Francesca Haig Quotes
“There were other rumors, too, though these were rare and were shared more furtively: murmurings about Omega resistance, and whispers about the island. But watching my neighbors’ resignation as we rebuilt the barn, these ideas seemed far-fetched. The Council had ruled for hundreds of years; the idea that there could be any place free of their control was nothing but wishful thinking.”
“There were several paths that zigzagged their way down to the coast, but the islanders relied on the tunnels rather than those narrow, circuitous trails, deliberately kept small so they couldn’t be seen from the water. We avoided them, too, for fear of encountering soldiers from either side, and instead took our chances on the steep, jagged rock. In places it was so sharp that to grab at it for balance was like grasping at blades; at others it was so thickly coated with bird droppings that any purchase was impossible.”
“He stood for a while in the doorway. When I looked at him, I saw double: the man in front of me, and the boy he evoked. He was tall now, and he wore his dark hair longer, swept behind his ears. His face had filled out, softening the sharp angles of his cheekbones and chin. I’d remembered that in summer he used to have freckles—a scattering of them across his nose, like the first handful of dust thrown onto a coffin. There was no sign of them now, his skin only a few degrees less pale than my own cell-blanched flesh. He stepped in and locked the door behind him, slipping the keys into his pocket.”
“And if you just keep running, what’s the point then? He let you leave because he thought you’d be valuable—thought you could help us.” My voice was unsteady. “I tried to help, and all I did was get locked up by the Assembly, and draw the Confessor to the island. I don’t know what everyone thinks I’m supposed to be able to do now.” “Nor do I. So far, to be honest, I’m not seeing what all the fuss is about. But Piper saw something in you. And the Alphas sure as hell found a use for their seer. So it seems to me that running away is just throwing away the sacrifice that he made. That all those people on the island made.”
“I looked around, staring up above the trees. Behind us the valley widened as the river traced its way toward the sea. Ahead, the valley carved an ever-narrowing path between the mountains. On either side, those mountains imposed themselves on the sky. The trees faded out less than halfway up, exposing cliff faces and collapsed sections of scree.”
“At first, the tanks were all that the visions showed me. Then, floating within the tanks, I saw the bodies, suspended in a viscous liquid that seemed to slow everything until even the waving of their hair was lethargic. From each drooping mouth, a tube. But the eyes were the worst. Most had their eyes closed, but even those few with open eyes wore entirely blank expressions, their eyes utterly empty. These were the ruins of people. I thought of Zach’s words, when I’d complained about the cell: There are worse things we could do to you than this cell, you know.”
“I’d envisaged a gentle float downstream, but the river was not so generous. At points it ran too shallow and we had to scramble, sore-footed, over low rapids and slippery shale. At other points the rapids were too fast and deep, so we crawled out and climbed our way down the steep embankments, rejoining the river where it calmed.”
“At night, I paced the cell, counting footsteps until the numbers blurred. I took to pinching my arms and pulling hairs from my head, one at a time, trying to use the pain not just to keep myself awake but also to locate myself in my real body, and to keep at bay the tanked self of my dreams. Nothing worked. It was all unraveling: my body; my mind. Time itself was jumpy and fragmented now. Some days I slipped through hours like someone skidding, out of control, down a scree slope. Other days I could have sworn that time stopped, and a single breath seemed to last a year. I thought of the mad seer at Haven market, and the mad Omega on the ramparts.”
“Nothing in this mountain town looked as well preserved as that box had been. The strangest thing about the place was the disjunction between the town itself—the desolate, vacant space—and the crowd of impressions that surrounded it. To me, it was almost a roar, the sheer volume of lives that had shared this space. Their absence was as vivid as their presence. It didn’t feel like my visions—not even my visions of the blast. It was more like a residue. It was the resonance of a bell, echoing long after the bell itself has stopped.”
“Nothing in this mountain town looked as well preserved as that box had been. The strangest thing about the place was the disjunction between the town itself—the desolate, vacant space—and the crowd of impressions that surrounded it. To me, it was almost a roar, the sheer volume of lives that had shared this space. Their absence was as vivid as their presence. It didn’t feel like my visions—not even my visions of the blast. It was more like a residue. It was the resonance of a bell, echoing long after the bell itself has stopped. I was surprised to look up and see Zoe and Kip unaffected. Both were moving warily among the rubble, and Kip kept looking over his shoulder, but it was evident that neither of them felt the same silent cacophony that was besieging me. Kip noticed me, though, and the way my hands had moved, instinctively and uselessly, to cover my ears. He moved to my side, stepping over a twisted metal beam.”
“Although we were huddled close on the narrow ledge, the dark as it settled brought with it a sense of anonymity, made it easier to talk. I found myself telling Kip about the years in the Keeping Rooms, and even before: the six years at the settlement, and my childhood at the village, too. “Sorry—I’ve probably talked too much.” I could feel his shrug where our shoulders touched. “It’s not as though I’m full of stories to share.”
“But I was still watching Kip. I saw how he had frozen. How his hand, powder-dusted and taut, still gripped the door. When I reached him he still hadn’t moved. It took me a while to make out what he was staring at, particularly as Zoe, joining us, blocked out the last of the light from the doorway. When I did see what was inside, for a moment I didn’t understand why Kip had reacted like that. It looked innocuous at first: a cabinet mounted on the wall, its cover blasted or fallen off. From inside it, snaking out into the darkened room, was a mass of wires, their colors faded but still distinct: red, blue, yellow. Some were bundled together, others hung loose. It wasn’t a dramatic sight: just another piece of detritus from the unfamiliar world of the Before. That’s when I realized it wasn’t entirely unfamiliar. I remembered the wires snaking along the wall above the tanks. Bundled together in places, elsewhere branching out like ungainly ivy. The wires, the cords, the tubes. And the scar in Kip’s wrist, perfectly round and still visible, where one of the tubes had entered his body.”
“I walked as close to the edge of the ramparts as the guards would allow and stared beyond the sandstone crenellations as I tried to contrive some way that I might speak or signal to her. I couldn’t get close enough to the edge to get a proper look at the city that unfolded beneath the mountainside fort. The horizon was curtailed by the ramparts, beyond which I could see only the hills, painted gray with distance.”
- Description: Francesca Haig is an author and academic. Her poetry is widely published, and she is the author of the post-apocalyptic trilogy, The Fire Sermon series, which is translated in more than 20 languages. The Fire Sermon, her first novel, was published in 2015 by HarperVoyager (UK) and Simon & Schuster (US and Canada). The sequel, The Map of Bones came out in 2016, and the trilogy concluded in 2017 with The Forever Ship.
Francesca gained her PhD from the University of Melbourne, and her principal research area is Holocaust literature. She grew up in Tasmania, and currently lives in London.