Excerpt from This is Where the World Ends by Amy Zhang.
In just a few days Amy Zhang’s This is Where the World Ends will be released, but before the big release Zhang has given us a sneak peek of the book. This is Where the World Ends is Zhang’s second book. Below is the sneak peek of the three chapters we received.
Here is Chapter 1:
Once Upon a Time after
Everything ends. This is obvious. This is the easy part. This is what I believe in: the inevitable, the catastrophe, the apocalypse.
What’s harder is trying to figure out when it all began to collapse. I would argue that it has always been going to shit, but this is when we finally began to notice:
On the last day of summer before senior year, Janie Vivian moved away. We sat at our desks facing each other through windows thrown open. A bookshelf was balanced between the sills, but she didn’t crawl over. She didn’t cry, either. She was thinking, hard. That was worse.
“You could always just move in with me,” I said. I wasn’t quite joking.
She didn’t answer. She sat still except for her fingers, which hadn’t stopped rubbing her favorite rock from the Metaphor since her parents had told her to pack up her room. Her thumb was black from all the marker ink on it.
The new house was on the other side of town and much bigger. The back was almost entirely windows, and she could see the quarry and the top of the Metaphor from her room. Her grandpa had finally died, which meant that they finally had money again. It was everything her mother wanted. These were the things she had told me in pieces. She rarely talked about it, and I didn’t ask. I hadn’t seen the new house yet, and I never wanted to.
“It’s going to be okay.” She said it slowly. Her thumb rubbed circles on the rock, smudging the writing. Behind her, the room was empty. She was leaving the desk and the shelves because her parents had bought her new ones.
Downstairs, her dad shouted her name again.
It was humid. I shifted, and there was sweat on my desk in the shape of my forearms. It had been the hottest day of the year. Janie had said it was a sign.
“This isn’t it,” she said. She was glaring at me. “I know what you’re going to say, and this isn’t it.”
“I wasn’t going to say that,” I said. “I was going to say that I’ll see you in English tomorrow.”
“No, you weren’t.”
She was right. I wasn’t.
“It’s just across town,” she said, and she was still glaring, but not at me. She was rubbing her thumb raw. “That’s nothing. Nothing’s going to change, okay? Okay?”
“Yeah,” I said, but she wasn’t listening.
Her name came again in a singsong. “Jaaaaaaaaanie!”
Her mom. Janie’s fist went white.
“It’s not really even across town,” I said. “Really, it’s just down the road.”
She reached into her pocket for a new rock, a clean one. She pulled out a marker, scribbled something in tiny letters, and then she opened her top drawer and dropped the rock in. She always did that. She trailed rocks behind her.
She stood. She stared at me. Her hair was frizzing from the heat, and her pockets bulged with stones.
“You and me,” she said. “You and me, Micah Carter.”
Then she reached for the board between our windows. She pulled it back into her room, and I thought, This is it. Our eyes met, and she said, “More than anything,” before she banged the window shut between us.
“More than everything,” I said, but of course she couldn’t hear me. I felt a ripple in the air; the window closing made the only breeze we’d had in days. I blinked, and when I opened my eyes again, she was leaving. Her journal was tucked under her arm and her hair was swinging, and she didn’t slam the door as she always did—she closed it with her fingertips, and everything was still. The world had already begun to end.
When I wake up in the hospital and they ask me what happened, that’s what I tell them. It’s the last thing I remember.
People are here for smoke inhalation and alcohol poisoning. A lot of people have burns. A lot of the burns are bad. At least one person sprained an ankle, and a few people have broken fingers.
That’s what the nurses say, but they don’t tell me what happened. They just keep saying there was an accident. Every time they leave, Dewey flips off the door. Dewey never fucking leaves. He brought the new Metatron and my Xbox, and he sits there and shoots Nazi zombies at full volume while my head explodes.
“Look, man,” he says again. “You were an idiot. That’s not an accident. You got too shit-faced and you’re goddamn lucky you didn’t drown in your own puke.”
He’s lying. His fingers twitch. Cigarettes strain against his front pocket. The nurse told him he’d have to leave if he tried to smoke in here again.
I feel like shit. The doctors didn’t pump my stomach because they were too busy sewing my scalp together, which split open. No one has told me how the hell that happened yet. I’m still nauseous enough to be clutching the bedpan, but the real pain is deeper, somewhere around the place where my brain stem meets my spine. It hurts my eyes when I stare at my phone, but I keep staring. Janie has to text back soon.
