Excerpt of Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks
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'Where is God in this plan?' he had said, pointing with his finger. 'I see
the planets and their influence and this character, here, whatever his name is.
But in the Bible, it says that'
'God is here, in your head.And here.' Olivier pointed to the chart. 'But it's
'I don't understand,' said Jacques. 'If this is Earth here, this is Saturn,
and here are the rings of Jupiter and this is the body you've discovered, the
one that regulates the movements of people, then what are these lines here? Are
these the souls of the dead going up to Heaven?'
'Those are the rays of influence. They emanate from space, far beyond
anything we can see. These are what control you.'
'Of course. Like rays of light, or invisible waves of sound. The universe is
bombarded with them.You can't hear them.You can't see them.'
'Does everyone know about them? All grown-ups?'
'How do you know about them? Who told you?'
'I have been told.'
Jacques looked away. Over the weeks, he discovered that Olivier's system of
cosmic laws and influences was invulnerably cogent; there was in fact something
of the weary sage in his manner when he answered yet another of Jacques's
immature questions about it, while its ability to adapt made it impermeable to
doubt. Olivier was always right, and his rightness was in the detail. Jacques
was not sure that this next phase of his education, these rays and planets into
which Olivier was inducting him, was one he welcomed. He believed in what he
learned at church and in what the Curé told him later in their walks through the
woods and down to the sea. At least, he thought he did; he believed that he
'Would you like some of the rabbit? Grand-mère cooked it.'
Jacques wanted the company of his brother but shrank from sitting in the
'Don't you want a bath, Olivier? Would you like to wash?'
'I take my bath in the sea.'
'You haven't been to the sea for-'
'The water runs clear . . . Always clear.'
'What do you do all day, Olivier? When I go out to work for Papa?'
He felt Olivier's breath on his cheek. 'That's the trouble with the army. No
time to yourself.You're up at six, and it's stand-to at six fifteen. They've
sent all my clothes back to Rennes . . . But you shouldn't stand there, that's
not your place.'
Jacques said nothing. He had the feeling that, although there was no one else
in the stable, it was not to him that Olivier was addressing his remarks. He
became impatient when Jacques tried to break in; he seemed frightened of
displeasing the absent person by failing to pay full attention to their shared
Olivier grew agitated. 'Don't stand there. That's his place.You're always in
the way.Why don't you learn to do what you're told?' He stood up and grabbed a
metal bucket from the ground next to the horse's stall. Jacques thought he was
going to throw it, but the strength seemed to leave him again, and he dropped
the bucket as he slumped back into his original position, with his back to the
wall. He was silent, though his limbs were still agitated as he moved his head
from side to side.
Jacques had not lost his brother; he had not woken up one day to find him
gone. Rather, Olivier had stolen away, little by little, like smoke beneath the
door; and it had happened so slowly that there seemed no moment at which Jacques
could have said, 'He's gone.' It was still occasionally possible to talk to him
and feel that something was transmitted and received, though more often
Olivier's ear seemed tuned to other tones, the commandments of ancestral voices.
Jacques did not understand what had happened. He wanted to believe in the
universe his brother described; he wanted to see the logic or the plan - to
share and understand them so that he could have his confidant again: he was
lonely without Olivier and he no longer had a guide to what lay ahead of him.
Other people of his own age did not interest him; compared to the intimacy he
had shared with Olivier, their offered friendship was useless.
Excerpted from Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks Copyright © 2005 by Sebastian
Faulks. Excerpted by permission of Random House, 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.