Part 5, Chapters 17-18 Summary
Trudy waits for either Claude or Edgar to emerge from the barn. She calls until her throat is raw as she thrashes against Glen’s hold. She begins to think that it is not Glen who is holding her to the ground but rather a black vine growing out of the ground, enveloping her and everything around her. She is unable to look away from the horror that is before her. After a long while, she imagines the black vine retreating. She watches the tiny flames along the shingled roof of the barn grow into a massive fire, sending off a pillar of smoke. She hears a low, prolonged groan and realizes that it is the central roof beam beginning to sag. Where before there had been nothing but smoke, now there is nothing but flame. As the heat reaches them, Glen relaxes his grip and stands up. He slaps his face and chest, screaming, thinking that he has caught fire. Trudy does not move or answer. She keeps her gaze on the barn door. Glen stumbles across the yard, fearful of what is happening around him that he cannot see.
The Sawtelle dogs, all having escaped from the barn, sit in a circle and watch the fire. They see embers settle on the scattered papers Edgar had rescued from the workroom and watch them burn into ashes. The flames reach the old orchard trees and set them on fire. They see the birches and the white crosses on the graves glow. The fiberglass top of the truck begins to melt. Eventually the whole truck collapses in the flames. They see a thundercloud in the distance, but it will not reach the place in time to put out the fire.
The dogs see Trudy sprawling on the grass with Glen standing over her. She seems unaware of the fire around her. As the flames grow stronger, the dogs move pass the house to the garden. Essay runs down into the fields, followed by a few of the others. When she reaches the rock pile, the dogs gather around her. She goes back to the garden and rounds up the rest of the dogs. When all of the Sawtelle dogs are with her, she leads them through the fence and into the forest. Forte, the stray dog, is nearby, pacing the tree line. Essay looks between Forte and the village; she seems to be deciding which one to choose. Eventually she leads the dogs to Forte and they cross into the forest.