Part 2, Chapter 21 (Pages 150-156) Summary

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Gladney feels as if he has slept for only a few moments before he is awakened by noise and commotion in the barracks. Denise is pounding on his torso to wake him; once he is up, she tries to wake Babette, as well. Everyone around them is dressing and packing and a bell is clanging a warning. The wind has changed and everyone must evacuate.

Now both girls are pounding on Babette, but she simply rolls over contentedly and asks for five more minutes. Outside, the “amplified voice” continues to warn that the toxic cloud has changed direction; Wilder eats a cookie and waits. Denise is frustrated at the repetitive voice and at her mother, who is so slow to respond.

Finally the girls get their mother up on all fours and Gladney goes to use the bathroom and brush his teeth. When he returns, Babette is dressed and the family is heading to the exit. A woman at the door is handing out surgical masks; the Gladneys take six of them and leave.

It is rainy and dark, and everything outside is in confusion as vehicles are trying to escape in a panic. The rain is turning to snow, and Gladney does his best to drive quickly to Iron City, where people are arranging food and water for the evacuees.

The Gladneys hear the rotors and look up to see eighteen helicopters lighting the cloud, “immense almost beyond comprehension, beyond legend and rumor, a roiling bloated slug-shaped mass.” Even worse, the cloud seems to be generating its own storm. Gladney suddenly remembers that he is “technically dead” and is shocked; all he can do is try to get his family to safety.

The Gladneys conduct a typically inane conversation on the long drive to Iron City; they arrive at dawn after passing through several checkpoints where they were given instructions for the evacuation centers. Forty other families are with them in an abandoned karate studio on the fourth floor of an old building. The Gladneys, with their air mattresses, food, and coffee, settle into their new home. They are not allowed to leave the building.

By noon, a rumor is circulating that microorganisms that will devour the toxic elements in Nyodene D are being dropped into the center of the toxic cloud. It sounds like a story the tabloids would write. Babette is impressed with this technology but is scared about the future implications of such capabilities. Gladney agrees. Steffie takes every warning seriously and is still wearing her mask.

A man is pacing the room listening to a portable television. No mention of this incident is being reported on the network, and he is incensed that the rest of the world is so unconcerned about their plight, their fears. The man turns and suddenly experiences déjà vu. At some other time and place, he saw Gladney looking at him with the same “haunted, ashen, lost” look on his face.

The evacuees are allowed to leave nine days later.

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Part 2, Chapter 21 (Pages 136-149) Summary


Part 3, Chapters 22 Summary