Sorry for the impromptu vacation everyone. November was a surprisingly rough month for me (nothing significant, just burnt myself out) and every time I opened the book to try and read this chapter I couldn’t focus long enough to finish a full paragraph. Not because it’s bad or depressing, my brain just didn’t want to think about it. Having said that, this chapter doesn’t make me even want to attempt to be funny, so let’s just get through this so I can go back to wanting to just curse at things again.
The chapter picks up immediately where it left off, and this is pretty much the only example I’ve come across so far in this book where that actually seemed appropriate. It left you with the heavy feeling of Walter’s faltering lucidity and a stark reminder that he’s not long for this world. But they start this chapter with exposition about who Gladys is (she’s his wife), which since it seemed pretty obvious to me, I found kind of killed the mood a bit.
Walter talks to her, chuckling at the irony of him having never taken a sick day in his life, and surviving invasion, only to end up with cancer. Wanderer has absolutely no idea what to do. Ian nudges her to move closer as Walter talks about how none of his relatives ever had it, and asks her if any of hers did. When she doesn’t respond he starts naming relatives and thinking to himself about whether or not they had it. He didn’t seem to mind that she wasn’t talking back, he was just happy that she was there.
Ian suggests she holds his hand so she does, and Meyer gives us a surprisingly good description of his thin and pale skin that effectively gets across the fragility of the poor dying man.
Walter’s skin was chalk white and translucent. I could see the faint pulse of blood in the blue veins on the back of his hand. I lifted his hand gingerly, worried about the slender bones that Jamie had said were so brittle. It felt too light, as if it were hollow.
Walter continues to talk to her as though she were his dead wife. He tells her how much she’ll like it here now that she finally found her way, and I wonder if she’s an infected and he feels she’s come to befriend them as Wanderer had. If he thought she were a ghost or angel, he would be more likely to say things that suggested they would live together again, not that he’s now leaving her right after she found him. Either way it’s effective, and pretty much all of Walter’s dialogue in this chapter manages to make me miss my grandparents. I’m not sure whether to be pleased that Meyer pulled this off so effectively or upset that she made me think about when my grandfather was dying and asking for my brother, who none of us were able to get a hold of.
I guess I’ll choose pleased for the lack of sucking, since this is the first time all book where I read the whole chapter without wanting to stab one of the characters in the face.
The volume of his voice sank until I couldn’t make out the words anymore, but his lips still shaped the words he wanted to share with his wife. His mouth kept moving, even when his eyes closed and his head lolled to the side.
I think Meyer should stop trying to write romance novels and just write depressing stories about established couples. The last chapter that had anything this emotionally effective was chapter 8. Melanie and Jared were past the initial get to know you phase and were already living together in those flash backs. There was some bad dialogue, but compared to the rest of this book it feels like this chapter and that one were written by a different author. In this chapter, most of the parts involving anyone but Walter and Doc are still comparably poorly written, but the parts about those two are quite well done. Maybe if she could just do a few books about something other than a young girl trying to get with a guy who’s mean to her she could actually be half decent.
“How is he?”
“Delusional,” Ian whispered. “Is that the brandy or the pain?”
“More the pain, I would think. I’d trade my right arm for some morphine.”
“Maybe Jared will produce another miracle,” Ian suggested.
“Maybe,” Doc sighed.
Because, remember, Jared is magic.
Not here, Melanie whispered.
Looking for help for Walter, I agreed.
Alone, she added.
Remember how earlier I said I get through this whole chapter without wanting to stab a character in the face? This section right here was almost enough to make that a lie. Almost. There is a man dying in front of you right now Melanie. Even if he’s not your friend, he’s still sitting there in front of your eyes, dying slowly and painfully in a literal hole in the ground. How massively self centered do you have to be to have your primary thought be for someone else who is likely perfectly fine? And that’s my problem before I even think about the awful wording.
They think about Jared some more and then Ian and Doc joke a bit about how they wish Melanie had been infested with a healer instead of… Wanderer. It is a lighthearted joke, I just feel like using it to point out that for all her lives, Wanderer seems to be entirely useless. She has zero practical skills. None. She has no survival instincts, no knowledge of medicine, no knowledge on how to locate food or water, and she doesn’t even seem to be a good story teller either, so while everyone in the book, alien and human alike, has told her how amazing she is, she’s really quite awful at everything.
