Joshua has just been told the truth about the world. Namely that no one is left, except for a handful of young people and the last of the Elders, a sect of radical environmentalists who are determined to give the planet a chance to heal from human impact. They've chosen Joshua to lead a final expedition in search of remaining pockets of human life, and have trained him to sterilize anyone he comes across. But to ensure the mission's success, the crew supporting the expedition has been told a very different story. And as this group of young men uncover the truth, along with the incentive behind the lies, together they spiral into an unstoppable adventure of ethical struggle and survival.
Mark gives an overview of the book:
This is my dying day.
It is that one day that I had so carefully convinced myself would come later on, after the years had stretched out into decades, after my reflection had become grey-haired, hunched over, milky-eyed. And even though I’d always understood that my days were counted – in the same way everyone does – I realize now that I had completely misjudged the way they were being counted. I’d pictured my life as a kind of continuum, as a hilly landscape that I was free to dawdle through, to take my time in. I had assumed that my end was off in some remote distance, and had pictured myself strolling towards it, casually, watching my feet, hands in my pockets. The idea never crossed my mind that, instead, my death could be creeping towards me, skulking as fast and constant as the shadows of clouds crawling over hills. Yet it was. My life was an hourglass losing sand by the second; and it wasn’t until the last grain was rolling down the funnel that I finally came to see it that way.
And now that this day is here, and there’s no denying it, no running away, I find myself asking a natural question: What is the most fitting thing to do on the last day of your life? Or, rather, what is the most fitting thing to do if, like me, you’re strapped to a tree with an unknown number of broken bones floating under your skin, and something trickling down your leg that could be anything from blood, to urine, to gobs of their saliva that they spit onto you just before they left? Seeing as you can’t move, and the only option you really have is to retreat into your mind, what exactly should you spend your time thinking about? Death? Should you mull over the details of how they’re going to do it, how slowly or quickly they’ll drain the life from your veins, and what it’s going to feel like when they do?
No. I think I’ll have more than enough time to consider my death just the second before they kill me; or begin the slow, agonizing process of it – whichever they find more satisfying, I guess. But until then, I’m going to keep my mind from wandering in that direction. Why waste the last hours I have by giving them exactly what they want, when I could be doing the opposite?
Which is a good point; instead of being ridden with fear, maybe I could set out to lose myself in blissful memories, think back to the few times in my life when everything seemed to fall into place, when I felt that strange, numbing contentment that we all accidentally fumble upon every once in a while, and then spend the rest of our time groping around in the dark for again. I could dwell on every one of their details, thinking back to when I was a child, long before I’d known anything about The Goal, splashing in the green water of the island. Or, later in life, living on the terrace, sitting down between the trees after harvesting some of the fruit I’d grown and feeding pieces of it to the raven – or crow – or whatever kind of bird it was. I could try to bask in those memories, see if I could steal something from a past quietude to reassure myself now. Even if I doubt that would work.
Or maybe it would be more constructive to think of my blunders, to go through each and every one of the decisions I made, or, more often, didn’t make, which led me here. I could recall the murky colour of the bubble of water that oozed out from between his lips and streamed down the side of his face, his eyes serene, staring unblinkingly at the sky. I could remember how open his mouth was, and, if I had opened mine and said something beforehand, how he wouldn’t have died.
But I also know that if I focused on either of these two extremes – my greatest memories, or my thoughtless mistakes – in the end, I’d feel like I had accomplished nothing with this time. I know enough to understand that my life can only be weighed as a whole, and that weighing it in carefully chosen pieces wouldn’t have the slightest thing to do with the truth.
Truth. I smirk to myself at just the mention of that word. Though, considering the relationship that I’ve had with it, I don’t think I could come up with anything more fitting to do with this time than to recount the whole of my tale, as truthfully as I can; to trace the faltering line that squiggles along the ground from the sand of the island, to the soil at the trunk of this tree.
Yes, that’s exactly what I’m going to do with this day.
Though, finding where to begin might prove a bit difficult. I know that Coming of Age, when Harek took me into the shelter, sat me down, and walked into the centre of the room to commence his speech, seems like the point when everything started. But if I think about it now, there were a few things that happened earlier on that were just as important as Coming of Age. And probably the most significant of these ‘things’ wasn’t even of a specific nature; it was simply the atmosphere in which we were raised; the illogical rules, the Elders’ stifled frustration, the carefully closed doors. The secrets.
