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Arthur C. Clarke Award Nominee for Best Novel (2013)
Dawn breaks and no one in the world has slept the night before. Or almost no one. A few people, perhaps one in ten thousand, can still sleep, and they’ve all shared the same mysterious dream. A handful of silent children can still sleep as well, but what they’re dreaming remains a mystery. Global panic ensues. A medical fact: after six days of absolute sleep deprivation, psychosis sets in. After four weeks, the body dies. In the interim, a bizarre new world arises and swallows the old one whole. A world called Nod
What do you mean? ’ ‘What I mean is you’re not showing any emotion. That fucking gym ape back there was going to kill you. You know? ’ ‘I know. ’ ‘And you’re not that brave. You should be shaking in your boots. ’ She was pushing at buttons, hoping to trigger some outrage, but I didn’t have any to offer her. ‘I know that too. ’ ‘Well? ’ ‘The beating didn’t hurt. And it didn’t scare me. I don’t know why. ’ She rubbed her temples with the tips of her fingers, then spoke through gritted teeth. ‘It doesn’t make any sense.
You know you weren’t offering me enough. You fucking idiot. No friends, no life. Your stupid books and your stupid fucking sour attitude! There was nothing there to make a life from. One more fucking sushi night with us alone in that apartment might have done me in! You hate people. You wanted me to hate people, and if I’d stayed with you that’s what would have happened. You know what? I bet you’re glad that this happened. I bet you think we all deserved it. That’s why you wrote that book of yours. ’ She paused to gather her ammunition and shot me a wild look that didn’t contain an ounce of regret.
I was in full comic book action mode now. ‘Out of where? ’ he asked, tears blackening the grey fabric of his filthy T-shirt. ‘There’s nowhere to go. I just want to sleep…’ A set of keys hung beside the door, just beyond his reach. I tried one after another on the U-shaped bike lock that chained his neck to the pipe until it clicked and opened. ‘Get up. ’ He shook his head. I went over to Gytrash, pulled her over to the pipe as gently as I could, and locked her duct-taped head to the pipe while she struggled feebly, animal growls emerging from beneath the tape.
Out there on the water it was as though the madness on the beach, on the ship, and in the city was all a dream. And so I row, row, rowed my boat. The same waves had rolled along these shores for millions of years; dinosaurs once bathed in the same water I now paddled through. During the intervening millennia mountains had risen and fallen and all the plants and animals had been replaced and reinvented. But the water hadn’t changed. When I finally made shore the sun was glowering on the horizon, and it was low tide.
No demon blood for the Awakened! You don’t want that shit in you. ’ She glared at him furiously, but wiped her fingers on the grass and shuffled away. ‘Take him and put him with the others,’ the man said, and he and his compatriots dragged the writhing boy off into the fog while the old woman repacked her basket and followed them. Zoe was alone again, and it was like nothing had happened. She picked herself up off the ground and stood in roughly the same spot as before, her face devoid of expression, the grizzly hanging limp from her hand.