Before she came ill, David's mother would often tell him that stories were alive. They weren't alive in the way that people were alive, or even dogs or cats. (...) Stories were different, though: they came alive in the telling. Without a human voice to read them aloud, or a pair of wide eyes following them by torch light beneath a blanket, they had no real existence in our world. (...) They lay dormant, hoping for the chance to emerge. Once someone started to read them, they could begin to change. They could take root in the imagination and transform the reader. Stories wanted to be read, David's mother would whisper. They needed it. It was the reason they forced themselves from their world into ours. They wanted us to give them life.
These stories were very old, as old as people, and they had survived because they were very powerful indeed. They were the tales that echoed in the head long after the books that contained them were cast aside. They were both an escape from reality and an alternative reality themselves. They were so old, and so strange, that they had found a kind of existence independent of the pages they occupied. The world of the old tales existed parallel to ours, but sometimes the walls separating the two became so thing and brittle that the two worlds started to blend into each other. That was when the trouble started. That was when the bad things came. That was when the Crooked Man began to appear to David.
Stories were different, though: they came alive in the telling. Without a human voice to read them aloud, or a pair of wide eyes following them by flashlight beneath a blanket, they had no real existence in our world...They could take root in the imagination and transform the reader. Stories wanted to be read, David's mother would whisper. They needed it. It was the reason they forced themselves from their world into ours. They wanted us to give them life.
I think the act of reading imbues the reader with a sensitivity toward the outside world that people who don't read can sometimes lack. I know it seems like a contradiction in terms; after all reading is such a solitary, internalizing act that it appears to represent a disengagement from day-to-day life. But reading, and particularly the reading of fiction, encourages us to view the world in new and challenging ways...It allows us to inhabit the consciousness of another which is a precursor to empathy, and empathy is, for me, one of the marks of a decent human being.
I believe in those whom I love and trust. All else is foolishness. This god is as empty as his church. His followers choose to attribute all of their good fortune to him, but when he ignores their pleas or leaves them to suffer, they say only that he ignores their pleas or leaves them to suffer, they say only that he is beyond their understanding and abandon themselves to his will. What kind of god is that?
The nature of compassion isn't coming to terms with your own suffering and applying it to others: It's knowing that other folks around you suffer and, no matter what happens to you, no matter how lucky or unlucky you are, they keep suffering. And if you can do something about that, then you do it, and you do it without whining or waving your own fuckin' cross for the world to see. You do it because it's the right thing to do.
It is a curious fact that small boys are more terrified of their babysitters than small girls are. In part, this is because small girls and babysitters, who are usually slightly larger girls, belong to the same species, and therefore understand each other. Small boys, on the other hand, do not understand girls, and therefore being looked after by one is a little like a hamster being looked after by a shark. If you are a small boy, it may be some consolation to you to know that even large boys do not understand girls, and girls, by and large, do not understand boys. This makes adult life very interesting.
The Detective was different. Not that he wasn't a good man; Willie had heard enough about him to understand that he was the kind who didn't like to turn away from another's pain, the kind who couldn't put a pillow over his ears to drown out the cries of strangers. Those scars he had were badges of courage, and Willie knew that there were others hidden beneath his clothes, and still more deep inside, right beneath the skin and down to the soul. No, it was just that whatever goodness was there coexisted with rage and grief and loss.
I dream dark dreams. I dream of a figure moving through the forest, of children flying from his path, of young women crying at his coming. I dream of snow and ice, of bare branches and moon-cast shadows. I dream of dancers floating in the air, stepping lightly even in death, and my own pain is but a faint echo of their suffering as I run. My blood is black on the snow, and the edges of the world are silvered with moonlight. I run into the darkness, and he is waiting. I dream in black and white, and I dream of him. I dream of Caleb, who does not exist, and I am afraid.