sound that takes her breath away. It is music, but she has never heard anything like it. The CD case says it is The Rite Of Spring by The Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Elton tells her he thought she should hear what she looks like.
Chapter 21 – Commentary
I found this chapter pretty interesting. Mostly it is about introducing is to two new characters and giving us a view of life in the colony.
We see that life in the colony is essentially a life of working to support one another. There is a Household, but this Household doesn’t seem to have a hugely elevated status – yes they rule, but they aren’t exactly getting rich off other people who are working hard (which would be the complaint of most Governments / Corporations in this day and age). This could be a statement by Justin Cronin – that the worst situations can bring about the best in people – or it could not be (I guess we should ask him at some point!).
No one seems overly happy (except Elton), but no one seems all that unhappy about their lack of prospects either. We will come back to this point in a later chapter.
In terms of our two new characters, they are perhaps the most trope-based we’ve come across. Both, to me, seem like ‘fairy tail’ type characters. Michael seems to be that young, farm boy type who has a latent skill that could save the day. Sara seems like that overlooked damsel in distress, good woman in a bad situation type character (Cinderella for a lazy comparison). If only people would notice her and her brilliance. I could add to this and say that Elton seems a little like that wise old man / wizard character – seemingly knowing something others do not and providing much needed support, care and inspiration.
Most importantly, both Michael and Sara are very likeable and we want them to overcome the various things suppressing them – perhaps this is why Justin Cronin decided to draw upon the tropes he has in creating them.
Chapter 22 – Recap
Theo is telling Alisha, Caleb and Peter that they should all be dead. Peter is only half listening, he is also thinking about the fact he just killed a man he knew very well and yet has experienced no emotion since doing it. Perhaps this is because he’d had no choice – this thing hadn’t been Zander anymore, strictly speaking. Although, in saying that, Peter can’t help but think he saw a momentary flicker of recognition or relief in Zander’s eyes as he fired a bullet into his brain.
Theo has questioned Caleb and his story just doesn’t add up. He says that about 6 days ago Zander began to act off, spending the night pacing and muttering to himself. He told Caleb that they shouldn’t go outside the fence for a while and he stopped sleeping.
Caleb says Zander then approached him one day and said that he wanted them to go out into the field. He told him one of the governors needed swapping out. Caleb knew right away this was strange and noticed that Zander had a crazy look in his eyes and smelt really bad – as though he’d stopped washing altogether. Despite this, Zander was in charge and so Caleb followed. He saw that they’d gone past the governors and, indeed, Zander took him to a completely different field. Zander told Caleb to climb up an old, rusted tower. Caleb does so, although he knows it is pointless – there is no way he will be able to fix this old thing that hasn’t worked in years.
Whilst working on the tower, Caleb hears the donkey they’d used to help carry their things scream. He looks down and sees that Zander has removed his shirt and bitten the donkey’s neck. He is covered in blood. Caleb screams for his mentor to fight whatever is happening to him, but realises that he can’t fight the transformation at this point. In real time, Caleb says he is unsure how Zander got bitten, because they were almost never apart.
Caleb jumps from the tower with a wrench and decides to hit Zander, before he can do so, however, Zander grabs the wrench and screams for Caleb to get back up the tower. Caleb says Zander’s eyes weren’t orange – no one is sure what this means, it has been so long since someone witnessed the early signs of transformation: it could be normal. Most stories revolve around bizarre behaviour and blood hunger – there are stories of strange public displays and athleticism, even people eating themselves or killing loved ones and setting themselves on fire. Caleb asks Zander why he should go up the tower and Zander replies that he will be safe if he just does it. Caleb eventually does and not a single viral came near him. Zander had previously told him the movement of the turbines confuses them, so maybe it was something to do with that. Caleb stayed up the tower until he saw the watch pass and he followed them, but it began to get dark by the time he caught up. At this point, virals were everywhere – circling in the shade. He hid under a tower until he saw Alicia and Peter on the roof.
Arlo wonders if perhaps the virals were using Caleb as bait, but Theo says that kind of thing doesn’t happen. He is annoyed the station went unmanned as long as it did – if there had been any kind of failure, the lights in the colony would have gone off and everyone would be dead. He is equally annoyed that Peter and Alicia went out into the darkness so recklessly.