If I think back as far as I can, I don’t remember faces. There was always an Elder there, but as we could only spend a day with them before being handed over to another, and then another, one of them doesn’t really stick out in my mind. Instead, my earliest memory is one of sensations. The sound of waves is everywhere, its low frothing noise never letting up, tirelessly rolling on. I can also hear the sound of the breeze blowing through the palms, but it’s impossible to tell where their rustling begins and the churning of the waves ends, the sounds meld into each other and become the same. And just above this cohesive sighing, I can hear the distant moan of a wood flute; though, I don’t know where it’s coming from, as if it’s being played from around a corner, behind a boulder, or hidden in some dark place beneath the trees. The air is sodden with moisture, and the colour of the sky hazy. My feet are bare, and there is sand perpetually stuck between my toes.
After this memory comes a cloud of learning. It, too, is indistinct; but maybe none of us can recall when our education begins, it’s just suddenly there, everywhere, and in everything we do. We’re being shown how to do things, guided through the steps of processes, people moving our hands to trace the lines on a page, helping our clumsy fingers tie a knot, squaring our shoulders to a slate with some symbols scratched onto it and leaning over us, the reverberations being felt on our backs as their voices drawl out the sound of a letter with slow, deliberate intonation.
And this primary learning, of course, gave way to secondary learning; and I think I loved most all of it. The Elders and I complimented each other perfectly. I was interested, curious, and they wanted to explain everything. Indeed, it seemed there was nothing that they couldn’t do, no contraption they couldn’t build, no function in nature they couldn’t make clear, no animal they didn’t know the name or habits of. As a resource they were almost limitless. Almost.
I remember, and at a very early age, being frustrated that they seemed so puzzled by one of the simplest concepts in life: boyhood. Whereas, at the time, for me, it was as easy to understand as walking. I knew that an integral part of being a boy was the act of destroying things – it was that simple. We ripped apart plants, squished insects, threw rocks at the ground to smash them in half, or better, in three, or in ten, or in hundreds of pieces. We rolled boulders down hills and into the water to see how large a splash we could make, or sometimes into trees, watching with wide eyes as the impact shook the branches, undulating out to the leaves, and then running down to inspect the damage, fingering the torn bark, fascinated. I understood that this was normal. Yet, for some reason, it never ceased to baffle them, and then enrage them, until they felt impelled to scold us for our ‘random devastation’, as they often called it. (Consequently, we grew to be quite secretive about our entertainment; and, generally speaking, the more fun it was, the more secretive we had to be.)
But in spite of keeping as many of our activities hidden from them as we could, they sometimes still managed to catch us doing things we shouldn’t. Often this was in moments when our guard was down, when we were sure we had nothing to hide. For instance, three of us might be chatting in the forest – which was the largest number we were allowed to gather in without an Elder present – and one of them would pass by anyway, just to make sure we were behaving ourselves. At first, it would look like he or she was just going to saunter past, but then they would stop dead, looking at the ground at our feet, horrified. We would also look down and see that one of us, without even having noticed, had yanked out the arcing branch of a fern, or some other plant that had been within reach, and had systematically plucked every one of its leaves off, from one end to the other. And so there lay the proof, a scattering of pitiful green teeth on the ground between us, wilting in the heat. Our postures would slump. Great. We would look up at the Elder, who would point a rigid arm at the leaves, and we would follow his or her finger back down to the ground again and look at the leaves more intently this time, trying to adopt gestures that also seemed appalled, but not really succeeding. Then a stern voice would ask: ‘Why did you destroy this plant for no reason?’ And we would look around at each other, because, frankly, it was a tricky question to answer; apparently, we’d done it for no reason. So the only response left was to gape up at them with sorry, if stupid expressions on our faces, and wait for them to reprimand us. Which they would. After shaking their heads they would scoot us into one of the community buildings where we would have to sit at one of the long wooden tables and think about what we’d done.
Though, truth be told, we wouldn’t really think. Instead we would make faces at one another, smear earwax on our neighbour’s arms, kick each other’s shins until someone yelped, which was sometimes all that was needed to be dismissed. The Elder who had ushered us into the building would stand suddenly, exasperated, pointing at the door and telling us to leave at once, maybe demanding that we go to another Elder, who was sure be more strict or consequent, and explain to them what we’d done.
Whenever this happened, I would purposefully be the last one to leave as we scurried through the doorway, because I’d discovered, quite by accident, that if one turned around and peeked back inside once the Elder was alone and unaware that he or she was being watched, occasionally, there was a mysterious thing that took place.
