“Not yet…I’m losing too many people. I’m not ready to lose you.”
R is ready to give Julie the truth, but he has overlooked something: Julie isn’t ready to know. Julie is afraid. The dangers of honesty are higher than R knew. A wall of fear rises.
Theme for a man trapped in an old world.
Enslaved to his programming.
Cutting himself off from love to wander alone with his rightness.
“Welcome to the Midwaste,” Tomsen says, peering at me in the rear view mirror. “America’s biggest mystery hole. A thousand miles of haunted house. Dreams or nightmares, take your pick.”
Her heart can stretch to accommodate many jagged shapes, but how much can it fit? What would it take to exceed her capacity? To break her fierce grip on compassion?
An evening walk in the desert. An attempt to ease lightly into the truth. But the truth is heavy. It will not be lightened. R stands on the edge of a cliff.
Julie turns to face her, and Nora forces herself to meet her gaze. “Do you want to talk?”
Two old friends, sisters bonded by something deeper than blood. Roaming the grounds of the Fire Church compound, they retrace the hard road that brought them together. They share pain. They hold each other up.
“We bathe in God’s wrath every day,” he says, still projecting but softer now. “We are always braced and ready for it. Are you?”
Pastor Bark unleashes his most loyal congregation. Desperate, hungry, utterly lost and broken—ready to be controlled. R and Julie fight to protect each other, but they are surrounded by death…
The first time I met the plague, I embraced it with a tired sigh. This time I know what I’m losing.
A future dies in its chrysalis.
Julie’s mother emerges from her fog to reach out to her grieving daughter.
R exits the stage as the plague reclaims him. A hidden path through a dark forest. Bones in the mud. Sinking into the past.
“Good,” Perry says, and the chorus surges in around him, absorbing his voice into its vast and complex harmony. “Now you know what to do.”
In a shallow grave deep in the forest, I open my eyes. I dig my fingers into the mud. I climb out.
R emerges from his grave, his plague defeated—for now. He wanders the forest, searching for the woman he loves.
I see a startling joy spreading through her tears. “We deserve to live,” she tells me, and she waits. I feel wet warmth pooling in my eyes. Slowly, I nod. “We deserve to live.”
In a meadow full of daisies, Julie’s mother says goodbye.
Walls crumble. Petty obstacles dissolve. All that’s left is love, pulsing bright in a primal forest.
After thousands of miles of searching, R and Julie finally find each other.
The long-sleeping continent is in motion. Gael and Gebre sense it too…
Two husbands cruise the ruins of America in search of a lost child, and an unexpected picture emerges: a world in the throes of revolution. Axiom troops deserting their warlords. Youths escaping their fundamentalist compounds. And the uncertain Dead in abandoned cities everywhere—gathering, watching, waiting for a signal.
Axiom egressed from New York on the city’s dying breath. It floated across the country on a malign breeze. And now it’s here in the city I tried to call home, busily replicating in the cells of its new host.
Armed with nothing but hope and rage, R and Julie march into battle with a monster that’s grown huge. A city overrun by the plague in human form. Nightmarish facilities converting people into resources. A machine that silences the world so that one dark voice can speak. And a capitol dome full of buzzing bones—the leaders of the unfree world.
What secret do these people know? Is it too late for him to learn it?
A coda for Abram, a weary and wounded man. A final realization as his daughter kneels at his side, sending him onward with a smile. There is more light in the world than he ever let himself see.
“We are ready for a new world,” says the chorus of everyone, and I hear a new voice among them. Mine. And why should this be a shock? Why should tears spring from my eyes at the sound of my voice harmonizing with humanity?
“You deserve to be here,” my own voice tells me, and for the first time I can remember, there’s love in it.
The Library shakes. The boy shouts. The chorus shouts with him, and I join it.
As his life bleeds out of him, R drifts through the dark corners of his life, past his sins, past the faces of those who hurt him, and into the arms of those who love him. A wound heals. A decision is made. R opens his eyes to a changed world.
The Dead sweep in around them, outnumbering them on a scale so large it’s comical…an unarmed army asserting its will through sheer presence. A silent majority that’s finally making noise. What will it say when it finds words?
All across the city, ruins are being rebuilt. An old house—once a ghostly shelter on a soggy night long ago—is now full of life and laughing children.
A young girl makes plans while someone who loves her smiles from beyond.
An old woman takes her rest, joining her husband in the Library.
R and Julie cruise the highways of a world that’s waking up. As a cleansing rain begins to fall…a brief break from their labors to share a moment in an airplane. A beer and some fresh pad thai. A home.
Closing the book.
A story that’s just begun.