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Sloosha's Crossin'
Cloud Atlas Novel First Edition Cover

Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After - Chapter 6

Chapter 6[]

The "middle" story is set in the distant future, in a world following a nuclear holocaust. The cities destroyed, humans now live in small tribes, including Zachry's Valleymen tribe on the island of Ha-why (Hawaii). The chapter is a narrative, told by Zachry, a young goat herder. The story begins with Zachry witnessing his father's murder and his brother's abduction by the fierce rival tribe, the Konas. He was just nine years old at the time, but he still is haunted by his inability to save them.

Zachry tells of his first love, his premature baby born without a nose or mouth, and life with his mother, younger brothers and sisters. He tells of the Valleymen god, Sonmi, who lives among the people as a benevolent god. Her evil counterpart is called "Old Georgie," the Valleymen version of the devil.

The Valleymen are a simple people. They live off the land, grow most of their food and make their clothes. Once a year they travel to the eastern shore to trade with the Prescients, an advanced tribe that come from the northeast (presumably the Aleutian Islands of Alaska). One year, when Zachry is sixteen, the Prescients propose that one of their people, a woman named Meronym, stay behind and live with the Valleymen for a year in order to study their customs and ways.

The Abbess of the Valleymen agrees and it is decided that Meronym will stay with Zachry and his family. Most of the tribe is intrigued with the Prescient woman, her strange clothes, and her fanciful gifts. Zachry, however, is mistrustful and fears that she has been sent to infiltrate the Valleymen tribe so that the Presicents might overthrow them. He vows to find her secret.

After the initial flurry of excitement, Meronym blends into the Valleymen society and is accepted, and even liked, for her pleasant ways and her generosity by all except for Zachry. He takes his suspicions to the Abbess, the tribe leader, but is told that if he is to make such accusations, he needs to have proof. Zachry leaves the Abbess determined to expose the Prescient woman as a spy.

One day, Zachry finds Meronym at the Abbess' house, a holy place to the Valleymen where they keep icons of their ancestors. He confronts Meronym and blurts out his suspicions that she is not quite whom she appears to be. She swears on her ancestors that she means no harm and takes her leave of a confused Zachry.

Meronym has left her pack behind and Zachry goes through her things with the intention of finding proof of her duplicity. He finds an egg, an orison, and it comes to life with a hologram of a girl, and she speaks. Zachry is dumbfounded, but before he can absorb what he has found, a Prescient man appears on the orison and scolds Zachry for rifling Meronym's belongings. He tells Zachry to replace the egg and to keep silent about what he has found.

Not long after, Zachry's sister, Catkin, becomes gravely ill. The tribe medicine man and the herbalist can do nothing for her. In despair, Zachry goes to find Meronym, hoping she can use some of her "Smart" (her knowledge) to help his sister. Meronym resists, saying it is forbidden for her to interfere, but eventually is persuaded to give Zachry a pill to sneak in Catkin's mouth. The girl is saved, and Zachry begins to warm to Meronym.

So kindly does Zachry feel towards Meronym that when she announces her intention of climbing to the top of Mauna Kea, a feared spot the Valleymen believed to be the home of "Old Georgie." Zachry agrees to accompany her. The trek is not an easy one. They encounter cold, storms and dangerous and slippery inclines.

On the six-day excursion, Meronym and Zachry grow to be almost friends and share confidences. At the peak, they find a series of abandoned observatory buildings. As they are examining one of the stations, Zachry asks Meronym about the orison that he found in her pack. Meronym tells him that it is the tale of Sonmi, a fabricant from Nea So Copros, which Meronym had been studying to get a better understanding for the Valleymen.

Meronym tells Zachry that Sonmi is not a god, but a martyr, and relates her story to him. Zachry is angry and confused at having his lifelong beliefs shattered. His suspicions of Meronym return and he hallucinates that his ancestors ask him to kill Meronym. Zachry is torn between his past and his future and after a few tense moments throws his spear away rather than use it on Meronym.