I knew that adults behaved differently in front of children; I knew that there was a kind of drama where they acted a part that wasn’t really who they were, but who they should be. Because, for some reason, children aren’t supposed to know that adults are as flawed as they are, instead, they ought to see them as an ideal being that they should strive to become. Of course, children will never become this ideal being, but at least by the time they’re adults, they should be disciplined in contorting their behaviour enough to play the role of it, obviously for the sake of other children – who will, incidentally, see through it all anyway. This was one of the strange enigmas of adulthood that I didn’t really understand, but nonetheless recognized. Yet these Elders, whom I would lean in to watch, were away from the eyes of children. There was no part to play, no role to pretend. And I think I started looking in on these private moments only because I wanted to find a clue. I was convinced that they somehow knew they had reprimanded us for nothing, that they must also recognize that the fern, which we’d unknowingly dissected, was merely a plant like the ones we ate, and that it had no real bearing on anything. I was sure that once they were alone, I would only catch them grinning, maybe shaking their heads at the folly of us boys, and merrily going on with whatever they were doing. But I was wrong. They would continue to stand, but would slouch over, appearing tired, covering their face with a hand, sometimes pinching the spot where their nose met their eyes as if trying to squeeze the sockets closer together, the fingers of their other hand clenching into a fist, which sometimes trembled. And they would stay like that for minutes.
These were the moments that started to make me wonder.
They weren’t reacting this way because of a few shredded leaves on the ground. That much was impossible. There was something more, something around us that we weren’t seeing – that we weren’t allowed to see – and I wanted to know what it was. I decided to look for it; and the most obvious place to start was in my schooling.
Almost everything in our education revolved around the resources of the island; we learned how to make cloth from the fibres of trees, how to tend and harvest fruits and vegetables, woodcraft, fishing; and this all eventually progressed to studying different systems for getting water, using wind, and sailing. Then there were the things that we learned indoors: mathematics, reading, writing, problem solving, evolution; and it was there, usually in a corner of the Community Hall, where I started to venture a few devious questions, hoping to catch one of the Elders at an incautious moment. Of course, they saw me coming from a mile away.
I can remember the typical conversation perfectly. An Elder places a pile of books on the table, sits down across from me, slides a dusty volume off the stack, opens it to a page that has been clearly marked as the spot to open to, and tries to begin the lesson. He introduces the session as, ‘the island’s ecology’, or ‘the island’s weather’, or ‘the island’s geology’, and my eyes light up. I happen to have an interesting question in the same vein, and the fragile moment seems to have finally come when it’s appropriate to ask. “Where’s the next island?” I would venture.
The Elder, regardless of who it was, would almost look nervous at first, but when he replied, his voice was clear and patient; he knew just what to say. “To be honest, Joshua, I don’t think that’s very pertinent to this lesson.” Then he would slide the book under my nose and point at a picture, getting ready to talk.
“Oh. Sorry,” I would say, not looking at the picture, “But… well – where is it anyway?”
He would stop, suddenly stiff, and lean back ever so slowly, his hands sliding along the table as his body moved away from me, the cloth of his shirt hissing along the surface. And once he was propped against the back of his chair, he would suck an enormous amount of air through his nose, his nostrils caving in, until his lungs were almost bursting with it. Then he would breathe it all out again, little by little, looking at me the whole time, making me shrink into my chair. “That isn’t for little boys and girls to worry about. Okay?”
I would nod quickly. Okay.
After the lesson, I would think about what he’d said. What did he mean by, ‘It isn’t for us to worry about’? I wasn’t worrying about it – I just wanted to know. It seemed like such a simple question to me, why wasn’t there a simple answer? And with the answer that he did give me, was I to understand that when I was older I would worry about it? And if so, what was it? What could be out there or around us that was so scary that we were going to have to spend the latter part of our lives ‘worrying’ about it?
I don’t think the Elders handled these questions very wisely, because by completely barring them from discussion, they weren’t creating a wall, they were putting a hole in one. It only impelled me to ask more questions, watch more carefully, listen more fanatically; they, of all people, should have known how much carefully spoken words echo.
And once I started to look, the discrepancies were everywhere. There were books that we couldn’t read, and of the books we could read, there were pages we couldn’t see, buildings we couldn’t enter, rooms that sometimes had many people inside but the doors were closed and locked, hushed voices behind them, the Elder’s movements being projected as shafts of shadow stirring along the line of candlelight that fanned out from the doorsill.
