Well, here we are; finally officially into the second half of the book. It pains me how much there is left, but at least this chapter wasn’t that bad…probably because the focus was mostly on someone other than Wanda, so we didn’t have to deal with too much of her shit, and no alien stories! As before, I’ll take the minor wins when I can get them.
Once again, we start off just where the last chapter left off, with Wanda at Walter’s bedside, Walter having mistaken Wanda for his wife. It was pretty obvious to me that that’s who “Gladys” was in the last chapter, but Meyer explains it anyway, just in case any of her readers can’t put two and two together. Gladys apparently didn’t make it out of the invasion, so she’s probably a host now, so it kind of makes sense that Wanda is the one Walter mistook for Gladys, because despite that she looks nothing like her (she is briefly described later), she is the only alien there.
Walter talks to Wanda for a bit, continuing to think she is Gladys, and Wanda doesn’t know what to do or say, so she starts panicking. Ian motions for her to take Walter’s hand, since that will comfort him even if she can’t say anything, so she does so. Meyer’s description of Walter’s frail hand here is actually quite good; my grandfather died of cancer, so I’ve done that handhold, and his hand really was just as Meyer described there. I’ll give her points for that. Sad points, but points nonetheless.
Walter keeps talking to “Gladys”, telling her about life in the cave and how much she’ll like it there, until he drifts off a bit. Ian and Wanda discuss how she’s not good at deception (-_-) and doesn’t want to upset him, but Ian says it’s okay because Walter is not lucid enough to care. He wipes Walter’s forehead as he talks, until Wanda takes the rag from him and begins to do it herself.
Doc wakes up and checks in on Walter, and in his conversation with Ian, Ian casually mentions Jared, which of course leads to a conversation between Wanda and Stryder about where Jared is. Wanda thinks he’s out looking for help for Walter and having some time to himself after what happened with her, and Stryder is worried he’s off convincing himself Wanda is a Seeker again.
Ian and Doc talk for a bit, discussing what happened to Wanda’s face and the questions that were asked about Healing during Wanda’s last teaching session, so Wanda apologizes for not having an interest in Healing and being careless about it, and they, of course, say she has no reason to be sorry.
Jamie goes to sleep on Doc’s cot during this conversation, so Doc decides it’s late and Ian, Jamie and Wanda should get some sleep. Wanda tries to let go of Walter’s hand, but he realizes she’s leaving and gets upset, so Wanda takes his hand again and says she’ll stay. Ian brings a cot over for her so she can lay on it and sleep while still holding Walter’s hand, then scoops Jamie up and carries him back to his room, because he’s apparently become a heavy sleeper again.
Doc goes to his desk and starts humming, which puts Wanda to sleep.
In the morning, Ian comes to take Wanda back to work, so Walter wakes up because Wanda lets go of his hand. This time, though, Walter recognizes her as who she is, not his wife, so Wanda holds his hand again, and Walter talks to her for a couple of minutes, until he’s in too much pain to. Doc gives him more alcohol, but it doesn’t seem to help much, and he ends up passing out from the pain. Doc and Wanda are both upset about their inability to help Walter, and Wanda feels guilty at the thought that the humans’ world doesn’t work the same as it used to because of the aliens, and because of that, Doc can’t do any more to help Walter’s suffering. This may turn her into a good person yet.
Ian and Wanda start to leave, but Walter wakes and once again mistakes Wanda for his wife, so Ian decides to leave by himself to get breakfast for Doc and Wanda. After half an hour, though, Ian still hasn’t returned, and Wanda and Doc hear a weird noise, and then hear running coming down the passageway toward them. I’ll give Meyer some credit here; I did feel a bit anxious reading this, wondering what happened, so this was not as poorly done as scenes like this have been in the past.
Doc jogs out to see who is running up and finds Brandt, who is looking frantically for Wanda. He barges into the room where Wanda is and sees her, so Doc stops him and asks what he’s doing. The weird sound comes back again, and Doc asks if it’s a helicopter, which it can’t be, because the aliens use their own ships, not human technology…unless they for some reason created their own version of a helicopter that sounds exactly like ours do.
But of course it is a helicopter, Brandt confirms, carrying Wanda’s Seeker that Kyle recognized from before when she was looking for Wanda. So…is the Seeker just using a helicopter because none of her own kind are on her side about finding Wanda, so she can’t use one of their ships? Would she even be able to use a helicopter if her host had no previous history with them, which I doubt it would have? Especially if they don’t use them anymore…would one even be available to her? Or is this just another time Meyer didn’t think about what she was saying, and made the aliens have special ships in place of all their aircraft except for helicopters? Who is to know?!
Anyway, Wanda panics about the fact that the Seeker is back, and she and Stryder start talking about how they can’t let the Seeker hurt anyone, but they don’t know how to stop her, and how it’s all their fault this is happening at all.
Doc asks if the helicopter is looking where they are, and Brandt says it’s just running sweeps, and again mentions “where we dumped the car” which I still don’t get, since I still don’t see why they’d have bothered moving the car when it was so far from their cave, or how they ever found it at all for the same reason.
