And I know I've lost. Everything is lost. Everything is over. "As the newly appointed President of this fair planet of ours," the Mayor says, holding out his hands as if to show me the world for the first time," let me be the very first to welcome you to its new capital city." "Todd?" Viola whispers, her eyes closed. I hold her tightly to me. "I'm sorry," I whisper to her. "I'm so sorry." We've run right into a trap. We've run right off the end of the world. "Welcome," says the Mayor," to the New Prentisstown.
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I was born into all that, all that mess, the over-crowded swamp and the over-crowded sematary and the not-crowded-enough town, so I don't remember nothing, don't remember a world without Noise. My pa died of sickness before I was born and then my ma died, of course, no surprises there. Ben and Cillian took me in, raised me. Ben says my ma was the last of the women but everyone says that about everyone's ma. Ben may not be lying, he believes it's true, but who knows?
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Free, I think. They're free. (is this why she joined them?) I feel so- So relieved. I pick up the pace as I near the opening, my hands gripping my rifle but I have a feeling I ain't gonna need it. (ah, Viola, I knew I could count-) Then I reach the opening and stop. Everything stops. My stomach falls right thru my feet. "They're all gone?" Davy says, coming up beside me. Then he see what I see. "What the-?" Davy says. The Spackle ain't all gone. They're still here. Every single one. All 1150 of them. Dead.
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Feelings don't try to kill you, even the painful ones. Anxiety is a feeling grown too large. A feeling grown aggressive and dangerous. You're responsible for it's consequences, you're responsible for treating it. But Michael, you're not responsible for causing it. You're not morally at fault for it. No more than you would be for a tumour.
No one ever seems to wonder what happens if it turns out we hate living on a planet? What if the sky's too big? What if the air stinks? What if we go hungry?' 'And what if the air tastes of honey? What if there's so much food we all get too fat? What if the sky is so beautiful we don't get any work done because we're all looking at it too much?
Besides, what was more perfect an object than a book? The different rags of paper, smooth or rough under your fingers. The edge of the page pressed into your thumbprint as you turned a new chapter. The way your bookmark -fancy, modest, scrap paper, candy wrapper -moved through the width of it, marking your progress, a little further each time you folded it shut.
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Her accent's funny, different from mine, different from anyone in Prentisstown's. Her lips make different kinds of outlines for the letters, like they're swooping down on them from above, pushing them into shape, telling them what to say. In Prentisstown, everyone talks like they're sneaking up on their words, ready to club them from behind.
Spackle!' Manchee barks, tho he's too chicken to attack now that I've held back. 'Spackle! Spackle! Spackle!' 'Shut up, Manchee, ' I say. 'Spackle!' 'I said shut up!' I shout, which stops him. 'Spackle?' Manchee says, unsure of things now. I swallow, trying to get rid of the pressure in my throat, the unbelieveable sadness that comes and comes as I look at it looking back at me. Knowledge is dangerous and men lie and the world keeps changing, whether I want it to or not. Cuz, it ain't a Spackle. 'It's a girl, ' I say. It's a girl.
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He loved physical books with the same avidity other people loved horses or wine or prog rock. He'd never really warmed to ebooks because they seemed to reduce a book to a computer file, and computer files were disposable things, things you never really owned. He had no emails from ten years ago but still owned every book he bought that year. Besides, what was more perfect an object than a book? The different rags of paper, smooth or rough under your fingers. The edge of the page pressed into your thumbprint as you turned a new chapter. The way your bookmark - fancy, modest, scrap paper, candy wrapper - moved through the width of it, marking your progress, a little further each time you folded it shut.
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HELP!' I race to the square, crossing it, looking all around, listening out- No. No. It's empty. Viola's breathing heavy in my arms. And Haven is empty. I reach the middle of the square. I don't see nor hear a soul. I spin around again. 'HELP!' I cry. But there's no one. Haven's completely empty. There ain't hope here after all.
He is sorry- For everything- For Prentisstown- For Viola- For Ben- For every failure and every wrong- For letting his pa down- And he's looking up at me- And he's begging me- He's begging me- Like I'm the only one who can forgive him- Like it's only me who's got the power- Todd?- Please- And all I can say is "Davy-" And the fright and the terror in his Noise is too much- It's too much- And then it stops. Davy slumps, eyes still open, eyes still staring back at me, eyes still asking (I swear) for me to forgive him. And he lies there, still. Davy Prentiss is dead.
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HERE It's- Can I say? It's like the song of a family where everything's always all right, it's a song of belonging that makes you belong just by hearing it, it's a song that'll always take care of you and never leave you. If you have a heart, it breaks, if you have a heart that's broken, it fixes.
