The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

The three boys moved hesitantly down the wide center aisle, their steps ringing out on the flagstone floor.1 The golden domes that arched above their heads kept their splendor hidden in the gloom, and in between the tall marble pillars that supported them the boys felt as small as insects. Instinctively, they moved closer together.

“Where are the confessionals?” Mosca whispered, looking uneasily around him. “I haven’t been in here very often. I don’t like churches. They’re creepy.”

“I know they are,” Scipio replied. He pushed the mask back onto his face and led the way as purposefully as one of the Basilica’s tourist guides. The confessionals were tucked away in one of the side aisles. The first one on the left looked no different from the others. It was a tall box made from black wood, draped with dark red curtains and with a door in the middle2, which the priest used for slipping into the tiny space behind. Inside, he would sit down on a narrow bench, put his ear to a small window, and listen to all who wanted to tell him their sins and clear their conscience.3

Of course there was also a curtain on the side of the confessional to protect the sinners from curious eyes. Scipio now pushed this curtain aside, adjusting his mask one last time and clearing his throat nervously. The Thief Lord tried very hard to pretend that he was coolness itself,4 but Prosper and Mosca, as they followed him behind the curtain,5 sensed that his heart was beating just as fast as theirs.

Scipio hesitated as his eye fell on the low bench half hidden in the darkness, but then he kneeled down on it. The small window was now level with his eyes and he could be seen by whoever sat on the other side. Prosper and Mosca stood behind him like bodyguards. Scipio just knelt there, waiting.6

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Excerpt from Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

“Oh, it is not thus—not thus,” 7 interrupted the being. “Yet such must be the impression conveyed to you by what appears to be the purport of my actions. Yet 2I seek not a fellow feeling in my misery. No sympathy may I ever find3. When I first sought it, it was the love of virtue, the feelings of happiness and affection with which my whole being overflowed4, that I wished to be participated. But now that virtue has become to me a shadow, and that happiness and affection are turned into bitter and loathing despair, in what should I seek for sympathy? I am content to suffer alone while my sufferings shall endure; when I die, I am well satisfied that abhorrence and opprobrium should load my memory5. Once6 my fancy was soothed with dreams of virtue, of fame, and of enjoyment. Once I falsely hoped to meet with beings who, pardoning my outward form, would love me for the excellent qualities which I was capable of unfolding. I was nourished with high thoughts of honour and devotion. But 7now crime has degraded me beneath the meanest animal. No guilt, no mischief, no malignity, no misery,8 can be found comparable to mine. When I run over the frightful catalogue of my sins, I cannot believe that I am the same creature whose thoughts were once filled with sublime and transcendent visions of the beauty and the majesty of goodness. But it is even so; the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil9. Yet 10even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am alone.”11

 

The Maze Runner-James Dashner

He began his new life standing up, surrounded by cold darkness and stale, dusty air. 12

Metal ground against metal; 2a lurching shudder shook the floor beneath him. He fell down at the sudden movement and shuffled backward on his hands and feet, drops of sweat beading on his forehead despite the cool air.3 His back struck a hard metal wall; 4 he slid along it until he hit the corner of the room. Sinking to the floor, he pulled his legs up tight against his body, hoping his eyes would soon adjust to the darkness. 5

With another jolt,6the room jerked upward like an old lift in a mine shaft.

Harsh sounds of chains and pulleys, like the workings of an ancient steel factory, echoed through the room, bouncing off the walls with a hollow, tinny whine.7 The lightless elevator swayed back and forth as it ascended, turning the boy’s stomach sour with nausea; a smell like burnt oil invaded his senses, making him feel worse. He wanted to cry, but8 no tears came; he could only sit there, alone, waiting. 9

My name is Thomas, he thought.

That… that was the only thing he could remember about his life.

He didn’t understand how this could be possible. His mind functioned without flaw, trying to calculate his surroundings and predicament. Knowledge flooded his thoughts, facts and images, memories and details of the world and how it works. He pictured snow on trees, running down a leaf-strewn road, eating a hamburger, the moon casting a pale glow on a grassy meadow, swimming in a lake, a busy city square with hundreds of people bustling about their business.10

And yet he didn’t know where he came from, or how he’d gotten inside the dark lift, or who his parents were. 11 He didn’t even know his last name. 12 Images of people flashed across his mind, but there was no recognition, their faces replaced with haunted smears of color. 13 He couldn’t think of one person he knew, or recall a single conversation.

The room continued its ascent, swaying; Thomas grew immune to the ceaseless rattling of the chains that pulled him upward.14A long time passed. Minutes stretched into hours, although it was impossible to know for sure because every second seemed an eternity. 15 No. He was smarter than that. Trusting his instincts, he knew he’d been moving for roughly half an hour.