Arlo is interested on what they will do with the guns and Theo says they will stay far away from them. Alicia disagrees and says they have saved Caleb’s life and they should take some with them. Theo reveals he knew about the guns already and that it was his and Peter’s father who acquired them from a nearby marine base. It is around 2 days ride from the power station and in addition to these guns, there are lots of heavy weapons and vehicles too. Theo reveals that it was around the time they were planning how to get everything back to the station/colony that their father was killed. Theo says the only people who knew were Peter’s mother and Zander – not even Sanjay knew. There was always bad blood between the two of them, after Sanjay blamed the Long Rides for the death of his brother, Raj. Sanjay had been the one who voted their father from the Household and who put an end to the Long Rides too.
Peter still isn’t convinced the guns should remain unused. Theo points out they shot around 36 rounds and hit just two virals. In the grand scheme of things, people are more likely to shoot their own shadows or each other than they are the virals. Alicia jumps in and says that she must know where the base is and exactly what is left. Theo says Alicia is just like his father – he wanted to build and army and he also refused to believe they were the last ones left. Theo reminds them that forming an army is pointless – the last army they had left and never came back. Alicia doesn’t care, she says it was, and is, a great idea and that she is certain there ‘are’ others out there. When Peter supports Alicia, Theo replies that it was this kind of thinking that saw their father killed.
Peter reminds Theo that their father said he saw a walker, not all that long ago, at Milagru. Theo says it doesn’t matter if he did or did not: no number of guns will change the number of virals at Milagru. Arlo joins in and says that if all that is left is the colony, what is the point in their existence? Theo says their point is to keep the lights on and stay alive. Peter thinks this is cruel, Theo knows Arlo has a child and wife in the Sanctuary and they need hope.
Theo says they need to stop talking and take care of the bodies. The watch find the virals they managed to kill and douse them with alcohol before burning them. Theo speaks a short tribute for Zander and Caleb adds to it, saying that Zander could have killed him out there. Theo agrees, but says he is concerned about the reasons for why he didn’t kill him too. They shovel Zander’s ashes into a pit.
They’ve been at the station for 5 days now, restoring and maintaining things. Peter has spent a lot of his time reading through Zander’s books. At this moment, Peter is thinking about shooting Zander again and about how strange Caleb’s story is. He also can’t stop but wish Theo would see the reasoning behind Alicia’s desire to use the guns. Peter realizes were about his father trying to find the world and reconnect the colony to it. That was the largeness inside of him – it was faith that flew in the face of every fact.
They are getting ready to head back to the colony – leaving Arlo, Fin and Rey behind to continue the maintenance work. Alicia convinces Theo to allow them one gun each for the trip and Theo reluctantly agrees so long as they stash the guns outside of the colony – and even then it is only because of the uncertainty surrounding Caleb and Zander. As they leave, Theo tells the trio staying behind to be careful because something strange is going on at this station. Arlo jokes about not worrying, saying they are planning a party, but at the moment of their departure, he hands a letter to Theo for Leigh and his child in-case something was to happen.
Almost as soon as they leave the station, Peter mentions the book he was reading – Moby Dick. When Theo asks where all the books in the Station came from, Caleb tells them it is a nearby library that Zander would often visit. The Watch realise that whatever happened to Zander could very well be revealed with a trip to that library.
They arrive at the library and walk inside. There are the remains of a woman sat behind the desk – she has shot herself in the head. They explore and upstairs they find around 50 skeletons in cots. Surrounded by the cots are syringes. It would seem that someone killed the 50 babies through assisted suicide rather than have them eaten or turned. Theo says they need to get out quickly and he asks everyone why Zander would come somewhere like this.
Theo decides they should burn the building. They pile stacks off books up high, douse them and set a fire. The building goes up quickly and as it does, sand around the building begins to move. Virals begin to emerge from the sand and more from within the building – they see at least 6, but there could be many more. Theo screams that they are ‘fucked’ and they all bolt into the daylight. The virals are so angry that they follow them, braving the sun.
Caleb breaks ahead of the Watch and begins heading towards the Mall. The members of the Watch follow him there and they dismount from their horses and run inside. They presume the virals will eat the horses, giving them time to get away. Theo keeps saying he is sorry and Alicia tells Peter to kill her if there is any sign she may turn into a viral – Peter promises he would, of course.
Caleb appears and a viral drops from the roof. It grabs Theo by the legs and pulls him up into the air. It then flings him out through the roof and follows after him. Peter saw Theo’s astonished face the moment the viral grabbed him and knew he knew he was about to die.
Alicia and Peter begin firing at the virals. Peter realizes though that they are too fast. They may even be luring them into spending their ammunition. One dives at Alicia and she is able to masterfully position herself to shoot it through its open mouth. Alicia tells Peter to run and he does.
