Although they know it is against Alec and Lana’s wishes, Mark and Trina still hug and kiss a few times while traveling. They are unable to resist their attraction to each other. They also both think they are probably not infected. Later that night, the Toad shows up, also having caught the virus from Misty. The Toad says there are things in his head, and he is going insane. Alec takes the Toad into the woods and quickly kills him, putting him out of his misery. The next morning, Alec, Lana, Mark, and Trina talk about the inconsistency of the virus. They are sure that it is mutating and adapting. It affects people differently, and at different rates. The group journeys onwards and comes across a village. The village is also filled with the smell of rotted flesh. A small girl, around four years old, is walking by herself through the village. Trina approaches her. The girl introduces herself as Deedee, and says that her parents died when hit by the darts. Everyone else ran into the woods. The little girl reminds Mark of his younger sister Madison, who did not survive the sun flares. They realize that Deedee has been hit by a dart and is probably infected, and that was why the rest of her village left her behind. Mark and his friends agree to take her with them because she is just a child, and they won’t leave a child behind. They walk forward, with Mark recognizing that this is the same direction that Deedee had pointed in when indicating where the rest of the village had gone.
That night, Mark again dreams of his flashbacks. In the flashback, after Alec finds Mark, he leads Mark and Trina to the rest of his group. He is with Lana, his former coworker, and “strays” that they have picked up along the way. These include Misty, the Toad, Darnell, and a younger boy named Baxter. Baxter is young but still tough. Alec tells them about the sun flares going on aboveground, but says they need to get out the tunnels as soon as possible. The tunnels will flood soon, so they need to get out. They are heading for the Lincoln Building in New York. They make it out onto a platform, where they see many injured and dirty people. As they try to make their way through, Mark and his friends are confronted by people who want to take their food. A fight ensues. Suddenly, a rumbling begins and the tunnel trembles. A wall of dirty water begins pouring down the steps nearby. Mark wakes up, the flashback over. Trina tells him that he needs to start letting go of the past.
As they travel onward, everyone becomes more relaxed. Trina even hugs Deedee, and the older adults no longer complain about people needing to stay away from each other. Suddenly, they hear singing. Alec and Mark insist on going to go check it out. Deedee begins crying and tells them to beware of the man with no ears. As Alec and Mark are spying on a group of people dancing around a fire and chanting, they are captured and brought down to the clearing. Mark lets Deedee’s name slip, and one of their captors begins raving about the presence of demons in their world. They say that Mark, Alec, and even Deedee are all demons. Their captors begin beating Mark and Alec, until someone tells them to stop. This someone is a horribly disfigured man who has no ears. The man introduces himself as Jedidiah; he is the leader of this camp. Jedidiah has the cultish belief that the sun flares and the infected darts are not natural or man-made incidents, but are celestial ones instead. Mark attempts to try to rationalize with the man, but realizes Jedidiah is insane. Suddenly, the sounds of other crazy people making animal noises surround the camp. Jedidiah screams and collapses, blood coming out of his nose and mouth, just like the other infected dead. Mark realizes that this camp of people is infected as well. Their attackers are also insane, and many leap into the fire in the ensuing mayhem. Because of this commotion, the fire spreads to the woods. A fire blocks the way between Mark and Alec and their three friends at the camp. They slowly and dangerously make their way back to the camp site, only to find that their friends are not there.
Alec and Mark conjecture that Lana must have taken Trina and Deedee with her to the Berg landing location. Alec and Mark go that way as well, discovering some vegetation that has been splattered with blood. The trail signs are also telling that Lana and Trina and Deedee had been running. Alec and Mark reach a clearing where the Bergs should be landing, and see signs of their friends having been taken by someone or a group. There is suddenly a loud noise, and the earth beneath them begins to rise to the sky.
After Mark and most of his friends leave to find wherever the Berg is landing, the Toad catches up to them. In a scary scene at night, the Toad tells them that there are “things living inside my skull” (81). Mark also remembers that Darnell had complained about his head hurting. In that case, it had seemed very literal, that Darnell’s head hurt. In the Toad’s case, insanity is also starting to set in. The way the Toad conveys his headache is by saying that there are things “living in there,” reminiscent of someone who has delusions or hallucinations, as well.
Mark notes that Trina cries that night. He thinks about their relationship, about how Trina is stronger and tougher and braver than he is (87), or so he thinks. He also is curious, then, about how she is still so okay with wearing her emotions on her sleeve. For example, she is crying about how Alec had to kill the Toad to put him out of his misery. Mark really only needs to consider this seeming disparity because of the way he considers gender and how it affects people’s reactions. In many ways, he views Trina as subscribing to very traditional and understandable forms of femininity. He also says that he was “embarrassed” by how Trina was stronger than him, but got over it because of his love for her. During the story, however, Mark will become more “traditionally masculine”—so that Trina will have to rely on him, eventually.
The first mention of death in the story comes in one of Mark’s flashbacks, when Alec tells his new group to “Defend each other to the death” (103), in response to which Trina groans and Mark wishes Alec hadn’t said that. At this point in the story, none of the characters wants to even think about death, but in the present narrative, Mark and his friends are already so used to death that to think of that first time would almost be silly. The harsh need for survival since the sun flares has cultivated a quasi-immunity in Mark and his friends to the reality of death.
When Mark and Alec come across the villagers who left the little girl Deedee behind, they speculate that the villagers have become a cult. Deedee had said that they called her evil. This is a strange and funny twist of irony, because if anything, it would seem that the villagers are the evil ones: they are, after all, the ones who left behind a little girl, and are now dancing and singing around a fire. They left her behind because she did not die from a dart wound, but their reasoning for her being “a demon” is completely skewed. At that point, they had already been succumbing to the effects of the virus. One of Mark’s strange tendencies is to speak very quickly and abruptly, gushing out all of his thoughts. This is not completely a good thing or a bad thing, but when Mark does this to the villagers of Deedee’s village, it causes suspicion to be cast on himself and Alec.
Mark and Alec’s captors tell them that the name of Deedee “evokes evil” (123); we could connect this with the fact that Deedee will become a girl named Teresa in the future—a girl named Teresa who works for WICKED. The captors have crazily deemed Deedee a demon, believing that her immunity to the virus must mean that she had something to do with those who assaulted them. When Jedidiah comes out to explain all of this, Mark and Alec realize that the world’s loss of reason with the sun flares has continued with the onset of the virus. There is just no way to reason with someone like Jedidiah, whose sanity is completely gone.
Just as Mark has a tendency to let his words tumble out, so Alec has a tendency to let certain things tumble out as well. After they discover that their friends are missing, the two men find splatters of blood on vegetation. Alec tells Mark horror stories of people who have had their arms blown off; Mark tells Alec not to talk about that (147). Again, the two men’s experiences complement each other, with Mark still being young and not having seen as much, and with Alec being older and a seasoned soldier. Alec’s gritty, straightforward perspective is mellowed out and humanized by Mark’s inexperience. Meanwhile, Mark’s inexperience is sharpened and more grounded in realistic possibilities with Alec’s guidance. He knows that he needs to consider that very bad things could have happened to their friends.