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Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Author:Rumaan Alam
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Ecco
Published: 2020-08-29T00:00:00+00:00


23

THEY SPOKE MORE QUIETLY THAN NORMAL. THEY WERE DEFERENTIAL, of course, to the noise. They were waiting for it to come back. They didn’t want to be caught unawares, but how could you anticipate that, even having heard it before? All the same: there was disagreement.

G. H. did not wholly believe what he was saying. “It could have been thunder, I suppose.” Sometimes you could will yourself to believe what you said.

“There are no clouds!” Amanda’s fury was blunted, a bit, by relief. She had found her children, wide-eyed and filthy as mendicants, and would not let them go. She had Rose’s right hand in hers as she used to, years ago, when the girl was misbehaving. On the girl’s left hand the palm was etched red, a perfect, unbroken line. Abraded skin on her left knee, smudges on her chin and shoulder and the soft midriff—she’d campaigned for months for a two-piece swimsuit—and greasy hair and red eyes, but otherwise the girl was fine. The children looked fine. They seemed fine.

Amanda had plunged headlong into the woods and found them by some instinct she’d forgotten she possessed, or perhaps it was dumb luck. The noise sent the three of them running, and their paths happened to intersect. The noise saw Clay stop the car beside the maddeningly empty road, open the door, and consider the heavens. The noise startled Ruth, filling the coffeepot, dropping a spoon to the ground. The noise bade those deer, more than a thousand in number, already heedless of the property lines drawn by men, to stampede through gardens without even stopping for a nibble. Homeowners were too distracted—by the shattered windows, by the screaming children, by the infant eardrums, irreparably affected—to gawk at all those animals.

Amanda and the children emerged from the woods, and though they were strangers there was real joy at their reunion. Ruth had put an arm around the boy’s bare shoulders. G. H. had squeezed Amanda’s forearm in paternal relief. The aftermath of the noise—a hum, a sense of vibration—seemed to linger. It was like a swarm of persistent insects, the biting flies you sometimes encountered at the beach. There and not there. Dogged. Amanda suggested they go inside, articulating what everyone was feeling. The sky was quite blue and very pretty, but the out-of-doors seemed somehow untrustworthy. The noise seemed to belong to nature, but as Ruth knew, the bricks had not been enough to keep the sound away. “Was that a bomb?” Visions of mushroom clouds.

“Where’s Dad?” Regressing as you did after a trauma, Archie’s voice broke, high and awkward, on Dad. Where was Dad?

“He ran an errand.” Amanda was terse.

“I’m sure he’ll be back any moment.” Ruth filled glasses with water. The children were filthy and sweaty. She wasn’t sure how to help, and that was what she wanted to do. She couldn’t hold her grandchildren close. She could get this stranger’s children a glass of water.

“Thank you.” Archie remembered his manners. That was a good sign.

“Why don’t you go wash? I can stay with Archie.



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