Taos, New Mexico. The narrator is speaking to Arthur Sinclair, Junior, who was director of the U.S. government’s Department of Strategic Resources or DeStRes. Sinclair says that DeStRes sounds a lot like “distress,” which was very appropriate since the safe zone behind the Rockies faced the problems of “starvation, disease, [and] homelessness.” In addition to this, the living dead kept attacking the Rocky Line and were also present within it. He had to do “a lot of on-the-job training” to get these refugees on their feet, and to do this, he had to read and learn a lot, too. Like his father, who had been a New Dealer with communist leanings, he tried to “find and harvest the right tools and talent.”
Sinclair’s interview describes how life in America’s safe zone behind the Rockies was also fraught with challenges, reminding readers that the war years were not easy on anyone. People’s lives before the war had been very different—and much easier—so Sinclair had to train people with the skills to survive their new reality. To do this, Sinclair, too, had to learn and adapt to the demands of his new job. Sinclair comes across as a very intelligent and adaptable person who did a lot to improve the quality of life in the safe zones. The novel makes the case that those who can adapt to meet new challenges are generally more successful in hard times, and Sinclair is one of these people.
Sinclair admits that their pool of talent was very low as most of the refugees had held white-collar office positions, and what they needed now were people who could build and make things, like carpenters and machinists. All those with no skills became F6 or “unskilled labor” and were given grunt work like “clearing rubble, harvesting crops, digging graves.” Those with “war-appropriate skills” became part of the Community Self-Sufficiency Program (CSSP), and also trained the “cubicle mice” to do useful jobs. This program, which became known as the National Reeducation Act (NRA), was an instant success and the refugees began claiming less government aid.
In these new circumstances, many Americans had to be “reeducated” since their old skills were useless in this new world. People who’d held formerly prestigious desk jobs were now classified as “unskilled labor” since they didn’t know how to build or make things with their hands—these were the necessary skills in these changed times. Through these details, the author seems to be critiquing the nature of the jobs that most people consider “important” in society—like those of the highly-paid “cubicle mice”—by showing that their skills aren’t useful at all in the business of daily living.
One of the biggest challenges Sinclair faced was trying “to change the way people thought”—racism and classism were ingrained into America’s prewar segregated workforce. Most of the members of the CSSP and the instructors in the NRA were first-generation immigrants and blue-collar workers, and the formerly wealthy found it hard to stomach this. However, with time, many of them came to enjoy their new work more than they had ever liked their old, pre-war jobs.
Americans had to adjust to this new reality, and those who’d enjoyed wealth and power in pre-war America struggled with their lost prestige. However, most seemed to have made this transition with time, finding joy in their new work, perhaps because it was more meaningful and useful to their community than their old jobs were. Here, too, the author continues his critique of the high-paying, meaningless jobs that American executives work on.
Sinclair says they began recycling and reusing their old goods, and took apart cars for parts and tools. It was easy for them to find the materials since, before the war, even “those considered middle class enjoyed, or took for granted, a level of material comfort unheard of by any other nation at any other time in human history.” The army was resistant to the DeStRes taking apart their bombers and tanks, but Sinclair got his way because they no longer had any fuel to make their technology work.
This section highlights America’s embarrassing, excessive prewar materialism, which is one of the reasons that the people in the safe zones struggled so much with their changed circumstances. Their previous comforts had made them soft.
Sinclair says he was willing to fight the military for the DeStRes, but was glad he didn’t have to, especially after Travis D’Ambrosia became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Sinclair trusted his advice. Also, soldiers began to adapt to the program, too, and began seeing the value of reusing and adapting to their changed circumstances. He points proudly to a tool that hangs on his wall, a steel rod that ends in a fusion between a shovel and a battle-axe. It is called the “Lobotimizer” or the “Lobo,” and Sinclair proudly tells the narrator that they manufactured 23 million of these weapons during the war, using steel from recycled cars.
