Nil Remembered

Nil Remembered

by Lynne Matson, Jay C. Spencer

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250125224
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date: 07/19/2016
Series: Nil Series
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 20
Sales rank: 175,698
File size: 7 MB
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Lynne Matson is the author of the Nil trilogy. She grew up in Georgia in a house full of books and a backyard full of gnarly pines. She attended the University of Florida, where she met and married her husband, the cutest boy she's ever seen. Now Lynne is mother to four amazing boys and lives in Jacksonville, Florida.

Jay C. Spencer is an artist, writer, and an average high school art teacher. He lives in Ontario with his wife and two children. Due to his freakish height, Jay is a strong supporter of any new Building Code Regulation that would require the raising of door headers to over 6’10”.


Lynne Matson is the author of the Nil trilogy. She grew up in Georgia in a house full of books and a backyard full of gnarly pines. She attended the University of Florida, where she met and married her husband, the cutest boy she's ever seen. Now Lynne is mother to four amazing boys and lives in Jacksonville, Florida.

Read an Excerpt

Nil Remembered


By Lynne Matson

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 2016 Lynne Matson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-12522-4



CHAPTER 1

Entry #1


I read once that the most powerful memories are triggered by smell. Not mine. My most powerful memories are triggered by heat.

Blistering burning brutal heat — the kind of heat that you think you won't survive and yet you do, and then you spend the next ten months wondering if it would've been easier not to survive after all, even as you spend every waking minute fighting to live. To feel the heat again because it's life. Or maybe it's death, because no one really knows.

But I know now.

It's both.

Yesterday Mom was baking brownies. I was standing next to her when she opened the oven door. Searing, airless heat hit my face — and I choked. I couldn't breathe. Couldn't think. Couldn't stop thinking.

I flinched, waiting for the fiery pain that never came. I didn't want the brownies.

I've been home for 28 days.

Nothing is the same. I am not the same. I feel the fracture inside myself, inside my head, even as I know I'm sane. But if I'm not, it's because the island made me crazy.

My name is Scott Bracken, and this is the truth.

CHAPTER 2

Entry #2


This is how it began.

I was riding my bike to Stephanie's house. I remember how perfect the day was: Stephanie's call inviting me over for lunch, the clear May Connecticut sky. I remember the Van Halen tickets in my pocket. A surprise, setting up the raddest date ever. She was obsessed with David Lee Roth. I liked the Police better, but it wasn't about me. It was about her. We'd just started hanging out, and now that I could drive, my world had expanded.

But I wasn't driving that day.

Sometimes I wonder if that would have made a difference. Me driving, instead of biking, me not taking the road less traveled. I read that poem once in school — did a report on it even. It seemed lame at the time. Now it seems fucking brilliant.

Daniel had the car, which was annoying since we shared the wagon. For all I knew, he'd forgotten I was supposed to have the car that afternoon. After Stephanie's, I was supposed to meet up with Will and Mark to go rent a movie at the new video store down the street. But Daniel was late, and I didn't want to wait. He was always late.

I've never asked him if he forgot. It seems so insignificant now. Sometimes I wonder about the concert tickets. Did anyone find them? Did anyone use them? But like with the car, it doesn't matter.

I never made it to Stephanie's house.

The heat got me first.

Two streets from my house, the road buckled and rocketed straight up into the air ten feet in front of me — then the street dropped away, leaving rippling air in its wake and me with no time to stop. I hit the shimmering air straight on. It burned; it hurt; it was like getting ripped one cell at a time through a white-hot needle. The impact knocked me out, or so I thought. Later I figured out it was the heat.

I woke up on fire.

Literally — my right calf was melting; I lay on warm black rock, sprawled about six feet from a swath of steaming lava, and the skin on my right calf was red and blistering. BECAUSE OF THE FUCKING LAVA. Black and angry, the lava oozed downhill like sludge, its surface cracking into ribbons of fire as it inched forward. Hissing steam billowed to the right; huge mushroom clouds of scalding vapor that I knew would fry my lungs if I got anywhere close.

