Prologue 8

End-Day + 8

A loud, metallic thumping takes me out of my doze.

Yesterday’s rest day turned into today’s illness. At times I’ve been awake, working myself up to dress, the weight in my limbs the only thing keeping me inert. At others, nausea has built to a clenched fist in my stomach until I have had to stumble outside to retch violently – nothing but water and bile.

It’s chemicals in the water supply, or perhaps the food, dad thinks.

The thump sounds again, this time accompanied by an incoherent voice. The syllables are rounded at the edges, cut off early, or swamped in sibilance.

“Who is it?” dad demands. In his hand he is holding a crow bar. His chair is kicked back, lying collapsed on the floor.

It is not the first time I have woken to inexplicable sound. Last night, twice I opened my eyes to see the utensils by the old kitchen sink swinging from their hooks, the tins we salvaged from the footlocker rattling against each other, daring one another to the edge of the shelf. My mattress felt like a bed of maggots.

The quake, like all the others I’ve heard, didn’t build to anything. But it lasted for half an hour perhaps. The earth was stirring, the great curved back of its tectonic plate stretching and popping bubbles of gas as it cracked its joints.

Dad’s saying, “Why would I let you in? Last time we met, you punched me.”

A moment passes, and the world is drifting out of focus.

Just before I drift off, I see a shaft of light reappear in the door, the narrow letterbox unobscured. His fading footsteps take me to sleep.

End-Day + 9  >>