Home > The Last Star (The 5th Wave #3)(6)

The Last Star (The 5th Wave #3)(6)
Author: Rick Yancey

Outside on the porch it’s cold as hell because spring refuses to come. Spring is never coming because extinction events piss it off. Or the Others have engineered another Ice Age just because they can, because why settle for doomed humans when you can have cold, starving, and miserable doomed humans? So much more satisfying that way.

He was leaning on the railing to take the weight off his bad ankle, the rifle nestled in the crook of his arm, wearing his uniform of a wrinkled plaid shirt and skinny jeans. His face lit up when he saw me banging open the screen door. His eyes drank me in. Oh, the Evanness of it all, how he gulps down my presence like a guy stumbling upon an oasis in the desert.

I slapped him.

“Why did you just hit me?” he asked, after racking ten thousand years’ worth of alien wisdom for the answer.

“Do you know why I’m wet?” I asked.

He shook his head. “Why are you wet?”

“I was giving my baby brother a bath. Why was I giving him a bath?”

“Because he was dirty?”

“For the same reason I spent a week cleaning up this dump after we moved in.” She may have been a supercharged, technologically enhanced alien-human hybrid with the looks of a Norwegian ice princess and the heart to match, but Grace was a terrible housekeeper. Dust piled in every corner like snowdrifts, mold growing on top of mold, a kitchen that would make a hoarder blush. “Because that’s what human beings do, Evan. We don’t live in filth. We bathe. We wash our hair and we brush our teeth and we shave off unwanted hair—”

“Sam needs to shave?” Trying to be funny.

Dumb idea.

“Shut up! I’m talking. When I talk, you don’t talk. When you talk, I don’t talk. That’s another thing humans do. They treat each other with respect. Respect, Evan.”

He nodded somberly. “Respect,” he echoed—which made me even angrier. He was handling me.

“It’s all about respect. Being clean and not stinking like a pig is about respect.”

“Pigs don’t stink.”

“Shut. Up.”

“Well, I grew up on a farm, that’s all.”

I shook my head. “Oh no, that isn’t all. That isn’t half of all. The part of you I slapped didn’t grow up on any goddamned farm.”

He left his rifle leaning against the railing and limped over to the swing. He sat. He gazed off into the middle distance. “It isn’t my fault Sam needed a bath.”

“Of course it’s your fault. All of this is your fault.”

He looked at me, and his tone was controlled. “Cassie, I think you should go back inside now.”

“What, before you lose your temper? Oh, please lose it for once. I would love to see what that looks like.”

“You’re cold.”

“No, I’m not.” As I realized how badly I was shaking, standing in front of him in my wet clothes. Icy water dripped down the back of my neck and traced a path down my spine. I folded my arms over my chest and willed my (freshly brushed, very clean) teeth to stop chattering.

“Sam’s forgotten his ABCs,” I informed him.

He stared at me for a long four seconds. “I’m sorry, what?”

“His ABCs. You know, the alphabet, you intergalactic swineherd.”

“Well.” His eyes wandered from my face to the empty road across from the empty yard that stretched toward empty horizons over which there were more empty roads and woods and fields and towns and cities, the world one big hollowed-out gourd, a slop bucket of emptiness. Emptied by things like him, the whatever-he-was before he inserted himself into a human body like a hand up a puppet’s ass.

He leaned forward and shrugged out of his jacket, the same stupid bowling jacket he showed up in at the old hotel (The Urbana Pinheads), and held it out.


Maybe I shouldn’t have taken it. I mean, the pattern kept repeating itself: I’m cold, he warms me. I’m hurt, he heals me. I’m hungry, he feeds me. I’m down, he picks me up. I’m like the hole at the beach that keeps filling up with water.

I’m not a big person; the jacket engulfed me. And the warmth from his body, that, too. It steadied me—not necessarily the fact that the warmth came from his body, just the warmth itself.

“Another thing human beings do is learn their alphabets,” I said. “So they can read. So they can learn things. Things like history and math and science and practically everything else you can name, including the really important things like art and culture and faith and why things happen and why other things don’t and why anything even exists in the first place.”

My voice broke. Uninvited, there’s that image again, of my father pulling a red wagon loaded with books after the 3rd Wave and his lecture about preserving knowledge and rebuilding civilization once that pesky little alien problem was disposed of. God, how sad, how pitiful: a balding, bent-shouldered man shuffling down deserted streets with a wagonload of scavenged library books behind him. While others looted canned goods and weapons and hardware to fortify their homes against marauders, my father decided the wisest course of action was to hoard reading material.

“He can learn them again,” Evan tried. “You can teach him.”

It took everything in me not to give him another smack. There was a time when I thought I was the last living person on Earth, which made me all of humanity. Evan isn’t the only one who owes an unpayable debt. I’m humanity, he’s them, and after what they’ve done to us, humanity should break every bone in their bodies.

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