‘Then Later, His Ghost’ by Sarah Hall

Then Later, His Ghost by Sarah Hall, 2013

The magic trick:

Meticulously described world building

Today’s feature isn’t a ghost story, though it is haunting nonetheless.

In an imagined future, weather patterns have changed so that what was a thriving town is not longer habitable. It’s too cold, and the winds off the coast are so strong that they destroy buildings and spray debris and dirt everywhere.

It’s a particularly intense man-versus-nature conflict, and one that’s made even more intense by the writing. The story is meticulously descriptive. The reader can picture every detail and understand what’s at stake with every step through this bleak landscape.

And that’s quite a trick on Hall’s part.

The selection:

Another sizeable object crashed past the house, splintering against the gable and flying off in separate pieces. He’d heard the wind shifting and strengthening during the night, though he was used to sleeping with the sound percussing his dreams. He couldn’t remember the last still day, the trees standing upright and placid, the air itself seeming to vanish, to not exist. Stillness seemed like a childhood myth, like the glory of August hay-timing, or Father Christmas. Last night he’d slept restlessly; his dreams were turbulent – wars, animals stampeding, Helene being swept away. After a night like that it was hard to get up. Other days he almost liked the climate. He liked being one of the only ones left in the town, the impetus; he liked letting go of the ropes strung between buildings and jumping so his coat could sail him several feet forward, flying like a spectre.


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