Home > The City of Mirrors (The Passage #3)(13)

The City of Mirrors (The Passage #3)(13)
Justin Cronin

“Holy damn, Greer,” he said, “you look like shit on a biscuit. What does a man have to do to get a little hospitality around this place?”

Lucius got the bottle. At first it wasn’t quite clear what Michael wanted. He seemed changed to Lucius, a little at loose ends, a bit sunk down into himself. One thing Michael had never been was quiet. Ideas and theories and various campaigns, however cockeyed and half-baked, shot from the man like bullets. The intensity was still there—you could practically warm your hands on the man’s skull—but it had a darker quality, the feel of something caged, as if Michael were chewing on something he didn’t have words for.

Lucius had heard that Michael had quit the refinery, split from Lore, built some kind of boat and spent most of his time on it, sailing out alone into the Gulf. What the man was looking for in all that empty ocean, he never got around to saying, and Lucius didn’t press; how would he have explained his own hermitic existence? But over the course of the evening they passed together, getting drunker and drunker on a bottle of Dunk’s Special Recipe No. 3—Lucius wasn’t much of a drinker these days, though the stuff came in handy as a solvent—he came to think that Michael didn’t really have a reason for appearing at his doorstep beyond the basic human urge to be around another person. Both of them were doing their time in the wilderness, after all, and maybe what Michael really wanted, when you boiled away the bullshit, was a few hours in the company of someone who understood what he was going through—this profound impulse to be alone just when all of them should have been dancing for joy and having babies and generally celebrating a world where death didn’t reach down from the trees and snatch you just for the hell of it.

For a while they caught up on news of the others: Sara’s job at the hospital and her and Hollis’s long-awaited move out of the refugee camps into permanent housing; Lore’s promotion to crew chief at the refinery; Peter’s resignation from the Expeditionary to stay home with Caleb; Eustace’s decision, which surprised no one, to resign from the Expeditionary and return with Nina to Iowa. A tone of optimistic good cheer glazed the surface of the conversation, but it only went so deep, and Lucius wasn’t fooled; always lurking beneath the surface were the names they weren’t saying.

Lucius had told nobody about Amy—only he knew the truth. On the matter of Alicia’s fate, Lucius had nothing to offer. Nor, apparently, did anybody else; the woman had vanished into the great Iowa emptiness. At the time, Lucius had been unconcerned—Alicia was like a comet, given to long, unannounced absences and blazing, unanticipated returns—but as the days went by with no sign of her, Michael trapped in his bed with his casted leg in a sling, Lucius watched the fact of her disappearance burning in his friend’s eyes like a long fuse looking for a bomb. You don’t get it, he told Lucius, practically levitating off his bed with frustration. This isn’t like the other times. Lucius didn’t bother to contradict him—the woman needed absolutely nobody—nor did he try to stop Michael when, twelve hours after the cast came off, the man saddled up and rode into a snowstorm to look for her—a highly questionable move, considering how much time had passed, and the fact that he could barely walk. But Michael was Michael: you didn’t tell the man no, and there was something oddly personal about the whole thing, as if Alicia’s leaving was a message just for him. He returned five days later, half-frozen, having run a one-hundred-mile perimeter, and said no more about it, not that day or all the days after; he’d never even said her name.

They had all loved her, but there existed a kind of person, Lucius knew, whose heart was unknowable, who was born to stand apart. Alicia had stepped into the ether, and with three years gone by, the question in Lucius’s mind wasn’t what had become of her but if she’d really been there in the first place.

It was well past midnight, after the last glasses had been poured and tossed back, when Michael finally raised the subject that, in hindsight, had been plaguing him all night.

“Do you really think they’re gone? The dracs, I mean.”

“Why would you ask that?”

Michael cocked an eyebrow. “Well, do you?”

Lucius framed his answer carefully. “You were there—you saw what happened. Kill the Twelve and you kill the rest. If I’m not mistaken, that was your idea. It’s a little late to change your mind.”

Michael glanced away and said nothing. Had the answer satisfied him?

“You should come sailing with me sometime,” he said finally, brightening somewhat. “You’d really like it. It’s a big wide world out there. Like nothing you’ve ever seen.”

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