Sinclair is clearly a resourceful person and did a great job of leading the safe zones into becoming independent at producing and manufacturing useful goods. While most of the military’s technology was ineffective against the zombies, like at the Battle of Yonkers, people returned to old-fashioned hand-to-hand combat with weapons like the Lobo. Sinclair’s section highlights the importance of adaptability for survival. People were forced to change the way they thought of their lives and even their methods of warfare.
Burlington, Vermont. The narrator is interviewing the former vice-president who insists on calling himself “the Whacko” because everyone else calls him that. He says that unlike most politicians, he said what he felt, which made him perfect to be the president’s copilot. He says that the president was “the light” while he was “the heat.” They had different personalities and different skin colors, and he knows this was one of the reasons he was chosen since America didn’t want “another one of ‘those people’” to be leading the country. He says this was “stupid, ignorant, and infuriatingly Neolithic,” and yet, he wasn’t surprised by it.
“The Whacko” and the American president were an excellent, complementary team who came into power at a difficult time in history. The Whacko doesn’t his mince words and says he knows that one of the reasons America had chosen him to be vice-president was because he was a white man while the president wasn’t. In his words, this was “stupid” but unsurprising—this detail shows the American public’s racism even at a moment of crisis. It highlights people’s petty nature, like at Alang in India where Shah saw some boats offering rides only to the higher castes.
Even in the chaos of those times, the president had insisted on elections, which had surprised the Whacko. The president had said calmly that it was a “time for high ideals because those ideals [were] all that [they had].” He had said that America “only existed because people believed in it,” and it couldn’t have a future if they lost their freedom. The Whacko tells the narrator that he saw “a lot of weakness, a lot of filth” among people in those times, but that the president “was a great man” and they were lucky to have him.
The president during the zombie war was a huge contrast to the leadership that was in charge during the initial stages of the outbreak. This president seems to have been a wise and honorable man. Despite living in fearful times, he did not allow the circumstances to hurt his ideals and integrity and was determined to protect the freedom of democracy. He is a huge contrast to other world leaders like the Russian president who used the crisis as an excuse to murder his opposition and grab more power.
Many of the president’s ideas seemed “crazy at first glance,” but were all very logical. For instance, he said that as punishment for crimes, people should be put in stocks and whipped in public, and while this sounded barbaric, there was no infrastructure to maintain prisons and people who were locked away couldn’t contribute in any way to society. The public humiliation of this punishment ended up serving as an effective deterrent.
The president, like Redeker, came up with practical solutions to address the complexity of those times. But unlike Redeker, he seemed to value people’s emotions and cleverly used them to generate solutions.
Some of the problems the government faced from their own people were from the Fundies or religious fundamentalists who believed they were acting against god’s will. One of them tried to murder the president. There were also the Greenies, ecoterrorists who tried to protect trees from being cut down. The most dangerous were the Rebs, armed political secessionists, who existed within the safe zone. The president was most worried about the Rebs. In public he said they were just another “issue” like the shortage of food, but in private, he said that they must be “eliminated swiftly.”
The president was also careful about not inciting more fear among an already terrified populace. He reserved his worries for private meetings, and practically tried to “eliminate” any groups that were dangerous to his people.
However, there were some secessionists east of the Rockies and the government didn’t know what to do with them since they had abandoned those people. They couldn’t blame them for not wanting anything to do with the government. Later, when they began reclaiming these territories, they gave these secessionists the opportunity to reintegrate. However, there ended up being a lot of violence, and the Whacko admits he still has nightmares thinking about it. This ultimately destroyed the president’s spirit and killed him.
Those troubled times didn’t have perfect solutions, and the president was very troubled by the violence that took place later in the war. While the Whacko still has nightmares about them, the president lost his will to live. This section implies that he died out of sorrow. Though this was a necessary war, it clearly caused much destruction and claimed many lives, highlighting the fact that survival came at a very high price.