Until eventually, I noticed that I wasn’t the only one asking questions; there were others, just as curious as I. Though, soon after realizing this, a community announcement was made, which was intended to wipe such curiosity out before it could get out of hand. They asked that all of the children of the island – which were a definitive group, as we were all about the same age – respect the fact that some of our questions would not be answered, nor would we be allowed to hear certain conversations, or enter the Great Hall at any time. However, there was a right of passage that would be known, henceforth, as Coming of Age, at which point in time we would be told everything on an individual basis, and, rest assured, would come to understand exactly why it was so important that several things be kept undisclosed until we were old enough. We were told that instead of worrying about the serious duties of the Elders, we should concentrate on our education; that, and enjoying the blissful life of a child. Nothing more. Nothing less.
But a secret isn’t sacred information, it’s just information. The only difference between it and other information is that a person is expected to use a quiet voice to pass it on – and that’s all – because it moves through a community just as readily, in fact, often even more so. By the evening after the announcement, there was a whispered rumour being passed from cupped ear to cupped ear. Apparently, what we were going to find out when we Came of Age was that something very bad had happened in the world, but that, somehow, we were going to fix it. We, the island, were going to make everything right again.
The children looked around at each other, nodding their heads, the hands that they’d used to help hear the whispers lowering sombrely to their laps. It suddenly all made sense. No wonder they didn’t want to tell us, this was a taxing thing to think about. Hmm. Well. I guess they were right. We shouldn’t worry. Instead, we should be playing. Come on, I figured out a way to make a slingshot. And they all ran into the forest in groups of three.
I remember that after that day, it was as if the children had moved back a step. They stopped asking difficult questions, stopped listening against the doors, stopped wondering; I think they actually believed that, for the time being, they knew enough.
Whereas I was stuck thinking about the different Elders I’d watched without their knowing, standing beside tables, their fists tight, eyes closed, lips pursed. Those people weren’t thinking about saving the world, and they weren’t thinking about fern leaves, either. No. There was something else.
There was another important event that took place in my childhood. And I consider it important, not because Harek used it against me when I Came of Age, but because I’ve always solemnly wished that it had never happened at all.
There is a line that every one of us consciously draws, which, I think, is our fumbling attempt to differentiate between right and wrong. Of course, there is no such thing as right and wrong, and if there were ever to be a physical line between the two, it would be immensely jagged, its boundaries hazy, the colours of both sides endlessly bleeding into each other. ‘But,’ we stop and say to ourselves, ‘we have to start somewhere’. So we pick up a stick, put a contemplative finger to our lips, and squint at the bare soil in front of our feet. And here is the interesting part: because what is natural for a human being to do is lean over, scratch their own individual quavering line in the dirt, straighten up, nod with satisfaction at themselves, pause, and then look over their shoulder to see if anyone is watching and step over it.
We’d killed hermit crabs before, raising stones above our heads and pummelling them into the stiff sand, and we’d also taken the heads off of beetles with the tips of our fingernails, watching their arms twitch frenetically in the air for a few seconds afterward; but a part of us knew that what we did with the lizard was going too far.
I don’t remember where I was walking to, but I remember stopping in my tracks and listening to the sound of their giggles for a few moments, there being something inside of them that was undoubtedly mischievous, luring. I turned and went to investigate; whatever it was sounded like fun.
As soon as I broke through the trees and saw the backs of Mikkel and Peik, I felt incredibly lucky. The three of us were probably the most promising and intelligent children on the island, so the Elder’s often put us into the same group to learn or to do problem-solving projects. But as we were discouraged in having exclusive friendships with one or two people, outside of our schooling we didn’t really get to enjoy each other’s company very often. Had it been allowed, I think we would have spent a lot of time together, as the three of us were similar in quite a few ways.
Everyone liked Mikkel, and I think this was because he was equally amiable with everyone on the island. He was taller than most of the boys, and had blue eyes and dirty blonde hair, which was always a bit too long and constantly hung in front of his face. Peik was a bit shorter, had high cheekbones, brown eyes, and straight black hair. His skin was much darker than the rest of the children on the island (though it wasn’t nearly as dark as one of the Elders, whose skin was almost black it was such a dark brown). I’m pretty sure that both of them were a little older than me.
They obviously weren’t expecting anyone to come through the trees that day, and as soon as they heard my footsteps, they spun around and stood shoulder to shoulder, hiding what they were doing. They relaxed once they saw it was me, but I remember that there was something in their manner that was different than usual, that they remained a little tense, edgy, which only signified that the Elders would be genuinely infuriated if they found out what was going on.