Doc is concerned about Sharon, but Brandt says everyone is fine, though they’re packing in case they have to leave. Jeb doesn’t think that’s likely, though, so that’s a good sign. Doc is relieved because in that case, it’s not really anything new, and Brandt agrees, saying they just have to lay low for a bit. He then asks if Doc has any rope, and reveals that Kyle sent him to ‘secure’ Wanda.
Wanda accidently hurts Walter’s hand by squeezing too hard when she hears this, and Doc is displeased with the idea of securing her, so Brandt explains that it’s because Doc has big vents and reflective metal in the hospital that Wanda could use to flash signals to the Seeker when Doc wasn’t looking. Wanda makes a shocked noise, which Brandt hears and mistakes as confirmation that he guessed correctly what her plan was, which makes Wanda wish she could hide, because she’s so sick at the idea that she might guide the Seeker in to kill the people she cares about.
Doc dismisses Brandt, saying he will keep an eye on Wanda, so Brandt questions what happened to everyone, saying they seem hypnotized by her. Doc tells him to get out, but Brandt doesn’t leave; he says he has a job to do, so Doc gets in his face and tells him he won’t be touching Wanda. Brandt grabs Doc’s chair and puts it against the wall, then sits down and watches Wanda intently.
Walter begins muttering to Wanda again, thinking she’s his wife, and Doc gives him more liquor, as they listen to the helicopter. Then there’s a section break, so Meyer can shift gears to basically summing up the day, which she does by saying the day was horrible, and the worst of her life on Earth, even including the day she almost died in the desert. Wow, that’s…hard to believe, but okay.
The helicopter keeps circling throughout the day, despite Wanda’s attempts to will the Seeker away, and Brandt keeps staring at Wanda, except at the times when Ian brings meals for them. Ian is apparently helping to pack for an evacuation, which Wanda wonders how they would accomplish, as do I, though I doubt we’ll get a chance to find out…and is very upset when he finds out why Brandt is there, so he brings another cot over so he can sit blocking Brandt’s view of Wanda.
But Wanda says that Brandt watching her and the helicopter circling are not why the day is so bad, though she admits that if they had been the only things going on, she may have thought them much worse. As it is, those things are overshadowed by Walter’s moans and screams of pain, because the alcohol runs out by noon, so there’s nothing to ease his pain anymore.
The only thing that seems to make Walter feel any better is holding Wanda’s hand, such that when she goes to use the bathroom one time he is screaming so badly by the time she gets back that it sounds ‘inhuman’. Doc is very upset by this, so Wanda talks calmingly to Walter, pretending to be his wife, and that relaxes his screams a bit. Brandt is bothered by her doing that, but Wanda no longer cares because she knows it’s best because it helps Walter, and nothing matters but that, even if it’s a lie. Good, she sees that lies can be useful and even kind sometimes now, and will hopefully stop claiming she’s not lying when she obviously is.
Jamie eventually shows up with food for everyone, but Wanda won’t let him stay, so she sends him with Ian to eat in the kitchen, and tells Ian to make sure he doesn’t sneak back down. She doesn’t want Jamie to have Walter’s screams burned into his memory the way she will, which is actually quite considerate if it’s true, and makes this a whole different Wanda than we’ve seen before.
Brandt tries to distract and distance himself from Walter’s agony, but Doc is there for every minute of it, and Wanda is amazed by the compassion she’s seeing in a human. Ummm, why? You’ve experienced compassion repeatedly since being in this body, and Stryder would have before you ever entered her body, so there would also be those memories of it…on top of that if your kind ever did study the humans at all, they’d know damn well the lengths of compassion that humans can reach. But maybe you all just ignored that part so you could justify taking over. That sounds about right.
Anyway, seeing this compassion in Doc finally makes Wanda realize that he couldn’t be the torturer she made him out to be, and she even actually realizes that no one ever made the claim that Doc was a torturer, so she just jumped to false conclusions in her terror! Holy fuck, she’s becoming self-aware! All it took was one man horribly, painfully dying for her to see the truth of the situation she’s in, and how she has negatively affected things! Could this book actually stop sucking now a little bit?!
Wanda decides that she can never mistrust Doc again after this, even if she will still always hate the hospital, and then we’re at nightfall and the helicopter has apparently left. They all sit in darkness for a few hours until they’re sure it’s safe and the hunt is over, and then Brandt finally leaves, taking the light with him so that Wanda can’t do anything bad with it (like alert the Seeker I guess, though I’d think the light would have to be pretty obvious for her to see it that easily, especially if she’s no longer in the helicopter).
Walter begs “Gladys” to make the pain stop, and keeps screaming and crying as Wanda wipes his face because she can do nothing else to help. Wanda mentions that Stryder is far away, leaving her alone in her head, which makes her feel lost instead of happy like she’d expected, but that makes sense given the situation she’s in and how little she can do. Company would be nice then, no matter who it was.
More time passes and it’s what I assume is dawn, and Wanda has yet to really sleep because of Walter’s moans and screams, though Doc is asleep. Jared apparently enters the room, but Wanda doesn’t notice, because she’s talking to Walter, trying to calm him. Jared watches her for a while, then finally speaks, attempting to wake Doc up.
