Excerpt of The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau
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What Torren Saw
Torren was out at the edge of the cabbage field that day, the day the
people came. He was supposed to be fetching a couple of cabbages for Dr.
Hester to use in the soup that night, but, as usual, he didn't see why
he shouldn't have some fun while he was at it. So he climbed up the wind
tower, which he wasn't supposed to do because, they said, he might fall
or get his head sliced off by the big blades going round and round.
The wind tower was four-sided, made of boards nailed one above the next
like the rungs of a ladder. Torren climbed the back side of it, the side
that faced the hills and not the village, so that the little group of
workers hoeing the cabbage rows wouldn't see him. At the top, he turned
around and sat on the flat place behind the blades, which turned slowly
in the idle summer breeze. He had brought a pocketful of small stones up
with him, planning on some target practice: he liked to try to hit the
chickens that rummaged around between the rows of cabbages. He thought
it might be fun to bounce a few pebbles off the hats of the workers,
too. But before he had even taken the stones from his pocket, he caught
sight of something that made him stop and stare.
Out beyond the cabbage field was another field, where young tomato and
corn and squash plants were growing, and beyond that the land sloped up
into a grassy hillside dotted, at this time of year, with yellow mustard
flowers. Torren saw something strange at the top of the hill. Something
There were bits of darkness at first-for a second he thought maybe it
was a deer, or several deer, black ones instead of the usual light
brown, but the shape was wrong for deer, and the way these things moved
was wrong, too. He realized very soon that he was seeing people, a few
people at first and then more and more of them. They came up from the
other side of the hill and gathered at the top and stood there, a long
line of them against the sky, like a row of black teeth. There must have
been a hundred, Torren thought, or more than a hundred.
In all his life, Torren had never seen more than three or four people at
a time arrive at the village from elsewhere. Almost always, the people
who came were roamers, passing through with a truckload of stuff from
the old towns to sell. This massing of people on
the hilltop terrified him. For a moment he couldn't move. Then his heart
started up a furious pounding, and he scrambled down off the wind tower
so fast that he scraped his hands on the rough boards.
"Someone's coming!" he shouted as he passed the workers. They looked up,
startled. Torren ran at full speed toward the low cluster of brown
buildings at the far end of the field. He turned up a dirt lane, his
feet raising swirls of dust, and dashed through the gate in the wall and
across the courtyard and in through the open door, all the time yelling,
"Someone's coming! Up on the hill! Auntie Hester! Someone's coming!"
He found his aunt in the kitchen, and he grabbed her by the waist of her
pants and cried, "Come and see! There's people on the hill!" His voice
was so shrill and urgent and loud that his aunt dropped the spoon into
the pot of soup she'd been stirring and hurried after him. By the time
they got outside, others from the village were leaving their houses,
too, and looking toward the hillside.
from The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau Copyright © 2004 by
Jeanne DuPrau. Excerpted by permission of Random House Books for Young
Readers, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part
of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in
writing from the publisher.