This is a chapter that we could really have done without, because we know the outcome of it before it even starts, but hey, it’s better than the last gigantic waste of pages, at least. Well, it’s shorter anyway; the writing is still pretty terrible, it’s actually really boring, and the only good thing about it is that Wanderer almost makes my dreams come true, but hey, I’ll take the little wins where I can get them.
The first few paragraphs of this chapter are an attempt at dramatic build-up before Meyer delivers the blow of what has gone horribly, horribly wrong for Wanderer/Stryder, but both before and after we find out what has happened, it doesn’t feel tense or even particularly interesting at any point. Well, not to me, at least; it just feels flat.
I feel like there should be a lot of anxiety in this chapter, even if just to give the readers the illusion that something bad is actually going to happen, but the chapter lacks that almost entirely. Meyer has her spurts, but then they quickly dry up, and she seems to explain that away as Wanderer/Stryder feeling ‘calm’ about what’s to happen. I don’t know; I just found that it made something that should have been impactful instead feel boring.
Anyway, it starts with Wanderer yelling at Stryder in disbelief/horror because (as we learn after a few paragraphs) it turns out they’ve been going the wrong way all along, somehow. Wanderer discovers this after Stryder gives her the last formation to find and they can’t find it, so she stops for a second to turn around and get the sun out of her eyes, and there it is, way off in the wrong direction. How they never noticed that before, I don’t know. Tunnel vision, perhaps? Extreme stupidity? Yeah, that’s probably the one.
The reason Wanderer is upset that they’ve found it is because it’s too far away for them to possibly reach it, considering Wanderer ate the last Twinkie the day before, and finished the last of the water the night before, so they’ll die before they get there. Yay! I mean…that’s horrible. How incredibly sad. Probably should have conserved your resources a little better there, eh, Wanderer? What a shame. If only someone had warned you.
I’m genuinely not sure why Wanderer would drink the last of the water after finding out what the last formation would be, when she hadn’t even seen it yet; I mean, I’m going to assume she needed it, but at the same time, Wanderer’s already proven she does what she wants when she wants, so that may not be the case. If it were me, I’d have held out as long as I possibly could before drinking it, to make sure that I was close enough to reach the place without needing any more water. Oh well, that probably wouldn’t have helped here anyway, I guess.
I’ll skip through all the description of Wanderer looking for the formation and her pain from all of the things, because that just leads to her seeing the formation in the wrong direction, and then me wondering why Wanderer keeps talking out loud when she is dehydrated and should probably conserve her saliva since the only person she’s talking to, she can do so just by thinking.
Stryder is both “unthinking” and “trying desperately to reject this new comprehension” at the same time, at this point, which must be a pretty hard thing to do, so more props to her. She becomes understandably upset and basically collapses, and they stay on the ground until lunchtime, at which point Wanderer pulls herself up and starts walking again…this time, in the direction of the formation instead of away from it.
Wanderer keeps talking out loud as she walks, because she doesn’t get the point I already made about how that’s a stupid idea if you’re dehydrated, but she’s getting a little bit hysterical at this point as well, so that might explain it. Well, not really, since she was doing it before this…but come on, I’m trying to give her something here.
Stryder tries to defend her uncle, whose plan they were following, taking responsibility for getting the information she had from him wrong, but Wanderer just laughs at her. Would you have expected anything different from our fearless leader?
Stryder gets afraid that maybe Jared and Jamie tried the same path and met the same fate, which shuts Wanderer up for a minute, and they look around for bodies, but find nothing. Stryder, receiving no comfort from Wanderer, attempts to comfort herself, saying that Jared is too smart to have been as unprepared as they were, so he must not be dead.
Wanderer cannot help but continue to be an incredibly huge fucking bitch, because anything else would be against her nature, so instead of just allowing Stryder her comfort, she goes on about how no one else in the whole universe could be as stupid (I have to assume she means as stupid as Stryder, not herself, because as we’ve seen, her taking responsibility for anything lasts about three seconds, despite that as we know, they’d likely be fine now if Wanderer hadn’t consumed EVERYTHING the first day). She follows that up with a nice, snarky “Wish you hadn’t” regarding her comment that Jared probably never figured out the lines, and I just want so badly to hit her because that is NOT productive right now, and as upset as she may be, she also made the decision to go out there (and, again, the decision to eat/drink everything despite warnings), and she knows how horrible Stryder is already feeling.
