He does not resist as Bodie holds him down and Doc holds aloft the syringe.
She says something, barely audible. It’s a whisper, even to herself, and another part of her mind listens close to hear what the words are. It’s like a message coming from somewhere else, and she can’t make it out. She says it again, a little louder this time—but it still doesn’t register.
What’s that? Royal says. What you sayin?
She’s thinking of a thousand things—waterfalls and lighthouses and record players and men who travel with wonder and the deafening mumble of cicadas in the dry grass of the plains. She’s thinking of corpses piled high and all the dead things that still move and the hard rain that falls and drives the mud and waste into all the corners and seams of the world, and she’s thinking of airplanes and little boys and grown men with grit teeth and beards and others with soft moans that bleat on and on without cease unless you find the right song to sing and you fill the car with your voice so that he doesn’t have to hear his own loud crying.
He ain’t mine to save, she says.
What’s she say? Bodie asks. He and Doc are both looking at her now.
Do it, she says. I don’t care. He ain’t mine to save.
And she’s thinking of iron giants—tall iron men with hardhats, resting their hands on the tops of oil derricks, and she’s thinking of rage, like an ember or a burning acid swallowing up all her knotted viscera. Blindness like the kind that leads men to perpetrate horrors, animal drunkenness, the jungles of the mind.
She has been there before. She promised never to go there again. God heard the promise. He showed her the island and the vast sea and the peacefulness that was so pure and lonesome it was wider than anything.
He ain’t mine to save.
She says it loud this time.
He ain’t mine to save.
She says he ain’t hers to save, Royal says.
I heard her, Bodie says.
What’s she mean?
She means, Moses Todd explains quietly, survival ain’t a team sport.
But she hears none of this, because the rain in her ears is coming down too hard, and the iron man, symbol of progress and strength, is towering over her, and she is kneeling by the shape of a small boy, holding it to her. And what she is saying to this shape of a boy that is no longer a boy is this: Malcolm I’m sorry Malcolm Malcolm I’m sorry the planes are flying Malcolm I’m sorry Malcolm look at the giant Malcolm look at the planes I’m sorry Malcolm Malcolm don’t go away you can’t go away.
And she can’t hear anything in the room because the cacophony in her ears is too much, and her voice making the words:
He ain’t mine to save. He ain’t mine to save. He ain’t mine to save.
Royal jerks her neck around again and this time she sees something new in his face, panic distilled out of dead laughter. And she focuses on his gaping eye and thinks, Please, please, I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna, he ain’t mine, please don’t—but it’s too late, and before she knows it her right arm has shot up and the fingers of her hand have latched on behind the decaying skin of his ear and her thumb like a spike drives itself into that lidless exposed orb and it feels like a ripe peach, clear fluid trickling down her palm and her wrist, and then the blood starts coming.
But he is screaming now and lets loose of her hair and her left arm and covers the gory socket with both hands, his whole body careening backward against the cinder-block wall.
So loud in her head. The blood, when it flows, flows dense and diluvial over the earth—first red like tomatoes then brown like mud then black like char. So loud. She sees herself move, as if from a distance.
Her gurkha knife is on the other side of the room, and she topples the metal autopsy table, sending it crashing to the floor. Doc drops the syringe and backs away, but Bodie rises up to face her.
I’m gon swallow you whole, he says.
But she doesn’t slow down. Flinging herself against him, she rips at his face and strikes out with her fists everywhere at once. He’s huge, and hard like a tree stump, and he picks her up and flings her against the lab table, where she feels glass shattering all around her. The gurkha knife is out of reach, but she looks for something else and grabs the butcher knife they used in the operation, swinging it up just as Bodie descends upon her. It cuts him across the middle, and his shirt gapes open and she can see a surface of tiny bone plates grown over the muscles of his stomach.
He looks down and sees the blade did nothing to the skeletal shell of his midriff, and he grins at her, a deliberate murderous grin. He comes at her again, and she takes the handle of the butcher knife with both hands and braces herself, shoulders to knees, and thrusts the blade forward as he approaches—and this time it goes in up to the haft.
It misses the heart, but his eyes go wide and there is unleashed from his gullet a choking cough filled with whole marshlands of boiling blood. He halts, frozen in midstrike, his fingers and the corners of his mouth curling. She uses her weight and pushes downward on the handle of the knife as hard as she can, the ribs between which the blade is jammed acting as a fulcrum and driving the metal higher into his chest, ripping through lung and artery. He coughs again, this time vomiting a spray of blood and bile over her hair and face, and falls over sideways, dead.
Mama’s gon kill you, Mama’s gon kill you.
She looks up and Doc has her gurkha blade raised up, ready to strike her down. But he’s no fighter. He swings and misses, and she kicks the blade out of his hand and takes it herself and swipes him with a sideways blow that takes his left arm almost completely off. The limb dangles there by a thin string of muscle and tendon.
Another strike, and she’s aiming at his skull, but she misses and the blade lands to the left, between his neck and shoulder.
She wipes the blood from her eyes with the heel of her hand and wants to tell Doc to stop screaming, if he could just stop screaming so she could concentrate and do it quick, but her voice doesn’t work, her voice is somewhere else with that other part of her brain, and the flood in her head can’t be stopped.
She unjams the blade from his shoulder and swings it again, backhanded left to right, and it swipes clean through his skull just at the bridge of his nose. When he falls over a gray mess spills out of the overturned cup of his cranium.
Letting the gurkha knife fall clattering to the ground, she hears a whimpering behind her. It’s Royal, holding his eye and cursing softly at her.
Goddamn you, goddamn you, you ain’t got nobody.