“What do you guys have there?” I asked.
“A lizard,” said Peik, trying to sound nonchalant, but I could tell that he was excited. He looked over at Mikkel, who held up a few pins that he’d quickly hidden in his hands when they’d turned around.
“And these,” said Mikkel, almost proudly.
I smiled, not really understanding, and stepped forward while both of them parted and faced each other, their bodies opening up like a gate to reveal their prize. The two boys had stolen some pins, probably from one of our clothing classes, and had also managed to catch a lizard. They’d stuck one of the pins through the centre of its tail, fixing it to a stump. The lizard was bright green, its beady eyes black, and it seemed to be struggling half out of confusion and half out of pain.
“Cool,” I muttered, as if to myself.
“We just caught it,” said Peik. I nodded, and we all stood there looking down at it for a few seconds, silent, the lizard seeming to look back. Then, without taking his eyes off it, Peik reached over and found Mikkel’s hand, took a pin from it, and crouched down to the stump. “Watch this,” he said. He stuck the pin into one of the lizard’s tiny feet, and it reacted by opening its mouth and, oddly enough, biting its own appendage above the pin. And to us, at that moment, absolutely nothing could be funnier in the world. We started giggling, hysterically, almost unable to control ourselves, leaning in on each other, pointing down at it, stamping our feet on the ground. Though I recall that we still had the presence of mind to keep our voices down, as not to be heard.
As soon as we’d recovered a bit, Mikkel and I each picked up a pin and crouched down to the lizard as well, smothering the stump in shadow, our heads almost touching in a circle. It was all so invigorating, intoxicating; it’s hard to believe how formidable a tiny pin can make one feel, how powerful. This was because we could see, with the lizard’s head jolting from side to side, that it was terrified, watching us all closing in around it. It had become desperate, trying to squirm free with every bit of energy that it had in its tiny body, wanting to find a nook to hide in, a branch to climb, even some open ground to scurry across or water to jump into – anything. But we weren’t going to give it that chance.
I stuck my pin into one of its legs, Mikkel stuck his into the skin by its ribs, and Peik pinned another of its feet. Of course the lizard kept struggling, kept twisting in pain, biting at its own flesh; and we kept laughing, and then laughed harder, water coming to our eyes, our stomachs eventually becoming sore. It was great fun. At some point, we started competing to see who could be precise enough to pin the smallest appendage, and I remember that Peik won this game, managing to get one of its fingers just below the nail; and when he did so, the lizard held its head up to the canopy and opened its mouth wide, showing a tongue of dull pink. This led to shoving leaves and twigs into its mouth to see if it would bite down on them, and then giggling when it did. We brought our faces down to it as well, seeing how near its mouth we would dare to put our noses, jokingly nudging each other when we were almost close enough to touch it.
After a long while, the lizard became completely exhausted, its reactions subdued, sluggish; it had stopped squirming altogether, stopped responding. So we prodded it with our fingers, tried piercing parts of its body that we hadn’t yet touched, but nothing happened, and it looked like our game was over. Peik, seeming bored, finally picked up a pin and drove it through its skull. It twitched a bit, and then stopped moving forever.
But the moments after he did this were by far the most poignant. The three of us stayed crouching around the stump, glancing at one another, the smiles that had adorned our faces the whole time slowly, slowly beginning to fade. We all looked down and watched Mikkel’s hand reach out to run a slow finger along the lizard’s back. When he was finished, he quickly put his arm back at his side and looked out at the trees. Peik, after seeing this, leaned in and began retrieving the pins from the dead creature’s body, taking them out of its coarse skin almost gently.
There was no more laughing. We’d become quiet, sober. Because we knew – we knew that we’d gone too far, that we’d overstepped some kind of boundary, moved something that we couldn’t put back in its rightful place. Yet that was all we knew. If we’d had the capacity to understand why we’d done it, what had driven us, I don’t think we would have started in the first place.
As we stood to leave, Mikkel picked the lizard up by the tail and tossed it into a few bushes, out of sight, and we walked out from the forest and into the naked light of day. I don’t remember what happened after that, if we ever talked about it again, or even mentioned it, but the details of what we did and how we did it, are still fresh in my mind. And they would need to be. Because what we did to the lizard that day was incredibly important in helping me understand The Goal later on in my life.
Years passed. I continued to try and find out what the ‘real’ secret was all about, and I made quite a few guesses at it, some of which I thought were fairly educated at the time, though now I know they weren’t even close. I was even brave enough to openly confront Dana with a few of them, and he replied appropriately, never giving me anything more than what the whispers on the island had continuously repeated; they all knew what I was looking for, and were careful not to give it to me.