“Dude, stop texting and grab a controller.” Dewey brought my extra. It’s the shitty one that my dog chewed up before he died. “Listen to me. You’re keeping the bench warm in T-ball, and she’s in the major leagues. You got it?”
Dewey is an asshole. Some people are musicians or dreamers; Dewey is an asshole. He smokes a pack of cigarettes a day and wears his collars popped up and he does shit like play video games with the volume all the way up while you’re in the hospital. He’s my best friend because we are the only two inhabitants of the ninth circle of social hell. We didn’t have options.
“My point is, you’re not getting to any bases. You’re not in the same league.” His voice shakes. His avatar gets filled with bullet holes.
“What?” I ask. “What’s wrong?”
Dewey swallows. He won’t look at me. He puts the controller down. A nurse comes in. He picks the controller up again.
“How’re you doing, love?” she asks as she tries to fluff my pillows.
“Is Janie here?” I ask her. “Is she okay?”
“You just worry about yourself for now, all right?” she says. Her voice is honey, and I swallow quickly so I don’t puke. “Doctor’s going to come check you again soon. All right?”
He’ll check me everywhere and say things like “selective retrograde amnesia.” I’ll try not to puke in his direction and splatter his coat anyway.
The nurse checks the IV in my arm before moving away and closing the door.
“Do you know who else is here?” I ask Dewey.
His eyes are fixed on the screen.
“Is Janie here?”
He shoots a Nazi zombie in the head. “I already told you,” he says. “No, I don’t know who the fuck is here, Micah.”
“But weren’t you there last night?”
“No, I wasn’t. Stop asking me.”
Dewey’s avatar ducks behind a crumbling wall. His avatar is bleeding from its leg but still walks fine. His supplies are low. The zombies are coming. They surround him. He sighs. “Oh, fuck it.”
He jumps out from behind the wall and his avatar fills with bullets. He goes down like a rock. A jingle plays. Game over. World fucked.
“Apocalypse music,” I say.
Dewey starts a new game. “What?”
“Nothing,” I say. Nothing. I don’t know what’s coming out of my mouth. No, wait. It’s more vomit. It tastes like vodka I don’t remember drinking.
“Shit, man,” Dewey says, pausing the game and leaning away. “Jesus. You’re disgusting. I fucking told you not to go last night, I—”
He swallows again. “Go back to sleep,” he says eventually.
I guess I listen. My eyes are closed, but I don’t really remember closing them. Nurses come and go, and doctors, and policemen. I guess I must open my eyes to see them, but I don’t remember that either.
Janie declared an apocalypse.
She declared an apocalypse and told me I could pick the music. The leaves were the color of her hair and she stood on top of a mountain of rocks. She was laughing. Her fists were full of stones and she was stuffing them into her pockets.
“So what do you think?” she asks me. Her eyes are two shades brighter than ice, bluer than normal. “Everything needs a good soundtrack, Micah. The apocalypse most of all.”
I don’t remember what I said.
I don’t remember if it happened at all.
The Journal of Janie Vivian
Once upon a time, a little girl built a house out of Skarpie markers. They were cheaper than the name brand and much more permanent—you had to shed a whole layer of skin to get rid of it. She sat on the floor of her house and drew on her arms until her parents huffed and puffed that markers were for paper, not skin. Besides, they told her, she would get ink poisoning.
So the little girl put her markers in her pocket and went on to build a house of matches. She shook them out of their boxes and watched them burn closer to her fingertips. She made wishes and blew them out. She stacked them in little rickety stacks and imagined them going up in flames, because she thought it’d be beautiful. She stacked the matches higher and higher until her teachers huffed and puffed that little girls shouldn’t play with dangerous things. Besides, they told her, it was against school rules.
So the little girl put her matches in her pocket and went on to build a house out of rocks. Her parents and her teachers and the whole town huffed and puffed, but no one could knock this house down and no one could keep her away. She named the house of rocks the Metaphor and spent every moment she could there with a boy who never huffed and never puffed. She always kept a marker and a match and at least five rocks in her pocket: the marker to write, the match to wish and burn, and the rock to keep her grounded.
And they all lived happily ever after, probably.
This is Where the World Ends is set to be released on March 22, 2016.
To read the other two chapters from the book, This is Where the World Ends, visit this site.
Pre-Order the novel This is Where the World Ends here.