Wanderer keeps walking, thinking more emo thoughts about how there wouldn’t have been anyone waiting for them even if they had made it to their destination, and then starts talking out loud again like a moron about how they’re going to die. Wanderer and Stryder are both calm about this fact, as mentioned before, and Meyer explains this as:
“This, death, was easier to accept than that our efforts had been guided by insanity.”
I know that Meyer is the author here, and she can create whatever reasoning she wants for why her characters would be calm about the idea of dying, but I’m not sure that’s the explanation I would have used in this case. For one, knowing they were dying wouldn’t make them feel any better about believing their efforts were guided by insanity; the only thing that would make them feel better about that would be accepting another belief about their efforts…and on top of that, only Stryder should be able to ‘accept’ her death, because she was already resigned to it before she even got there. Wanderer would not be the same, and she’s proven that before.
In my mind, the only reason Wanderer would be ‘calm’ about dying would be if she was in the depression stage of the five stages of grief, and she wasn’t ‘accepting’ death, she was just depressed and resigned to it. There is a difference. Maybe that’s what Meyer was trying to get at, though, so meh, anyway…
Stryder says some tough words about why it doesn’t bother her to die, and though they’re a little less believable than I’d like, they do show the kind of pride she would have in that situation, for not giving away her brother or boyfriend and doing everything she could to keep her promises to them.
Wanderer gets emo again about why she’s dying, feeling there’s nothing honourable in her death, and asks if it’s because she “lost” (which again shows that she hasn’t accepted it). Stryder eventually answers that she hasn’t lost, but in fact has finally found the place and body she’d die for, and that she’s found her home (Earth). Stryder is so much nicer than Wanderer; she doesn’t even take the chance to be a bitch here, despite that the option is open to her, when Wanderer would definitely have taken the opportunity, and then some.
Wanderer wishes she could have spent more time on earth, and then goes about questioning to herself whether Stryder’s answer was actually to make her feel better or not, focusing on the fact that Stryder “won”, even though she didn’t flaunt that at all, and doesn’t even seem to feel that way. She is dying too, after all. I don’t think Wanderer knows how to act if someone isn’t being a bitch to her, which just reinforces that these aliens really must not be all that nice after all.
The strength Wanderer has to keep walking fades, but Stryder steps in and takes control, making their body push forward, and I still wonder how she couldn’t have done this before. She’s proven before that she’s stronger than Wanderer, so why couldn’t this have happened sooner?
Stryder keeps walking and Wanderer gives up control entirely, which gives Stryder one last feeling of bliss at being able to control her own body. As she walks, she asks Wanderer what she will see after they die, and Wanderer tells her that she will see nothing, because this is the final death…and now I’m just confused.
The souls apparently have no afterlife because they have so many lives while still alive, but then how do they leave a host body without skipping, which Wanderer claims to have never done? She says they die a little death every time they leave a host, but that would imply they must leave the host before it dies, or else a situation like this would only end up with Wanderer “dying a little death” and then moving on.
Maybe it’s just because there’s no Healer around to remove her soul from Stryder’s body and put it into another body, so her soul will dry up with the corpse or something, but…that still wouldn’t explain how they leave other hosts without it being skipping. Or if it’s always done like that, why would anyone care about skipping in the first place, because they’d inevitably do it anyway, just as part of their life cycle?
Anyway, Wanderer asks Stryder the same question about the afterlife, and Stryder answers:
“It seems like there are some things that can’t die.”
This is one of those cheesy lines they use in movies to make an impact that doesn’t really achieve the desired effect because it’s clichéd and, well, cheesy. She’s obviously referring to love here, but Meyer feels it necessary to point out that the faces of Jared and Jamie come to their mind, in case we forgot who “they” love. Yes, “they”; apparently Wanderer now actually loves them, based on Stryder’s memories alone. Again, she’s really good at picking and choosing what affects her in this body.
More emo stuff about love living on beyond death for Stryder but not for Wanderer, and Wanderer questioning if it would be a relief to be ‘free’ of the love or if it has become a part of who she is, and then a few hours pass and Stryder finally runs out of strength to keep the body going.
