I’m the second stop on the blog tour for A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, and you can read the second extract below. If you’ve missed the first one, visit The Mountains of Instead to start the tour.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
He felt a rush of panic, his guts twisting. Had it followed him? Had it somehow stepped out of the nightmare and–?
“Don’t be stupid,” he told himself. “You’re too old for -monsters.”
And he was. He’d turned thirteen just last month. Monsters were for babies. Monsters were for bed-wetters. Monsters were for–
There it was again. Conor swallowed. It had been an un-usually warm October, and his window was still open. Maybe the curtains shushing each other in the small breeze could have sounded like–
All right, it wasn’t the wind. It was definitely a voice, but not one he recognized. It wasn’t his mother’s, that was for sure. It wasn’t a woman’s voice at all, and he wondered for a crazy moment if his dad had somehow made a surprise trip from America and arrived too late to phone and–
No. Not his dad. This voice had a quality to it, a monstrous quality, wild and untamed.
Then he heard a heavy creak of wood outside, as if something gigantic was stepping across a timber floor.
He didn’t want to go and look. But at the same time, a part of him wanted to look more than anything.
Wide awake now, he pushed back the covers, got out of bed, and went over to the window. In the pale half-light of the moon, he could clearly see the church tower up on the small hill behind his house, the one with the train tracks curving beside it, two hard steel lines glowing dully in the night. The moon shone, too, on the graveyard attached to the church, filled with tombstones you could hardly read any more.
Conor could also see the great yew tree that rose from the centre of the graveyard, a tree so ancient it almost seemed to be made of the same stone as the church. He only knew it was a yew because his mother had told him, first when he was little to make sure he didn’t eat the berries, which were poisonous, and again this past year, when she’d started staring out of their kitchen window with a funny look on her face and saying, “That’s a yew tree, you know.”
And then he heard his name again.
Like it was being whispered in both his ears.
“What?” Conor said, his heart thumping, suddenly impatient for whatever was going to happen.
A cloud moved in front of the moon, covering the whole landscape in darkness, and a whoosh of wind rushed down the hill and into his room, billowing the curtains. He heard the creaking and cracking of wood again, groaning like a living thing, like the hungry stomach of the world growling for a meal.
Then the cloud passed, and the moon shone again.
On the yew tree.
Which now stood firmly in the middle of his back garden.
And here was the monster.
As Conor watched, the uppermost branches of the tree gathered themselves into a great and terrible face, shimmering into a mouth and nose and even eyes, peering back at him. Other branches twisted around one another, always creaking, always groaning, until they formed two long arms and a second leg to set down beside the main trunk. The rest of the tree gathered itself into a spine and then a torso, the thin, needle-like leaves weaving together to make a green, furry skin that moved and breathed as if there were muscles and lungs underneath.
Already taller than Conor’s window, the monster grew wider as it brought itself together, filling out to a powerful shape, one that looked somehow strong, somehow mighty. It stared at Conor the whole time, and he could hear the loud, windy breathing from its mouth. It set its giant hands on either side of his window, lowering its head until its huge eyes filled the frame, holding Conor with its glare. Conor’s house gave a little moan under its weight.
And then the monster spoke.
Conor O’Malley, it said, a huge gust of warm, compost-smelling breath rushing through Conor’s window, blowing his hair back. Its voice rumbled low and loud, with a vibration so deep Conor could feel it in his chest.
I have come to get you, Conor O’Malley, the monster said, pushing against the house, shaking the pictures off Conor’s wall, sending books and electronic gadgets and an old stuffed toy rhino tumbling to the floor.
A monster, Conor thought. A real, honest-to-goodness monster. In real, waking life. Not in a dream, but here, at his window.
Come to get him.
But Conor didn’t run.
In fact, he found he wasn’t even frightened.
All he could feel, all he had felt since the monster revealed itself, was a growing disappointment.
Because this wasn’t the monster he was expecting.
“So come and get me then,” he said.
– • –
A strange quiet fell.
What did you say? the monster asked.
Conor crossed his arms. “I said, come and get me then.”
The monster paused for a moment, and then with a roar it pounded two fists against the house. Conor’s ceiling buckled under the blows and huge cracks appeared in the walls. Wind filled the room, the air thundering with the monster’s angry bellows.
“Shout all you want,” Conor shrugged, barely raising his voice. “I’ve seen worse.”
The monster roared even louder and smashed an arm through Conor’s window, shattering glass and wood and brick. A huge, twisted, branch-wound hand grabbed Conor around the middle and lifted him off the floor. It swung him out of his room and into the night, high above his back garden, holding him up against the circle of the moon, its fingers clenching so hard against Conor’s ribs he could barely breathe. Conor could see raggedy teeth made of hard, knotted wood in the monster’s open mouth, and he felt warm breath rushing up towards him.
Then the monster paused again.
You really aren’t afraid, are you?
“No,” Conor said. “Not of you, anyway.”
The monster narrowed its eyes.
You will be, it said. Before the end.
And the last thing Conor remembered was the monster’s mouth roaring open to eat him alive.
The third extract of A Monster Calls will be posted by Wondrous Reads, Saturday 7th May…