Then I had my Incision, which was just after puberty, and which was the same surgery that everyone had after they’d physically developed enough. And after that, it’s all just a blur of learning and more learning. I think the only other really important event that happened before I Came of Age was discovering Kara.
We’d grown up together and I’d known her all of my life, but we were so strictly forbidden to spend time or develop any kind of deeper friendship with the opposite sex, that I never really had the opportunity to find out how her mind worked. Then, one day, I had to do some pair work with her, and we’d been asked to discuss something or other – I can’t remember what – and suddenly, listening to the things that she was saying, I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t found a way to seek out her company before. She was fascinating, engaging, wise, and I couldn’t seem to hear enough from her that afternoon – which, of course, was a mistake. I even knew it as it was happening: we were looking at each other too intently, were too engrossed in the conversation, too interested. And from the ever-watchful corners of the room, the Elders saw the threat brewing, and quickly intervened.
We were pulled aside and given a long talk about exclusive relationships on the island, and we were cautioned of the inherent dangers that existed in them. And though they didn’t specify what those dangers were, we were repeatedly told that they were critical, and that if we didn’t respect the guidelines that had already clearly been set out for us, we could potentially threaten our whole way of life, in fact, they added with grave voices, our very existence.
But it wasn’t only a firm warning, after that afternoon we were banned from each other. They made sure that we didn’t sit together, work together, do chores together, learn together, or even walk together from building to building. They would watch out of the corners of their eyes as we ate in the Community Hall, waiting to see if we would risk a glance at one another, always suspicious that there might be something between us that they weren’t seeing – a secret. And there was.
We’d been raised on secrets, and the Elders had taught us everything that one needed to know about keeping them, about living around them, through them. We found ways to meet, usually feigning a walk with some random person of the same sex, and then, once out in the forest, separating and meeting at a specific spot. It would only be for fifteen minutes, or maybe a half hour at most, but this turned out to be a blessing in a way, because it shaped our conversations and the way we talked. We had to think about things carefully, weighing out what we were going to say well before it came out of our mouths, and as soon as we met each other, we would have to get right to the point, our words intense, hands flinging in the air to help describe our thoughts, beliefs, theories, our bodies always leaning in close; though very careful not to get too close.
We were always cautious not to touch each other, both of us being privately convinced of some unspeakable and extreme consequence looming overhead. But I like to think that it was on both our minds – because I know that it was on mine. All too often my eyes would sink to various parts of her body, and I would find my thoughts suddenly racing into a very different direction from our conversation, and I would almost have to physically stop myself, shake my head, snap out of it. Because, given the circumstances, not only were these ideas wrong, they were also impossible. No, instead, we would have to settle for words; and, happily, her words were unusually fierce.
She experienced the world in a way that I had a hard time even imagining, she seemed to see a vibrant life and colour in things, heard voices, felt tremors. When I was in front of my peers, or even in front of the Elders, I always felt intelligent, but sitting in front of Kara, I felt stupid, slow. There were times when I couldn’t keep up with her chains of thought, my eyes growing glazed, wishing I had more time to think her words through before I’d have to respond. And, unfortunately, I would often be given that time. We were caught out in the forest once or twice, and for a few months afterwards, we would be watched far too carefully to risk meeting again. But we, in turn, would patiently watch the Elders out of the furthest corners of our eyes, waiting for them to lower their guard, waiting for another chance; and in the meantime, saving our words, processing the ones we’d exchanged, and memorizing our responses for later. Sometimes, frustrated at having to wait months before seeing her again, I would lie awake at night trying to imagine what the Elders could possibly see that was so dangerous and reckless in intimacy, wondering how anything terrible could come out of something that, already before it had developed into much, felt so natural, so satisfying. It’s interesting to think now that, as much as it eluded me then – lying in the dark, shaking my head at how ridiculous I thought they all were – later, I would come to understand their reasoning perfectly.
My first novel, sparked by a conversation I once had in a pub. If you had a button which, when pressed, would quietly and painlessly end human life on earth, but would not affect your own live in any way, would you push it? The responses around the table haunted me. So much so, that I had to write the book.
I'm a Canadian novelist and poet. My first novel, Veracity, has been incorporated into curricula in the US, and the e-book edition has been downloaded over 32,000 times. My second, Believing Cedric, was released in 2011, and met with critical acclaim. My third is forthcoming...