My bike was gone. My street was gone. MY CLOTHES WERE GONE.

And there wasn't a soul in sight.

But other than my calf, I wasn't burned. I wasn't even scratched.

All of those realizations set in within three seconds flat.

Maybe my mind cracked that day after all; maybe it was the part I couldn't see that shattered on landing.

But I know it didn't.

I still have scars on my right calf.

Yeah, I'm still pissed off. Yeah, I'm angry. I have a right to be. Because I was there and NO ONE HERE BELIEVES ME.

My name is Scott Bracken, and this is the truth.

CHAPTER 3

Entry #3


I ran, with no idea where I was running to or what I was running from. All I knew was that chilling out with an active volcano was a fast track to death.

I had no clue my fight with death was just beginning.

I ran away from the lava, away from the steam. Over the black rock, which cooled with each step. My calf burned, but I didn't stop to look.

I'm not sure how long I ran. I ran until I slowed. A stitch in my side made me stop. I was sweating, the soles of my feet felt raw — I didn't want to look — and it had just hit me again that I had no clue where I was. I searched for signs, roads, houses — something to tell me where I was, somewhere to get help. On a repeating loop my brain kept screaming WHERE AM I? mixed with the alternative, WAKE THE FUCK UP.

I needed clothes and first aid for my leg, and the farther I walked, the more I needed water.

* * *

Soon water was all I could think about.

I followed the coast, heading what I thought was west, because sticking near the sea seemed sensible — not that I was an outdoors expert. My extracurricular activities included golf, a shitty stint as a wrestler, and playing Atari on the weekends. I rocked at Space Invaders.

I wondered if aliens had grabbed me.

The rocky black cliffs went on forever. I broke some large leaves off a low plant, knowing it could collect rain if clouds moved in, but in the meantime, I could collect my urine. I'd seen a documentary on a pilot who crashed in the Sahara Desert and survived ten days alone by drinking his own urine. Granted, he filtered it through his clothes, a luxury I didn't have.

For the record, drinking your own piss sucks. It's warm and foul and yeah — it's URINE. But until I found water, I didn't have many options.

I stopped at the cliff's edge, at the farthest outcropping. Blue-green water crashed against the black rocks below. To my left was the volcano, steaming. To the right, I couldn't see; I'd only know what was there when the cliffs ended. Straight ahead was only water. Endless glinting water.

And none of it could I drink.

There was a poem about that once, too. Or maybe it was a song. All I know is that it was cruel. And totally right on.

Twilight came, fast and furious and beautiful and frightening. The sea was still too far a drop; the cliffs were vertical black, like slabs of earth chopped straight down. As night fell, I was freezing, shaking with cold and pain. My feet were bloody now and my calf burned; one blister had broken open. It was bloody too.

With the stars and moon overhead, I dug a shallow hole with a rock, more like a low hollow, and I lay in it with a few dead palm fronds as coverage. If I slept, I don't remember it.

I got up with the sun. My lips were cracked. Dry, probably sunburned. I sat up, wide-awake in the nightmare that raged in daylight. I tried to pee but lost the few drops I had left; my hands were shaking so badly I dropped the leaf.

I needed water.

Fresh water.

I forced myself up, and when a break in the cliffs seemed manageable, I climbed down, looking for fresh water as I went. I worked my way around the cliff's base, which was less steep now, more like a black rock bulkhead. It took hours. I moved slowly, wishing there was shade; I'd stopped sweating, which was bad. I kept thinking these low rocks would hold fresh rainwater in the nooks that pitted the edges near the cliff base, but everything was salty. I should've stayed up high, but too late now. I remember thinking that I wasn't thinking clearly, and I remember hoping that when I turned the corner, I'd find docks, and houses.

But when I turned the corner, all I saw was a stretch of beach — wide and black, sand not rock, buffered by palm trees, and not a soul in sight. Endless. I managed to make it to the tree line, where I collapsed in the shade of a palm tree and closed my eyes to rest.

Now this is where it gets weird.

Make that weirder.

