Dedication: For Steve Paulsen
'It begins and ends with a flash of light, the last thing remembered by anyone using d-mat A flash of perfectly white light issuing from all eight corners of the booth that somehow doesn't leave an afterimage. People never talk about the last part, which is symptomatic of their willingness to ignore the discomfiting obvious. The flash of light is their final memory before they're torn into atoms. It's also the first thing they see when a perfect replica of their brain comes alive at the other end of their journey. However, what they think of as a single, near-instantaneous event is actually the beginning and end of a two-minute process that a philosopher much smarter than I once described as the most savage evisceration imaginable°. My darlings will endure much, provided they forget entirely afterwards. (Introduction)
'She said she was a falling angel,
And I believed her,
'I don't mean that in a besotted or and love struck way, but certainly I was both besotted and love-struck by her.
She first told me one summer evening, when the sun was little more than a cloud-lidded eye about to close over the water and the smell of wildflowers and salt was heavy on the breeze. The rhythm of the sea was like breath, a hiss of the inhalation as the water raked back over the pebble', then a pause, and the crash of the exhale. We'd just made love within the protection of the dunes, scant footsteps away from other beech-goers, yet safe and secluded as we always were. I was holding her in my arms, my face buried deep in her thick hair, smelling that scent that reminds me of everything and nothing, dawn and dusk, velvet and sand.
"I'm a falling angel," she says, softly.
'I don't reply. There's nothing to say.' (Introduction)
'It comes with a sound like a river, the noise so loud in the silence of the observatory he turns for a moment to see if Clyde has heard it too, only to realise Clyde is not there, that he left hours ago. Through the door he can see the trees outside, dark against the fading sky, hear the wind in the trees, And then the sound is gone, as quickly as it began...' (Introduction)
'Always I heard the sound of the footsteps in the snow far behind. The air was still and cold in the valley and sound carried great distances. First the soft pop of boots puncturing the crust of fresh snow, followed after by the crunch as my pursuer's weight came down. Pop-crunch, pop.crunch—a sound that seemed to increase in malevolence over time.' (Introduction)
'A tag on the wall of the Badham Building took Paul Fenn back ten years in an instant. Some late-night graffiti angel had broken the unwritten campus rule and sprayed their moniker on the wall outside the Graffiti Tunnel's southern entrance.'
'Fallon's Palms weren't yet callused. His fingers were sea-softened, and he fancied they were gently webbed; better shaped for paddling than climbing. Each nail was blunt as a seal's nose, not sharp like Mither's, despite her relentless nipping and filing and grooming, her daily tugging at his little digits, at his disappointing limbs. Wings flapping, she yanked one arm, then the other, while he clung to the foot of their feather bed, or the porch rail, or the stool by the cottage hearth. She pulled while he resisted—not the idea of growth, mind, but the ache in his joints as she tried to stretch him. the clear futility of it all. ' (Introduction)
'Stanis felt the first warning sign in the soles of his feet. The earthen floor of the kitchen trembled, as though with the twitch of a mighty worm. Out here, on the arid edge of the settled lands, such movements weren't uncommon: wraiths ruled in the wilderness. The minor disturbance wasn't anything his wards couldn't handle; he and the earth had an understanding, after all. But there was more to this sensation than an earth wraith scratching an itch. On the bench, the morning's milk lay curdled in the pail, turned in the time it had taken him to wash his face. There were no flies.' (Introduction)
'Me gonna tell you this wun story made ov truth n lies. Not becos I meet to, but thass wot memry is Cos evry nite, tha werld terns itself n us upside down, then awl our memries get so jiggeld in our heds that wot feels like truth cud reely be a lie, n wot wos wunse a lie mixs up with histry.' (Introduction)
