A novel by Chris Gill
Two boys. Two farms.
One deadly secret.
Every day’s the same on the farm. Seventeen-year-old Seb rides his quad bike alongside his dad and cattle dog, dreaming about a different life. A life that doesn’t require him to spend all day in the blistering sun. Where the nearest town isn’t a forty-minute drive away with a population of fewer than three hundred people. Where he can talk to someone who isn’t his little brother or short-tempered father.
So when new neighbours move into the derelict farm on the opposite side of the shrub, Seb hopes his luck is finally about to change. Could Jake, the enigmatic boy with a dangerous glint in his eye, be his ticket out of The Nowhere? And if so, how far are they both willing to go to escape?
Fast forward two decades and Seb’s working as a nurse back in Perth. With his dad living in his home, Seb is tormented by the demons that have followed him his entire adult life. He begins confiding in his caring colleague Sandra, who convinces him the only way he’ll be able to move forward is to exorcise his ghosts and seek closure.
But when Jake calls out the blue telling Seb he’s coming to visit, Seb has to decide whether he’s ready to face exactly what happened that summer. On the night that forever changed not only the lives of the two boys, but that of their entire families.
Youthful, brutal and ferociously fantastic, The Nowhere is a coming-of-age novel about aspiration and isolation, sexuality and sadness, love, loss, and how life changes. Despite his best efforts, Seb learns that secrets can’t be kept forever. The truth always comes out eventually.
You can’t keep it secret forever.
The truth always comes out eventually…
As the first wave of teenagers poured out the school gate in a hyperactive frenzy, it dawned on me I should have already left. That would have been the only hope of avoiding gridlock somewhere along the city’s spine. But there was something about the air of adolescent enthusiasm that kept me stationary. Their chorus of shouts and laughter a reminder it wasn’t just the start of the weekend, but the beginning of another long, hot summer.Continue reading
A tall girl strutted ahead of the crowd with her blonde mane pulled away from her face. Two brunettes walked with her, one on either side. Close behind were a group of guys – a pack of hyenas chattering rowdily. The leader chanted, grinning, yearning for attention with his arms outstretched. Another blasted out the repetitive sound of thumping dance music through a portable speaker.
The second surge soon appeared. A girl dressed all in black contrasted the vivid blue, cloudless sky. An overweight boy looked far more forlorn than he should have on the last day of term. Two older guys walked with an attractive girl between them – her arms draped loosely around their shoulders. Their shirts were covered in signatures, a sign they’d finished high school for good. The girl’s smile beamed brighter than the sun. A summer lay ahead, filled with excitement, sex and energy. The start of a new life filled with opportunity and success, and, no doubt, eventual disappointment. It would go fast. It would go slow. She would try and control it, but it would turn out to be unpredictable anyway.
That’s when my phone started to vibrate.
Quickly pulling it out the pocket of my scrubs before the annoying ringtone kicked in, I was greeted with an anonymous number. Must be a bloody sales call. Why did I bother answering?
‘Hey, Seb. It’s me.’
I froze. Even though it took me a few moments to process it, it was surprising how quickly I recognised the voice. I asked anyway: ‘Who is this?’
‘It’s Jake, Seb. Don’t you remember?’
Of course I remembered. How could I forget? ‘Sure, I remember.’
‘I remember a lot.’
Jake’s voice was deeper and more gravelly with age. What sort of stories could he tell me with those worn words? He would have lived a full life. I’d thought about it a lot over the years. Much more than I should have. Sadness enveloped me at the thought of all we’d missed out on. Of all the years we’d never get back.
‘How much do you remember?’ he asked.
I swallowed and stayed silent. He was testing me. The same way he used to when I spoke to him on that dusty old landline, standing in the narrow hallway of the farmhouse.
‘I remember everything.’
There was a pregnant pause before Jake finally spoke again. ‘I had to go through a few hurdles to find your number. I hope you don’t mind me calling you out the blue. You’re kind of elusive online. Not on Facebook or anything. Not that I blame you. That stuff screws with your head.’ He hesitated again. ‘I can’t even remember the last time I saw you.’
I could. The salty tears. His flared nostrils and pale lips. We’d both known deep down we wouldn’t be seeing each other again for a very long time, if ever. It had to be that way. We had no choice. And we only had ourselves to blame.
‘Anyway, you live in Perth, right? I live in Sydney these days, but I’m coming your way for work next month. Do you wanna meet for coffee or something?’
A chill crept down my spine. Was I ready to see him again? Would I ever be?
You can’t keep it secret forever. The truth always comes out eventually.
It was time to change the subject: ‘Are you coming to surf?’
Jake let out a raspy laugh. It wasn’t a laugh I recognised.
‘Hell no. I’m a marketing director, Seb. That was just a teenage dream – you know that.’ I didn’t. That’s what I’d pictured him doing ever since we last saw each other.
‘In fact,’ he continued, ‘I never did get back into surfing after… well, you know. After The Nowhere.’
Hearing the words made me shudder. Not that a day went by I didn’t think about that place at least once. But hearing it said aloud was like being kicked in the stomach. It caught me off guard. I sure as hell wasn’t ready for it.
There was tension now. He must have decided he’d made a mistake calling me.
‘Well, do you wanna meet or not?’
That sounded more like the blunt, know-it-all Jake I once knew.
Just like the day I smoked the first cigarette he’d given me without thinking, I spoke without thought: ‘Sure.’
‘Great. Do me a favour and save my number, Seb. I’ll be in touch soon.’
The line went dead. As did my pulse.
Did that really just happen? Did Jake really call me after all those years? Could I meet him and face all those memories? It would be the first time I’d have to confront exactly what had happened that summer. The summer I never spoke about to anyone, but one that continued to smoulder in the back of my mind.
The sound of teenage naivety completely disappeared. The school directly opposite was now completely empty. Soon, the next set of hospital staff would be climbing into their cars around me, ready to drive off into the day’s golden hour. When the sunset would swathe the city with that deep, burnt amber before draping it in darkness. Then, I’d be alone. There was no going back now, and there could be no more running away. I had to face my past. I had to meet with Jake. Leaning my head back, I closed my eyes and transported myself back there. Back to The Nowhere.