I woke in that odd wide-awake state that I'd been in since I opened my eyes by the lava. I was still naked. But I wasn't alone. A strange, elongated shadow stretched across the sand.

Fresh fear coursed through me like adrenaline, bringing a rush of jumbled thoughts. I'm-naked-I-don't -want-anyone-to-see-me-but-oh-God-I-need-help-and-I'm -so–thirsty-and-maybe-they-can-tell-me-where-I-am -and-take-me-home-what-if-it's-an-alien-oh-please-God-help-me.

I turned slowly.

A giraffe stepped into the sunlight, working a leafy green branch in its mouth, regarding me curiously. An honest-to-God GIRAFFE.

I began laughing hysterically, then started coughing. My tongue was swollen and dry. I coughed up blood and no longer laughed.

Maybe I'd inhaled some of the steam yesterday after all. Or maybe the blood was from my tongue.

The giraffe strolled away, bored.

Giraffe Land sucked.

I know what you're thinking. Get a coconut, dude. If there are palm trees, there must be coconuts, too, right? I tried. I shook a dozen trees, but the trees barely budged and the coconuts definitely didn't. None were on the ground, either.

Night fell again, fast. Twilight in Giraffe Land didn't hang around long. The black sand was warm but the air was cold and night number two in Giraffe Land was as bad as night number one.

I shook, like I had a fever. Maybe I did, because that night I drifted in and out of a weird sleepy-exhausted-shaky-thirsty state and woke the same way. The sun cameup, and I just lay there. So thirsty. My brain couldn't think, but it could imagine, and here's the one memory that I fully admit might be a delusion: I tilted my head toward the trees and a girl materialized from the brush. She had long dark hair falling around her shoulders, a white skirt and matching white tube top, and a thin halo of white flowers around the top of her head.

I think she was an angel. I'm still not sure she was real.

She was real.

She placed one finger over her lips, came forward, knelt, and placed an oyster shell to my lips. "Slow," she whispered. Brown eyes as warm as chocolate. "Drink."

I drank. Water. The cleanest water I'd ever tasted.

She lifted my hand to take the shell. "Go north," she said. "Find those like you. Find what you seek and Godspeed home."

She went to stand and I grabbed her wrist. "Wait! Who are you? Where am I?"

She shook her head and deftly slid her wrist from my grip. "The answers you seek do not lie with me." She pointed to the sand beside me. "Find what you need. The island helps those who help themselves. And stay away from the meadow."

I looked down, following her finger, and found a piece of dingy white cotton — a loincloth. Beside it rested a gourd. Heavy. Full of water.

When I looked up, she was gone.

I never saw her again.

My name is Scott Bracken, and this is the truth.

CHAPTER 4

Entry #4


I know she told me to go north, but I sensed she went east.

I walked up the beach, toward the spindly trees and scrub. Toward where I felt she'd be, knowing I was chasing a vision or a dream or possibly the only person stuck in this nightmare with me. Just past the scrub, the island opened wide, a flat black rock field without end. Beautiful and stark and awesome and chilling, as sharp a contrast as an Ansel Adams photo.

Stark black rock, pale blue sky. Crisp. Clear. Lifeless.

Dangerous.

Light flashed ahead, a wink on the black, and I froze; I thought of the glistening air I hit on Oak Street, wondering if this was Burning Air Hell Round Two.

But this light didn't rise. Didn't move. I stepped closer and the light disappeared.

Two more steps and I saw why. Three-foot-wide tunnels snaked through the black rock, full of water, reflecting the sun. No fish. No life. Just water, so clear I could see the rock bottom. I wondered if she'd led me here.

I fell to my knees. Warm water, decently fresh to the taste. I drank until I couldn't.

I sat back, wiped my mouth, and watched the ripples from my hands fade. The surface became a mirror. A boy with spiky brown hair and sleepless eyes gazed back at me. It was the first time I saw myself on the island, and the last time I looked scared.

Now I look fearless.

I spent the rest of that afternoon puking my guts out. I never drank that water again.

