Chapter 24: Xander
Ky paces as he, Xander, Cassia, and the Pilot wait for the villagers to arrive for them. They approach, led by a young woman named Leyna, who greets them. She says that the villagers are all Anomalies, and Cassia tells them they knew Hunter from the Carving. Cassia explains that she is a sorter, Xander a medic, and that Ky is sick. Leyna offers to have Ky carried, but he insists on continuing on his own.
They climb to Endstone, one of the stone villages. As they go, Leyna explains that all the villagers are immune to the original plague and mutation, though they don’t yet know why. She says that the residents of the many stone villages have all gathered in Endstone to help find a cure for the mutation. If they can, the Pilot promises to take them all to the Otherlands, where they wish to go most. She and Xander establish that they have the same goal: find the cure. Xander wonders if he’d still trade places with Ky to have Cassia’s love now that Ky is sick.
Chapter 25: Cassia
Ky collapses to the ground. As he begins to go still, he confesses to kissing Indie. Cassia isn’t as shocked as she thought she’d be, and instead focuses on the present moment. She takes a wild rosebud from a patch of flowers nearby and twirls it in her hands for him to watch. She is momentarily reminded of a spring day spent in the red gardens with her grandfather, though she can’t place the memory exactly.
Chapter 26: Ky
Ky fights the terrible pain of the mutation’s rash. He knows that if he stops, fatigue will win over him. He thinks back to the canyons and promises to fight through the illness the way Cassia fought through the Carving for him. Xander says how sorry he is and that he’ll find the cure. The pain increases and Cassia begins reciting her “Newrose, oldrose” poem to him. Ky thinks about how no one can make Cassia forget about him except Cassia herself.
Chapter 27: Xander
The stone village is alive with people. A large, jagged stone sits at its center with the village built around it. The group brings Ky to the infirmary, where Xander notes that he’s the 52nd patient. The infirmary supervisor, Sylvie, says that Cassia and Xander can visit Ky when they’re on break from working. A thin, bald, ancient man named Oker barges in and heads for Ky’s freshly fallen body. His hands seize up as he gives Sylvie a bag of medication to be administered to Ky at once. He then leaves. Sylvie explains that Oker’s concocted a nutrient solution that does more to aid the still victims than what the Rising gives them. Xander observes this to be the case; the others receiving it are in a better condition than he’s seen. Once Ky is hooked up to the bag, Xander and Cassia embrace, finally able to catch up on everything they’ve been through. Leyna ushers them out to be interviewed separately.
A large room of people interviews Xander for hours, including Leyna and Oker, wanting to know all about the patients, plague, and mutation. When the room finally clears to give Xander a break, Leyna stays behind and observes the irony in Anomalies trying to save the desperate Society members who cast them out. Regarding the villagers’ immunity to the disease, she explains that it’s environmental, not genetic. Oker, who’d seemed to be asleep in the corner, awakens and asks for Xander to be assigned to his lab.
When the questioning is done, Leyna leads Xander to the village prison, where he will need to stay until they know they can trust him, as will Cassia. Along the way, she explains that the Pilot helped the stone villagers escape deployment to the decoy camps back when they lived in the Provinces. She also says that no one who’s gone to the Otherlands has ever come back. Xander thinks this means they’re not real. Leyna argues that the Otherlands are likely so wonderful no one would ever want to come back.
Chapter 28: Cassia
A sorter named Rebecca evaluates Cassia’s sorting abilities and approves her to begin working, acknowledging that the village’s data is not encoded like the Society’s was. She explains that she needs Cassia to calculate how long it will be before the Rising starts taking still victims off life support, at which point their situation will become truly grim and desperate: if all the sick die, developing the cure will be useless and the villagers will have nothing to trade for passage to the Otherlands. Cassia asks for some clarifying information, including the total population of the Provinces. To her surprise, she learns that it’s only 20.2 million. She reminds herself not to think about Ky as she sorts, instead thinking of the Emily Dickinson poem “I did not reach thee,” and how she plans to change the ending about death usurping her premium. When she finishes her calculations, she discovers that the Rising has likely already begun taking patients off of life support.
