Title: A Monster Calls.
Author: Patrick Ness (inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd).
Artist: Jim Kay.
Genre: Fiction, literature, picture books, bildunsgroman, YA, cancer, fantasy, children's lit.
Publication Date: 2011.
Summary: The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting, the one from the nightmare he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming... This monster is something different, something ancient, something wild. It has three stories to tell Conor, and in return, it wants a story, as well. It wants the truth.
My rating: 9/10.
♥ The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.
♥ A cloud moved in front of the moon, covering the whole landscape in darkness, and a whoosh of wind rushed down the hill and into his room, billowing the curtains. He heard the creaking and cracking of wood again, groaning like a living thing, like the hungry stomach of the world growling for a meal.
Then the cloud passed, and the moon shone again.
On the yew tree.
Which now stood firmly in the middle of his backyard.
And here was the monster.
As Conor watched, the uppermost branches of the tree gathered themselves into a great and terrible face, shimmering into a mouth and nose and even eyes, peering back at him. Other branches twisted around one another always creaking, always groaning, until they formed two long arms and a second leg to set down beside the main trunk. The rest of the tree gathered itself into a spine and then a torso, the thin, needle-like leaves weaving together to make a green, furry skin that moved and breathed as if there were muscles and lungs underneath
Already taller than Conor's window, the monster grew wider as it brought itself together, filling out to a powerful shape, one that looked somehow strong, somehow mighty. It stared at Conor the whole time, and he could hear the loud, windy breathing from its mouth. It set its giant hands on either side of his window, lowering its head until its huge eyes filled the frame, holding Conor with its glare. Conor's house gave a little moan under its weight.
♥ I have come to get you, Conor O'Malley, the monster said, pushing against the house, shaking the pictures off Conor's wall, sending books and electronic gadgets and an old stuffed toy rhino tumbling to the floor.
A monster, Conor thought. A real, honest-to-goodness monster. In real, waking life. Not in a dream, but here, at his window.
Come to get him.
But Conor didn't run.
In fact, he found he wasn't even frightened.
All he could feel, all he had felt since the monster revealed itself, was a growing disappointment.
Because this wasn't the monster he was expecting.
♥ You really aren't afraid, are you?
"No," Conor said. "Not of you, anyway."
The monster narrowed its eyes.
You will be, it said. Before the end.
♥ On the first day of the new school year, Harry had tripped Conor coming into the school grounds, sending him tumbling to the pavement.
And so it had begun.
And so it had continued.
♥ "What are you?" Conor asked, pulling his arms closer around himself.
I am not a "what," frowned the monster. I am a "who."
"Who are you, then?" Conor said.
The monster's eyes widened. Who am I? it said, its voice getting louder. Who am I?
The monster seemed to grow before Conor's eyes, getting taller and broader. A sudden, hard ind swirled up around them, and the monster spread its arms out wide, so wife they seemed to reach to opposite horizons, so wide they seemed big enough to encompass the world.
I have had as many names as there are years to time itself! roared the monster. I am Herne the Hunter! I am Cernunnos! I am the eternal Green Man!
A great arm swung down and snatched Conor up in it, lifting him high in the air, the wind whirling around them, making the monster's leafy skin wave angrily.
Who am I? the monster repeated, still roaring. I am the spine that the mountains hang upon! I am the tears that the rivers cry! I am the lungs that breathe the wind! I am the wolf that kills the stag, the hawk that kills the mouse, the spider that kills the fly! I am the stag, the mouse, and the fly that are eaten! I am the snake of the world devouring its tail! I am everything untamed and untameable! It brought Conor up close to its eye. I am this wild earth, come for you, Conor O'Malley.
♥ Stories are the wildest things of all, the monster rumbled. Stories chase and bite and hunt.
♥ It is most unusual, it said. Nothing I do seems to make you frightened of me.
"You're just a tree," Conor said, and there was no other way he could think about it. Even though it walked and talked, even though it was bigger than his house and could swallow him in one bite, the monster was still, at the end of the day, just a yew tree. Conor coul even see more berries growing from the branches at its elbow.
And you have worse things to be frightened of, said the monster, but not as a question.
♥ Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?
♥ But victory came at a price. One by one, the king's four sons were killed. By the fire of a dragon or the hands of a giant or the teeth of a wolf or the spear of a man. One by one, all four princes of the kingdom fell, leaving the king only one heir. His infant grandson.