His noise is getting quieter, but I can still see it there still- See how he feels the skin of my hand against his, see how he wants to take it and press it against his mouth, how he wants to breathe in the smell of me and how beautiful I look to him, how strong after all that illness, and how he wants to just lightly touch my neck, just there, and how he wants to take me in his arms and- "Oh, God, " he says, looking away suddenly. "Viola, I'm sorry, I didn't mean-" But I just put my hand to the back of his neck- And he says, "Viola-?" And I pull myself towards him- And I kiss him. And it feels like, finally.
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His Noise saying, No, no, not now, not NOW- And then he says, Viola? "I'm here, Todd, " I say, my voice breaking, shouting with desperation. "I'm here!" And he says Voila? again- Asking it- Asking like he's not sure I'm there- And then his Noise falls completely silent- And he stops struggling- And looking right into my eyes- He dies. My Todd dies.
You be as angry as you need to be, " she said. "Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Not your grandma, not your dad, no one. And if you need to break things, then by God, you break them good and hard." He couldn't look at her. He just couldn't. "And if, one day, " she said, really crying now, "you look back and you feel bad for being so angry, if you feel bad for being so angry at me that you couldn't even speak to me, then you have to know, Conor, you have to know that it was okay. It was okay. That I knew. I know, okay? I know everything you need to tell me without you having to say it out loud. All right?" He still couldn't look at her. He couldn't raise his head, it felt so heavy. He was bent in two, like he was being torn right down through his middle. But he nodded.
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And if one day, ' she said, really crying now, 'you look back and you feel bad for being so angry, if you feel bad for being so angry at me that you couldn't even speak to me, then you have to know, Conor, you have to that is was okay. It was okay. That I knew. I know, okay? I know everything you need to tell me without you having to say it out loud.
And right on cue, Viola yells, " TODD! " And I hit him with everything I got - Every bit of her behind me - Every piece of anger and frustrayshun and nothingness - Every moment I didn't see her - Every moment I worried - Everything - Every little tiny thing I know about her - I send it right into the center of him - VIOLA
Mikey, " she says, but not like she's about to say anything more, just like she's identifying me, making a place for me here that's mine to exist in. I want her so much, my heart feels heavy, like I'm grieving. Is this what they meant about that stomach feeling? They didn't say it felt this sad.
It felt like waiting for something to happen. Which has to be the worth part of being young. So many of your decisions aren't yours; they're made by other people. Sometimes they're made badly by other people. Sometimes they're made by other people who have no idea what the consequences of those decisions might be. The bastards.
Yes", Kumiko said, seriously. "Exactly that. The extraordinary happens all the time. So much, we can't take it. Life and happiness and heartache and love. If we couldn't put it in story - " "And explain it -" "No!" she said, suddenly sharp. "Not explain. Stories do not explain. They seem to, but all they provide is a starting point. The story never ends at the end. There is always after. And even within itself, even by saying that this version is the right one, it suggests other versions, versions that exist in parallel. No, story is not an explanation, it is a net, a net through which the truth flows. The net catches some of the truth, but not all, never all, only enough so that we can live with the extraordinary without it killing us." She sagged a little, as if exhausted by this speech. "As it surely, surely would.
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Did it matter? George thought perhaps it did, and not in terms of finding truth or of any hope of discovering what really happened at any given moment. There were as many truths - overlapping, stewed together - as there were tellers. The truth mattered less than story's life. A story forgotten died. A story remembered not only lived, but grew.
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He's seeing the actual Milky Way streaked across the sky. The whole of his entire galaxy, right there in front of him. Billions and billions of stars. Billions and billions of worlds. All of them, all of those seemingly endless possibilities, not fictional, but real, out there, existing, right now. There is so much more out there than just the world he knows, so much more than his tiny Washington town, so much more than even London. Or England. Or hell, for that matter. So much more that he'll never see. So much more that he'll never get to. So much that he can only glimpse enough of to know that it's forever beyond his reach.
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And I put my hand on her arm to stop her rowing. Aaron's Noise roars up in red and black. The current takes us on. 'I'm sorry!' I cry as the river takes us away, my words ragged things torn from me, my chest pulled so tight I can't barely breathe. 'I'm sorry, Manchee!' 'Todd?' he barks, confused and scared and watching me leave him behind. 'Todd?' 'Manchee!' I scream. Aaron brings his free hand towards my dog. 'MANCHEE!' 'Todd?' And Aaron wrenches his arms and there's a CRACK and a scream and a cut-off yelp that tears my heart in two forever and forever. And the pain is too much it's too much it's too much and my hands are on my head and I'm rearing back and my mouth is open in a never-ending wordless wail of all the blackness that's inside of me.