Wenatchee, Washington. Joe Muhammad is most famous for the bronze statue he made for the Neighborhood Security Memorial, which shows “two standing citizens, and one seated in a wheelchair.” The narrator notes that Muhammad is disabled. Muhammad tells the narrator that when he went to volunteer for the Neighborhood Security Team, the recruiter was nervous and didn’t know how to tell him he might not be a suitable candidate because he was in a wheelchair. He laughed at her because he knew all that would be expected of him and knew that he could do them all. He yelled at her to call her CO, and he immediately was recruited and got his orange vest.
The Neighborhood Security Teams consisted of volunteer civilians who helped to keep zombies out of the safe zone. Muhammad comes across as a responsible man who wants to make a difference in his community. He is shocked by people’s bullheadedness in the way they perceive disabilities, showing, once again, that human beings are often disappointing. The fact that people are organizing themselves into groups for their own protection shows that they have come a long way since the Great Panic, during which they were running helter-skelter and shooting one another. They are now no longer as afraid—especially since they are in the safe zone—and this helps them to plan and organize clearheadedly.
Neighborhood Security was a quasi-military outfit and its members attended lectures and training. They had mostly hand-to-hand weapons like hatchets and crowbars, but no Lobos yet. Three people in each team had to carry guns, and Muhammad was one of those on his team. The night shift was difficult, and they patrolled with flashlights, checking in at each house. With the resettlement program from the camps, people were assigned new housemates all the time. Muhammad says that he hadn’t realized how much space and comfort they’d had before the war. Now, he had to share his house with a family of six. He got used to it pretty quickly, however. One of the new rules was that each house had to have one night watchman, and having more people in the house made this easier.
While the members of the Neighborhood Security Teams were all civilian volunteers, their job was still fraught with danger, showing that many people like Muhammad admirably stepped up to the challenges of those times. It seems like the residents, too, didn’t object to the changes in their lifestyles or the compromises they had to make since they understood that safety was paramount. The mindless panic of the early outbreak had been replaced with logic and composure.
That first year, when there were a lot of deserted houses, Neighborhood Security put police tape across the windows and doors. If it snapped, it could mean there was a zombie in the house, which had happened a few times. One time, Muhammad almost got bitten by a zombie when his team was inside checking out an abandoned house, and his wheelchair had helped him escape it. The only time he’d got hurt was when a looter had shot at him, and it was the only time Muhammad had killed anyone. There were also ferals sometimes, homeless kids who had lost their parents, who’d often run away when they were discovered.
The Neighborhood Security watch had a dangerous job to do, and they did it well. Muhammad talks about the only time he’d got hurt on the job being when a looter shot at him, reminding the narrator that human beings were often as challenging during the crisis as the zombies themselves.
Muhammad says that the biggest problem they faced were the quislings—people who went crazy and started acting like zombies. He says that some people are drawn to the things they are afraid of, and instead “of resisting it, they want to please it, join it, try to be like it.” The quislings not only acted like the zombies, they also began attacking and trying to eat other people. Some people thought they were immune because they’d been bitten by quislings, not zombies, and others even thought that Phalanx worked. Quislings were in some way more dangerous than zombies because they didn’t freeze and became stronger from eating people. Oddly, they didn’t seem to feel pain even when shot at because they had convinced themselves they were zombies.
This passage builds on the idea that people posed as much of a challenge in those years as the zombies themselves. The phenomenon of the “quislings” is a strange reaction to extreme fear, with people taking on the identities of the thing they are afraid of since they want to appease it. This is one of the ways in which fear causes characters in the novel to behave oddly or uncharacteristically, and it is definitely the most striking example. According to Muhammad, the quislings were in some ways even more dangerous than zombies since they broke the rules of zombie behavior that people were just about getting used to.