Wanda jerks around quickly at the sound of his voice and her hand comes free of Walter’s, so Jared looks at her, but keeps trying to wake Doc, as Stryder comes to life in Wanda’s head. Walter starts screaming for his wife not to leave because of the loss of Wanda’s hand, and that wakes Doc and causes Wanda to spin back to Walter, give him back her hand, and try to calm him again.
Walter quiets, so Jared asks Doc what’s going on, and Doc tells him that Wanda is the best painkiller he’s been able to find for Walter. Jared tells him he’s found something better than “a tame Seeker”, which is a pretty shitty thing to say, and is continuing my dislike for Jared that I still find sad because I really wanted to like him, but meh, I guess I can see a bit where he’s coming from. Doesn’t make it any less of a jackass thing to say, though.
Stryder is very angry about how stupid and stubborn Jared is being, but Doc ignores Jared’s comment and instead focuses on the fact that Jared found something. Jared tells him that he found morphine, but not much, and that he’d have been there sooner if it weren’t for the Seeker.
Doc is excited about the morphine, so he immediately takes it out and administers some to Walter, which bothers Wanda because he does it with a needle and:
“It seemed so horribly invasive to stab something through his skin.”
…What? You’re making it sound like that’s not something your kind have ever done, but how the hell do you heal anything if you don’t do that? Even if I could buy that you heal in some completely non-invasive way, at the very beginning of the book it was made clear that insertions are done through a small incision in the neck of the host, hence why Jared’s self-made scar was such a big deal. The process of implanting a soul is specifically described, and the incision is made in that scene! Is that not invasive? Or is Meyer trying to be ironic, saying that seems invasive while ignoring the fact that Wanda has literally invaded Stryder’s body?
Regardless, the morphine works and Walter relaxes, so Wanda is finally able to have her hand back. Jared steps in, though, and tells Doc there isn’t enough morphine for “that”, which confuses Doc, because he doesn’t see why he shouldn’t use it when it’s needed. Jared clarifies that he meant that there’s only enough to stop the pain for three or four days, if Doc gives it to Walter in doses, and Doc realizes what Jared is saying – that the best use for the morphine is to euthanize Walter.
Doc starts to tear up as he realizes that’s the case, but Wanda still doesn’t understand that that’s what Jared means, so she continues to be confused as Jared and Doc talk about how Doc can’t save Walter, he can only save him pain. Wanda asks Stryder what’s going on, making a bitchy comment about Stryder as she asks her, just so that we know that she’s still got the same old Wanda in her somewhere, and Stryder clears it up by telling her they have enough morphine to give Walter an overdose.
Wanda gasps and starts crying, silently pleading for Walter not to die, which anyone would do in that circumstance, so it’s Stryder’s turn to be a bitch and snap at Wanda, asking if she’d rather Walter died screaming. Great, the chapter is ending with bitchiness after we made so much progress for a few pages there. *sigh*
Wanda tells Stryder she can’t stand the finality of the death, and the fact that she’ll never see her friend again, so Stryder continues to be bitchy in asking how many of her other friends she’s gone back to visit. Wanda says she’s never had friends like this before, and then talks about how her friends on other planets were all blurred together in her head, which I think may be because she previously said she never had any friends on other planets before, so she probably can’t remember the specifics of her previous friends because there WEREN’T ANY.
She says the difference between her previous friends and Walter is that the souls are all so similar while Walter is distinctly himself, and when he’s gone, there will be no other like him. Though I believe my last point about her having no friends still stands, I just want to point out that if what she says here is true, and the souls really are that similar, it must be incredibly fucking boring to live in their society. I can’t even imagine, and I don’t want to. I’d have turned traitor long ago. I guess that’s what makes Wanda unique; she has some semblance of a personality – even if it’s not a good one – while the others do not.
Wanda holds Walter’s head in her arms and cries, and Stryder finally shows her compassion for the fact that this is the first real death she’s had to deal with, before Doc begins speaking to Wanda, telling her he thinks she’s been there for too long and needs to take a break. Wanda shakes her head, but Doc persists, telling her to get cleaned up, take a walk and eat something, because she’s worn out.
Wanda asks if Walter will still be there when she gets back, and Doc asks if she wants that, which she says she does, because he’s her friend and she wants to say goodbye to him. Doc agrees, saying he’s in no rush, and tells her to go, which because Wanda believes he’s telling the truth, she agrees to do.
We are reminded again of Wanda’s love for Jared, in case we forgot, and how suspicious he is of her, but Wanda is tired of that suspicion, because she can’t see what he could possibly think she was trying to accomplish by caring about Walter, since he’s dying so she couldn’t “sucker” him like Jared and the others think she’s doing. I can see a few things Jared might think she’s doing, but they’re not overly important, so the chapter ends with Wanda finally breaking from Jared’s gaze and taking off down the corridor.
There was a lot less to complain about this chapter than there normally is, so this is basically just a quick summary of the events of the chapter…which, though slightly boring, is also kind of relieving. The blood pressure stayed down for the most part during this one, and I appreciate that. Let’s see what happens next chapter…
(See Mike’s take on this chapter at http://emptystress.wordpress.com!)