The trip back to the village is almost as grueling as the ascent, and neither Zachry nor Meronym are quite the same when they return; both have learned much and have faced demons they'd rather have left undisturbed.

Soon it is time for the Honokaa Barter, the island's annual harvest festival and the largest gathering on the island. The Valleymen community busy themselves making goods to trade at the fair, and soon, Meronym, Zachry, and others set off to the coast, laden with meat, cheese, herbs, wool, and other products. The fair is active, and they trade for rice, raisins, coffee, and other things that the Valleymen are unable to produce.

On the second day of the festivities, the entire campground, including Zachry are awakened by a Kona attack. Dead and dying lie all around, and Zachry is bound and carted off to become a Kona slave. Many of the other captives die en route. When they stop for the night, the captives are forced to shiver in the cold, while the Kona warriors warm themselves by the fire and eat and drink their fill.

All of a sudden, the Kona warriors drop stone dead. It is Meronym, riding to the rescue, disguised as a Kona. She has recognized Zachry by the Prescient boots that she had given him. The pair releases the other captives and rides off to safety.

Safety, however, is not easily found. It is a full-scale Kona attack. When they stop for the night, Meronym speaks to her orison, while Zachry rests. Meronym eventually calls Zachry over and re-introduces him to Duophysite, the Prescient man who had scolded him when he was rummaging through Meronym's belongings.

Duophysite tells the pair that the Prescient mother ship is lost and that a plague has descended over the Prescient homeland, wiping out ninty-eight percent of the population. He tells them that there are five Presicents on Ha-Why, one on each island and that he is sending a kayak to the northwest side of the Big Island the next day to pick up Meronym and take her out of danger. Zachry agrees to get her to the rendezvous spot safely.

First Zachry wants to go by his village and check on his family. When they arrive, they find that the Konas have been there first. His family is gone, killed or enslaved. Their School'ry, containing the last books and functioning mechanical clock in existence, have been destroyed in a fire set by the Kona. Zachry is wracked by guilt once again. Meronym invites him to join her in escaping the island, yet he is unwilling to leave his home, however Meronym untimately makes that decision for him. Barely two steps in front of the Kona raiders, Zachry and Meronym make their way over the mountains to the coast, to the waiting kayak, to safety, and to a new life. The Kona attempt to follow them by crossing a bridge, but the weight of their armor and swords causes the bridge to collapse and kill all of them - destroyed by their own weapons.

The chapter ends with a coda from Zachry's son, saying that his pa always believed Meronym to be Sonmi, because of the comet-shaped birthmark on her shoulder. In his gear, after Zachry's death, the son finds the orison with the story of Sonmi.

Main Characters[]


  • "Sloosh'a's Crossin'" is the only chapter that isn't broken into two parts. It represents the apex of the story, the point to which the previous chapters build and from which the last chapters descend. The tale is tied to the earlier chapter, An Orison of Sonmi-451, through the use of Sonmi's story as a basis for the Valleymen religion. It is unclear how the Valleymen gained knowledge of Sonmi, though it is thematically implied that they are the apotheosis of her revolutionary ideals. To this end it is fitting that they live on Hawaii, the alleged location of the fabricant xultation.
  • Although it is an onomatopoeia of rare usage, Mitchell uses the word "sloosh" in several other narratives. In Chapter 2 of "Half Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery," Luisa "slooshes her mouth out" and "spits residue into a flowerpot behind a screen" before telling herself "Go home and just dream up your crappy three hundred words for once. People only look at the pictures, anyhow." Later, in Chapter 56, Mitchell writes that Luisa "pours herself a heavy blue glass and slooshes the liquid around every nook of her mouth." Elsewhere, in the first part of "The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish," the eponymous character writes "I retired to my office, poured myself a whiskey, and slooshed down my dicky-ticker pills before tracing Captain Cook's last voyage on my antique globe."