Malibu, California. The narrator meets the famous director Roy Elliot for coffee in Malibu. Elliot tells him that he tried to combat ADS, which stood for Asymptomatic Demise Syndrome or Apocalyptic Despair Syndrome, depending on whom one spoke to. He says that “in those early stalemate months,” ADS killed as many people “as hunger, disease, interhuman violence, or the living dead.” They had plenty of people commit suicide, but this was different. People with ADS simply went to sleep one night and wouldn’t wake up in the morning. They felt helpless and were filled with despair, and just lost the will to live. Elliot says that he understood that feeling of helplessness because he’d been hailed as a genius director all his life, and he was now suddenly designated as F6 or unskilled labor.
Elliot’s sympathy for the victims of ADS stemmed from his own feelings of helplessness and worthlessness in those war years. While he’d been a famous and admired director in pre-war America, he was classified as “unskilled labor” by the DeStRes. In the introduction, the narrator insists that it is “feelings” and “emotions” that connect people, and here is a concrete example of this. Elliot wanted to help victims of ADS because he understood how they felt.
Elliot went to the government with a proposal to make movies to fight ADS, and he was immediately turned down. He told the DeStRes rep that he would use his own camera and resources. All they would have to do was give him access to the military so he could show people what they were doing to stop the zombies and give them something to believe in. He was refused again because they said the military had no time to pose for the camera. So, Elliot took a DV camera and his son as his assistant, and they traveled on bikes looking for stories.
Elliot was determined to make a difference and didn’t let the DeStRes’ refusals stop him. In Sinclair’s section, the DeStRes comes across as a practical organization that was exactly what was needed in those times, but Elliot’s interview shows that there were also downsides to sheer practicality.
Elliot found his first story quickly. Just outside LA, 300 students from five colleges had turned the Women’s College at Scripps into a fortified settlement. They had garden tools and ROTC rifles, and had planted gardens and dug wells. They had managed to hold off 10,000 zombies, and Elliot got there just in time to capture the victorious final battle on film, before the area was declared a safe zone. He quickly took the footage home and edited it, with his wife doing the narration. He named the movie Victory at Avalon: The Battle of the Five Colleges, and screened it at camps and shelters over LA. He initially thought it was a flop because the viewers didn’t react to it.
Elliot found a moving and motivating story in the college students who had worked together to build a settlement and fight off hordes of zombies. Since ADS was a syndrome born out of extreme hopelessness, Elliot hoped that this story of hope would make a difference in viewers’ lives. However, at first, it didn’t seem to make any difference at all.
Two weeks later, a psychiatrist visited Elliot and told him they’d seen an instant drop in ADS cases after the movie screening. He wanted copies of the film so he could screen it. None of the government authorities had bothered to inform Elliot about it, although they were continuing to screen it, too. Elliot was happy that it had worked, and immediately gathered volunteers to make more films. They made hundreds of films and screened them wherever possible. Soon, they saw a 10% drop in ADS in the entire western safe zone.
Elliot found a way to bring hope and make life more bearable for the inhabitants of the safe zones and achieved his aim of lowering the prevalence of ADS. The government was dealing with so many challenges in those times that they probably didn’t have time to focus on the difference that Elliot’s movie had made to the morale inside the safe zone—though this does seem like a big oversight since the mental health of civilians was vital for continuing with their rebuilding efforts.
Soon, ADS was down by 23%, and the government finally became interested in what Elliot was doing. He then made Fire of the Gods, a movie about the military’s sophisticated laser weapons. The movie was a huge hit, and people lined up to watch it every night. The movie saved the laser programs, which DeStRes had deemed to be “a gross waste of resources.” Elliot admits that this was true as they were not the most effective weapons against zombies. Still, Elliot knew these weapons would dazzle Americans since they “worship technology,” which is why he focused his movie on them. The movie was such a hit that Elliot made a whole series on the military’s technology, called “Wonder Weapons.” None of these weapons made any difference in the war against the zombies, but they “were psychological war winners.”
