The pond is next, I thought. I just have to go around this shed, and I'll see it.
I saw it and felt oddly proud of myself, as if that one act of memory had blown away some of the cobwebs of the day.
The pond was smaller than I remembered. There was a little wooden shed on the far side, and, by the path, an ancient, heavy, wood-and-metal bench. The peeling wooden slats had been painted green a few years ago. I sat on the bench, and stared at the reflection of the sky in the water, at the scum of duckweed at the edges, and the half-dozen lily pads. Every now and again, I tossed a hazelnut into the middle of the pond, the pond that Lettie Hempstock had called . . .
It wasn't the sea, was it?
She would be older than I am now, Lettie Hempstock. She was only a handful of years older than I was back then, for all her funny talk. She was eleven. I was . . . what was I? It was after the bad birthday party. I knew that. So I would have been seven.
I wondered if we had ever fallen in the water. Had I pushed her into the duck pond, that strange girl who lived in the farm at the very bottom of the lane? I remembered her being in the water. Perhaps she had pushed me in too.
Where did she go? America? No, Australia. That was it. Somewhere a long way away.
And it wasn't the sea. It was the ocean.
Lettie Hempstock's ocean.
I remembered that, and, remembering that, I remembered everything.
The foregoing is excerpted from The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.
Blood at the Root
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