Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Night is a Shadow Cast By the World (Chapter 6)

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Night is a Shadow Cast By the World by Brian Panhuyzen

Toronto writer Brian Panhuyzen's ambitious new novel, Night is a Shadow Cast By the World, is a gripping literary adventure about books, aviation, travel and love. We will be serializing a portion of the book on Open Book: Toronto, with a new chapter posted every Tuesday and Thursday.

Read Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 of Night is a Shadow Cast By the World.

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Chapter 6

Marla lies with her back to the vacant expanse of the bed, drunk, the bed tilting incessantly but never quite enough to dump her onto the floor. Pippa, who is slumbering in the guest room, convinced her to uncork a bottle of white wine, and they drank it fast. She stares at the curtains astir in a breeze through the open window. A flash of lightning, and she counts six until thunder.

A night in Delhi, fifteen years ago. Marla and Anita-Aunty sleeping on the veranda because of the heat. Symphony of insects outside the mosquito net, and Anita, snoring, her sable and white hair coiled around her head, sporadically illuminated by lightning. Marla lay propped on an elbow, watching Anita’s brow, which seemed never to unclench in daylight, unfamiliar now in its tranquil state. The storm was far off, its destination uncertain. Anita’s eyelids fluttered and opened, the brow seizing, a smile erupting.

“What is it, child?”

“A storm coming,” Marla whispered.

Anita listened. “Yes. You cannot sleep?”

“It’s too hot here.”

“Where would you like to be?”

“In Canada. With my friends.”

“Oh, but it’s always cold there. How dreadful!”

“Not always, Aunty. Only in winter. In summer it’s hot like here. But for many months it’s just right.”

“Like Goldilocks and the porridge?”

Marla nodded, whispered, “Yes.”

Anita rose and pressed the girl’s shoulders, said, “Then do not shun sleep. Sleep is where we find lost things. When we sleep our soul flies to where it longs to be. Welcome your dreams and they will carry you home.”

A great weariness fell over Marla and she pressed her head into the pillow’s blue dark and closed her eyes and for a moment lightning flickered through her lids. Then she was running down a hallway in yellow light, bare feet clapping on the floorboards as she passed bedroom doors and dashed down the staircase, hand on the smooth handrail, feet padding past carved banisters until she reached the foyer, smells of books and fabric, woodsmoke and candles, jasmine and curry. She cut right, pursued by Tara or Balaram, they would expect left but she went right, into the room they called the parlour, froze in her footsteps, for seated in a wingback her father, charcoal suit, a teacup at his lips and lifting his head from papers and regarding her through steelrimmed spectacles. She backed towards the door, fearing rage and truculence at the intrusion. But his face brightened at the sight of her, and, abandoning the work, he beckoned to her. She hesitated before complying, startled at the rug’s pile under her soles, and when she stood before him she tried not to flinch as he folded his arms around her and drew her into his lap.

He said, “I thought for a moment you were your sister.”

He pulled her against him and after some seconds she relented and gripped him with zeal, pressed her face into his hair which smelled of pipesmoke and autumn leaves. When he released her to look at her face she was crying and he scooped away her tears with his fingertip and did not ask why.

Marla closes her eyes and again sees the flicker of lightning through her eyelids, and lets weariness and alcohol sweep her into slumber. And she does dream, but not of Cordell and not of the house in Ottawa and not of her father. She dreams of Delhi, of a crowded street of wallahs and autorickshaws and women in saris and men in kurtas, all of it spiced with a hundred scents, rotting fruit and fresh flowers and manure and coconut milk. The mob shifts and shuffles, a great tangle of bodies undulating like a single organism. She senses from each person a great despair, for none is where she or he is supposed to be — too many people, too many avenues — and everyone is lost or has lost a companion, a loved one, and though they glance desperately into the faces around them, each is a stranger’s and no direction leads homeward.

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Read Chapter 7 of Night is a Shadow Cast By the World by Brian Panhuyzen.

Night is a Shadow Cast By the World is available as an ebook priced at $2.99. To purchase it, please go to www.nightisashadow.com/acquire.php.

Brian Panhuyzen’s first book was a collection of short stories entitled The Death of the Moon, published by Cormorant Books. He has worked as a publisher, magazine editor and as a typesetter for House of Anansi. His new book, a novel entitled Night is a Shadow Cast By the World, is available exclusively as an ebook. He lives in Toronto with his wife and two boys.

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