It is March 1976, and Neville has made his house “livable again.” He’s soundproofed the walls, so that he no longer has to listen to the sound of the vampires howling at him every night. He’s also managed to find a new, reliable car in Santa Monica, driving there using a car in a garage about a mile from the house. He’s also repaired his generator. Neville drinks less and feels healthier; he also sleeps more soundly.
We begin two months after the events of Part One: Neville seems to be staving off his depression and loneliness by pushing himself to be healthy and productive, repairing his machines and fortifying his house.
One evening, Neville decides that it’s time to begin his investigations into the nature of vampires. He closes his eyes and thinks back on a morning he spent with Virginia, several years ago. On this morning, Neville and Virginia awoke early, after a night of bad sleep. They proceeded to cook breakfast, with Kathy asleep in the room down the hall. Over breakfast, Virginia and Neville talked about the mysterious black dust that had been floating through the city for weeks.
In this flashback scene, we get more of a sense of Neville’s backstory and why he has been so depressed: he seems to have loved his wife dearly. In the flashback, Neville and Virginia discuss the “black dust,” which, readers can probably guess, spreads the vampire plague across the city.
Virginia told Neville that she was feeling strange, but couldn’t put into words what was wrong with her; Neville, noticing that she looked extremely pale, suggested that she visit Dr. Busch. Together, Neville and Virginia discussed the sudden onset of large bugs and insects in California. There had been rumors of mutating grasshoppers, mosquitoes, and other “superbugs” in the bordering states. Virginia and Neville agreed that the insects were probably mutating in response to “the bombings,” though they don’t specify what these bombings are. They also talked about the mysterious disease spreading across the country—a disease that might have been the result of “germ warfare,” even though “the war” was over, officially. They argued whether or not to send Kathy to school, considering the danger of her contracting the disease. Neville then left for work, walking outside and climbing into his car, and waving to his neighbor, Ben Cortman.
At this time, Virginia has already contracted the vampire disease, and is about to become a vampire herself—unbeknownst to Neville. The passage marks the only time in the book when the characters discuss the potential sources of the vampire plague. First, it’s implied that insects have mutated, perhaps in response to radiation from nuclear war (a very common trope in Cold War-era science fiction). Second, it’s suggested that the vampire plague was created as a kind of “germ warfare,” perhaps in America’s military standoff with the Soviet Union. Also, notice that Ben Cortman was Neville’s friendly neighbor before becoming a vampire, explaining why Neville finds Cortman’s nightly presence especially painful.