Wanderer ‘teases’ Stryder, which feels bitchy but apparently is not, and they struggle to get to the shade of a spindly dead tree before they collapse completely. They succeed, and then their head starts moving independent of their body, which is fucking freaky, especially just after the ‘cobwebby shadows’…but it’s okay, because they’ll be dead soon.
They stare at the dust for a while and then close their eyes, and Wanderer starts questioning Stryder on how long it takes to die of dehydration/starvation/exposure/etc., which, of course, Stryder has no answer to. Wanderer jokes about needing a coyote to kill them, and Stryder jokes back about an escaped claw beast. Thanks, Stryder, I’d actually forgotten that crap for a while there; glad you reminded me. It was super necessary that you mention that so you could have your ‘bonding moment’.
They go through a lot of pain as they die, which they apparently both feel despite all of Stryder’s previous comments to Wanderer that it was “her” back when she wanted to carry extra food, and the fact that Stryder didn’t seem to be affected by Wanderer’s hunger and thirst, and so on…and they wait for the end.
“While we were still lucid, we hummed ourselves a lullaby in our head. It was the one we’d used to comfort Jamie when the ground was too hard, or the air was too cold, or the fear was too great to sleep.”
…No. No, no, no, no, NO! “We” didn’t do any of this stuff! I don’t care how many memories Wanderer has experienced, or how realistic they may be and even feel, she knows DAMN WELL that she was never the one to hum Jamie a lullaby to help him get to sleep, and she has NO right to demean a memory of Stryder keeping Jamie SAFE from her kind by acting like she had a part in it. No fucking way. This is BEYOND wrong. Feel his body pressed against you, sure; that could be part of the vivid memory…but NO FUCKING WAY do you get to take credit for making that child feel better. Go to hell.
Sorry about that outburst; I know Meyer is trying to show how connected they are now, but it is just NOT okay.
Stryder and Wanderer start to feel like they’re being cradled against someone’s shoulder with a lullaby comforting them, and then it becomes dark, which makes them sad because nighttime is cooler and so it will take them longer to die. Makes sense; if you’re already dying and you know it’s inevitable, why would you want to prolong it?
Some more random thoughts, then they feel their body being dragged and assume they’re being eaten by coyotes, so they do nothing more than hope it will be quick. Instead, water is poured over their face, which they, of course, drink fervently until they’re full. They open their eyes and find a figure looming over them.
There’s some description here of what they hear as they lay there, and it’s actually not bad, and then light causes them to open their eyes. After a while, they’re able to make out the face before them, which is described in detail, even though Meyer states that they can only see hints of each feature (after just saying they could see only the beard, and the other details were filled in, which is not ‘each feature’). The explanation for this is that Stryder recognizes who it is from the hints, so she knows what he looks like without needing to clearly see every detail of him.
Is it Jared? Is it Jamie? Is it Sharon? No, that wouldn’t make sense; she’s supposed to be in Chicago, and probably doesn’t have a beard. Oh, it’s Uncle Jeb! The guy who gave them the wrong directions! Apparently he must have followed his own wrong directions to end up where they were and found them!
Or maybe he gave her the wrong directions on purpose so the aliens wouldn’t figure out where he was, despite knowing that he might end up killing her by doing so if he didn’t find her there before she died!
Either way, isn’t it just wonderful that he’s there now? A new character! One I’m not sure I’m going to like, because the first words he speaks are “Well, now, here’s a pickle“, and I hate that, but hey, maybe he’ll be okay!
The pickle bit is presumably referring to the fact that he’s seen their eyes now and knows they are an alien, if them using the term “us” to describe themselves in their first words to him wasn’t obvious enough, so…cliff-hanger! Will he kill them? Fuck no, because there are still 48 chapters left! UNIMPORTANT DRAMATIC TENSION!! See why we could have done without this chapter and just let them find Jeb outright?
Who believed they would actually die? Let’s take a poll! Or a pole. To the brain. Huzzah!
That’s it for the chapter and my sanity, so see you next time!
(See Mike’s take on this chapter at http://emptystress.wordpress.com!)