The 5th Wave
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“I heard three shots. You said there were four guys.”
“That knife. This is his blood on my hands, not mine.”
“Oh, thanks.” I scrub my cheek where he touched me. I decide to just come out with the worst explanation for what’s going on. “You’re a Silencer, aren’t you?”
Silence. How ironic.
“Or are you human?” I whisper. Say human, Evan. And when you say it, say it perfectly so there’s no doubt. Please, Evan, I really need you to take the doubt away. I know you said you can’t make yourself trust—so, damn it, make somebody else trust. Make me trust. Say it. Say you’re human.
“Are you human?”
“Of course I’m human.”
I take a deep breath. He said it, but not perfectly. I can’t see his face; it’s tucked beneath his elbow. Maybe if I could see his face that would make it perfect and I could let this awful thought go. I pick up some sterile wipes and begin to clean his blood—or whoever’s—from my hands.
“If you’re human, why have you been lying to me?”
“I haven’t lied to you about everything.”
“Just the parts that matter.”
“Those are the parts I haven’t lied about.”
“Did you kill those three people on the interstate?”
I flinch. I didn’t expect him to say yes. I expected an Are you kidding? Stop being so paranoid. Instead I get a soft, simple answer, as if I asked him if he ever skinny-dipped.
Next question is the hardest yet: “Did you shoot me in the leg?”
I shudder and drop the bloody wipe between my legs. “Why did you shoot me in the leg, Evan?”
“Because I couldn’t shoot you in the head.”
Well. There you have it.
I pull out the Luger and hold it in my lap. His head is about a foot from my knee. The one thing that puzzles me is the person with the gun is shaking like a leaf and the one at her mercy is perfectly calm.
“I’m going now,” I tell him. “I’m going to leave you to bleed to death the way you left me under that car.”
I wait for him to say something.
“You’re not leaving,” he points out.
“I’m waiting to hear what you have to say.”
“This is complicated.”
“No, Evan. Lies are complicated. The truth is simple. Why were you shooting people on the highway?”
“Because I was afraid.”
“Afraid of what?” I ask.
“Afraid they weren’t people.”
I sigh and fish out a bottle of water from my backpack, lean back against the fallen tree, and take a deep drink.
“You shot those people on the highway—and me, and God knows who else; I know you weren’t going out every night hunting animals—because you already knew about the 4th Wave. I’m your Crucifix Soldier.”
He nods into the crook of his elbow. Muffled voice: “If you want to put it that way.”
“If you wanted me dead, why did you pull me out of the snow instead of letting me freeze to death?”
“I didn’t want you dead.”
“After shooting me in the leg and leaving me to bleed to death under a car.”
“No, you were on your feet when I ran.”
“You ran? Why did you run?” I’m having trouble picturing it.
“I was afraid.”
“You shot those people because you were afraid. You shot me because you were afraid. You ran because you were afraid.”
“I might have some issues with fear.”
“Then you find me and bring me to the farmhouse, nurse me back to health, cook me a hamburger and wash my hair and teach me how to shoot and make out with me for the purpose of…what?”
He rolls his head around to look at me with one eye. “You know, Cassie, this is a little unfair of you.”
My mouth drops open. “Unfair of me?”
“Grilling me while I’m shot up with shrapnel.”
“That isn’t my fault,” I snap. “You’re the one who insisted on coming.” A thrill of fear rockets down my spine. “Why did you come, Evan? Is this some kind of trick? Are you using me for something?”
“Rescuing Sammy was your idea,” he points out. “I tried to talk you out of it. I even offered to go myself.”
He’s shivering. He’s naked and it’s forty degrees. I drape his jacket over his back and cover the rest of him the best I can with his denim shirt.
“I’m sorry, Cassie.”
“For which part?”
“All the parts.” His words are slurring: the pain pills kicking in.
I’m gripping the gun hard now with both hands. Shaking like him, but not from the cold.
“Evan, I killed that soldier because I didn’t have a choice—I didn’t go looking for people to kill every day. I didn’t hide in the woods by the side of the road and take out every person who came along because they might be one of them.” I’m nodding to myself. It really is simple. “You can’t be who you say you are because who you say you are could not have done what you did!”
I don’t care about anything but the truth now. And not being an idiot. And not feeling anything for him, because feeling something for him will make what I have to do that much harder, maybe impossible, and if I want to save my brother, nothing can be impossible.
“What’s next?” I say.
“In the morning, we’ll have to get the shrapnel out.”
“I mean after this wave. Or are you the last wave, Evan?”
