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“You’re not safe! Leave!” I began waving my arms in a swooping, visually arresting semaphore that would hopefully not only hold their attention, but make it easier for me to spread my pheromone trails. The motion of the boat was also helping: it would blow the air past me, carrying the command I was trying to convey to the waiting crowd. “You have to leave! Go!”

“Now I know the girl’s gone loony,” said Dr. Banks, sounding more disgusted than anything else. “You can’t tell a worm what to do. You can just hope the worm doesn’t eat you up in the process of going about its wormy business.”

“It’s working.” Nathan sounded awed. I followed his gaze, still waving, still trying to get my pheromones into the air. Some of the sleepwalkers were backing away from the boat, pushing their way through the crush of the crowd as they moved back to open ground. Still more were pulling away from the edges of the mob, beginning to slouch away, heading for the exit. “My God, Sal, it’s working.”

“Not on all of them,” I said, and waved harder. “Go! Go on! Shoo!”

Sudden light flooded the deck as we passed out from under the shaded part of the ferry launch. The dock still continued, and too many sleepwalkers were shambling along it, smashing their hands against the hull. Maybe one in five had listened to my desperate command that they withdraw… but one in five was better than none. Those were the ones who might be most equipped to learn how to subdue their violent urges.

The ferry began to pull away from the dock. Sleepwalkers toppled forward, falling into the water with a series of small splashes. Some of them clawed at the boat as they fell, trying to stabilize themselves, and still the others pushed their way forward, sending even more sleepwalkers to their deaths. The boat continued inexorably on, sucking sleepwalkers under in its wake. I made a small whimpering noise, clapping my hand over my mouth to keep myself from screaming, but I didn’t look away. We had done this, with our maddened race through the city to the waterfront. We were the reason these people were drowning. The fact that we hadn’t asked them to come didn’t make any difference. I owed it to them not to look away.

Nathan’s hand settled on my shoulder, reassuringly warm and steady. I leaned against him, and together the two of us watched the sleepwalkers fall, until the end of the dock appeared and we sailed onward, out of the darkness and into the uncertainty of the light.

Everything is ready. I hold in my hand the end of mankind, and the beginning of a new, glorious era. It seems only fair, really: we made them, selecting for the strongest through millennia of predation, and when they were finally free of us, they turned those brilliant minds that we had helped them to develop on the task of making us better. Humanity did for the parasite what the parasite had once done for humanity, and now, at long last, it is time for the circle to close. It is time for us to take our rightful places in the sun, and never go back down into the dark again.

Without the parasite, humanity would never have left the trees. Without humanity, the parasite would never have left the gut.

There’s a beautiful symmetry to it, I think, and as he who has the power makes the rules, what I think is now and forever the only thing that matters.


Mom thinks I don’t remember Sherman, because I was so young when she was teaching him how to be a people, but I do.

Mom thinks I don’t miss him, either, but I do that too; I miss him all the time, the same way I miss everyone who has to leave us. We’re supposed to be a family. That means we’re supposed to stay together, no matter what. If we always stayed together, so many of the bad things that have happened to us would never have happened. Tansy wouldn’t have gotten lost. Sal wouldn’t have had to be so scared of herself for so long. Mom wouldn’t have missed Nathan, and Nathan wouldn’t look at me like I was trying to steal his mother away from him. It would all be so much easier if we just stayed together.

Mom thinks she can tell me that everything’s okay, that Sal and Nathan are okay, and that it doesn’t matter that they’ve gone back to SymboGen with the bad man who made Mom make us in the first place. She thinks she can say those things and I’ll just believe her, because I’m her good boy, and believing their mothers is what good boys do. I wish I could believe her. It would be so much easier, if I could.

I’m scared.


Chapter 18


The air was thick with sea spray, making it almost like we were sailing through a salty mist, even though the water was open on all sides. It had been long enough since the crisis began that any ships that had capsized out here had been given plenty of time to either fully sink or simply wash away with the tide, leaving us with few obstacles as we cut a course straight toward the distant spires of San Francisco. We were all going to be soaked before we made it back to land. Somehow, that didn’t seem to matter very much.

After the excitement of getting through Vallejo, riding the ferry into the choppy waters of San Francisco Bay managed to seem almost peaceful, like it was the least of all the available evils. Sure, we were bouncing from wave to wave, sometimes with a force that made my teeth rattle in my head, but we weren’t being chased by anything. That alone was enough to let me sit down on one of the hard plastic benches, slumping forward until my forehead rested against my knees, and breathe. Beverly curled at my feet, her head on her forepaws and her tail occasionally thumping against the deck. It was a small, comforting metronome, almost as regular as the drumbeats in my head, and it made it even easier for me to relax.