Chapter 38

Kirsten and August continue toward Severn City, but they cannot help but think about Sayid, Dieter, and the rest of the Symphony they have been separated from. One of the magazines that they found in the house they looted has a picture of Miranda Carroll. She was photographed leaving the theater where Kirsten and Arthur had performed in King Lear. Kirsten tries to remember if she saw Miranda there. August brings up the idea of multiple, parallel universes and they talk about a universe where the pandemic did not happen, or where Sayid and Dieter did not go missing. They camp at the edge of Severn City and August asks Kirsten if she remembers the scar on Finn’s face from the day before. Kirsten replies that the Prophet marked him. August says that the scar was in the shape of an airplane.

Chapter 39

Arthur calls Miranda when his dad dies, telling her that she was the first person he wanted to share the news with. Two weeks before the collapse, Miranda travels to Toronto to visit Arthur. It has been eleven years since they last saw one another. Miranda travels to the theater and is recognized by paparazzi before entering the stage door. She and Arthur talk, and he tells her about the book Dear V. She asks why Victoria would have sold Arhur’s letters, and Arthur says she probably did it for the money. He admits to Miranda that Victoria seldom ever wrote back to him, and that he had used her like a diary. 

Eight-year-old Kirsten asks if she can come into the room. Arthur lets her in and she starts coloring in a coloring book. Miranda gives Arthur two copies each of the first two issues of Dr. Eleven. When Miranda returns to her hotel, she sends the glass paperweight—the one that she’d taken from his office years ago—to the theater by courier. Two weeks later, while Miranda is “drifting in and out of delirium” in Malaysia, she thinks about the room backstage, with Arthur and the young girl (Kirsten) coloring.

Chapter 40

Just before the collapse, Miranda is in Malaysia, unaware that the airports have started closing and confused by the lack of staff at her hotel. She receives a phone call from Clark Thompson telling her that Arthur has died.

Although Arthur’s lawyer, Gary Heller, had asked Clark to call Arthur’s family and ex-wives, Heller now calls Clark to say that he just called the family so that they don’t have to learn about Arthur’s death on the news or the internet. Clark asks about Elizabeth Colton, since she is the mother of Arthur’s only child, and Heller says that he has not called her yet. Heller asks Clark if he knew Tanya Gerard, the babysitter for the King Lear production, or if Arthur ever mentioned her. Apparently, Arthur had been having an affair with Tanya. Clark, uninterested in Heller’s remarks, talks about how wonderful Arthur was when he was young and then hangs up. 

Clark calls Elizabeth to say that Arthur’s funeral is going to be in two days, in Toronto—the only place that Arthur ever felt free. By chance, Clark boards a Toronto flight on which no one has contracted the Georgia Flu. Elizabeth Colton and her and Arthur’s son, Tyler, are also on the plane. While in the air, the plane is diverted to the Severn City airport.

Chapter 41

Just after the call with Clark, Miranda starts to feel sick. Walking back into her hotel, she sees that the concierge has a surgical mask on. When she checks the news on her laptop, she learns of the magnitude of the Georgia Flu crisis. She tries to book a flight out of Malaysia but is unsuccessful.
Miranda leaves her hotel room and walks down to the beach, exhausted and running a high fever. She thinks about the idle container ships on the horizon and how they are isolated from the illness. Miranda observes the sunrise and confuses it with visions of Station Eleven, the fictional setting she invented in her Dr. Eleven stories.


This section, entitled “The Airplanes,” explores how airplanes and flight are powerful symbols of both civilization and faith. Before the collapse, air travel was the pinnacle of human civilization and innovation. When Arthur hears about Miranda flying to Asia, he marvels at the life they both lead. There’s a sense of wonder about all that’s possible. However, air travel spreads the contagion quickly. In this way, airplanes herald civilization’s downfall. The children born after the collapse have trouble understanding how it was possible that something as massive as a plane could fly like a bird. This deepens the sense that air travel was a miraculous achievement. Perhaps it is this sense of wonder and also the fact that Tyler grew up in an airport that made airplanes such a powerful symbol in his cult. Notably, the symbol he carves into his followers’ skin is an airplane that looks like a cross. In those early days after the collapse, people looked toward the sky in hopes of salvation much like the faithful look toward heaven when they pray. In using the airplane as a religious symbol, the prophet seems to express both reverence for civilization and a desire to transcend this new world.

The airplanes also emphasize the fragile miracle of survival. Miranda and Clark both fly as the pandemic begins. The novel traces the series of small miracles that allow Clark to end up at the Severn City airport without contracting the virus. The flu is already all around him, but through sheer luck, Clark avoids infected people and contaminated surfaces. While people like Jeevan survive because they are forewarned and make a series of strategic decisions, Clark survives by pure chance. The passengers who end up rerouted to Severn City are similarly lucky. It seems like a miracle that the entire settlement, a group of many people who come from points all over the world, avoids an infection that kills 99% of the population. Though it’s unclear where Miranda contracts the Georgia Flu, she likely gets it on the airplane or at the airport. Survival’s fragile nature resurfaces in moments throughout the novel such as when Kirsten’s brother dies from stepping on a nail. It is notably referred to as a stupid death. These different stories suggest that mere chance plays into survival often more so than direct action.

 As Arthur and Miranda both near death in this section, the impending loss brings out the sacredness and beauty of everyday life. When Miranda is dying on the beach, her memories don’t turn to grand or earth-shattering events. Instead, she remembers small, simple pleasures from the last time she saw Arthur, like the sound of a pencil on a coloring book. When August and Kirsten dream of everyday life continuing in a parallel universe, they long for the simplest pleasures like flipping on a switch and flooding a room with light. Moments set before the collapse are constantly imbued with awareness of the loss that will come. One such example is when Mandel mentions that Miranda is flying just before the end of air travel. By keeping the loss ever-present, small moments like walking down a cold street with a hot coffee are imbued with sacredness and beauty. Loss is not all pain and sadness because the characters also celebrate these poignant moments of beauty.

The motif of acting in real life is explored in this section as well. When Miranda meets with Arthur, she notices that he seems to be acting in real life, echoing Clark’s observations earlier in the novel. As Arthur gets more famous and acting becomes a central part of his identity, he seems to struggle to maintain authenticity or even to understand who his authentic self is. In the same scene, Arthur admits that he treated Victoria like a diary, forgetting she was a person. This is another version of acting, and from Victoria’s lack of response to Arthur, this behavior seems alienating and unwelcome. But even in confessing this tendency to Miranda, Arthur can’t escape his own performance of himself. One of the final impressions Miranda has of him before they both die is someone who may not know what real life is.