("This is all sounding pretty fairy tale-ish," Conor said, suspiciously.)
(You would not say that if you heard the screams of a man killed by a spear, said the monster. Or his cries of terror as he was torn to pieces by wolves. Now be quiet.)
♥ The prince had fallen in love. She was only a farmer's daughter, but she was beautiful, and also smart, as the daughters of farmers need to be, for farms are complicated businesses. The kingdom smiled on the match.
♥ "That's a load of crap!" Conor shouted. "He didn't need to kill her. The people were behind him. They would have followed him anyway."
The justifications of men who kill should always be heard with skepticism, said the monster.
♥ Conor walked around the garden a bit, thinking. Then he did it a bit more. "I don't understand. Who's the good guy here?"
There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between.
Conor shook his head. "That's a terrible story. And a cheat."
It is a true story, the monster said. Many things that are true feel like a cheat. Kingdoms get the princes they deserve, farmers' daughters die for no reason, and sometimes witches merit saving. Quite often, actually. You'd be surprised.
♥ "Hey, look at us when we're talking to you," Sully said, burning from Harry's comment no doubt and grabbing Conor's shoulder, spinning him around.
"Don't touch him," Harry said, calm and low, but so ominously that Sully immediately stepped back. "O'Malley and I have an understanding," Harry said. "I'm the only one who touches him. Isn't that right?"
Conor waited for a moment and then slowly nodded. That did seem to be the understanding.
Harry, his face still blank, his eyes still locked on Conor's, stepped up close to him. Conor didn't flinch, and they stood, eye-to-eye, while Anton and Sully looked at each other a bit nervously.
Harry cocked his head slightly, as if a question had occurred to him, one he was trying to puzzle out. Conor still didn't move. The rest of their class had already gone inside. He could feel the quiet opening up around them, even Anton and Sully falling silent. They would have to go soon. They needed to go now.
But nobody moved.
Harry raised a fist and pulled it back as if to swing it at Conor's face.
Conor still didn't flinch. He didn't even move. He just stared into Harry's eyes, waiting for the punch to fall.
But it didn't.
Harry lowered his fist, dropping it slowly down by his side, still staring at Conor. "Yes," he finally said, quietly, as if he'd worked something out. "That's what I thought."
.."I think I've worked you out, O'Malley," Harry finally said. "I think I know what it is you're asking for."
"You're gonna get it now," Sully said. He and Anton laughed, bumping fists.
Conor couldn't see any teachers out of the corner of his eye, so he knew Harry had chosen a moment when they could bother him unseen.
Conor was on his own.
Harry stepped forward, still calm.
"Here is the hardest hit of all, O'Malley," Harry said. "Here is the very worst thing I can do to you."
He held out his hand, as if asking for a handshake.
He was asking for a handshake.
Conor responded almost automatically, putting out his own hand and shaking Harry's before he even thought about what he was doing. They shook hands like two businessmen at the end of a meeting.
"Good-bye, O'Malley," Harry said, looking into Conor's eyes. "I no longer see you."
Then he let go of Conor's hand, turned his back, and walked away. Anton and Sully looked even more confused, but after a second, they walked away, too.
None of them looked back at Conor.
♥ "Because I'm not blind to how Harry works, you know," she said. "A bully with charisma and top marks is still a bully." She sighed, annoyed. "He'll probably end up Prime Minister one day. God help us all."
♥ One hundred and fifty years ago, the monster began, this country had become a place of industry. Factories grew on the landscape like weeds. Trees fell, fields were up-ended, rivers blackened. The sky choked on smoke and ash, and the people did, too, spending their days coughing and itching, their eyes turned forever toward the ground. Villages grew into towns, towns into cities. And people began to live on the earth rather than within it.
But there was still green, if you knew where to look.
(The monster opened its hands again, and a mist rolled through his grandma's sitting room. When it cleared, Conor and the monster stood on a field of green, overlooking a valley of metal and brick.)
♥ "Won't you help my daughters?" the parson asked, down on his knees at the Apothecary's front door. "If not for me, then for my two innocent girls."
"Why should I?" the Apothecary asked. "You have driven away my business with your preachings. You have refused me the yew tree, my best source of healing. You have refused me the yew tree, my best source of healing. You have turned this village against me."
