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

[Source]

My Ántonia by Willa Cather

Book I: The Shimerdas

I

The engine was panting heavily after its long run7. In the red glow from the fire-box, a group of people stood huddled together on the platform, encumbered by bundles and boxes. I knew this must be the immigrant family the conductor had told us about. The woman wore a fringed shawl tied over her head, and she carried a little tin trunk in her arms, hugging it as if it were a baby. There was an old man, tall and stooped2. Two half-grown boys and a girl stood holding oilcloth a bundles, and a little girl clung to her mother’s skirts. Presently a man with a lantern approached them and began to talk, shouting and exclaiming3. I pricked up my ears, for it was positively the first time I had ever heard a foreign tongue4.

Another lantern came along5. A bantering voice called out:6 “Hello, are you Mr. Burden’s folks? If you are, it’s me you’re looking for. I’m Otto Fuchs. I’m Mr. Burden’s hired man, and I’m to drive you out. Hello, Jimmy, ain’t you scared to come so far west?”

I looked up with interest at the new face in the lantern light. He might have stepped out of the pages of “Jesse James.” He wore a sombrero hat, with a wide leather band and a bright buckle, and the ends of his mustache were twisted up stiffly, like little horns7. He looked lively and ferocious, I thought, and as if he had a history. A long scar ran across one cheek and drew the corner of his mouth up in a sinister curl8. The top of his left ear was gone, and his skin was brown as an Indian’s. Surely this was the face of a desperado. As he walked about the platform in his high-heeled boots9, looking for our trunks10, I saw that he was a rather slight man, quick and wiry11, and light on his feet. He told us we had a long night drive ahead of us, and had better be on the hike. He led us to a hitching-bar where two farm wagons were tied, and I saw the foreign family crowding into one of them. The other was for us. Jake got on the front seat with Otto Fuchs, and I rode on the straw in the bottom of the wagonbox, covered up with a buffalo hide. The immigrants rumbled off into the empty darkness, and we followed them.

(Online Text)

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. For12 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.

All the Light We Cannot See- Anthony Doerr

Zero
7 August 1944
The Boy

Five streets to the north, a white-haired eighteen-year-old21 German private named Werner Pfennig wakes to a faint staccato hum. Little more than a purr. Flies tapping2 at a far-off windowpane.

Where is he? The sweet, slightly chemical scent of gun oil; the raw wood of newly constructed shell crates; the mothballed odor of old bedspreads—he’s in the hotel. Of course. L’hôtel des Abeilles, the Hotel of Bees.

Still night. Still early.3.

From the direction of the sea4 come whistles and booms; flak is going up.

An anti-air corporal hurries down the corridor, heading for the stairwell. “Get to the cellar,” he calls over his shoulder, and Werner switches on his field light, rolls his blanket into his duffel, and starts down the hall.

Not so long ago, the Hotel of Bees was a cheerful address, with bright blue shutters on its facade and oysters on ice in its café and5 Breton waiters in bow ties polishing glasses behind its bar. It offered twenty-one guest rooms, commanding sea views, and a lobby fireplace as big as a truck. Parisians on weekend holidays would drink aperitifs here, and before them the occasional emissary from the republic—ministers and vice ministers and abbots and admirals6—and in the centuries before them, windburned corsairs: killers, plunderers, raiders, seamen7.

Before that, before it was ever a hotel at all, five full centuries ago, it was the home of a wealthy privateer who gave up raiding ships to study bees in the pastures outside Saint-Malo, scribbling8 in notebooks and eating honey straight from combs. The crests above the door lintels still have bumblebees carved into the oak; the ivy-covered fountain in the courtyard is shaped like a hive. Werner’s favorites are five faded frescoes on the ceilings of the grandest upper rooms, where bees as big as children float against blue backdrops, big lazy drones and workers with diaphanous wings—where, above a hexagonal bathtub, a single nine-foot-long queen, with multiple eyes and a golden-furred abdomen, curls across the ceiling.