He’s looking up at me with that one exposed eye and wiggling his head back and forth. “I don’t know how I can convince you—”
I press the muzzle of the gun against his temple, right beside the big chocolaty eye staring up at me, and snarl, “1st Wave: lights out. 2nd Wave: surf’s up. 3rd Wave: pestilence. 4th Wave: Silencer. What’s next, Evan? What is the 5th Wave?”
He doesn’t answer. He’s passed out.
AT DAWN he’s still out cold, so I grab my rifle and hike out of the woods to assess his handiwork. Probably not the smartest thing to do. What if our midnight raiders called for backup? I’d be the prize in a turkey shoot. I’m not a bad shot, but I’m no Evan Walker.
Well, even Evan Walker is no Evan Walker.
I don’t know what he is. He says he’s human, and he looks like a human, talks like a human, bleeds like a human and, okay, kisses like a human. And a rose by any other name, blah, blah, blah. He says the right things, too, like the reason he was sniping people is the same reason I shot the Crucifix Soldier.
The problem is, I don’t buy it. And now I can’t decide which is better, a dead Evan or a live Evan. Dead Evan can’t help me keep my promise. Live Evan can.
Why did he shoot me, then save me? What did he mean when he said that I’d saved him?
It’s weird. When he held me in his arms, I felt safe. When he kissed me, I was lost in him. It’s like there are two Evans. There is the Evan I know and the Evan I don’t. Evan the farm boy with the soft hands who strokes me till I’m purring like a cat. Evan the pretender who is the cold-blooded killer who shot me.
I’m going to assume he’s human—at least biologically. Maybe he’s a clone grown on board the mothership from harvested DNA. Or maybe something less Star Warsy and more despicable: a traitor to his species. Maybe that’s what the Silencers are: human mercenaries.
The Others are giving him something to kill us. Or they threatened him—like kidnapping someone he loves (Lauren? I never actually saw her grave) and offering him a deal. Kill twenty humans and you get them back.
The last possibility? That he is what he says he is. Alone, scared, killing before someone can kill him, a firm adherent to the first rule, until he broke it by letting me go and then bringing me back.
It explains what happened as well as the first two possibilities. Everything fits. It could be the truth. Except for one niggling little problem.
That’s why I don’t leave him in the woods. I want to see what he did for myself.
Since Camp Ashpit is now more featureless than a salt flat, I have no trouble finding Evan’s kills. One by the lip of the ravine. Two more side by side a few hundred yards away. All three head shots. In the dark. While they were shooting at him. The last one is lying near where the barracks used to be, maybe even the exact spot where Vosch murdered my father.
None of them are older than fourteen. All of them are wearing these weird silver eye patches. Some kind of night vision technology? If so, it makes Evan’s accomplishment all the more impressive, in a sickening sort of way.
Evan’s awake when I get back. Sitting up against the fallen tree. Pale, shivering, eyes sunk back in his head.
“They were kids,” I tell him. “They were just kids.”
I kick my way into the dead brush behind him and empty out my stomach.
Then I feel better.
I go back to him. I’ve decided not to kill him. Yet. He’s still worth more to me alive. If he is a Silencer, he may know what happened to my brother. So I grab the first aid kit and kneel between his spread legs.
“Okay, time to operate.”
I find a pack of sterile wipes in the kit. Silently, he watches me clean his victim’s blood off the knife.
I swallow hard, tasting the fresh vomit. “I’ve never done this before,” I say. Kind of obvious thing to say, but it feels like I’m talking to a stranger.
He nods, rolls onto his stomach. I pull the shirt away, exposing his bottom half.
I’ve never seen a naked guy before. Now here I am kneeling between his legs, though I can’t see his total nakedness. Just the back half. Strange, I never thought my first time with a naked guy would be like this. Well, I guess that isn’t so strange.
“You want another pain pill?” I ask. “It’s cold and my hands are shaking…”
“No pill,” he grunts, face tucked into the crook of his arm.
I work slowly at first, gingerly poking into the wounds with the tip of the knife, but I quickly learn that isn’t the best way to dig metal out of human—or maybe nonhuman—flesh: You just prolong the agony.
His butt takes the longest. Not because I’m lingering. There’s just so much shrapnel. He doesn’t squirm. He barely flinches. Sometimes he goes, “Oooh!” Sometimes he sighs.
I lift the jacket off his back. Not too many wounds here, and mostly concentrated along the lower part. Stiff fingers, sore wrists, I force myself to be quick—quick but careful.
“Hang in there,” I murmur. “Almost done.”
“We don’t have enough bandages.”
“Just get the worst.”
“There’s some penicillin tablets in the kit.”
He rolls back over as I dig out the pills. He takes two with a sip of water. I sit back, sweating, though it isn’t much above freezing.