"You may have the yew tree," the parson said. "I will preach sermons in your favor. I will send my parishioners to you for their every ailment. You may have anything you like, if you would only save my daughters."
The Apothecary was surprised. "You would give up everything you believed in?"
"If it would save my daughters," the parson said. "I'd give up everything."
"Then," the Apothecary said, shutting his door on the parson, "there is nothing I can do to help you."
("What?" Conor said.)
That very night, both of the parson's daughters died.
(What?" Conor said again, the nightmare feeling taking hold of his guts.)
And that very night, I came walking.
("Good!" Conor said shouted. "That stupid git deserves all the punishment he gets.")
(I thought so, too, said the monster.)
It was shortly after midnight that I tore the parson's home from its very foundation.
.."He refused to help heal the parson's daughters! And they died!"
The parson refused to believe the Apothecary could help, said the monster. When times were easy, the parson nearly destroyed the Apothecary, but when the going grew tough, he was willing to throw aside his every belief if it would save his daughters.
"So?" Conor said. "So would anyone! So would everyone! What did you expect him to do?"
I expected him to give the Apothecary the yew tree when the Apothecary first asked.
This stopped Conor. There were further crashes from the parsonage as another wall fell. "You'd have let yourself be killed?"
I am far more than just one tree, the monster said. But yes, I would have let the yew tree be chopped down. It would have saved the parson's daughters. And many, many others besides.
"But it would have killed the tree and made him rich!" Conor yelled. "He was evil!"
He was greedy and rude and bitter, but he was still a healer. The parson, though, what was he? He was nothing. Belief is half of all healing. Belief in the cure, belief in the future that awaits. And here was a man who lived on belief, but who sacrificed it at the first challenge, right when he needed it most. He believed selfishly and fearfully. And it took the lives of his daughters.
Conor grew angrier. "You said this was a story without tricks."
I said this was the story of a man punished for his selfishness. And so it is.
♥ "There is one more thing they're going to try, a medicine that's had some good results."
"Why didn't they try it before?" Conor asked.
"Remember all my treatments?" she said. "Losing my hair and all that throwing up?"
"Well, this is something you take when that hasn't worked how they wanted it to," she said. "It was always a possibility, but they were hoping not to have to use it at all." She looked down. "And they were hoping not to have to use it this soon."
"Does that mean it's too late?" Conor asked, setting the words free before he even knew what he was saying.
"No, Conor," she answered him, quickly. "Don't think that. It's not too late. It's never too late."
"Are you sure?"
She smiled again. "I believe every word I say," she said, her voice a little stronger.
Conor remembered what the monster had said. Belief is half of healing.
♥ "Son," his father said, leaning forward. "Stories don't always have happy endings."
This stopped him. Because they didn't, did they? That's one thing the monster had definitely taught him. Stories were wild, wild animals and went off in directions you couldn't expect.
♥ "Great," Conor said. "Another story when there are more important things going on."
Stories are important, the monster said. They can be more important than anything. If they carry the truth.
♥ "I want to know what's going to happen with my mum," Conor said.
The monster paused. Do you not know already?
"You said you were a tree of healing," Conor said. "Well, I need you to heal!"
And so I shall, the monster said.
With a gust of wind, it was gone.
♥ And then one day the invisible man decided, the monster said, its voice ringing in Conor's ears, I will make them see me.
"How?" Conors asked, breathing heavily again, not turning back to see the monster standing there, not looking at the reaction of the room to the huge monster now in their midst, though he was aware of nervous murmurs and a strange anticipation in the air. "How did the man do it?"
Conor could feel the monster close behind him, knew that it was kneeling, knew that it was putting its face up to his ear to whisper into it, to tell him the rest of the story.
He called, it said, for a monster.
And it reached a huge, monstrous hand past Conor and knocked Harry flying across the floor.
.."But do you know what I see when I look at you, O'Malley?" Harry said.
Conor clenched his hands into fists.
Harry leaned forward, his eyes flashing. "I see nothing," he said.
Without turning around, Conor asked the monster a question.
"What did you do to help the invisible man?"
And he felt the monster's voice again, like it was in his own head.
I made them see, it said.
Conor clenched his fists even tighter.
Then the monster leapt forward to make Harry see.