Peter is searching for an exit, but every single one is barred up with debris. His mind is racing with the fear and pain that Theo is now dead. Peter decides he won’t be able to get out, so looks for somewhere to hide. He presumes at this point that Theo, Alicia and Caleb are all dead – that he is now alone.
Peter spots a dusty old carousel and decides this would be a good place to give up. He decides he will be taken at any moment. Suddenly, he gets a strange feeling and a small girl with dark hair arrives. She places her finger to her lips and motions for him to follow. She is filthy and dressed in boy-like clothes that are far too big for her. She leads Peter to a trap down and they descend down into what lies beyond. The girl motions for Peter to hit the floor and she lies on top of him. The girl doesn’t speak, but Peter always senses she is telling him what to do. He knows she is protecting him somehow. Above he can hear the virals tasting the air, but also their frustration and confusion.
When there is silence, Peter asks the girl how she made them go away, but she hushes him again and makes him follow her back out the trap door and through the Mall. They come to a door that says ‘roof access’ and the girl kisses him on the cheek before motioning for him to go. As Peter walks through the door it slams shut behind him. He climbs a number of stairs and has to break open an emergency fire axe case to break a padlock off the door that takes him to the roof. Moments after the door opens he hears virals break through the door below.
Peter is now trapped on the roof with virals just minutes behind him. The drop seems too high to survive, but Alicia begins shouting his name. Peter is amazed that she and Caleb have survived – they are below on horses. Alicia shouts for Peter to jump and he trusts her – it turns out that mounds of sand have made the drop survivable and Peter climbs onto a horse and the three of them ride away – with the loss of Theo on their minds.
Chapter 22 – Commentary
In this Chapter we see the strength of Alicia as she claims to ‘know’ there are other people out there and she is willing to put her life (and the lives of others) on the line to find them.
I asked our Goodreads Group about whether they would be supporting Alicia in the ‘grab the guns and head out’ plan or Theo in the ‘stay and hope for the best’ plan. Everyone agreed that they’d be with Alicia and although they’d be scared, it seems to be the only option – otherwise they are just delaying the inevitable.
Glenna’s thoughts match my own, that they need more people in order to survive long-term. She said: “It’s surprising to me that the colony has survived almost a century, with so many people packed into a relatively small space. The Household obviously tried to keep everyone on a tightly regulated existence to keep things running smoothly, but unusual events have a way of bringing out everyone’s suppressed emotions. It’s amazing that Dark Night didn’t completely break down the colony.”
The scene at the library and the subsequent one at the mall was about as action-packed as you could hope for. I was a little unsure about how the vampires made the decision to pursue the Watch into the light – I feel that goes against most of what we’ve learnt about them so far, but I’m willing to accept that they were willing to suffer in response to having had their resting ground burnt down.
In terms of their revenge: in almost any other book, I’d presume Theo to come back at some point. Justin Cronin doesn’t seem shy to kill off a character or two (or ten!) though, so who knows – he could be gone or turned into a vampire for all we know at this point. As a human being, this is terrible for Peter. With this being a story, it can only be a good thing for him as a human being and a hero in the making. Peter has gone through life looking up to the older males in his family and being overlooked for Theo on almost every occasion. Peter must now step and begin living for himself.
And Amy is back… more on her in a sec!
Chapter 23 – Recap
We went about 120 pages without any mention of Amy, but she’s back. Over recent years, Amy has lived with no one except for the voices that are all around her. She remembers certainly people, such as the man and then another man, his wife and son, but she doesn’t remember their names. It really has been a long time since she has spoken to anyone.
Mostly she lives in the dark, but she has taught herself to suffer the sun and live with the sickness it causes if she needs to.
She remembers the man telling her to follow the mountains should something happen to him and she’d done this. That’s where she found the family she’d lived with for a while, but they’d died eventually – like everyone else did. There were many others who were less kind than Amy, who would send her away when they realised she was different.
She had initially longed for Wolgast’s care, but over time his voice was lost amongst the many others she heard all the time. The voices always ask the same questions: “who am I?” and they ask it over and over and over again.
Amy doesn’t know how long she has been alive – she keeps track of the years casually by the seasons, but she doesn’t record or take time to remember anything. Mostly she just wanders and looks up at the stars. This helps a little against the sorrowful forgetting and terrible broken heartedness of the voices. Their endless needless questions has had a strange effect on her though, she feels a kind of love for them. From time to time she hears one of them say: “I am [name here]”. Babcock is one of the names, as Baffes-Turrell-Winston-Sosa-Echols-Lambright-Martinez-Reinhardt-Carter. She thinks of the ones who say “I am” as opposed to “Who am I?” as the twelve, as she has heard 12 names.