 

 

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Mrs. Dalloway — Virginia Woolf

“Yes,” said Peter. “Yes, yes, yes,” he said, as if she drew up to the surface something which positively hurt him as it rose. Stop! Stop! he wanted to cry. For16 he was not old; his life was not over; not by any means 2. He was only just past fifty. Shall I tell her, he thought 3, or not? He would like to make a clean breast of it all. But4 she is too cold, he thought; sewing, with her scissors;5 Daisy would look ordinary beside Clarissa. And she would think me a failure, which I am in their sense, he thought; in the Dalloways’ sense6. Oh yes, he had no doubt about that; he was a failure, compared with all this—7the inlaid table, the mounted paper-knife, the dolphin and8 the candlesticks, the chair-covers and the old valuable English tinted prints—9he was a failure! I detest the smugness of the whole affair, he thought. Richard’s doing not Clarissa’s; 10 save that she married him. (11Here Lucy came into the room, carrying silver, more silver12, but charming, slender graceful she looked, he thought, as she stooped to put it down.) And this had been going on all the time! he thought; week after week; Clarissa’s life; while I—13he thought; and at once everything seemed to radiate from him; journeys; riders; quarrels; adventures; bridge parties; love affairs; work; work, work!14 and he took out his knife quite openly—his old horn-handled knife which Clarissa could swear he had had these thirty years 15 – and clenched his fist upon it.

What an extraordinary habit that was, Clarissa thought 16; always playing with a knife. Always making one feel, too, frivolous; empty-minded; a mere silly chatterbox, as he used 17 summoned, like a Queen whose guards have fallen asleep and left her unprotected (18 she had been quite taken aback by this visit – it had upset her) so that any one can stroll in and have a look at her where she lies with the brambles curbing over her, summoned19 to her help 20 the things she did; the things she liked; her husband; Elizabeth; her self, in short, which Peter hardly knew now, all to come about her and beat off the enemy.

“Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck

A water snake glided smoothly up the pool, twisting its periscope head from side to side21;2 and it swam the length of the pool and came to the legs of a motionless heron that stood in the shallows. A silent head and beak lanced down and plucked it out by the head, and3 the beak swallowed the little snake while its tail waved frantically.
A far rush of wind sounded and a gust drove through the tops of the trees like a wave. The sycamore leaves turned up their silver sides, the brown, dry leaves on the ground scudded a few feet. And row on row of tiny wind waves flowed up the pool’s green surface.
As quickly as it had come, the wind died, and the clearing was quiet again. The heron stood in the shallows, motionless and waiting4. Another little water snake swam up the pool, turning its periscope head from side to side.5
Suddenly Lennie appeared out of the brush, and he came as silently as a creeping bear moves6. The heron pounded the air with its wings, jacked itself clear of the water and flew off down river. The little snake slid in among the reeds at the pool’s side.
Lennie came quietly to the pool’s edge. He knelt down and drank, barely touching his lips to the water7. When a little bird skittered over the dry leaves behind him, his head jerked up and he strained toward the sound with eyes and ears until he saw the bird, and then he dropped his head and drank again.
When he finished, he sat down on the bank, with his side to the pool, so that he could watch the trail’s entrance. He embraced his knees and laid his chin down on his knees.
The light climbed on out of the valley, and as it went, the tops of the mountains seemed to blaze with increasing brightness.

In the Company of Truckers by Rachel Kushner

One summer in the late 1990s, I was driving across the country on Interstate 80, having just stopped to visit some friends in Des Moines.8 I was behind the wheel of a 1963 Chevrolet Impala I bought outside Asheville, N.C. The car ran well and was beautiful — champagne body with a cream top, no dents, no rust.2 It still even had these original plastic discs, like thin translucent washers, that fit between the window roller and the door panel to keep the upholstery from being indented or pinched. I was planning to sell it in Los Angeles, where a ’63 two-door Impala in such cherry condition was the ultimate low rider and worth a lot of money.

It was later than I had hoped, maybe 4 p.m., when I said goodbye to my friends. Everything felt fine despite the heavy sky, which seemed to turn almost black on the western horizon. I remembered what an Iowan, a guy named Johnny Coin who lived a bit like he was in the movie “Apocalypse Now,” said to me about the weather in that state: “It’s like Vietnam.” I was crossing into Nebraska when I hit a wall of rain. I slowed to 30 miles an hour as sheets of water poured over the car. Working heat and A.C., a functioning radio, weatherstripping, wipers — these things are luxury and civilization in an antique car.3 In a new car, in which everything is plastic and somewhat ugly and will break tomorrow, there’s no thrill to function.

But then there was no function: The car cut out. Cleanly. No sputter, just click.4 It was off, and slowing. By a stroke of luck, there was an exit just up ahead. I willed the car enough momentum to roll to the exit. It did.5 It rolled right into a truck stop.

I lifted the hood and stood there. It was getting dark. Several truckers came over to help.6 Theories were suggested, but no one seemed to know what the trouble was. A petite and wiry man walked up, grim-faced, carrying one of those Igloo coolers for six beers that was filled with a jumble of greasy tools. The others nodded in his direction and someone said, “There’s your man.”

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