Home > The City of Mirrors (The Passage #3)(12)

The City of Mirrors (The Passage #3)(12)
Justin Cronin

At the edge of the Orange Zone he abandoned the Humvee and made his way into the city on foot. There, in a dark room in H-town, among men he did not know and whose names were never offered, he sold three of the carbines from the hardbox to buy a horse and other supplies. By the time he arrived at his hut, night was falling. It stood modestly among the cottonwoods and swamp oaks at the edge of the river, just one room with a packed-dirt floor, yet the sight of it filled his heart with the warmth of return. How long had he been away? It seemed like years, whole decades of life, and yet it was just a matter of months. Time had come full circle; Lucius was home.

He unsaddled, tied up his horse, and entered the hut. A nest of fluff and twigs on the bed indicated where something had made its home in his absence, but the sparse interior was otherwise unaltered. He lit the lantern and sat at the table. At his feet was the duffel bag of supplies: the Remington, a box of cartridges, fresh socks, soap, a straight razor, matches, a hand mirror, a half dozen quill pens, three bottles of dewberry ink, and sheets of thick, fibrous paper. At the river he filled his washbasin, then returned to the house. The image in the mirror was neither more nor less shocking than he expected: cheeks cratered, eyes sunk way back in his skull, skin scorched and blistered, a tangle of madman’s hair. The lower half of his face was buried beneath a beard that a family of mice would gladly live in. He had just turned fifty-two; the man in the mirror was an easy sixty-five.

Well, he said to himself, if he was going to be a soldier again, even an old, broken-down one, he damn well ought to look the part. Lucius hacked away at the worst of his hair and beard, then used the straight razor and soap to shave himself clean. He tossed the soapy water out the door and returned to the table, where he’d laid out his paper and pens.

Lucius closed his eyes. The mental picture that had come to him that night in the gully wasn’t like the hallucinations that had dogged him during his sojourn in the desert. It was more like a memory of something lived. He brought its details into focus, his mind’s eye roaming its visual expanse. How could he ever hope to capture something so magnificent with his amateur’s hand? But he would have to try.

Lucius began to draw.

A rustling in the brush: Lucius drew the riflescope to his eye. There were four of them, rooting through the dirt, snuffling and grunting: three sows and a boar, reddish brown, with large, razor-sharp tusks. A hundred and fifty pounds of wild pig for the taking.

He fired.

While the sows scattered, the boar staggered forward, shuddered with a deep twitch, and went down on its front legs. Lucius held the image in his scope. Another twitch, deeper than the first, and the animal flopped on its side.

Lucius scrambled down the ladder and went to where the animal lay in the grass. He rolled the boar onto the tarp, dragged it to the tree line, looped the animal’s hind legs together, set the hook, and began to hoist him up. When the boar’s head reached the height of Lucius’s chest, he tied off the rope, positioned the basin beneath the hog, drew his knife, and slashed the animal’s throat.

A gush of hot blood splattered into the basin. The boar would produce as much as a gallon. When the boar had emptied out, Lucius funneled the blood into a plastic jug. With more time on his hands, he would have gutted and butchered the animal and smoked the meat for trade. But it was day fifty-eight, and Lucius needed to be on his way.

He lowered the corpse to the ground—at least the coyotes would get the benefit—and returned to the hut. He had to admit it: the place looked like a madman lived there. A little over two years since Lucius had first put pen to paper, and now the walls were covered with the fruits of his labor. He’d branched out from ink to charcoal, graphite pencil, even paint, which cost a bundle. Some were better than others—viewing them in chronological order, one could trace his slow, at times frustratingly inept self-education as an artist. But the best ones satisfyingly captured the image Lucius carted around in his head all day like the notes of a song he couldn’t shake except by singing.

Michael was the only person who’d seen the pictures. Lucius had kept his distance from everyone, but Michael had tracked him down through somebody on the trade, a friend of Lore’s. One evening over a year ago Lucius had returned from setting his traps to find an old pickup parked in his yard and Michael sitting on the open tailgate. Over the years Greer had known him, he had grown from a rather meek-looking boy to a well-made specimen of manhood in its prime: hard and sleek, with strong features and a certain severity around the eyes. The sort of companion you could count on in a bar fight that began with a punch to the nose and ended with running like hell.

Hot Novels
  • Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Chris
  • Fifty Shades Freed (Fifty Shades #3)
  • Never Too Far (Too Far Trilogy #2)
  • Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades #2)
  • Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine’s Peculi
  • Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1)
  • Fallen Too Far (Too Far Trilogy #1)
  • Forever Too Far (Too Far Trilogy #3)
  • Ugly Love
  • Allegiant (Divergent #3)
  • Hold on Tight (Sea Breeze #8)
  • Bared to You (Crossfire #1)
  • The Destiny of Violet & Luke (The Coinc
  • Captivated by You (Crossfire #4)
  • Uprooted