It was on a day that Amy spotted a bird and tried to taste the word in her mouth that she realised she had forgotten how to speak. She realises, however, that she can will the virals to do things – one day when she was lonely she thought “come here” and the virals surrounded her. She spent time with them, caressing them at times. She asked them if she was the only one left, but all they would ask is: “Who am I?” In response Amy wills them to “Go now” and they do.
A number of years ago, Amy saw 6 men on horses. She hid in the shadows, waiting for night so that she could approach them, but the virals killed 3 of them before she could make contact. One of them men was lying on the floor, half way between life and death, and Amy approached him – sensing his fear and pain. He didn’t want to let go. At the same time, she felt the sadness and regret of the virals who did this. They are sorry. Amy tells them to go into the night and never do this again, but she knows they will because The Twelve fill their minds with their dreams of blood and withhold the answers they so desperately crave.
After that night, Amy walked for a while. She thought about following the men, but upon coming across the Mall she finds the carousel. She thinks it is wonderful and decides this would be a good place to stop.
This thought brings Amy back to the present and she thinks about Peter, Caleb and Alicia. She thinks about Peter, the one she had saved, and how she had told the virals to leave him alone. It worked for a while, but the other voices full of a lust for blood had reappeared and overcome her.
Amy asks the darkness where the men on horses have gone and where she could find them. She acknowledges that she has been alone too long. A voice comes to Amy and tells her to bring the men “to me” and it adds that “the way will show you the way.” Amy says she will do what the voice asks and that she will be alone no longer. The voice tells her that it wishes to “know them as I know you, Amy.” When Amy asks who Amy is, the voice says “you are”.
Chapter 23 – Commentary
It made me very sad to see that Amy has forgotten Wolgast’s name. Yes, I know she is 100 years old, but he gave his life up for hers and although I don’t feel anger towards Amy, I wonder about her ability to feel emotion. Amy has always come across as cold and distant (even the nuns made this observation), but I wonder whether her transformation has made this even truer.
We learn some interesting things about the virals. They seem not to know who they are and for some reason they keep asking Amy for an answer. This brings us back to the zoo – when the polar bears went berserk after Amy was speaking with them about their names. Their constant questions and presence in Amy’s mind seems to have driven her to a kind of confusion and madness. It is also interesting that she feels a kind of sympathy and love for the virals – being able to hear their sorrow and apologies. This is the first time in the novel that we get the sense that virals are being driven by something other than their own bloodlust. It seems that the original 12 inmates are filling their minds with thoughts of blood and anger.
It isn’t clear whom Amy is talking to at the end of the chapter – who she is promising to bring the men and women of the colony to. Is it God or is it a vampire… Babcock maybe?
Chapter 24 – Recap
Peter wakes up, realising he has fallen asleep whilst standing ‘The Mercy’, waiting for Theo to return. Alicia walks in and tells Peter not to worry about it, he has been up for seven days straight – it is expected. She asks him to go and get some proper rest. Peter is reluctant, he wants to say in case Theo returns, but he knows he will not beat Alicia in an argument about it.
As it has now been seven days since the last sighting of Theo, he is officially declared as lost and people begin to apologize to him for his loss. A number of people also remark on the fact Peter will now become a member of the Household. Peter is nervous about this fact, he has big shows to fill with his father and Theo having sat on the seat before him.
Peter is walking and thinking of the events of the last few days. He has told no one about Amy. He had asked Alicia why she had waited for him, instead of running, and she’d answered that it was the right thing to do – she seemed hurt that he would ask. When they’d returned to the colony they found it in great uproar. Most were ready to declare them lost. Peter decides not to be the one to tell Maus about Theo, he would leave that to someone else.
It had been that same night that Peter had began to stand the Mercy for Theo and he’d done it every night since – until today, when Alicia sent him home. Peter, however, is not going to go home. There are too many memories for him should he stay there. Instead, he decides to stay at the barracks, which he knows are smelly and disgusting – but it beats the pain that will be caused by the empty rooms of his parents and brother.
Peter walks into his house to grab a few things to take away to the barracks and is hit with the memories he knew were coming. In addition, he feels ashamed at the dishonour he has shown his mother by allowing it to fall into such a mess – she’d always kept it incredibly clean, despite her job and illness. This leads him to thinking about how he has failed everyone.
