Fiction

Excerpt from The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell

I think about pinball, and how being a kid’s like being shot up the firing lane and there’s no veering left or right;

you’re just sort of propelled. But once you clear the top, like when you’re sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen, suddenly

there’s a thousand different paths you can take, some amazing, others not.

Tiny little differences in angles and speed’ll totally alter what happens to you later, so a fraction of an inch to the right, and the ball’ll just hit a pinger and a dinger and fly down between your flippers, no messing, a waste of 10 p. But a fraction to the left and it’s action in the play zone, bumpers and kickers, ramps and slingshots and fame on the high-score table. My problem is, I don’t know what I want, apart from a bit of money to buy food later on today. Until the day before yesterday all I wanted was Vinny, but I won’t make that mistake again. Like a shiny silver pinball whizzing out of the firing lane, I’ve not got the faintest bloody clue where I’m going or what’ll happen next.

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Fiction

Excerpt from The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell

Through the thorny roses, between swaying bushes, down the dusty lawn, I run. I run like I’ve never run. The sun’s in my face and the wall’s not far. Halfway there, when I get to the trellis thing, I look back; he’s not running after me, like I dreaded, just standing there, a few steps from Ian and Heidi, who’re still lying dead so he’s letting me go–why who cares why he’s a mental psycho so run run run run run run, but, run, but, but, run, but . . . But I’m slowing, slowing, how, why, what, my heart’s straining like crazy, but it’s like the brake and accelerator are being pressed at the same time but whatever’s slowing down isn’t inside me, it’s not poison, it’s outside me, it’s time slowing up or gravity pulling harder, or air changing to water, or sand, or treacle . . . I have dreams like this–but I’m awake, it’s daytime, I know I’m awake . . . But, impossibly, I’ve stopped, like a statue of a runner, one foot raised for the next stride that’ll never come. This is mad. Infeckingsane. It occurs to me I ought to try to scream for help, it’s what people do, but all that comes out is this grunt spasm noise . . .

. . . and the world starts shrinking back towards the bungalow, hauling me along with it, helplessly.

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Fiction

Excerpt from Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

David Mitchell: “Letters From Zedelghem”

Been thinking of my grandfather, whose wayward brilliance skipped my father’s generation. Once, he showed me an aquatint of a certain Siamese temple. Don’t recall its name, but ever since a disciple of the Buddha preached on the spot centuries ago, every bandit king, tyrant, and monarch of that kingdom has enhanced it with marble towers, scented arboretums, gold-leafed domes, lavished murals on its vaulted ceilings, set emeralds into the eyes of its statuettes. When the temple finally equals its counterpart in the Pure Land, so the story goes, that day humanity shall have fulfilled its purpose, and Time itself shall come to an end.

To men like Ayrs, it occurs to me, this temple is civilization. The masses, slaves, peasants, and foot soldiers exist in the cracks of its flagstones, ignorant even of their ignorance. Not so the great statesmen, scientists, artists, and most of all, the composers of the age, any age, who are civilization’s architects, masons, and priests. Ayrs sees our role is to make civilization ever more resplendent. My employer’s profoundest, or only, wish is to create a minaret that inheritors of Progress a thousand years from now will point to and say, “Look, there is Vyvyan Ayrs!”

How vulgar, this hankering after immortality, how vain, how false. Composers are merely scribblers of cave paintings. One writes music because winter is eternal and because, if one didn’t, the wolves and blizzards would be at one’s throat all the sooner.

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Fiction

Excerpt from Cloud Atlas (II)

David Mitchell: “Letters From Zedelghem”

After supper, the three of us might listen to the wireless if there is a broadcast that passes muster, otherwise it will be recordings on the gramophone (an His Master’s Voice table model in an oak box), usually Ayrs’s own major works conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham. When we have visitors, there will be conversation or a little chamber music. Other nights, Ayrs likes me to read to him poetry, especially his beloved Keats. He whispers the verses as I recite, as if his voice is leaning on mine.

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