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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I gaffer the window and door cracks of the old shed. I don't look in.

I'm glad of the cold.

I set up the oil vaporizers inside. One next to the front door, one next to the back door and one in the kitchen. The oils have names: Energy, Sleep, Breathe Easy, Stress Relief ... The instructions say to add five to seven drops at a time. I add twenty. They go for up to ten hours. I'll fill them every morning, when I get home from school and before bed. They'll just keep going.

The house isn't too bad now, if you don't mind rose geranium, peppermint and lavender. And that other smell, heavy underneath.

I watch a show about sharks, one with scary music. I stare at the giant mean-eyed, sharp-toothed fish as a diver opens packets of something yellow and oily-looking. The sharks jerk away and disappear into the camouflage of sea so quickly I have to look at the diver to check it's not in fast-forward. The biggest predator in the oceans and the smell of one of them dead makes them flee.

Their disappearing act almost makes me laugh. It's not really that funny, though.

Day 21
Saturday

It's just getting worse. Now I can't go in the kitchen without gagging. I light more incense sticks and keep the vaporizers topped up. I hold my breath, and I go out and tip more bleach onto the towels at the door. I don't think about what I'm doing.

I tape the kitchen windows shut.

We leave the TV on and go out for a long walk.

Day 22
Sunday

Splinter's not coping too well with being locked inside so much. I've started to let him out the back for longer sessions-more than just a quick wee or poo. At first I tried keeping him on the lead to do his business, but he'd look at me with his brown eyes, and I got the point. I always found it hard to go when you were standing in the bathroom doorway telling me to hurry up. I don't bother with the lead now. If he's not on the lead I don't have to stand with him, and it's cold out there. Colder than the rest of outside.

I ignore the hole he's dug near your shed door. I ignore the small dark shapes he chases. I know what they are. That first night, one of them came crawling through the back, wiggled its way under the house and clawed up through the wall, between posts and plaster. It popped out an air vent and scrabbled down into the lounge. I didn't see it, but I know it happened because while I was sleeping it crawled up on the bed and climbed inside me. I woke with it in there, nipping and shifting, scratching and clawing. Eating away.

I stand at the window and watch for Splints. I don't like him chasing sharp-toothed shadows. What if he catches one? What if he eats it? Everything eating everything. I don't think about that. I stand not looking, just watching so I'll know when he's ready to come in.

The grass is getting long. I've watched it grow, not looking out the window waiting for Splinter, and it's nearly halfway up your shed door now. I can't see the towels stuffed at the bottom anymore. It's all long and straggly, lanky, like it's working to make your shed disappear. The thistles are getting higher too; spiky, like the creepers in my head when you used to read Briar Rose.

I like that things are growing out there. It means it's different every time I open the door.

Splints doesn't seem to mind the jungle. He's made himself a nest near the back door. He chases imaginary things, small furry bodies that barrel away from him as he jumps over the top of the grass. He's like a wildcat, or a gazelle if gazelles were gray and goofy-looking. I watch him bounce around. There's a tiny bit of sun. A little dribble of bright in the middle of the yard. It draws insects out. I thought they'd all be sleeping, or dead, but give them a little bit of sun and here they are. Especially the flies.

Splinter's licking my foot. I look down at his furry eyebrows twitching at me. He collapses on the floor with a huff. I check the clock. I've been watching the insects for over an hour.

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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