Leaving the house, Peter sees his cousin Dana training recruits. He remembers being a recruit vividly. Those who went down the path of the watch would train from age 9 until 13. They’d then become a runner and progress from there.
Sanjay Patel approaches Peter. He says he is sorry about Theo, that he was a good man and it shouldn’t have happened like this. Sanjay then tells Peter none of their story makes sense to him and wants a better explanation about why they ended up at the library and how Zander ended up dead. Because they’ve left out the guns, why they decided to take a risk and visit the library, in addition to how they saved Caleb is a story full of holes. Sanjay asks Peter to tell him whether this was Alicia’s recklessness and Peter tells him that it is not. Sanjay doesn’t seem at all convinced.
Sanjay moves onto the matter of the Household seat. He reminds Peter that many were unhappy when Theo got the seat, because it should have fallen to Dana who was the oldest member of their family. Sanjay admits that everyone believes Peter’s father pressured her into saying she did not want the seat. Sanjay’s belief is that Peter’s father wanted Theo to hold the seat in order to revive the Long Rides, despite the deaths they caused.
Peter can feel what is coming and, indeed, Sanjay tells him that the Household has already met with Dana and she has agreed to take the position. Peter is full of anger and sadness, which is strange as he hadn’t even wanted the seat moments ago, but holds his tongue. First captain Soo arrives and tells Peter he can take a few days off to mourn his brother.
Peter decides he can’t go to the barracks yet and instead visits the Dark Night stone. It has the names carved into it of all the people killed that night. In addition to the 162, which include whole clans and families who were lost, people now add on the names of any of the colony that pass. Peter notices that Zander’s name is on it already.
Caleb appears and says he added Zander’s name onto the stone himself. He says he will add on Theo’s if Peter wants him to. Peter doesn’t want Theo’s name on the stone until he is sure he is dead, he still can’t believe he is gone. Caleb seems to understand and tells Peter that Zander hated the idea of becoming a viral. He is glad Peter shot him when he did, so he didn’t have to live as one for very long.
Peter sees Caleb looking at the names of his mother, father and sister on the stone. They had all been killed when he was just a few weeks old. At that moment Peter realises why Alicia went onto the roof with the gun. She was an Orphan just like Caleb was. He had no one to stand ‘The Mercy’ for him and so she’s decided she would do it.
Chapter 24 – Commentary
Peter has the Household seat ripped away from him and doesn’t fight his corner. We spoke a lot on the Goodreads group about how Peter has constantly been pushed into a feeling of worthlessness. As the seat is handed to his cousin, he doesn’t even bother to argue the fact. It is very apparent that not only has he given up, he has come to expect this kind of thing.
Although readers may be starting to think that Peter is in no way shape or form recognisable as a hero, we often need our heroes to be beaten down a bit before they rise up. Peter has certainly taken his fair share of knocks now and is ready for the comeback.
Chapter 25 – Recap
Michael is in the lighthouse with Elton. He is listening for a signal on the radio. He has heard about Theo and feels that perhaps it was something to do with his asking for a chip – he has been assured this isn’t the case though. In terms of their hunt for a signal, they’ve found something… They just don’t know what. Every 90 minutes a repeating string can be found on frequency 1,432megahertz. It lasts just 242 seconds. Michael’s mind is ticking with ideas about codes and such, but as of yet he has no idea what it could be or what it could mean.
The signal was initially very weak, but it keeps getting stronger as if it is moving towards them – coming up the mountain.
Michael thinks about how tense things are in the colony right now. Everyone has heard about Zander and theories about the seclusion of living out at the power station having warped his brain are running rife. The last thing Michael needs right now is to be caught using the radio – it hasn’t happened yet, but a few days ago he had a close call. Sanjay had walked into the room whilst he was listening to the random string. It took a while for Michael to realise he was sleepwalking. Sanjay had said “Bab… Cock?” before half waking up and seeming disorientated and confused. Sanjay’s wife arrived moments later and escorted him back to their home. Sleepwalking seems to be common in the colony, with everyone having done it from time to time.
Michael takes a walk to refresh him mind and walks into Maus who is sat crying in the sunspot, an area where people often come at night. Michael tells Maus that he was sorry to hear about Theo, he was his friend too. She surprises him by saying thank you and that this was exactly the right thing to say to her at that moment. She surprises him again by telling him not to let Lish get to him – she says Lish will come round. Michael is about to ask why she would mention Alicia when Maus’s husband, Galen, arrives.