.."But that's not the point! the headmistress said, so loud she made both Conor and Miss Kwan jump. "I can't even make sense of what actually happened." She looked at some papers on her desk, reports from teachers and other students, Conor guessed. "I'm not even sure how one boy could have caused so much damage by himself."
Conor had felt what the monster was doing to Harry, felt it in his own hands. When the monster gripped Harry's shirt, Conor felt the material against his own palms. When the monster struck a blow, Conor felt the sting of it in his own fist. When the monster held Harry's arm behind his back, Conor had felt Harry's muscles resisting.
Resisting, but not winning.
Because how could a boy beat a monster?
He remembered all the screaming and running. He remembered the other kids fleeing to get teachers. He remembered the circle around him opening wider and wider as the monster told the story of all that he'd done for the invisible man.
Never invisible, the monster kept saying as he pummeled Harry. Never invisible again.
There came a point when Harry stopped trying to fight back, when the blows from the monster were too strong, too many, too fast, when he began begging the monster to stop.
Never invisible again, the monster said, finally letting up, its huge branch-like fists curled tight as a clap of thunder.
It turned to Conor.
But there are harder things than being invisible, it said.
And it vanished, leaving Conor standing alone over the shivering, bleeding Harry.
Everyone in the dining hall was taring at Conor now. Everyone could see him, all eyes looking his way. There was silence in the room, too much silence for so many kids, and for a moment, before the teachers broke it up—where had they been? Had the monster kept them from seeing? Or had it really been so short an amount of time?—you could hear the wind rushing in an open window, a wind that dropped a few small, spiky leaves to the floor.
..The headmistress sat back heavily in her chair. "School rules dictate immediate expulsion," she said.
Conor felt his stomach sink, felt his whole body stoop under a ton of extra weight.
But then he realized it was drooping because the weight had been removed.
Understanding flooded him, relief did, too, so powerful it almost made him cry, right there in the headmistress's office.
He was going to be punished. It wad finally going to happen. Everything was going to make sense again. She was going to expel him.
Punishment was coming.
Thank God. Thank God—
"But how could I do that?" the headmistress said.
"How could I do that and still call myself a teacher?" she said. "With all that you're going through." She frowned. "With all that we know about Harry." She shook her head slightly. "There will come a day when we'll talk about this, Conor O'Malley. And we will, believe me." She started gathering the papers on her desk. "But today is not that day." She gave him a last look. "You have bigger things tot think about."
It took Conor a moment to realize it was over. That this was it. This was all he was going to get.
"You're not punishing me?" he said.
The headmistress gave him a grim smile, almost kind, and then she said almost exactly the same thing his father had said. "What purpose could that possibly serve?"
..No one spoke to him for the rest of the day.
There are worse things than being invisible, the monster had said, and it was right.
Conor was no longer invisible. They all saw him now.
But he was further away than ever.
♥ As incredible as it seemed, time kept moving forward for the rest of the world.
The est of the world that wasn't waiting.
♥ "I'm sorry, son," his mum said, tears sneaking out of her eyes now, even though she kept up her smile. "I've never been more sorry about anything in my life."
Conor looked at the floor again. He felt like he couldn't breathe, like the nightmare was squeezing the breath right out of him. "You said it would work," he said, his voice catching.
"You said. You believed it would work."
"You lied," Conor said, looking back up at her. "You've been lying this whole time."
"I did believe it would work," she said. "It's probably what's kept me here so long, Conor. Believing it so you would."
His mother reached for his hand, but he moved it away.
"You lied," he said again.
"I think, deep in your heart, you've always known," his mother said, "Haven't you?"
Conor didn't answer her.
"It's okay that you're angry, sweetheart," she said. "It really, really is." She gave a little laugh. "I'm pretty angry, too, to tell you the truth. But I want you to know this, Conor, it's important that you listen to me. Are you listening?"
She reached out for him again. After a second, he let her take his hand, but her grip was so weak, so weak.
"You be as angry as you need to be," she said. "Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Nor your grandma, not your dad, no one. And if you need to break things, then by God, you break them good and hard."
He couldn't look at her. He just couldn't.
"And if, one day," she said, really crying now, "you look back and you feel bad for being so angry, if you feel bad for being so angry at me that you couldn't even speak to me, then you have to know, Conor, you have to know that it was okay. It was okay. That I knew. I know, okay? I know everything you need to tell me without you have to say it out loud. All right?"