The impact of Elliot’s movies was so huge that the government could no longer ignore it. While the army had initially refused to cooperate in his projects, they, too, lowered their guard when they saw that his films were making such a difference. Elliot concedes that the movies he made about military weapons featured technology that was ineffective against the zombies, and yet they worked to increase optimism since Americans had great faith in technology. This detail shows that the American public still had their prewar faith in technology even though they had seen how it had been completely ineffective—for the army, and for themselves—in this crisis.
The narrator asks Elliot if that wasn’t a lie, and Elliot says it was. He says it was the kind of lie that kept people warm when the cold truth of the zombies froze them. He says the “word for that kind of lie” is “Hope.”
Parnell Air National Guard Base, Tennessee. Gavin Blaire takes the narrator to meet his squadron commander, Colonel Christina Eliopolis, who has a reputation for being very tough. She tells the narrator that she was extremely skilled at flying a Raptor, but that in this zombie war, that meant nothing. The DeStRes had said that the air force’s RKR (resource to kill ratio) was among the worst, which was very frustrating for pilots like her. Rather than being a fighter pilot, her job became “Continental Airlift”—she carried supplies to the small military and civilian outposts that remained outside the safe zones. It was the “largest undertaking in air force history” since they had to stay in touch with all these little islands and procure and prioritize all their demands.
Eliopolis was a skilled fighter pilot but her skills were of no use in fighting the zombies. The air force couldn’t hurt very many of the lumbering land creatures, and their bombs were ineffective against them. Eliopolis, like Elliot, was frustrated that her pre-war fighting skills were no longer valuable. Yet, the job she ended up with also seemed to be an important and necessary one though it might not have been quite as exciting as being a fighter pilot.
Eliopolis’ team sometimes dropped food and medicine, but Sinclair asked them to prioritize delivery of tools and spare parts that would help these little islands become self-sufficient. Sometimes, they dropped specialists like engineers and doctors into Blue (civilian) Zones when they needed special help. Eliopolis says that the specialists they dropped in were very brave since they knew they wouldn’t be picked up—they would be stuck there until the war ended. They went anyway. The narrator says the pilots were also very brave, and Eliopolis agrees, saying they had to fly over hundreds or thousands of miles of infested territory.
Under Sinclair’s clear-sighted command, the DeStRes focused on encouraging self-sufficiency in these outposts so they would be less of a burden on government resources. While the war caused death and destruction, it also brought human bravery and kindness to the fore. So many men and women worked to help others, even though they were putting their own lives in danger to do so.
On one such mission, the plane that Eliopolis was on crashed, and she still doesn’t understand what exactly happened. They were headed from Phoenix to a Blue Zone outside Tallahassee. It was October and already winter, and the government wanted to squeeze in as many drops as possible before the weather got worse. Eliopolis’ team was exhausted. They were all on stims or “tweeks” that kept them going. This made Eliopolis want to urinate frequently, and her other team members (who were all men) teased her about having to pee frequently like a girl. When she took a bathroom break, the plane suddenly exploded. She opened her chute as she fell out and tried to contact her crew on her radio but got no response. On her way down, she saw that only one other chute was making its way down from the plane.
Eliopolis mentions that winter came early, in October, hinting at the change in weather that comes after nuclear warfare. The clouds of smoke that surrounded the Earth after the war between Iran and Pakistan had changed weather patterns. Eliopolis was the only woman on her team, and likely was one of the few women fighter pilots around, which is why she probably had cultivated a tough exterior. Even though her teammates seemed to have teased her frequent urination in light spirits, Eliopolis nevertheless seems to have been sensitive about being teased for being a woman.
Eliopolis guessed she was somewhere over swampy Louisiana, but she found it hard to think straight. She checked to see that she was unhurt and had her essential supplies and gun. The narrator asks if the air force had trained them for situations like these, and she says they did have a survival program which even included real zombies. Eliopolis had never been worried about “being alone in hostile territory,” and says she even survived her four years at Colorado Springs. The narrator asks her if there weren’t any other women, and Eliopolis says there were only “other competitors who happen[ed] to have the same genitalia.” She had always been “self-reliant” and “unquestionably self-assured.”
