Caleb looked tense as he tried to put his thoughts into words. Between the rollercoaster of symptoms and the headfuck of facing his own doom, it seemed cruel to make him answer these questions. Tam, Rand and Zelinski stood waiting for crumbs like journalists outside the home of a dead celebrity.
“There’s something I need to get to,” said Caleb. “It’s the end zone. And the source. It’s where I belong. It feels natural. And everyone’s involved. We’re all going to benefit once we find it.” He let out a deep breath, pursed his lips. Tam offered him a glass of water but he shook his head. Then he said, “Last time I sensed it, it was telling me to go that way.” He pointed the direction all undisturbed Wrecks were now headed. “Earlier it was… somewhere else. South, I think.”
Rand was gazing into Caleb’s eyes. They were muddy water, hard to read. “When did it change?” he said, almost too quietly.
“I think I first noticed it after we left the METMA Centre,” said Caleb. There was a strained silence. Nobody could think what to ask next. They were the shittiest detectives.
Then Zelinski’s eyes widened. “There was a massive group of Wrecks south of Rounlin at the same time as the Centre went on fire,” he said. “The military destroyed them all. If Wrecks can sense each other at a distance, that would explain it.”
“Great theory,” said Tam, “but how? How is he doing it?” Rand started to say something, but swallowed it. He nodded towards the kitchen and then walked away, with a casual air that was stupidly conspicuous. Zelinski followed.
Tam held Caleb’s hand. He seemed to feel nothing. So she took his face between her hands. He looked at her and puffed out a huge sigh. “There’s this girl I met at METMA,” she said. “She went kinda nuts. She stole our Honda, can you believe that? I’m sorry, I didn’t get around to telling you.”
Caleb seemed to look through her. After a pause he said, “I’ve killed people.” Tam’s mind and belly did synchronised backflips. A minute passed, filled with nothing but Zelinski’s mumbling and the whirl of tree branches in the wind outside. “I didn’t get around to telling you that,” he finished.
“Why?” said Tam.
“They were Infected. About to turn. If we didn’t do it then, we’d have been dealing with more Wrecks. But it shouldn’t have been me that did it. Should it?”
“Yes it should,” said Tam. Caleb raised one eyebrow. “Because you didn’t want to. If you did it, that means it was really necessary.”
Caleb smiled and Tam got the feeling that he knew what she was talking about—though she wasn’t too sure herself. It seemed like their last living moment together. He suddenly hit her with a piercing stare. “Do whatever you have to do,” he said. “Make your decisions and stick with them.”
Tam thought about Veronica, the girl in the Egg T-shirt. She did what she had to do. But she was wrong and ended up wasting time and hurting the wrong people. Tam couldn’t make any decisions. The only thing she wanted to do was what Caleb told her. There was a moment of self-pity, then a moment of clarity. Yes, it was pathetic. But also, she wanted to fulfil his final wishes. Actually that was the only thing she really gave a fuck about doing any more.
“What do you want?” she said. “Is there anything I can do for you?”
His face went through a few changes in expression, like badly-executed passport photos. Then he looked purposeful. “I’m dying,” he said. “I want to make that count for something. Can you help me do that?”
“Yes,” she said. The word made something concrete. She had sworn it. It felt good.
Zelinski tapped her on the shoulder. He ushered her into the kitchen. Caleb sagged on the couch as she walked away. His energy was fading.
Rand and Zelinski had come up with some theories about the movements of Wrecks. Something to do with population density. Tam wasn’t sure if she agreed with any of it. “There’s a lot more to do,” said Rand. “But we won’t do it without your co-operation. How much can you give us? The two of you? If you don’t agree, we go no further.”
“We’re going all the way,” said Tam. “If he goes to Hell, I’m going with him.”
Zelinski laughed and clapped his hands together with a sound like a firecracker. “I’m glad you said that,” he said, “because it’s not out of the question.”