'Seldom was the Mediterranean Sea so very calm that the wavelets were barely visible at the entrance to the Canal of Erythraea, gateway to the orient. In the western sky the moon hung as a thin crescent, and beside it Venus gleamed like burning silver. The sorceress Xarial stood on the wharf of green granite, tall, svelte, crowned by cascades of pale hair, gazing west through a tube of polished brass. Two figures approached, the smaller of them not half the height of his master. Xarial's swarthy Iberian guard. Grattan, looked on warily. ' (Introduction)
'This is my grandmother’s house; mine since last Tuesday when the will was read, an impoverished student sitting on a million dollar piece of property. The air still carries the scent of her, the faintest hint of lavender and Pears shampoo—but there have always been odours in this house that seem to have no source: pipe smoke, aftershave, hair oil. This morning I thought I woke to the sound of her skirt swishing against the petticoat she insistently wore. I thought there was the soft click of the heels of her house shoes on the polished wood floors, muted when she got to the rugs, clear again when she’d crossed them. I thought I heard her singing and the quick snick as she switched on the electric kettle my sister and I bought her three years ago when she kept burning herself on the stove-top one. It’s a Russell Hobbs, silver, sexy and too expensive but it was the only way to make her change—tell her how much it cost so she couldn’t bear to let it lie in the pantry gathering dust.' (Introduction)
'Paulie hated not being able to understand things. He knew they'd had to drive kilometres off the main route—bumping along a rough road with the caravan behind—but why hadn't the tank been properly filled with petrol? He knew Mr Spyriadakos was something to do with the Greek branch of Dad's company in Australia, but why did he have to travel with them all the way to Athens? He knew Dad and Mr Spyriadakos had been unable to work the single pump at the dilapidated, tin-shed petrol station outside the village, but why was there nobody there to serve them?' (Introduction)
'G.W. Birdwheel-Frights, here he was, rather older than other-wise: all a-gangle, nose and knee, these the protuberances upon the rest of his flesh was draped, then stretched, then turned almost to oak by salt wind and interstellar UV. Rather chinless, rather small, with the wiry frame of a ditch-digger, say; not one to cut a striking figure in a gallery of epic adventurers—not the picture of the champion as commonly imagined.' (Introduction)
'The little bundle was falling from the sky and then he was awake, and he listened to this cold season's early westerly winds shaking loose the world outside. The bedroom was almost dark though achingly bright moonlight filtered one window, creating slashes of clarity over the carved Rosewood Chinese palace armchair Laura had rescued and painstakingly restored from some roadside trash collection. From where he cowered, the side of this face pressed to his pillow, he saw more shards of light: falling across the floor's oriental rug; over two perfume bottles and a hairbrush on the night-stand; one white streak was across Laura's scattered winter clothes. ' (Introduction)
'First came the catastrophe, then the change. Everything changed, everywhere. Except there was one place, Abonya, where things changed differently.' (Introduction)
'Jonathan swallowed, but the lump in his throat remained. You're twelve, he told himself. Not some snivelling child. That's what his stepdad called him, on a good day. He tried to ignore the sensation of snakes swimming in his stomach and glanced back along the path barely visible through overgrown dry grass. The three older boys in the street gestured for him to go on. One flapped his arms like chicken wings.' (Introduction)
'For a reason she wished she'd never learned, her name was Gunzen Rozes, and she hated being dead, a state she'd attained two thousand five hundred fifty-six (counting a leap-day) nights ago (or maybe it was days - too dark to read, but the streetlights were never on; maybe they were only there for the poles).' (Introduction)
'In the dull green corridors of the old hospital, the ghosts were twittering with excitement The new woman would be here soon. She could be the one. She had the skills they needed. She would help them - they just knew she would - if only she could be persuaded.' (Introduction)
'"Huge Hugh will do it," declared General Travis confidently, his words somewhat belied by the nervous tapping he was doing on the side of the console. "And if not Huge Hugh, Radiant Star is there as backup."' (Introduction)
'My brother stumbles through the back gate while I'm still in the hen-house, plucking smooth, warm eggs from dirty straw.' (Introduction)