He still couldn't look at her. He couldn't raise his head, it felt so heavy. He was bent in two, like he was being torn right through his middle.
But he nodded.
..When she finished, she took his hand again.
"I wish I had a hundred years," she said, very quietly. "A hundred years I could give to you."
He didn't answer her. A few seconds later, the medicine had sent her to sleep, but it didn't matter.
They'd had the talk.
There was nothing more to say.
♥ "Heal her! You have to heal her!"
Conor, the monster said.
"What's the use of you if you can't heal her?" Conor said, pounding away. "Just stupid stories and getting me into trouble and everyone looking at me like I've got a disease—"
He stopped because the monster had reached down a hand and plucked him into the air.
You are the one who called me, Conor O'Malley, it said, looking at him seriously. You are the one with the answers to these questions.
"If I called you," Conor said, his face boiling red, tears he was hardly aware of streaming angrily down his cheeks, "it was to save her! It was to heal her!"
There was a rustling through the monster's leaves, like the wind stirring them in a long, slow sigh.
I did not come to heal her, the monster said. I came to heal you.
♥ He was on the cliff edge, bracing himself, holding on to his mother's hands with all his strength, trying to keep her from being pulled down into the blackness, pulled down by the creature below the cliff.
Who he could see all of now.
The real monster, the one he was properly afraid of, the one he'd expected to see when the yew tree first showed up, the real, nightmare monster, formed of cloud and ash and dark flames, but with real muscle, real strength, real red eyes that glared back at him and flashing teeth that would eat his mother alive. I've seen worse, Conor had told the yew tree that first night.
And here was the worse thing.
♥ Because, yes, Conor knew.
He had always known.
The real truth. The truth from the nightmare.
"No," he said, quietly, as the blackness started wrapping itself around his neck. "No, I can't."
"I can't," Conor said again.
You can, said the monster, and there was a change in its voice. A note of something.
Conor's eyes were filling now. Tears were tumbling down his cheeks and he couldn't stop them, couldn't even wipe them away because the nightmare's tendrils were binding him now, had nearly taken him over completely.
"Please don't make me," Conor said. "Please don't make me say it."
You let her go, the monster said.
Conor shook his head. "Please—"
You let her go, the monster said again.
Conor closed his eyes tightly.
But then he nodded.
You could have held on for longer, the monster said, but you let her fall. You loosened your grip and let the nightmare take her.
Conor nodded again, his face scrunched up with pain and weeping.
You wanted her to fall.
"No," Conor said through thick tears.
You wanted her to go.
You must speak the truth and you must speak it now, Conor O'Malley. Say it. You must.
Conor shook his head again, his mouth clamped shut tight, but he could feel a burning in his chest, like a fire someone had lit there, a miniature sun, blazing away and burning him from the inside.
"It'll kill me if I do," he gasped.
It will kill you if you do not, the monster said. You must say it.
You let her go. Why?
The blackness was wrapping itself around Conor's eyes now, plugging his nose and overwhelming his mouth. He was gasping for breath and not getting it. It was killing him—
Why, Conor? the monster said fiercely. Tell me WHY! Before it is too late!
And the fire in Conor's chest suddenly blazed, suddenly burned like it would eat him alive. It was the truth, he knew it was. A moan started in his throat, a moan that rose into a cry and then a loud wordless yell and he opened his mouth and the fire came blazing out, blazing out to consume everything, bursting over the blackness, over the yew tree, too, setting it ablaze along with the rest of the world, burning it back as Conor yelled and yelled and yelled, in pain and grief—
And he spoke the words.
He spoke the truth.
He told the rest of the fourth tale.
"I can't stand it anymore!" he cried out as the fire raged around him. "I can't stand knowing that she'll go! I just want it to be over! I want it to be finished!"
..Conor opened his eyes. He was lying on the grass on the hill above his house.
He was still alive.
Which was the worst thing that could have happened.
"Why didn't you kill me?" he groaned, holding his face in his hands. "I deserve the worst."
Do you? the monster asked, standing above him.
"I've been thinking it for the longest time,' Conor said slowly, painfully, struggling to get the words out. "I've known forever she wasn't going to make it, almost from the beginning. She said she was getting better because that's what I wanted to hear. And I believed her. Except I didn't."
No, the monster said.