Over the past four weeks, the hotel has become something else: a fortress. A detachment of Austrian anti-airmen has boarded up every window, overturned every bed. They’ve reinforced the entrance, packed the stairwells with crates of artillery shells. The hotel’s fourth floor, where garden rooms with French balconies open directly onto the ramparts, has become home to an aging high-velocity anti-air gun called an 88 that can fire twenty-one-and-a-half-pound shells nine miles.

Her Majesty, the Austrians call their cannon, and for the past week these men have tended to it the way worker bees might tend to a queen. They’ve fed her oils, repainted her barrels, lubricated her wheels; they’ve arranged sandbags at her9 feet like offerings.

The royal acht acht, a deathly monarch meant to protect them all10this appositive helps the reader understand the significance of the acht acht where they otherwise would have glossed over it. It’s description helps the reader see the vital importance of these two unfamiliar words[/fragment].

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Black Boy by Richard Wright

A quarter of a century was to elapse between the time when I saw my father sitting with the strange woman and the time when I was to see him again, 11 standing alone upon the red clay of a Mississippi plantation, a sharecropper 2, clad in ragged overalls, holding a muddy hoe in his gnarled, veined hands – a quarter of a century during which my mind and consciousness had become so greatly and violently altered that when I tried to talk to him I realized that, 3 though ties of blood made us kin, though I could see a shadow of my face in his face, though there was an echo of my voice in his voice, we were forever strangers, speaking a different language, living on vastly distant planes of reality.

That day a quarter of a century later when I visited him on the plantation—he was standing against the sky4 , smiling toothlessly, his hair whitened, his body bent, his eyes glazed with dim recollection, his fearsome aspect of twenty-five years ago gone forever from him—I was overwhelmed to realize that he could never understand me or the scalding experiences that had swept me beyond his life and into an area of living that he could never know. I stood before him, poised, 5  my mind aching as it embraced the simple nakedness of his life, feeling how completely his soul was imprisoned by the slow flow of the seasons, by wind and rain and sun, 6 how fastened were his memories to a crude and raw past, how chained were his actions and emotions to the direct, animalistic impulses of his withering body…7

From the white landowners above him there had not been handed to him a chance to learn the meaning of loyalty, of sentiment, of tradition. Joy was as unknown to him as was despair. As a creature of the earth, he endured, hearty, whole, seemingly indestructible, with no regrets and no hope. He asked easy, drawling questions about me, his other son, his wife, and he laughed, amused, when I informed him of their destinies. I forgave him and pitied him as my eyes looked past him to the unpainted wooden shack. From far beyond the horizons that bound this bleak plantation there had come to me through my living the knowledge that my father was a black peasant who had gone to the city seeking life, but who had failed in the city; 8 a black peasant whose life had been hopelessly snarled in the city, and who had at last fled the city9—that same city which had lifted me in its burning arms and borne me toward alien and undreamed-of shores of knowing.

 

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

Beyond the workroom10  was the customers’ part of the shop with its glass case full of watches.  All the wall clocks were striking 7:00 as Betsie and I carried the flowers in and looked for the most artistic spot to put them. Ever since childhood I had loved to step into this room where a hundred ticking voices welcomed me.2 It was still dark inside because the shutters had not been drawn back from the windows on the street. I unlocked the street door and stepped out into the Barteljorisstraat. The other shops up and down the narrow street were shuttered and silent: the optician’s next door, the dress shop, the baker’s, Weil’s Furriers across the street.3

I folded back our shutters and stood for a minute admiring the window display that Betsie and I had at last agreed upon.4 This window was always a great source of debate between us, I wanting to display as much of our stock as could be squeezed onto the shelf, and Betsie maintaining that two or three beautiful watches, with perhaps a piece of silk or satin swirled beneath, was more elegant and more inviting.5 But this time the window satisfied us both: it held a collection of clocks and pocketwatches all at least a hundred years old, borrowed for the occasion from friends and antique dealers all over the city.6 For today was the shop’s one hundredth birthday.7 It was on this day in January 1837 that Father’s father had placed in this window a sign: ten boom. watches.8