Eliopolis implies that surviving by herself in this unknown swampy area was not as challenging for her as her air force training had been. The narrator immediately assumes that this is because she had no women classmates, but Eliopolis corrects him, telling him it was because she had a lot of competition and the gender of her competitors was irrelevant. She seems to be opposed to admitting that her gender caused her any challenges—and, in general, is reluctant to admit that she ever felt helpless. Despite declaring that she was always “unquestionably self-assured,” Eliopolis did seem to be scared and disoriented by her fall, though she doesn’t admit it.
When Eliopolis landed, she went looking for the other chute through the cold swamp. A couple hours later, she discovered the chute tangled in tree branches and her co-pilot being devoured by Zack. She was so angry that she shot them all, which was a mistake since she had wasted her ammunition. She says she was blinded by “self-hate” since she thought she was to blame for the plane blowing up. She had stepped away when it had happened, “squatting over a bucket like a goddamn girl,” instead of doing her job and flying the plane.
When Eliopolis saw the zombies eating her co-pilot, she was overwhelmed by her emotions and acted unwisely by wasting her ammunition. At that moment, Eliopolis must have realized that she would have to navigate the swamp by herself, which must have terrified her. While she doesn’t admit this, she does say that she was angry at herself for taking a bathroom break “like a goddamn girl” when she should have been flying the plane, stating that she blames herself—and her gender—for the crash.
Just then, Eliopolis’ radio came on and a civilian voice asked if anyone had survived the wreck. Eliopolis answered immediately, and the voice on the radio said she was a skywatcher and her handle was “Mets.” The Skywatch system consisted of ham operators who reported on downed aircraft and tried to help their crews. Mets told her that she was about a day’s walk from Eliopolis, but that her cabin was heavily surrounded. Eliopolis should instead head for open ground where she could be picked up. Mets said she had already reported her position to search and rescue.
At this moment of heightened emotion, when Eliopolis was angry with herself and had just witnessed the terrifying sight of zombies feeding on her copilot, Mets’ voice broke the silence and brought her great comfort. Eliopolis was no longer alone in the zombie-infested swamp—she now had Mets, who already had a plan that would help her get out. When Eliopolis seemed incapable of figuring out a solution for herself, Mets did it for her.
Eliopolis felt lost, but with Mets’ help, she began to figure out where she was and how she could make her way to the I-10 freeway where she could be picked up. Mets told her she would take a day or two to make it there, if she hurried. Right before she left, Mets asked her if there was something she’d forgotten to do, and Eliopolis turned to see that her co-pilot was reanimating. She put a bullet through his head. Mets told her not to blame herself, but to do her job and stay alive. She also signed off, asking Eliopolis not to waste her radio battery.
While Eliopolis was too shaken by her experiences to orient herself or to remember to shoot her co-pilot, Mets stepped in and helped her. She didn’t give Eliopolis new information, but only reminded her about things she already knew—for instance, she didn’t tell her to shoot her copilot, but gently asked her what she’d forgotten to do. Though Eliopolis felt helpless at that time, she is clearly a very capable individual.
Eliopolis felt determined and focused as she made her way north, and all her training came back to her. Then she came across an SUV half-submerged in the swamp, and Mets warned her to stay away from it. Still, Eliopolis decided to inspect it and found survival gear in the backseat. The driver had blown his brains out and was decomposing. She felt sad thinking about how he had all the gear he needed in order to survive, but had given up. Mets insisted she keep moving, but Eliopolis felt drained of energy and rested against the SUV for a second. Suddenly, Mets asked her what that sound was and Eliopolis immediately heard a moan nearby. She saw about 20 Gs headed toward her. Mets told her not to run, but to stay calm and fight back.
