Home > The Burning World (Warm Bodies #2)(17)

The Burning World (Warm Bodies #2)(17)
Author: Isaac Marion

My step falters and I briefly fall behind him, but he doesn’t seem to notice.

“He had a very different life with very different struggles, but he asked similar questions, and I gave him similar answers.” He drops his eyes to the ground, watches the steady procession of garbage passing under his feet. “He died soon after we talked, and I believe it was by choice.” A beer can. A bullet shell. A fruit too rotten to identify. “Perhaps you shouldn’t listen to me.”

I feel a heavy stone in my stomach. It’s been a long time since I’ve thought of Perry Kelvin. In all the joy and terror of my new life, it was easy to forget the life I hijacked to get here. The taste of his brain. The rush of his memories. His wry voice in my head as we guided each other forward, unlikely partners on an inner expedition.

Rosso walks in silence, perhaps expecting a reply. As always, it’d be best for me to keep my mouth shut, but this is a good man living a pained life, and the knowledge I have might comfort him, no matter how horrifically I obtained it.

“You meant a lot to Perry,” I tell him. “So did your advice.”

He glances back at me.

“He was on a path. You almost swayed him. It was just … too late.”

“How could you possibly know that?” Rosso says, looking straight ahead. “I can believe Julie talked about him a little … but not that much.”

“I … read his book,” I say, searching for a way around the full truth. “The one he was writing before he died.”

“I thought you can’t read.”

“I … skimmed?”

Rosso walks for a while, then shakes his head. “I didn’t know he was writing a book. That’s even sadder.”


“To give up in the middle of such an undertaking. To leave so many things unfinished …” His voice trembles and trails off.

So much for comfort. I know there’s no explaining what I’m going to say next, but now that I’ve stepped to the edge, I might as well jump off.

“He did finish it. In a way. He wrote his best work … posthumously.”

Rosso’s stride stalls in mid-step, then resumes.

“He’s not gone,” I hear myself say, but the words are unpremeditated; they appear on my tongue without passing through my brain. “His life didn’t disappear when it ended. It will always exist.”

Rosso stops. He turns. If he asks what I mean, I won’t be able to answer. But he just looks at me, and I have a sense that somehow, he understands what I’m saying better than I do. He blinks a little moisture out of his eyes. He nods almost imperceptibly. Then he turns around, and we walk to the gate.

• • •

This was once Citi Stadium’s lobby, lined with snack booths and sports memorabilia, pennants and jerseys hanging from the rafters, but all traces of the stadium’s wild youth were scrubbed out long ago. The walls are now lined with ammunition crates, turret guns poke through the ticket slots in the bulletproof will-call windows, and the polite little automatic doors have been replaced with steel slabs that open for nearly no one. The stadium is all grown up.

The soldiers are assembled in front of the gate, waiting for Rosso, and they exchange confused glances when they see me trailing behind him. Rosso nods to Ted; Ted lifts the latch and heaves against the doors until they slide open on their tracks with a rumble and squeal. I follow Rosso through the opening, trying to ignore the soldiers’ stares.

Outside, there is no shelter from the heat. The sun is on its way down but even its indirect rays are brutal, and the air rises from the asphalt in oily ripples. The soldiers file out behind us, sweating in their makeshift uniforms of not-quite-matching grey jackets and work pants. Kenerly’s wearing a handful of Army medals that he’s too young to have earned, and I wonder if they’re his father’s. I wonder if he developed his physique to compensate for his acne scars. I wonder what he’d think of me if I weren’t the anomaly that I am.

“Sir,” he says to Rosso, “may I ask why he’s here?”

Rosso shades his eyes and peers into the distant streets. “Who are you referring to?”

Kenerly jerks his chin toward me.

“This isn’t a stealth op, Major; non-verbals aren’t necessary. I believe you’re looking for a letter. Oscar? Papa? Quebec …?”

Kenerly’s jaw flexes. “May I ask why R is here, sir.”

I expect Rosso to brush him off with another vague “I have a feeling,” but instead, without taking his eyes off the city, he says, “R is here because he’s a refugee from a world we don’t understand, and I want his opinion of our guests.”

“What would a zombie know about the Axiom Group, sir?”

Rosso finally turns around, and there’s a tightly controlled anger in his face. “Axiom was wiped out in the Borough Conflicts and their headquarters and all their executives were buried in the Eight Six. John and I went back and confirmed it ourselves, and there’s a photo in my office of us standing by the lake where their little kingdom used to be.”

As he speaks, I feel a queasy sensation in my gut. An infrasound hum rolling up from the basement, rumbling through cracks in the plaster that’s slathered over my mind, that suspiciously door-shaped blankness.

“Axiom is dead,” Rosso says. “It’s been dead for nearly a decade. And when dead things start moving again, I get superstitious. So indulge me.”

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