The 5th Wave

On a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs.
Runs from the beings that only look human,
who have scattered Earth's last survivors.

Four waves later, four billion dead.
And the fifth wave?
No one knows. But it's coming.

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SOMETIMES I THINK I might be the last human on Earth.

Which means I’m the last human in the universe.

I know that’s dumb. They can’t have killed everyone . . . yet. I see how it could happen, though, eventually. And then I think that’s exactly what the Others want me to see.

Remember the dinosaurs? Well.

So I’m probably not the last human on Earth, but I’m one of the last. Totally alone—and likely to stay that way—until the 4th Wave rolls over me and carries me down.

That’s one of my night thoughts. You know, the three-in-the-morning, oh-my-God-I’m-screwed thoughts. When I curl into a little ball, so scared I can’t close my eyes, drowning in fear so intense I have to remind myself to breathe, will my heart to keep beating. When my brain checks out and begins to skip like a scratched CD. Alone, alone, alone, Cassie, you’re alone.

That’s my name. Cassie.

Not Cassie for Cassandra. Or Cassie for Cassidy. Cassie for Cassiopeia, the constellation, the queen tied to her chair in the northern sky, who was beautiful but vain, placed in the heavens by the sea god Poseidon as a punishment for her boasting. In Greek, her name means “she whose words excel.”

My parents didn’t know the first thing about that myth. They just thought the name was pretty.

Even when there were people around to call me anything, no one ever called me Cassiopeia. Just my father, and only when he was teasing me, and always in a very bad Italian accent: Cass-ee-oh-PEE-a. It drove me crazy. I didn’t think he was funny or cute, and it made me hate my own name. “I’m Cassie!” I’d holler at him. “Just Cassie!” Now I’d give anything to hear him say it just one more time.

When I was turning twelve—four years before the Arrival—my father gave me a telescope for my birthday. On a crisp, clear fall evening, he set it up in the backyard and showed me the constellation.

“See how it looks like a W?” he asked.

“Why did they name it Cassiopeia if it’s shaped like a W?” I replied. “W for what?”

“Well . . . I don’t know that it’s for anything,” he answered with a smile. Mom always told him it was his best feature, so he trotted it out a lot, especially after he started going bald. You know, to drag the other person’s eyes downward. “So, it’s for anything you like! How about wonderful? Or winsome? Or wise?” He dropped his hand on my shoulder as I squinted through the lens at the five stars burning over fifty light-years from the spot on which we stood. I could feel my father’s breath against my cheek, warm and moist in the cool, dry autumn air. His breath so close, the stars of Cassiopeia so very far away.

The stars seem a lot closer now. Closer than the three hundred trillion miles that separate us. Close enough to touch, for me to touch them, for them to touch me. They’re as close to me as his breath had been.

That sounds crazy. Am I crazy? Have I lost my mind? You can only call someone crazy if there’s someone else who’s normal. Like good and evil. If everything was good, then nothing would be good.

Whoa. That sounds, well . . . crazy.

Crazy: the new normal.

I guess I could call myself crazy, since there is one other person I can compare myself to: me. Not the me I am now, shivering in a tent deep in the woods, too afraid to even poke her head from the sleeping bag. Not this Cassie. No, I’m talking about the Cassie I was before the Arrival, before the Others parked their alien butts in high orbit. The twelve-year-old me, whose biggest problems were the spray of tiny freckles on her nose and the curly hair she couldn’t do anything with and the cute boy who saw her every day and had no clue she existed. The Cassie who was coming to terms with the painful fact that she was just okay. Okay in looks. Okay in school. Okay at sports like karate and soccer. Basically the only unique things about her were the weird name—Cassie for Cassiopeia, which nobody knew about, anyway—and her ability to touch her nose with the tip of her tongue, a skill that quickly lost its impressiveness by the time she hit middle school.

I’m probably crazy by that Cassie’s standards.

And she sure is crazy by mine. I scream at her sometimes, that twelve-year-old Cassie, moping over her hair or her weird name or at being just okay. “What are you doing?” I yell. “Don’t you know what’s coming?”

But that isn’t fair. The fact is she didn’t know, had no way of knowing, and that was her blessing and why I miss her so much, more than anyone, if I’m being honest. When I cry—when I let myself cry—that’s who I cry for. I don’t cry for myself. I cry for the Cassie that’s gone.

And I wonder what that Cassie would think of me.

The Cassie who kills. 

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