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Who cares even if I didn't?!" Conor shouted back. "They're just stupid berries. Woo-hoo, so scary. Oh, please, please, save me from the berries!" The monster looked at him quizzically. How strange, it said. The words you say tell me you are scared of the berries, but your actions seems to suggest otherwise.
Manchee comes outta the bushes and sits down next to me cuz I've stopped right there in the middle of a trail. He looks around to see what I might be seeing and then he says, 'Good poo, Todd.' 'I'm sure it was, Manchee.' I'd better not get another ruddy dog when my birthday comes. What I want this year is a hunting knife like the one Ben carries on the back of his belt. Now that's a present for a man. 'Poo, ' Manchee's says quietly.
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Everybody was hoping for something, talking about our new life to come and all that they hoped from it. Fresh air, whatever that's supposed to mean. Real gravity, instead of the fake kind that broke every now and then (even though no one over fifteen would admit that it was actually really fun when it did). All the wide open spaces we'd have, all the new people we'd meet when we woke them up, ignoring completely what happened to the original settlers, super- confident that we were so much better equipped that nothing bad could possibly happen to us. All this hope, and here I was, right at the very edge of it, looking out into the darkness, the first to see it coming, the first to greet it when we found out what it really looked like.
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THERE IT IS, ' my mother says, and what she means is that the dot we've been nearing for weeks, the one that's been growing into a larger dot with two smaller dots circling it, has now become even larger than that, growing from a dot to a disc, shining back the light from its sun, until you can see the blue of its oceans, the green of its forests, the white of its polar caps, a circle of colour against the black beyond.
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The indie kids, huh? You've got them at your school, too. That group with the cool-geek haircuts and the charity shop clothes and names from the fifties. Nice enough, never mean, but always the ones who end up being the Chosen One when the vampires come calling or when the alien queen needs the Source of All Light or something. They're too cool to ever, ever do anything like go to prom or listen to music other than jazz while reading poetry. They've always got some story going on that they're heroes of. The rest of us just have to live here, hovering around the edges, left out of it all, for the most part.
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And I know I've lost. Everything is lost. Everything is over. 'As the newly appointed President of this fair planet of ours, ' the Mayor says, holding out his hands as if to show me the world for the first time, ' let me be the very first to welcome you to its new capital city.' 'Todd?' Viola whispers, her eyes closed. I hold her tightly to me. 'I'm sorry, ' I whisper to her. 'I'm so sorry.' We've run right into a trap. We've run right off the end of the world. 'Welcome, ' says the Mayor, ' to the New Prentisstown.
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A sematary, " I say. "A what?" Viola says, looking round at all the square stones marking out their graves. Must be a hundred, maybe two, in orderly rows and well-kept grass. Settler life is hard and it's short and lotsa New World people have lost the battle. "It's a place for burying dead folk, " I say. Her eyes widen. "A place for doing what?" "Don't people die in space?" I ask. "Yeah, " she says. "But we burn them. We don't put them in holes." She crosses her arms around herself, mouth and forehead frowning, peering around at the graves. "How can this be sanitary?
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Like how stars might sound. Or moons But not mountains. Too floaty for mountains. It's a sound like one planet singing to another, high stretched and full of different voices starting at different notes and sloping down to other different notes but all weaving together in a rope of sound that's sad but not sad and slow but not slow and all singing one word. One word.
And what other kind of man would you want leading you into battle?' he says, reading my Noise. 'What other kind of man is suitable for war?' A monster, I think, remembering what Ben told me once. War makes monsters of men. 'Wrong, ' says the Mayor. 'It's war that makes us men in the first place. Until there's war, we are only children.' Another blast of the horn comes roaring down at us, so loud it nearly takes our heads off and it puts the army off its stride for a second or two. We look up the road to the bottom of the hill. We see Spackle torches gathering there to meet us. 'Ready to grow up, Todd?' the Mayor asks.
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But I don't care what you think, not about these things anyway. If you don't think they're real or important or you think that we'll all grow out of this nonsense, well, that's not really my business. I can't tell you what's real for you. But in return, you can't say what's real for me either. I get to choose. Not you.
He is worse than the others, I show. He is worst of all of them. Because- Because he knew he was doing wrong. He felt the pain of his actions- But he did not amend them, shows the Sky. The rest are worth as much as their pack animals, I show, but worst is the one who knows better and does nothing.