Gale is furious that Maus has left the Sanctuary and Sanjay has accompanied him to escort her back. Gale begins to shout at Michael, demanding to know why he is out here with his wife – suggesting this whole thing was his idea. Michael tries to defuse the situation, realising it may get violent, but Maus tells Galen she is fine and will do her job and do as she is told ‘for now’. As she is leaving she thanks Michael again for his company and kind words.
Back with Sara now and she is in the infirmary. Gabe’s son is there trying to feed him some tea, but it is doing more harm than good. Sara is frustrated that the nurses around her are letting Jacob attempt to help his father un-chaperoned (him having a learning disability). She recognises that Gabe is experiencing internal bleeding and will likely die very soon. She asks for Jacob to be escorted away and as soon as he is taken from the room Mar asks Sara if she has something for him (to help him pass on). Sara nods and goes to get some drugs that will help him go. Mar thanks Sara and begs her never to tell Jacob.
Back with Peter and he is dreaming about Amy, Theo and his own death. He wakes with a start and can’t get back to sleep. He sneaks past the five men (including Caleb) who are snoring around him and decides to visit Auntie, seeing as he’d be sent away should he try to report for duty on the wall.
Although Auntie is old and her mind moves between the past and present, she gets by with remarkably little help. She even manages to maintain a large vegetable garden and herb patch. She is known for drinking all kinds of teas (which everyone finds disgusting) and writing down events of the present and past into journals. Peter guesses she is around 100 years old and thinks this is remarkable for a woman who really serves no purposes. She even survived Dark Night – the colony had arrived the next morning to find her sipping tea and seemingly wondering what all the fuss was about. When further explanation of how she survived was sought, she said only that perhaps they didn’t like old blood.
Peter knocks on the door and is told to come in by Auntie. Peter thinks it is amazing how she never seems to sleep. Auntie tells Peter she has just made tea (she has always just made tea) and offers him some. He agrees, although secretly he really doesn’t want any, she just wouldn’t accept no as an answer.
Peter tries to tell Auntie about Theo and before he can she says she already knows. As their conversation continues though, she asks when Theo is due back and Peter is unsure whether she ever really knew about Peter’s death or if she just forgot it. Peter changes the subject to Auntie’s memory books and she says it is import she writes everything down because one day people will want to know what happened here. Peter asks if she really thinks that is the case and she tells him that she knows it.
Peter asks his Auntie if their father ever mentioned seeing a walker and she says he didn’t. Peter is disappointed and Auntie asks if Theo saw a walker and suggests maybe Terrance saw a walker. Peter gives up the discussion, he thinks that once Auntie gets like this – her mind swimming in the past and mixing it up with the present – there is no getting anything from her of any use.
As Peter gets up, Auntie asks if he believes in God. Peter says he doesn’t really. Auntie says that is a great shame because the God she knows about would not give them no chance and she want’s Peter to think on that. Peter admits to himself that upon seeing the stars he felt a presence behind them.
As Peter goes to walk out the door Auntie tells him that “She is coming” and when Peter asks who she says only that he knows who and has always known who, before becoming unresponsive to his questions. Peter wonders if she meant the girl he’d seen at the Mall – that’s when he hears shouting and the narrator grabs us from the scene, telling us that all hell is about to break loose.
Chapter 25 – Commentary
If you didn’t expect something to happen with the radio, you’ve not been reading fiction longenough! Of course, what appears on the radio isn’t anything simply like a ‘hello!’ – it’s a strange string that repeats itself regularly. Could it be a code? Could it be a distress signal of some kind? Justin Cronin is an absolute master of telling us ‘I’ve place a ticking time bomb over here – it will go of…. soon(ish)”. In fact, I’d say this is one of the most important parts of The Passage. It is a huge book, but it never feels that long because we are always reading with the desire (need?) to know what happens when the bomb goes off.
Remember my discussion earlier of trope characters? We had Cinderella in Sara, King Arthur (prior to pulling the sword from the stone) in Michael, Gandalf/Dumbledore in Elton…. Well, now we have an oracle in the character known as Auntie (the tea should have been a giveaway – tealeaves being the instrument of choice of oracles). Whereas Auntie’s power seems to be an understanding of the future (based on her connection with God and warning to Peter that she is coming), we know that she is hugely important to people of the past and present. Whereas Peter makes a point of saying that Auntie’s life is one without purpose, we know (due to the documents presented earlier in the novel) that her journals will be used for generations to come by those who survive.