Conor swallowed, still struggling. "And I started to think how much I wanted it to be over. How much I just wanted to stop having to think about it. How I couldn't stand the waiting anymore. I couldn't stand how alone it made me feel.
He really began to cry now more than he thought he'd ever done, more even than when he found out his mum was ill.
And a part of you wished it would just end, said the monster, even if it meant losing her.
Conor nodded, barely able to speak.
And the nightmare began. The nightmare that always ended with—
"I let her go," Conor choked out. "I could have held on but I let her go."
And that, the monster said, is the truth.
"I didn't mean it, though!" Conor said, his voice ringing. "I didn't mean to let her go! And now it's for real! Now she's going to die and it's my fault!"
And that, the monster said, is not the truth at all.
.."It's my fault," Conor said. "I let her go. It's my fault."
It is not your fault, the monster said, its voice floating in the air around him like a breeze.
You were merely wishing for the end of pain, the monster said. Your own pain. An end to how it isolated you. It is the most human wish of all.
"I didn't mean it," Conor said.
You did, the monster said, but you also did not.
Conor sniffed and looked up to its face, which was as big as a wall in front of him. "How can both be true?"
Because humans are complicated beasts, the monster said. How can a queen be both a good witch and a bad witch? How can a prince be a murderer and a saviour? How can an apothecary be evil-tempered but right-thinking? How can a parson be wrong-thinking but good-hearted? How can invisible men make themselves more lonely by being seen?
"I don't know," Conor shrugged, exhausted. "Your stories never made any sense to me."
The answer is that it does not matter what you think, the monster said, because your mind will contradict itself a hundred times each day. You wanted her to go at the same time you were desperate for me to save her. Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both.
"But how do you fight it?" Conor asked, his voice rough. "How do you fight all the different stuff inside?"
By speaking the truth, the monster said. As you spoke it just now. ..You do not write your life with words, the monster said. You write it with actions. What you think is not important It is only important what you do.
♥ "I'm here, Mum," he said.
His mum didn't say anything, just reached out the hand closest to him.
Asking for him to take it.
Take it and not let go.
Here is the end of the tale, the monster said behind him.
"What do I do?" Conor whispered.
He felt the monster place its hands on his shoulders. Somehow they were small enough to feel like they were holding him up.
All you have to do is tell the truth, the monster said.
"I'm afraid to," Conor said. He could see his grandma there in the dim light, leaning over her daughter. He could see his mum's hand, still outstretched, her eyes still closed.
Of course you are afraid, the monster said, pushing him slowly forward. And yet you will still do it.
As the monster's hands gently but firmly guided him toward his mum, Conor saw the clock on the wall above her bed. Somehow, it was already 11:46 p.m.
Twenty-one minutes before 12:07.
He wanted to ask the monster what was going to happen then, but he didn't dare.
Because it felt like he knew.
If you speak the truth, the monster whispered in his ear, you will be able to face whatever comes.
And so Conor looked back down at his mum, at her outstretched hand. He could feel his throat choking again and his eyes watering.
It wasn't the drowning of the nightmare, though. It was simpler, clearer. Still just as hard.
He took his mother's hand.
She opened her eyes, briefly, catching him there. Then she closed them again.
But she'd seen him.
And he new it was here. He knew there really was no going back. That it was going to happen, whatever he wanted, whatever he felt.
And he also knew he was going to get through it.
It would be terrible. It would be beyond terrible.
But he'd survive.
And it was for this that the monster came. It must have been. Conor had needed it, and his need had somehow called it. And it had come walking. Just for this moment.
"You'll stay?" Conor whispered to the monster, barely able to speak. "You'll stay until..."
I will stay, the monster said, its hands still on Conor's shoulders. Now all you have to do is speak the truth.
And so Conor did.
He took in a breath.
And, at last, he spoke the final and total truth.
"I don't want you to go," he said, the tears dropping from his eyes, slowly at first, then spilling like a river.
"I know, my love," his mother said in her heavy voice. "I know."
He could feel the monster, holding him up and letting him stand there.
"I don't want you to go," he said again.
And that was all he needed to say.
He leaned forward onto her bed and put his arm around her.
He knew it would come, and soon, maybe even this 12:07. The moment she would slip from his grasp, no matter how tightly he held on.
But not this moment, the monster whispered, still close. Not just yet.
Conor held tightly onto his mother.
And by doing so, he could finally let her go.