Excerpt from A Million Things by Emily Spurr, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Million Things

by Emily Spurr

A Million Things by Emily Spurr X
A Million Things by Emily Spurr
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    Aug 2021, 304 pages

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The First Days

Silence isn't really silent.

It's not loud, exactly. But it sits under things, making the little sounds stand out: my heartbeat in my ears, the sharp echo of the kitchen clock, the fridge humming. I move, and the rustle of me fills my head. Splinter laps water from his bowl. His eyes tell me when it's time to eat. Alarms go off when it's time to wake.

Sleep, wake, eat, school, home, homework, dinner, TV, sleep. Wake.

Time goes weird. It keeps tripping over itself and dropping things. I stand in one room and then I'm sitting in another, but how I got there is gone.

And something grows. Pushing into my head. Something else.

Day 14
Saturday

The smell eventually drifts into all the corners of the house. It's got to the point I can smell it from the lounge room. A heavy stink, seeping weighty and liquid, bad enough to drag me up from sleep.

At first, before I moved to the couch, I tried sleeping in your bed, wrapped in your duvet, one of your T-shirts pressed to my nose. Each breath in taking a little more of you, till all your scents were gone. Till only the warm, swampy smell of dog and the nothing smell of me were left and your pillow held only the shape of my head. Then this new smell started to invade.

It's time to clean out the fridge. Your meal, the last one you didn't eat. I heated it for you, had it sitting on the bench, and it was still there when I went to bed. So I covered it in plastic and put it away.

I know I should chuck it out. It's going moldy, growing life of its own. Releasing spores, probably, that are landing on every other thing in the fridge. But I don't.

I imagine you bursting through the door and asking, What the hell is that smell? And then, looking at me: You're nearly eleven! Why didn't you throw it out, for Christ's sake, why didn't you give it to Splinter?

He follows like a shadow. My Splinter, my pup, my scruffy gray stretch of mutt. I trip over him, wake to his breath on my face. He sits with his big dog head resting on my knee. I look at his brown eyes, lean my face into his and inhale the familiar humid breath, the scent of dog biscuits and bones.

I woke to Splinter's nose in my face that day too. That first day. The room was cold, colder than usual cold. I looked into your bedroom: the bed was made. Into the kitchen, and the back door was open. The air stung my cheeks; I puffed experimentally and I could see my breath. There were leaves on the floor. I couldn't see you in the backyard but I knew you were there. You'd have shut the back door if you'd gone out somewhere. I remember looking at the clock: seven. On a Sunday morning. It was still gray light outside and there was no smell of coffee. I went out, saw the big-shed door ajar. I pushed it open.

And in that second our house vanished. I stood, feet in the grass and nothing but blackness behind me.

There was a breeze. It's funny how air's just there. You don't notice it. Looking at you, I could feel it touching my face, the pressure of it on my skin, the tickle as it lifted a hair off my cheek, as it shifted ever so slightly, making the rope creak.

The back door slammed and the sound sent a familiar shock up my spine. Or it would have if I'd been standing in my body rather than slightly to the left. The alarm chik chik chik of a blackbird exploded in my ears, too loud and too sharp. I could hear the grass growing.

My ears have always been sensitive to you leaving. Each time you'd go, noises muffled and sharpened and silence got loud. I'd stand still, trying not to breathe, waiting for the door to open and for you to come back through it. The silence you left after you grabbed the keys from the bowl on the table and slammed out the door would stand like a person beside me. The bang made me jump every time. Even though I knew it was coming. Knew from the second your eyes lost focus and tightened and you stopped seeing me and saw only this thing ruining your life. You'd shout, grab those keys and stalk to the door, and bang. And I would jump.

Excerpted from A Million Things by Emily Spurr. Copyright © 2021 by Emily Spurr. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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