Summary and Analysis
Ishmael keeps walking to survive. He passes through the remains of villages filled with dead bodies and rivers running red with blood. He sees the terror on the victims' faces and it makes him walk faster. He finds himself in a dense patch of forest with large, high trees and feels safe for the first moments in months. He eats unfamiliar fruit and waits to see if it's poisonous. This reminds him of his grandfather's knowledge of herbal medicines from the forest and Ishmael wishes he'd listened more and learned how to survive in nature. His loneliness is overwhelming, but he finds solace in the sounds of nature, which gratefully help to drown out his terrifying memories. He begins fearing sleep and where his thoughts might take him.
After encountering an aggressive pack of wild pigs, Ishmael leaves the forest and returns to the path. He runs into a group of boys, and they are all stunned from the meeting. Fortunately, Ishmael recognizes a few of the boys from his school days and joins the group, but after a month in the forest without human contact, he's uncomfortable around people and uncertain how to behave. Ishmael also worries that being with a group of seven boys will invite trouble. He decides that his loneliness is too much, though, and accepts the risk.
He travels with the boys for days and finds that rumors of the group terrify people in the villages as they approach. They are often attacked and struggle to defend themselves. Once the villagers realize that they are only a group of innocent children fleeing the war, they are more sympathetic.
Ishmael struggles between the demands of his body and the plague in his mind. He needs to think through his next move and find food, but when he turns his thoughts on, his mind goes to terrifying places. He begins to fear not just his surroundings but himself as well. Even when he's reached physical safety, his mind returns to violence. This shows the struggle of man versus himself and how Ishmael becomes his own worst enemy. He has to fight himself mentally for survival.
Loneliness is a constant theme in this chapter, even though it's his isolation that keeps him safe. The loneliness becomes too much and leads Ishmael to take up with another group of boys even though he knows well the dangers. Through rumor alone, Ishmael and his group terrorize others. People flee or attack when they approach. They are treated as monsters, and Ishmael fears that that is exactly what they are becoming.