Part 2, Chapter 21 (Pages 117-125) Summary

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Twenty minutes after the loudspeaker’s warning, the Gladneys are in the car. The radio announcer says all evacuees from the west end of town are to go to the abandoned Boy Scout camp, where Red Cross workers would provide coffee and juice; those leaving the east end of town should report to the Kung Fu Palace restaurant.

The Gladneys join the procession heading for the camp. Behind them, they hear the loudspeaker’s warning: “Abandon all domiciles. Now, now. Toxic event, chemical cloud.”

Snow begins to fall and the Gladneys are silent as they attempt to assimilate what is happening to them. They examine the faces of the people in the vehicles next to them, trying to gauge how frightened they should be. Incoming traffic has been stopped and authorities are in sight; that is a good sign in a crisis.

The snow falls harder, and now the radio announcer tells everyone who is already inside to stay there. When an expert begins to list the medical problems connected with this kind of airborne toxic event, Babette talks with the girls and Gladney lowers the volume so the girls will not hear the potential symptoms, such as concussion, coma, and miscarriage. It begins to seem imperative that the family reach the camp and shut themselves inside until the "all clear" is sounded.

Long lines of people pushing and carrying all sorts of things are making their way through the snow to the camp; one family is completely wrapped in plastic. The migration is impressive and finally causes Gladney to consider the possible seriousness of this situation.

The Gladneys pass a wreck, and Heinrich watches through his binoculars and announces every gory specific from the rear window. Gladney is surprised to hear Heinrich talk about this crisis with some sense of exhilaration, “steeped happily in disaster.” Surely Heinrich does not want to die, but his voice reveals a “craving for terrible things.”

Gladney sees Babette surreptitiously put something in her mouth and swallow it. When he asks her about it, she makes up an implausible story; however, he sees that Denise is interested in their conversation and so he does not pursue it. The radio announces that dogs trained to sniff out Nyodene D are on their way from the remote parts of New Mexico.

As they drive past another accident, Steffie claims she has seen all of this before. Steffie and Denise have both been experiencing the symptoms they have been hearing about, so Gladney wonders if she heard that that déjà vu is a possible side effect of exposure to Nyodene D.

Seven helicopters hover above the black cloud to monitor its movements; everyone is mesmerized by the terrible, spectacular sight. They feel awe for something capable of killing them. Two busloads of residents from the insane asylum join the traffic jam on the way to the camp.

At camp, every authority has a different story or explanation, freeing the newcomers from believing anything they hear because every story is equally implausible. 

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Part 2, Chapter 21 (Pages 107-116) Summary


Part 2, Chapter 21 (Pages 126-135) Summary