Sneak Peek Wednesday: After the Fire by Will Hill

After the Fire
by Will Hill
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication date: Oct. 2, 2018
Genre: Young Adult

The things I’ve seen are burned into me, like scars that refuse to fade.

Before, she lived inside the fence. Before, she was never allowed to leave the property, never allowed to talk to Outsiders, never allowed to speak her mind. Because Father John controlled everything—and Father John liked rules. Disobeying Father John came with terrible consequences.

But there are lies behind Father John’s words. Outside, there are different truths.

Then came the fire.

 

 

Sneak peek

…I drift…

…my hand feels like it’s wrapped in fire. My eyes open and everything is white and there’s a beeping noise and something that has no face looms over me and I try to scream but nothing happens. I’m so scared I can’t even think. My eyes roll back and…

…a man looks down at me, and his face is just eyes above a white mask. He shows me a huge needle, and I just stare at it because I’m too scared to move, and when he pushes it into my arm I don’t even feel it because the pain in my hand is still so huge that it blocks everything else out. I know what doctors are from when I was little and TV was still allowed, but I’ve never seen one in real life until now. The Prophet is screaming in my head that doctors are agents of THE GOVERNMENT, that every one of them is a SERVANT OF THE SERPENT, and his voice rattles and shakes my brain, and my stomach churns, and I’m so scared I can’t even breathe while the doctor tapes the needle that’s inside my arm to my skin and connects it to a tube that leads to a bag of milky white liquid. He says something I don’t understand, and then the liquid starts to flow. I watch it creep down the tube toward my arm. I can’t move a single muscle, but I manage to form a thought over the noise of Father John howling in my head: I wonder what is going to happen when the white liquid goes inside me, and I wonder if I’m still going to be me the next time I wake up…

…the lights above me are blinding, but the pain is much less, and the plastic bag at the end of the tube is empty. I can just about raise my head far enough to see the big mitten of bandages that has been wrapped around my left hand. Sometimes a doctor stands next to my bed and stares at me and sometimes I hear raised voices in the distance and sometimes I start crying and can’t stop. I’m too hot and too cold and everything is wrong and I really want to go home, because even that was better than this. A man wearing a hat and a uniform asks me my name, but Father John roars in my head, so I don’t answer. He asks again, and I don’t answer again, and he rolls his eyes and walks away…

…a woman in a uniform tells someone to sit me up. Hands reach underneath me, and fingers press into my skin and drag me along the bed until I’m propped against a pillow. The woman in the uniform says, “That’s better,” and I almost laugh because nothing is better, nothing is even remotely close to better. “Can you tell me who started the fire?” she asks, and I shake my head. “Who handed out the guns?” I shake my head. “Did you see John Parson after the shooting started?” I shake my head. “What happened inside the main house? What did you do in there?” I shake my head. She stares at me, and when she speaks again, her voice is cold. “People are dead, girl,” she says. “A lot of people. You need to start talking.” She leans over me. I don’t know what’s she’s going to do, so I turn my head away. I see a gold badge on her belt stamped with the words Layton County Sheriff’s Department, and my heart stops dead in my chest and then I hear myself screaming, and the woman in the uniform jumps back, her eyes wide with shock. I hear running footsteps, and my heart starts back up. I thrash on the bed and scream and scream. I feel hands pin my arms and legs, and a doctor lowers another needle toward me, and…

…the faces of my Brothers and Sisters swarm out of the darkness, people I’ve known my whole life, their hair on fire, their skin melting off their skulls, and they’re screaming two words over and over and over again: Your fault your fault your fault your fault YOUR FAULT. I turn away from them and try to run, but the ground turns to quicksand beneath my feet. I sink to my ankles as fingertips brush my shoulders and the back of my neck and I’m terrified, but I can’t scream because my mouth won’t open. All I can do is wade through inky blackness, dragging myself forward, trying to find the way back…

…a man wearing a dark suit stands beside my bed. I’m soaked with sweat, and my hand really hurts, like it’s covered with biting insects, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired. My body feels like it is made of lead and concrete, and my eyelids are the heaviest things in the whole world. The man tells me I’m being moved and I try to ask where, but all that comes out—as Father John bellows in my head Never talk to Outsiders, not under any circumstances—is a rasping whisper. The man says he doesn’t know, and I summon every last bit of strength I have left and ask him who made it out of the fire. He grimaces and walks away…

…there’s a paintbrush in my hand, and it’s dripping with cornflower blue. I know I’m dreaming, but I don’t care because I don’t want to wake up. I paint the wooden wall in front of me, and I hear the distant crash of waves at the base of the cliff, and I smell smoke as it rises from the chimney, and I know that if I look down, I’ll see green grass beneath my feet, but I don’t look down. I paint the wooden board in front of me and the one next to it and the one next to that…

…a different man in an identical dark suit reads a list of names from a piece of paper. I hear Honey and Rainbow and Lucy and Jeremiah, and I burst into tears of relief. The man gives me the first smile I’ve seen since I’ve been lying on this bed, and he carries on reading names, but not for long. My relief gives way to grief, and my tears keep coming because the list is so very, very short…

…the ceiling slides by as two doctors wheel my bed along a corridor and into an empty metal box that shudders and rattles and makes my stomach spin. I try to reach out for the walls to steady myself, but one of the doctors pushes my arms back onto the bed, and my left hand howls with pain, and I cry out. The doctor says, “Sorry,” but his eyes are cold, and his mouth is hidden behind his mask. There’s a beep and a jolt and a rush of cool air, and then I’m moving again. I see a sliver of sky, as blue as the wall in my dream, before I’m lifted and rolled into another metal box, although this one has shelves full of boxes and bottles and machines I don’t recognize. There’s a rumble beneath me as an engine starts up somewhere close by, and it sounds a bit like the red pickup that Amos used to drive, but it’s much louder, and it sounds angry…

…a woman with a kind face wearing a white uniform helps me up from the bed I’ve been lying on ever since I woke up and gently lowers me onto a different one in a square white room with a window set high up in one wall. She tells me to press the orange button next to the door if I need anything, and a lump fills my throat. I ask her not to leave me, and she hugs me, and I start crying again. The voice in the back of my head gets really angry because I haven’t cried this much since I was a little girl, but I can’t help it. The woman with the kind face shushes me and strokes my hair and tells me it’s okay, everything is going to be okay, she’ll be right there if I need her, then gently slides out of my arms and gives me a smile before she walks out of the room, closing the door behind her. I lie down on the bed and I hear a heavy metallic thud as a lock slides into place…

…I drift…

 

 

 

 

Meet Will Hill

Before quitting his job in publishing to write full time, Will Hill worked as a bartender, a bookseller and a door-to-door charity worker. He grew up in the north-east of England, is scared of spiders, and lives in east London with his girlfriend. He is a big fan of cats.

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4 Thoughts on “Sneak Peek Wednesday: After the Fire by Will Hill

  1. I have this one!!! 😀 I think I have it scheduled for later this month.

  2. I’m excited to read this one. I’ve heard great things about it!

  3. ratmom on 6 October, 2018 at 12:30 pm said:

    That story has such a creepy feel to it from that excerpt.

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