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 backyard. And here was the monster.
As Conor watched, the uppermost branches of the tree gathered themselves into a great and terrible face, shimmering 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 backyard, 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 toward 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.
A MONSTER CALLS. Text copyright © 2011 by Patrick Ness. From an original idea by Siobhan Dowd. Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Jim Kay. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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