The man in the SUV had killed himself despite having equipment that would have helped him survive, and Eliopolis felt sad on seeing him because his situation resonated with her own. She, too, had her emergency supplies and could potentially make it, but she was finding it hard to fight the feelings of hopeless that were overwhelming her. When she felt too hopeless to pay attention to her environment, it was Mets who warned her about the presence of zombies, since she supposedly heard their moans through the radio. Again, when Eliopolis seemed ready to give up, it was Mets who kept her going.
Eliopolis climbed to the top of the SUV and started taking them down one by one. She shot 61 of them in 10 minutes, though it felt like 10 hours to her. Mets asked her to make a plan to spend the night somewhere safe since it was too late for her to get to the freeway before nightfall. Eliopolis walked away from the SUV and when it started to get dark, she hung her microfiber hammock up in a tree. She took some pills to help her sleep.
When faced with the terrifying situation of 61 zombies attacking her, Eliopolis managed to stay calm and kill them all, demonstrating her admirable survival and fighting skills. When she realized she was too anxious to sleep, she very practically took sleep aids, knowing that she needed to rest. In the extremely stressful situation she was in—hanging in a hammock in a zombie-infested swamp—Eliopolis was profoundly calm and collected.
Eliopolis woke up to hear Zack’s moans and saw at least a hundred of them on the ground below, climbing over each other and trying to get her. She didn’t have enough ammo to take down this many of them, so she knew she had to escape. At training, she had been taught that in situations like this, she’d have to find a good spot to jump and land in, and then run as fast as she could. The freeway was pretty close, and she thought she could make it. However, when she jumped, she broke her ankle on a submerged rock. Mets screamed for her to get up and run, and Eliopolis started limping away.
When Eliopolis woke up surrounded by zombies, she didn’t let fear overwhelm her. She recollected her training and did the right things. However, the situation took an unfortunate turn when she broke her ankle, and she might have given up if Mets hadn’t yelled for her to keep going.
Eliopolis made it to the freeway, but her injury prevented her from climbing it easily. As she got on the on ramp, the undead inside the cars on the roads started moaning and reaching for her. Mets kept screaming at her to keep going, and Eliopolis says that she might have lost her will to keep going if not for Mets. As soon as she got on the freeway, she saw a helicopter headed her way and signaled to it with her flare. It turned out to be a civilian chopper, not government Search and Rescue. When Eliopolis was safely on board, she thanked Mets but didn’t get a response.
Mets kept pushing Eliopolis to keep running until she finally made it to safety. A detail worthy of note is that she ended up being rescued by a civilian helicopter rather than Search and Rescue, which Mets had told her she had already alerted. Also, as soon as she was safely aboard, Mets suddenly stopped responding to her on the radio.
Eliopolis tells the narrator that Mets wasn’t just a civilian—she must have been a pilot, too. She says that perhaps she found herself in a situation just like Eliopolis’—perhaps she, too, had lost her crew and blamed it on herself. Then she had managed to find that cabin and spent the war as a first-rate Skywalker. The narrator says that her theory makes sense, and then there is an awkward silence. Eliopolis admits that no one found Mets, or her cabin. The narrator says he knows that even the government had no record of a Skywalker named Mets. Eliopolis says that the psych evaluation they gave her when she returned wasn’t true. It didn’t matter that they said her radio hadn’t been functional the entire time. She says that Mets was there when she needed her, and that she’ll always be with her.
Eliopolis insists that Mets is real, and that she’d helped her that day. However, the narrator seems to know that this isn’t true. He is aware that Mets was never found. Eliopolis’ interview details her interesting reaction to her fear and hopelessness—while she felt too tired to keep going, she externalized her training and determination to survive onto an imaginary person who she believes was a woman pilot just like herself. Though she denies feeling lonely as a woman in the air force, she felt an immediate and deep connection with Mets, proving that the narrator was probably correct in assuming that her life as a woman in the air force was filled with challenges.