That same night in the summer of Year Fifteen, Jeevan is drinking wine by a river in what was once a part of the state of Virginia. Before settling, he walked a thousand miles. In Year Three he wandered into a settlement called McKinley, named by the town’s founders. Now there were twenty-seven families there. In Year Ten, Jeevan married one of the founders named Daria. Tonight, she is sitting with him and their friend named Michael.
Jeevan has found a new life after the collapse, after walking a thousand miles away from his home. In Year Fifteen, he is able to drink wine and relax with his wife and friend, people whom he met only after the collapse, having no connection to his previous life.
On the riverbank, Jeevan, Daria, and Michael discuss McKinley’s school and whether or not they should tell children how the world used to be. Michael tells how his daughter came home crying after learning that life expectancies were much higher before the Georgia Flu. But Daria says that she would want her kid to know what the world has lost. The question is, does knowing make the children more or less happy?
The three friends are discussing the benefits of informing children of the past and giving them access to the communal memory of civilization prior to the collapse. Knowing the past can be painful, as it informs your understanding of post-collapse society and life, but it can also be important and speak to the potential of humanity.
During this conversation, Jeevan is not paying attention. Instead, he tries to relax and forget the stress of the day, as he had to set a man’s broken bone without anesthetics, since he is the closest thing to a doctor in 100 miles. Suddenly, they hear someone calling for Jeevan. Back at the center of town (the motel), a man named Edward has just arrived on horseback with his wife, who has been shot. When asked what happened, Edward says that the prophet happened.
Here we learn both that Jeevan has become a pseudo-doctor in the post collapse world, and that the Prophet has been travelling and wreaking havoc since at least Year Fifteen. Part of the reality of being a doctor after the collapse is evidently treating patients in immense pain, as civilization’s anesthetics are gone.
Jeevan hasn’t seen a gunshot wound in a while, since most ammunition is gone and is reserved for hunting or self-defense only. Jeevan asks Edward what prophet he is talking about, and Edward responds that the prophet has been all around the south. Jeevan prepares to sew up the woman, since removing the bullet in her would be too dangerous. Instead, he needs to stop the bleeding. Everyone needs to hold her still while Jeevan sews.
The use of ammunition suggests that even in Year Fifteen, the Prophet and his men were stock-piling weapons and bullets. The Prophet has apparently built a reputation in the south. Again, we see medical care is limited drastically by the fall of civilization.
Edward then explains that the prophet came through that afternoon with around twenty followers. They had kidnapped Edward’s son and wife, and wanted to trade the boy in exchange for all of his guns and ammunition. The wife would be released later as an insurance policy, but in reality, the prophet meant to keep her as a wife for one of his men. When she refused, she was shot and left to die on the road. As the story ends, Jeevan finishes his work and bandages the woman.
The Prophet’s practice of kidnapping has been in place since at least Year Fifteen, as well as his stockpiling of weapons. The Prophet also had already begun taking as many women as possible for wives, either for himself or his men. When Edward’s wife refused, she was shot so that she would suffer alone on the road—an especially vicious punishment from one claiming to be a godly leader.
After he has cleaned up, Jeevan gets to work sterilizing the needle he used. He smokes his pipe, thinking about the prophet, who is apparently headed north, and how hopefully he won’t have to interact with him. Thinking of the north makes Jeevan think of Toronto and walking in the snow, and the night Arthur Leander died all those years ago at the beginning of the end. His wife Daria then comes up behind him and calls him to bed.
This strange incident with the prophet gets Jeevan thinking about Arthur Leander’s death, though he can’t understand the full significance of this connection. We note that the Prophet is headed north to ultimately intersect with Kirsten and the Symphony, making another chance for fated connection between Jeevan and Kirsten, the two characters who were there the night of Arthur’s death.