Lauren writes that the group has been walking along the I-5 for a week. There are many human bones scattered along the freeway, though fewer living people walking alongside them. They pass through Sacramento, and that night encounter a group of young teenagers eating human flesh. Bankole mentions to Lauren that he is heading to Mendocino, where his sister and her family live in a property that Bankole owns. He invites Lauren to join him there, but Lauren predicts that his sister will object to her presence. Bankole explains that the property sits on 300 acres of farmland, all of which belongs to him, and that it’s located in a secluded area far from the main road. His sister’s name is Alexandra, and her husband is called Don Casey. They have three children aged 11, 13, and 15; Don works odd jobs to support the family, leaving Alexandra and the kids alone and without protection.
Lauren and Bankole’s discussion of potentially starting a new life in Mendocino is jarringly contrasted with the image of the teenagers eating human flesh. Bankole’s plan for what their life could be like on his farm sounds too good to be true, particularly given the intense violence and brutality that has surrounded them on their journey so far. By this point, it is painfully clear that the ordinary rules and expectations of life rarely apply anymore. Bankole may technically be the owner of the 300 acres of farmland he mentions, but in a world as chaotic and broken as the one they’re in, this does not guarantee anything.
Bankole insists that Lauren comes with him to Mendocino. Lauren responds that she wants to accompany him, but that she is also “serious about Earthseed.” She suggests that Bankole could help her found the first Earthseed community, and he teases her about fixing the world. This angers Lauren, who tells him not to laugh at her. Bankole agrees not to, and tells Lauren that he still wants her to come with him. He tells her that he wants to marry her once they are “settled,” and that she can bring her “congregation” with them. Before Lauren answers, she tells him about her hyperempathy syndrome. Bankole says he has heard of the condition but never encountered anyone who has it. Lauren asks if he still wants to marry her, and Bankole laughs. He says that there is no chance he will “let her get away.”
Lauren’s whole life is orientated around her commitment to Earthseed, and even her growing feelings for Bankole are less important to her than realizing her vision of the first Earthseed community. Bankole pushes her to reorder her priorities by suggesting that they found the Earthseed community after getting married. However, for Lauren, beginning Earthseed is a matter of urgency. As a child and teenager, she was forced to keep her ideas quiet, knowing that she wouldn’t be taken seriously. Now Lauren behaves as if there is no time to lose.