Chapter 29: Ky
A person who “smells like sweat and smoke” comes into the infirmary, unhooks Ky’s nutrient bag, and turns him toward the window (p. 310). Ky feels himself “going deeper,” forgetting to breathe (p. 311).
Chapter 30: Xander
Oker wakes Xander early and brings him to his lab, where Xander meets Noah and Tess, Oker’s assistants. Oker explains that Xander will be his hands since his don’t work. When Oker leaves, Noah and Tess explain that Oker escaped the Society ten years ago before his Final Banquet, making him 90 years old. Later, Oker gives Noah and Tess a break but has Xander keep working, and tells him that he worked for a research team that cured Alzheimer’s disease (which Xander has never heard of) back when he lived in the Society. He knows more about keeping the still alive, including how to maintain some level of pain in them so that they remember to breathe and fight. He explains that he worked on the cure for the original Plague that the Society sent to the enemy long ago. Now that he’s out, he doesn’t ever plan to go back. Xander asks if Oker thinks the Plague cure acted as a “selective pressure,” causing the mutation (p. 318). Oker says he does. He asks Xander to recall number three of the Hundred Stories. It’s a Society-esque version of Goldilocks featuring a little girl named Xanthe who discovers that her father’s meal delivery is too hot, her mother’s too cold, and hers just right. Oker explains that viruses are the same. If it’s too deadly, or not deadly enough, it doesn’t survive. It must be just right to transfer to another body before killing its host. And this happens naturally, so the Society citizens can never be, and never were, truly safe from nature’s diseases.
Chapter 24-30 Analysis
The reader’s first glimpse into the legendary stone villages shows a society very different from the one that either the Rising or Society were attempting to establish or maintain. There is homemade food, freedom for the children to play, and perhaps most importantly, a democracy in which every member of the village gets a say in how Endstone operates. This stands in stark contrast to the Rising’s Society-like rules and policies, and doubly to the strict, controlling Society.
This contrast is noted most enthusiastically by Oker, who himself serves as a personification of what the Society cannot quell in a mind and spirit. Oker observes at multiple points in these chapters the disquieting similarities between the Society and the Rising, that they are so much one and the same that one can hardly tell which is which anymore. He asserts that the only true rebels were the Anomalies who left to form the stone villages, driving home the villages’ role as the physical representation of what the Rising failed to create.
In Chapters 26 and 29, we finally learn that the still victims—at least those with Oker’s nutrient solution—can still hear and see their environment despite their seemingly comatose state. Whether or not this is true of the victims in Provinces is not made clear, but it brings to mind the paintings that Xander left strung above Lei’s head for her to see should be able to. Knowing that Ky can still understand and view what’s happening around him provides hope that she can do the same. It also darkly implies the number of patients who have had to listen to and see the same things endlessly as they suffer from the mutation.
Chapter 29 provides a small moment of relief for Cassia and Xander when they are finally allowed their reunion. In the chaos of the days’ and months’ previous events, one can forget that the two have been separated for a very long time. Their emotional embrace once they’re safely in the infirmary demonstrates the strong connection they still share and the intimacy that hasn’t quite been lost despite Cassia and Ky’s relationship. That their reuniting is cut short by the need to interview them reminds both them and the reader that time is precious and there is little room for sentimentality with so much at stake.
And these stakes are only raised when Cassia alarmingly discovers that the Rising has likely already had to begin to remove people from life support. If this is the case, there is now little time to find the cure before a significant number of citizens begin dying, and if this happens, the villagers of Endstone will have no leverage in their trade for passage to the Otherlands. Pressure is therefore increasing on all parties. The villagers are desperate to earn their passage by finding a cure. Cassia and Xander are urgent to find the cure to save Ky and everyone else before the villagers no longer have an incentive. This ups the plot tension considerably moving forward in Reached’s remaining chapters.