The man slapped the glass again, harder this time, like he was gaining confidence from the fact that we were still there. I moaned. “What are we supposed to do?” I asked. I knew that Nathan didn’t have any answers. That didn’t matter. What mattered was that there was nowhere left for us to go: we could stay in the car with a sleepwalker trying to methodically slap his way through the glass, or we could run for cover, and risk being taken down by the sleepwalkers who were still emerging, locustlike, from the shelter of the trees.
“I don’t know,” Nathan whispered. His eyes were on the sleepwalkers now working their way between the gridlocked cars, ignoring the man who was beating against the car. “How many of them are there?”
“I don’t know, but I’m scared.” The man slammed his hand against the window again, even harder than before. I jumped, pressing myself against Nathan. Then I frowned, glaring at the man outside the car. What gave him the right to come here and terrorize us like this? What gave any of them the right? If Dr. Cale was telling the truth about these people, and they were just the implants taking over their hosts, why did they need to come and threaten us like this? I pushed myself forward, slamming my own hands against the glass. “You go away!” I shouted. “Leave us alone!”
Much to my surprise, the man actually took a step backward, a flicker of what looked like surprise appearing in his otherwise empty eyes.
I slapped the glass again. “Yeah, that’s it! Go away! Go bother somebody else!”
“Sal, maybe you shouldn’t—”
The man lunged at the car again. This time, he actually looked angry, and his hands were balled into fists when he slammed them against the window. Something inside the frame that joined the window to the car made an ominous cracking sound. I shrank back against Nathan, who put his arms around me without hesitation.
“It was a good attempt,” he murmured. “I’m sorry I brought you out here.”
“I said I wanted the answers,” I replied, matching my tone to his. The sleepwalker was still punching the window, and I was suddenly unsure about how long it would hold… or how much it would hurt once he got inside. “I was the one who got offered the chance to go to the broken doors, remember?”
To my surprise, Nathan actually chuckled a little. It was a deeply resigned sound, but it was still a laugh. “She’s got us all doing it now.”
“Mom. She was always coming up with secret codes when I was little, and then she’d get me and Dad both using them like they were totally normal. Half the kids at school thought I was crazy. The other half just thought I had better cable channels.” He kissed the top of my head. “Love you, Sal.”
“Love you, too.” I settled more firmly against him, watching as the sleepwalker punched the window again and again. There was nowhere we could go. Cars surrounded us on all sides, and trying to run would just mean meeting the fates of the drivers who had already been dragged into the woods. We had no weapons. We had nothing we could use to defend ourselves.
We were going to die here. We finally had some of the answers that we’d been looking for, and we were going to die. The sound of drums was starting to echo in my ears again, but it was comforting this time, like it always was in my dreams. If I died, I would die to the sound of drums.
The sleepwalker punched the window again. This time, he was rewarded for his efforts with a horrible crunching noise, and a cobweb pattern of cracks appeared where his fist had hit. There was a smear of blood on the glass; he had managed to split the skin on his knuckles, if he hadn’t actually broken the bones inside his hand. I couldn’t feel too bad for him, given the circumstances. He pulled back to hit the glass—
—and stopped, looking almost perplexed as blood started running down his face from the hole in the middle of his forehead. Then he fell, dropping straight out of sight. I pushed away from Nathan, scrambling to look out my window. The sleepwalker was sprawled on the pavement outside the car with his eyes still open, clearly dead.
“Sal?” demanded Nathan. “What do you see?”
“Someone shot him.” I twisted around to blink at Nathan. “I’ve never seen someone get shot before. Are gunshots like lasers in space? There’s really no sound, so they add it for television?”
I knew that I was calmer than I should have been: someone had just shot the man who was trying to batter his way into Nathan’s car. At the same time, I couldn’t think of what else to do. The drums were still pounding in my ears, and I was relieved that the sleepwalker was dead. I was a little sorry for him, but really, he’d been dead from the moment that the implant decided to take him over. It was the implant that I’d just seen die, not the man, and the implant had been trying to kill us.
“I think this is what shock feels like,” I said, thoughtfully. “It’s a pity it didn’t kick in earlier. I think I would have been less afraid of dying if my whole body had been made of cotton balls and Novocain.” I turned away from Nathan again, looking at the bloody smears on the glass.
“Come away from there.” Nathan’s voice was low, almost cajoling. I blinked, twisting to look at him again, this time in surprise. I hadn’t even realized when I moved.
Something hit the top of the car. I jumped, making a sound that was somewhere between a squeak and a scream as I plastered myself against Nathan for the second time in almost as many minutes. He didn’t seem to mind. He put his arms around me, holding me fast; I could feel the shaking in his chest. He was as scared as I was.