For the last ten minutes, with a heavenly disregard for the precisions of passing time, the church bells of Haarlem had been pealing out 7:00 and now half a block away in the town square, the great bell of St. Bavo’s solemnly donged seven times. I lingered in the street to count them, though it was cold in the January dawn. Of course everyone in Haarlem had radios now, but I could remember when the life of the city had run on St. Bavo time, and only trainmen and others who needed to know the exact hour had come here to read the “astronomical clock.”9 Father would take the train to Amsterdam each week to bring back the time from the Naval Observatory and it was a source of pride to him that the astronomical clock was never more than two seconds off in the seven days.

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Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

It was cool and quiet under the waves.

For a few endless moments, Tally felt only relief to have escaped the searing wind, the thundering machine, the blistering heat of the firestorm. 10 But 2 the weight of the crash bracelets and knapsack pulled her down fast, and panic welled up in her pounding chest.

She thrashed in the water, climbing up toward the flickering lights of the surface. Her wet clothes and gear dragged at her, but 3 just as her lungs were about to burst, she broke the surface into the maelstrom. Tally gulped a few breaths of smoky air, then was slapped in the face by a wave. She coughed and sputtered, struggling to stay afloat.

A shadow passed over her, blacking 4 out the sky. Then her hand struck something—a familiar grippy surface… 5

Her hoverboard had come back to her! Just the way it always did when she spilled. The crash bracelets lifted her up until she could grab onto it, her fingers clinging to its knobbly surface as she gasped for air.

A high-pitched whine came from the nearby shore. Tally blinked away water from her eyes and she saw that the Rusty machine had landed. Figures were jumping from the machine, spraying white foam at the ground as they crashed through the burning flowers and into the river. They were headed for her. 6

She struggled to climb onto the board.

“Wait!” the nearest figure called. 7

Tally rose shakily to her feet, trying to keep steady on the wet surface of the board. Her hard-baked shoes were slippery, and 8 her sodden knapsack seemed to weigh a ton. As 9 she leaned forward, a gloved hand reached up to gab the front of the board. A face came up from the water, wearing some sort of mask. Huge eyes stared up at her.

She stomped at the hand, crunching the fingers. They slipped off, but her weight was thrown too far forward, and the board tipped its nose into the water. 10

Tally tumbled into the river again. 11

Hands grabbed at her, pulling her away from the hoverboard. She was hoisted out of the water and onto a broad shoulder. She caught glimpses of masked faces: huge, inhuman eyes staring at her unblinkingly. 12

Bug eyes. 13

“Flying Carpets” by Steven Millhauser

In the long summers of my childhood, games flared up suddenly, burned to brightness, and vanished forever. The summers were so long that they gradually grew longer than the whole year,14 they stretched out slowly beyond the edges of our lives, but at every moment of their vastness they were drawing to an end, for that’s what summers mostly did: they taunted us with endings, marched always into the long shadow thrown backward by the end of vacation.2And because our summers were always ending in games, we sought new and more intense ones; and as the crickets of August grew louder, and a single red leaf appeared on branches green with summer,3 we threw ourselves as if desperately into new adventures, while the long days, never changing,4 grew heavy with boredom and longing.

 

I first saw the carpets in the back yards of other neighborhoods.5 Glimpses of them came to me from behind garages, flickers of color at the corners of two-family houses where clotheslines on pulleys stretched from upper porches to high gray poles, and old Italian men in straw hats stood hoeing between rows of tomatoes and waist-high corn. I saw one once at the far end of a narrow strip of grass between two stucco houses, skimming lightly over the ground at the level of the garbage cans.6 Although I took note of them, they were of no more interest to me than games of jump rope I idly watched on the school playground, or dangerous games with jackknives I saw the older boys playing at the back of the candy store. One morning I noticed one in a back yard in my neighborhood; four boys stood tensely watching. I was not surprised a few days later when my father came home from work with a long package under his arm, wrapped in heavy brown paper, tied with straw-colored twine from which little prickly hairs stuck up.7

 

Millhauser, Steven. “Flying Carpets.” The Knife Thrower and Other Stories.” Crown Publishers Inc., 1998.

