One more person moved through passport control and the line crept forward a few inches. She drew another breath, an attempt to invoke a temporary calm, to relieve anxiety that had been building over the last few hours, and with that breath the tumult inside her head increased volume.
The land shall be emptied, and utterly spoiled...
The transit had shifted through two sunrises and a sunset. Her body said 3:00 in the afternoon yesterday, and the clock on the far wall said 6:48 in the morning.
...The haughty people of the earth do languish...
Another subtle glance at the time. Another breath. A few more inches forward. She hovered on the brink of panic, keeping it at bay one breath at a time.
...The earth is defiled under its inhabitants...
Minutes passed, the line remained stationary, and her focus turned to the front, where the man facing the immigration officer stumbled through a few words of English, unable to answer the basic questions asked of him. Six feet tall, with perfect posture and jet-black hair, he carried a hard-shell briefcase and wore a dark maroon trench coat. Another three minutes that felt like a painful thirty, and the immigration officer sent the Trench Coat to a separate room at the end of the hall.
...They have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance...
She tracked his path and pushed her bag forward with her foot.
...Therefore has the curse devoured the earth...
Each of his steps brought back the dread of her first entry into the United States. Similar doors and a similar experience - how much could have changed in nine years?
...and they that dwell therein are desolate...
The Trench Coat was now a silhouette behind a translucent window.
She checked her watch. One more person in line. One more minute.
...The mirth of tabrets ceases...
She stood in front of the booth, passport and papers in hand, the mental noise now reduced to a whisper beneath the surface. Perfunctory questions, perfunctory answers. The officer stamped the passport and handed it back to her.
...The noise of those that rejoice ends...
She had no luggage and nothing to declare, and with a final glance at the Trench Coat's shadow, she left the area through opaque sliding doors that opened to a waiting crowd. She scanned the faces, wondering which, among the expectant eyes and attentive glances, waited for him.
...Strong drink will be bitter to those that drink it...
On a far wall was a telephone bank, and she walked toward it.
...The city of confusion is broken down...
She dialed and then angled herself so that she could watch the opaque doors.
...All joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone...
Passengers exited sporadically, smiling as they made contact with loved ones who stood waiting. That was how it should be coming home, not sending packages and gifts ahead to estranged family and a few strangers called friends, dreading the reconnection that must inevitably take place.
Kate's answering machine picked up, and Munroe disconnected without leaving a message. The Trench Coat exited the glass doors.
...In the city is left desolation, and the gate is smitten with destruction...
He was alone. There was no girlfriend with flowers or any happy faces waiting - not even a somber suit holding a placard with his name.
He passed within a few feet of where Munroe stood, and her eyes followed. On impulse she picked up her bag and trailed him to the ground level, keeping just close enough to avoid losing him in the crowds. The Trench Coat boarded the shuttle for the Marriott, and she stepped on behind him. He nodded once in her direction and paid no attention beyond that. Dressed as she was, it was to be expected. Cropped hair, lightweight cargo pants, a linen shirt that had once been white, and thick-soled leather boots: to all but the most observant, she was every bit as male as he.
Excerpted from The Informationist by Taylor Stevens. Copyright © 2011 by Taylor Stevens. Excerpted by permission of Crown. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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