Home > The City of Mirrors (The Passage #3)(9)

The City of Mirrors (The Passage #3)(9)
Justin Cronin

What were these dreams? Where did they come from? Were they the product of his own mind, or was it possible that they derived from an outside source—even from Amy herself? Peter had told no one about the first night of the evacuation from Iowa when Amy had come to him. His reasons were many, but most of all he couldn’t be sure the whole thing had actually happened. He had entered the moment from deep sleep, Sara and Hollis’s daughter out cold on his lap, the two of them bundled up in the Iowa cold beneath a sky so drunk with stars he had felt himself to be floating among them, and there she was. They had not spoken, but they didn’t need to. The touch of their hands was enough. The moment had lasted forever and was over in a flash; the next thing Peter knew, Amy was gone.

Had he dreamed that, too? The evidence said so. Everyone believed that Amy had died in the stadium, killed in the blast that had killed the Twelve. No trace of her had been found. And yet the moment had felt so real. Sometimes he was convinced that Amy was still out there; then the doubts would creep in. In the end, he kept these questions to himself.

He stood awhile, watching the sun spread its light over the Texas hills. Below him, the face of the impoundment was as still and reflective as a mirror. Peter would have liked a swim to shake off his hangover, but he needed to fetch Caleb and take him to school before reporting to the jobsite. He wasn’t much of a carpenter—he’d really only ever learned to do one thing, which was be a soldier—but the work was regular and kept him close to home, and with so much construction going on, the Housing Authority needed all the warm bodies they could get.

Kerrville was busting at the seams; fifty thousand souls had made the journey from Iowa, more than doubling the population in just a couple of years. Absorbing so many hadn’t been easy and still wasn’t. Kerrville had been built on the principle of zero population growth; couples weren’t allowed to have more than two children without paying a hefty fine. If one did not survive to adulthood, they could have a third, but only if the child died before the age of ten.

With the arrival of the Iowans, the whole concept had gone out the window. There had been food shortages, runs on fuel and medicine, sanitation problems—all the ills that went with too many people wedged into too little space, with more than enough resentment on both sides to go around. A hastily erected tent city had absorbed the first few waves, but as more arrived, this temporary encampment had quickly descended into squalor. While many of the Iowans, after a lifetime of enforced labor, had struggled to adjust to a life in which not every decision was made for them—a common expression was “lazy as a Homelander”—others had gone in the opposite direction: violating curfew, filling Dunk’s whorehouses and gambling halls, drinking and stealing and fighting and generally running amok. The only part of the population that seemed happy was the trade, which was making money hand over fist, operating a black market in everything from food to bandages to hammers.

People had begun to openly talk about moving outside the wall. Peter supposed this to be just a matter of time; without a single viral sighting in three years, drac or dopey, the pressure was mounting on the Civilian Authority to open the gate. Among the populace, the events in the stadium had become a thousand different legends, no two exactly the same, but even the most hard-core doubters had begun to accept the idea that the threat was really over. Peter, of all people, should have been the first to agree.

He turned to look out over the city. Nearly a hundred thousand souls: there was a time when this number would have knocked him flat. He had grown up in a town—a world—of fewer than a hundred people. At the gate, the transports had gathered to take workers down to the agricultural complex, chuffing diesel smoke into the morning air; from everywhere came the sounds and smells of life, the city rising, stretching its limbs. The problems were real but small when compared to the promise of the scene. The age of the viral was over; humankind was finally on the upswing. A continent stood for the taking, and Kerrville was the place where this new age would begin. So why did it seem so meager to him, so frail? Why, standing on the dam on an otherwise encouraging summer morning, did he feel this inward shiver of misgiving?

Well, thought Peter, so be it. If being a parent taught you one thing, it was that you could worry all you wanted, but it wouldn’t change a thing. He had a lunch to pack and “be good”s to say and a day of honest, simple work to wrestle to the ground, and twenty-four hours from now, he’d start it all over again. Thirty, he mused. Today, I turn thirty years old. If anyone had asked him a decade ago if he’d live to see it, let alone be raising a son, he would have thought they were crazy. So maybe that was all that really mattered. Maybe just being alive, and having someone to love who loved you back, was enough.

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