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

Marsh struggled to kill himself. 8

His hand trembled as he tried to summon the strength, to make himself reach up and pull the spike free from his back and end his monstrous life. He had given up on trying to break free. Three years. 2 Three years as an Inquisitor, three years 3 imprisoned in his own thoughts. Those years had proven that there was no escape. Even now, his mind clouded.

And 4 then It took control. The world seemed to vibrate around him, then suddenly he could see clearly. Why had he struggled? Why had he worried? All was as it should be.

He stepped forward. Though he could no longer see as normal men did—after all, he had large steel spikes driven point-5first through his eyes—he could sense the room around him. The spikes protruded from the back of his skull; 6 if he reached up to touch the back of his head, he could feel the sharp points. There was no blood.

The spikes gave him power. Everything was outlined in fine blue Allomantic lines highlighting the world. The room was of modest size, and several companions—also outlined in blue, the Allomantic lines pointing at the metals contained in their very blood 7—stood with him. Each one had spikes through his eyes.

Each one, that is, except for the man tied to the table in front of him. Marsh smiled, taking a spike off of the table beside him, then hefting it. His prisoner wore no gag. That would have stopped the screams.

“Please,” the prisoner whispered, trembling. Even a Terrisman steward would break down when confronted by his own violent death. The man struggling weakly.8 He was in a very awkward position, as he had been tied to the table on top of another person. The table had been designed that way, with depressions to allow for the body underneath.

“What is it you want?” the Terrisman asked. “I can tell you no more about the Synod!”

Marsh fingered the brass spike, feeling its tip. There was work to do, but he hesitated, relishing the pain and terror in the man’s voice. Hesitated so that he could. . . .9

Marsh grabbed control of his own mind. The room’s scents lost their sweetness, and instead reeked with the stench of blood and death. His joy turned to horror.10  His prisoner was a Keeper of Terris—a man who had worked his entire life for the good of others. Killing him would not only be a crime, but a tragedy. Marsh tried to take command, tried to force his arm up and around to grab the linchpin spike from his back—its removal would kill him.11

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

Harry Gold was right: 12 This is a big story.  It’s the story of the creation—and theft—of the deadliest weapon ever invented.2  The scenes speed around the world, from secret labs to commando raids to street-corner spy meetings.3 But like most big stories, this one starts small.4  Let’s pick up the action sixteen years before FBI agents cornered Harry Gold in Philadelphia.  Let’s start 3,000 miles to the west, in Berkeley, California, on a chilly night in February 1934-

On a hill high above town, a man and woman sat in a parked car.  In the driver’s seat was a very thin young physics professor named Robert Oppenheimer.  Beside him sat his date, a graduate student named Melba Phillips.5   The two looked out at the view of San Francisco Bay.

It was a fine view, but Oppenheimer couldn’t seem to stay focused on the date.  He turned to Phillips and asked, “Are you comfortable?”

She said she was.

“Mind if I get out and walk for a few minutes?”

She didn’t mind.6

Oppenheimer got out and strolled into the darkness.  Phillips wrapped a coat around her legs and waited.  She waited a long time.  At some point, she fell asleep.

She woke up in the middle of the night—the seat beside her was still empty. Worried,7 she stepped onto the road and waved down a passing police car.

“My escort went for a walk hours ago and he hasn’t returned,” she told the cop.

The police searched the park, but found nothing.  They notified headquarters, and a wider search was begun.  An officer drove to Oppenheimer’s apartment to look for useful clues.

He found the professor in bed, sound asleep.

The cop shook Oppenheimer awake and demanded an explanation.  Oppenheimer said he’d gotten out of the car to think about physics.  “I just walked and walked,” he said, “and I was home and I went to bed. I’m so sorry.”8

A reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle got hold of the story and wrote an article with the headline: “Forgetful Prof Parks Girl, Takes Self Home.”

No one who knew Robert Oppenheimer was the least bit surprised.9