My name is Scott Bracken, and this is the truth.

CHAPTER 5

Entry #5


Wake up. Drag my sorry ass across the black sand for hours hunting for water, food, the girl with chocolate eyes, and a way out of this nightmare that bled into the day. Find nothing. Find no one.

Repeat.

I'd fallen into a pattern without even realizing it.

Wake up, forage, and explore. Try not to lose the last shred of sanity, try not to pass out. Try not to die.

Surprise, surprise, I didn't die, but in hindsight, I was just existing.

For the record, some things in hindsight look so damn clear. Other things fade and fall out of focus, like a blurred photograph, the kind you can stare at all day but never get the details. They're gone, lost to a shaky hand or bad camera skills, but regardless of the reason, the image is permanently muddy. Hindsight is a double-edged sword — it slices time in half, cuts out bits, flays your memories alive. It isn't always pretty. Sometimes hindsight spawns regrets. I would know. But then? At that moment, just a few days in? I was naïve. And really, really hungry. Like I said, I was just existing. Just breathing island air, taking up island space, coming up empty hour after endless hour like I was stuck in a repeating loop of sorry-Scott-you're-so-screwed and oh-yeah-welcome-to-your-own-personal -nightmare-that-won't-end.

Because there was no food.

I'm talking absolute zero snacks. No nuts, no berries. No fruits or veggies, not counting one rock-solid coconut that refused to crack. No bugs. And if you haven't figured it out yet, let me lay it out once and for all: there were no restaurants, no supermarkets, no hotels, no houses.

THERE WERE NO PEOPLE.

Except the girl.

But she'd vanished.

It was just me and one equally-bewildered giraffe. I'd seen him — her? no clue how to ID giraffe gender, another thing I didn't learn in high school — two days in a row. Me and the cool 'raffe, we were tight. We didn't talk, just stared at each other with a look like "Can you believe this shit?"

I don't think the giraffe knew what to do either. If he had, he wouldn't have been hanging out with me.

Back then, I didn't have a clue.

Now I do.

But me now can't help me then. I'm even sure me now can help either one of us — and isn't this the point of this whole damn journal? Like I said, hindsight can mess with your head; it's damn sure messing with mine.

But give me points for trying.

Give me points for surviving.

Because I'm still here, writing this stupid-ass journal, and hell yeah, I've got some regrets.

My name is Scott Bracken, and this is the truth.

CHAPTER 6

Entry #6


The girl.

The girl.

The girl.

The one with chocolate eyes, the one who gave me water. The one who saved me.

She was the answer; she was the solution to getting out. To getting home. She was my golden ticket, decked in island angel form.

She knew things.

I knew it then with a certainty that I still feel now. I know she made it back to wherever she came from. I don't know how I know, but I do.

I feel her in my bones. Back then, now. Today.

I sense her; it's how I know she made it, or at least still lives. Maybe it's what happens when someone saves your life. Maybe she's still there, but my gut says no. My gut says she's safe, back here, wherever her home is.

Sometimes I think I'm supposed to find her.

Yeah, I still think about her. Still want to talk to her. Not all the time, and not why you think. I want to talk to her because I believe she has answers I never got.

But back then? Back then I was obsessed.

Back then, I couldn't stop thinking of her. I wanted to find her, to thank her. To get to know this mysterious girl who saved my life and didn't look a damn bit scared.

She was a magnet, drawing all my thoughts.

The girl.

The girl.

The girl.

She was real.

But she knew how to disappear. Or escape.

Was there a difference?

My name is Scott Bracken, and this is the truth.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Nil Remembered by Lynne Matson. Copyright © 2016 Lynne Matson. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Prologue,
Entry #1,
Entry #2,
Entry #3,
Entry #4,
Entry #5,
Entry #6,
Entry #7,
Entry #8,
Entry #9,
Entry #10,
Entry #11,
Entry #12,
Entry #13,
Entry #14,
Entry #15,
Entry #16,
Entry #17,
Entry #18,
Entry #19,
Entry #20,
About the Author,
Copyright,

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