Home > The City of Mirrors (The Passage #3)(16)

The City of Mirrors (The Passage #3)(16)
Justin Cronin

His thoughts went, as they often did, to the last time he’d seen Alicia—the last time anyone had, as far as he knew. Why had she chosen him? She had come to him in the hospital, on the morning before Sara and the others had left the Homeland to return to Kerrville. Michael wasn’t sure what time it was; he was asleep and awoke to see her sitting by his bed. She had this…look on her face. He sensed that she’d been sitting there for some time, watching him as he slept.

—Lish?

She smiled.

—Hey, Michael.

That was it, for at least another thirty seconds. No How are you feeling? or You look kind of ridiculous in that cast, Circuit, or any of the thousand little barbs that the two of them had fired at each other since they were little kids.

—Can you do something for me? A favor.

—Okay.

But the thought went unfinished. Alicia looked away, then back again.

—We’ve been friends a long time, haven’t we?

—Sure, he said. Absolutely we have.

—You know, you were always so damn smart. Do you remember…now, when was this? I don’t know, we were just a couple of kids. I think Peter might have been there, Sara, too. We all snuck up to the Wall one night, and you gave this speech, an actual speech, I swear to God, about how the lights worked, the turbines and the batteries and all the rest of it. You know, up until then, I thought that they just came on by themselves? Seriously. God, I felt so dumb.

He shrugged, embarrassed.

—I was kind of a showoff, I guess.

—Oh, don’t apologize. I thought it right then: That kid’s really got something. Someday, when we need him, he’s going to save our sorry asses.

Michael hadn’t known what to say. Never had he seen anyone who looked so lost, so weighed down by life.

—What did you want to ask me, Lish?

—Ask you?

—You said you needed a favor.

She frowned, as if the question didn’t quite make sense to her.

—I guess I did, didn’t I?

—Lish, are you okay?

She rose from her chair. Michael was about to say something else, he wasn’t sure what, when she leaned forward, brushed his hair aside, and, amazing him utterly, kissed him on the forehead.

—Take care of yourself, Michael. Will you do that for me? They’re going to need you around this place.

—Why? Are you going somewhere?

—Just promise me.

And there it was: the moment when he’d failed her. Three years later and still he was reliving it over and over, like a hiccup in time. The moment when she told him she was leaving for good, and the one thing he could have said to keep her there. Somebody loves you, Lish. I love you. Me, Michael. I love you and I’ve never stopped and never ever will. But the words got tangled up somewhere between his mouth and his brain, and the moment slipped away.

—Okay.

—Okay, she said. And then was gone.

But the storm, on the morning of his forty-second day at sea: lost in these thoughts, Michael had let his attention drift—had noted, but failed to fully process, the sea’s growing hostility, the absolute blackness of the sky, the accumulating fury of the wind. Too quickly it arrived with an earsplitting blast of thunder and a massive, rain-saturated gust that slapped the boat like a giant hand, heeling it hard. Whoa, thought Michael, scrambling up the transom. What the holy fuck. The moment had passed to reef the sail; the only thing to do was take the squall head-on. He tightened the mainsheet and steered his boat close to the wind. Water was pouring in—foaming over the bow, dumping from the heavens in sheets. The air was lit with voltage. He locked the main in his teeth, pulled it as tight as it could go, and snapped it down in the block.

All right, he thought. At least you let me take a piss first. Let’s see what you’ve got, you bastard.

Into the storm he went.

Six hours later he emerged, his heart soaring with victory. The squall had blown through, carving a pocket of blue air behind it. He had no idea where he was; he had been thrown far off course. The only thing to do was head due west and see where he made landfall.

Two hours later, a long gray line of sand appeared. He approached it on a rising tide. Galveston Island: he could tell from the wreckage of the old seawall. The sun was high, the winds fair. Should he turn south for Freeport—home, dinner, a real bed, and all the rest—or something else? But the events of the morning made this prospect seem depressingly tame, a too-meager conclusion to the day.

He decided to scout the Houston Ship Channel. He could anchor for the night there, then proceed to Freeport in the morning. He examined his chart. A narrow wedge of water separated the north end of the island from the Bolivar Peninsula; on the far side lay Galveston Bay, a roughly circular basin, twenty miles wide, leading at its northeastern edge to a deep estuary, lined with the wreckage of shipyards and chemical plants.

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