I probably shouldn’t distract from the one decent chapter by hating on Wanderer some more, but thanks to being so far behind I’ve seen Llama’s reviews for the next couple of chapters. She’s horrible and useless, and there will be no point at all in this book where I don’t completely despise her, and I would be remiss if any of you got the impression that maybe she’s not so awful after all, just because she’s not as completely horrible in this specific chapter as she has been in the past.
It gets late and everyone wants to leave to get some sleep, but just as Wanderer is about to leave, Walter wakes back up and gets a little panicky that she’s leaving, so Ian sets her up a cot. She lays on it without letting go of his hand, and she falls asleep to the sound of Doc humming.
When she wakes back up, Ian comes to collect her to get some work done in the cornfield. Walter wakes up when she tries to leave again, because of course he does (this chapter is BETTER than other chapters. That doesn’t mean it’s GOOD.) He does that every single time she tries to leave in this chapter, without fail.
This time though when Walter stops her from leaving, he does actually know it’s Wanderer, not his wife. He says how hard it must be for poor Wanda because we haven’t been reminded yet this chapter how much of a martyr she is. Doc gives him some more alcohol to dull the pain and Walter returns to unconsciousness.
Wanderer asks if there’s anything she can do, and Doc says she can only do as much as he can, which is nothing. Doc is realistically upset at his impotence in this scenario and I can feel for the character. There’s not much harder than watching someone you care about suffer and being powerless to do a damn thing about it. Ian tries to assure him that it’s not his fault and no one expects him to do more than he is already, but I can safely say that wouldn’t be much of a comfort.
Ian tries once more to take Wanderer to breakfast, and once again Walter wakes up (less than 2 minutes since he last passed out. Like I said, this literally happens every single time she tries to move.) He panics that his wife is leaving so obviously Wanderer can’t go to the kitchen with Ian, so he goes without her. Because this story isn’t at all contrived to keep her where she’s most plot convenient at all, nope! I keep saying this chapter is actually decent, and it is. The strongest writing in this whole book so far is in this chapter. But my god there is still some frustratingly annoying writing short cuts.
Anyway, Ian leaves to go bring her back some food and there’s some time passage as Walter mutters his wife’s name and Wanderer waits. After a while she says she hears something that isn’t footsteps, but she doesn’t say what she thinks it is. Doc almost says what he thinks it is, but then it goes away so his line of dialogue just drifts off unfinished. They shortly thereafter hear running, and assuming it’s Ian, Doc jogs out to meet him for some reason that also turns out to be just plot convenient, because it’s not Ian.
Brandt, who was one of the guys away with Jared on the raid, demands to know where Wanderer is. The noise comes back, and Doc finally says it’s a helicopter. Apparently Brandt is there because Seeker is flying overhead in a helicopter looking for Wanderer and they think she’s going to use the mirrors to signal to her. She flinches at the theory because the idea of having to interact with Seeker again is horrific to her, but Brandt assumes (justifiably) that it’s because he guessed her plan. He wants to tie her up but Doc won’t let him, so instead he just sticks around and watches her.
Doc checks with him that Sharon is okay and wants to know if they have to evacuate. Brandt calms down and says that they should be fine as long as they’re careful, but everyone is packing for a quick escape just in case. Brandt asks why they all trust Wanderer so much, but Doc doesn’t answer. You would think he would at least try to explain that she’s been there for several weeks, helping them with farming and cooking and keeping them entertained, without hurting anyone or behaving suspiciously at all, so they have no reason to distrust her. You would think they would try to make the raiders understand that they aren’t just trusting her for the sake of trusting her, they’re doing so because she worked for it. It might not win them over, but they might at least be less aggressive about their distaste. But no one seems to be doing that. Whatever.
She spends a few paragraphs describing how the helicopter circled back and forth throughout the day, and Brandt was just sitting there, watching her the whole time. She says that they ran out of alcohol to keep Walter as out of it as possible, around lunch time. Somehow the frail man with bones so brittle they broke under his slim weight, manages to bruise her fingers with his grip. Not sure how he manages to do that, but I have lost all ability to expect realism from this book.
She does leave his side once to use the bathroom, and apparently without her there holding his hand he wails like a banshee the whole time she’s gone. Ian had come back around lunch and so he was there when she needed to use the washroom, and since Brandt insisted on following her, so did Ian. Not awkward at all, having two big guys follow the girl to the bathroom.
Jamie comes at supper, bringing everyone food, but Wanderer doesn’t let him stay because she doesn’t want him to have to live with the sound of Walter’s pained screams cemented in his head. I don’t particularly blame her for that. She sends Ian with him to make sure he doesn’t try and sneak back in.
Doc did not try to distance himself from Walter’s hideous suffering; instead, he suffered with him. Walter’s cries carved deep lines in Doc’s face, like claws raking his skin.
It was strange to see such depths of compassion in a human, particularly Doc.
She follows this up by saying something nice, but I just wanted to remind you that even in the horrors of watching someone die slowly and painfully because her people destroyed the meds that would allow him some peace, she’s still thinking in terms of ‘human beings are terrible, uncompassionate creatures who are full of nothing but negative emotions’. And I am just incredibly fucking sick of it. She experiences HUMAN emotions. She should KNOW that humans have strong senses of compassion!
I couldn’t look at him the same way after watching him live Walter’s pain. So great was his compassion, he seemed to bleed internally with it. As I watched, it became impossible to believe that Doc was a cruel person; the man simply could not be a torturer. I tried to remember what had been said to found my conjectures–had anyone made the accusation outright? I didn’t think so. I must have jumped to false conclusions in my terror.
This is the first (and probably last) time she admits she may have actually been wrong to assume something terrible about someone. She’s right, no one ever said he was a torturer. She just assumed it, and then kept assuming it for the next month or two or however long she’s been there, with absolutely no evidence to support it.
After nightfall, the helicopter sounds stop long enough that Brandt gives in to his desire to not listen to Walter’s screams anymore and he gets up and heads out, taking their lantern with him ‘just in case’. Walter wakes up again and begs her to make his pain stop, so Wanderer ignores Brandt as he leaves and pays attention to Walter instead.
Somehow Jared comes in without her hearing him. She never ever hears him coming. I assume Jared is a ninja. Or he managed to find the softest shoes on the planet.
She panics when he tries to wake up Doc, letting go of Walter’s hand. Melanie wakes up again of course, but since she let go of Walter, you should all know by now that that means he wakes up and starts panicking again. She goes back to him and assures him it’s fine, she’s not going anywhere.
Doc wakes up and Jared asks what the hell is going on. Doc tells him that she’s the best painkiller they have for him at the moment, and Jared says he found something better than a ‘tame seeker’. Which seems to suggest he still thinks she’s a seeker, but that he does believe she’s not going to hurt them. So I’m a little confused why he’d bother to say it that way at all.
Jared brought back morphine somehow (I thought they said it was all destroyed. So where the hell did he find it?) and Doc immediately gives some to Walter. But Jared tells him that there’s not enough to just manage Walter’s pain and let him die naturally, but there is enough to euthanize him. Not sure how Jared knows that either, since I’m pretty sure the average person would have no idea, a) how long it’ll take before Walter dies naturally, or b) how much morphine it takes to kill someone. Anyway, he puts it vaguer than I did so Wanderer doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
Melanie explains what they’re going to do, and Wanderer freaks out.
No, I thought, no. Not yet. No.
You’d rather he died screaming?
I just… I can’t stand the… finality. It’s so absolute. I’ll never see my friend again.
How many of your other friends have you gone back to visit, Wanderer?
I’ve never had friends like this before.
I understand being upset by this, but she can’t object to them relieving his pain simply because she’s upset at the idea of losing a friend. In this one instance she has my pity. It’s never easy having someone you care about die.
My friends on other planets were all blurred together in my head; the souls were so similar, almost interchangeable in some ways. Walter was distinctly himself. When he was gone, there would be no one who could fill his place.
So when are you going to finally come to the realization that destroying the unique consciousness of humans so the souls can live in their bodies is the same as losing Walter?
I know. Another first, Melanie whispered, and there was compassion in her tone. Compassion for me–that was a first, too.
Do I even have to say why this is stupid? How many times has Melanie helped Wanderer even though Wanderer was a bitch to her? How many times has Melanie been sympathetic to her even when in the same conversation Wanderer was saying how everything was Melanie’s fault?
Doc tries to get Wanderer to leave, but she gets angry and glares at him. She asks if she leaves will Walter still be there when she gets back. Doc asks if that’s what she wants, and she says she wants to be able to say goodbye to her friend. He tells her to get some air and he’ll be there when she gets back.
She takes a lingering glance at Jared, who’s again looking at her with distrust, which annoys her as much as it does me. Then the chapter ends with her leaving.
So finally done, only 2 weeks late. Sorry again about that, life just kind of got annoying. But I will get caught back up, I promise! And once I do I have a little fiction short piece to apologize for the backlog!
Till next time!