A Monster Calls (Page 20)

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.

He still felt like he wasn’t breathing, but the tension started to ebb a little, letting go of his stomach. His mum saw him relax a bit, and she started rubbing the skin on his arm.

“And here’s something really interesting,” she said, her voice sounding a bit more chipper. “You remember that tree on the hill behind our house?”

Conor’s eyes went wide.

“Well, if you can believe it,” his mum continued, not noticing, “this drug is actually made from yew trees.”

“Yew trees?” Conor asked, his voice quiet.

“Yeah,” his mum said. “I read about it way back, when this all started.” She coughed into her hand, then coughed again. “I mean, I hoped it would never get this far, but it just seemed incredible that all that time we could see a yew tree from our own house. And that very tree could be the thing that healed me.”

Conor’s mind was whirling, so fast it almost made him dizzy.

“The green things of this world are just wondrous, aren’t they?” his mother went on. “We work so hard to get rid of them when sometimes they’re the very thing that saves us.”

“Is it going to save you?” Conor asked, barely able to even say it.

His mum smiled again. “I hope so,” she said. “I believe so.”


Conor went out into the hospital corridor, his thoughts racing. Medicine made from yew trees. Medicine that could properly heal. Medicine just like the Apothecary refused to make for the parson. Though, to be honest, Conor was still a little unclear about why it was the parson’s house that got knocked down.


Unless the monster was here for a reason. Unless it had come walking to heal Conor’s mother.

He hardly dared hope. He hardly dared think it.


No, of course not. It couldn’t be true, he was being stupid. The monster was a dream. That’s all it was, a dream.

But the leaves. And the berries. And the sapling growing in the floor. And the destruction of his grandma’s sitting room.

Conor felt suddenly light, like he was somehow starting to float in the air.

Could it be? Could it really be?

He heard voices and looked down the corridor. His dad and his grandma were fighting.

– • –

He couldn’t hear what they were saying, but his grandma was pretty ferociously jabbing her finger towards his dad’s chest. “Well, what do you want me to do?” his father said, loud enough to attract the attention of people passing in the corridor. Conor couldn’t hear his grandma’s response, but she came storming back down the corridor past Conor, still not looking at him as she went into his mother’s room.

His father walked up shortly after, his shoulders slumped.

“What’s going on?” Conor asked.

“Ah, your grandma’s mad at me,” his dad said, giving a quick smile. “Nothing new there.”


His father made a face. “I’ve got some bad news, Conor,” he said. “I have to fly back home tonight.”

“Tonight?” Conor asked. “Why?”

“The baby’s sick.”

“Oh,” Conor said. “What’s wrong with her?”

“Probably nothing serious, but Stephanie’s gone a bit crazy and taken her to the hospital and wants me to come back right now.”

“And you’re going?”

“I am but I’m coming back,” his father said. “On Sunday after next, so it’s not even two weeks. They’ve given me more time off work to come back and see you.”

“Two weeks,” Conor said, almost to himself. “But that’s okay, though. Mum’s on this new medicine, which is going to make her better. So by the time you get back–”

He stopped when he saw his father’s face.

“Why don’t we go for a walk, son?” his father asked.

There was a small park across from the hospital with paths among the trees. As Conor and his father walked through it towards an empty bench, they kept passing patients in hospital gowns, walking with their families or out on their own sneaking cigarettes. It made the park feel like an outdoor hospital room. Or a place where ghosts went to have a break.

“This is a talk, isn’t it?” Conor said, as they sat down. “Everybody always wants to have a talk lately.”

“Conor,” his father said. “This new medicine your mum’s taking–”

“It’s going to make her well,” Conor said, firmly.

His father paused for a moment. “No, Conor,” he said. “It probably isn’t.”

“Yes, it is,” Conor insisted.

“It’s a last ditch effort, son. I’m sorry, but things have moved too fast.”

“It’ll heal her. I know it will.”

“Conor,” his father said. “The other reason your grandma was mad at me was because she doesn’t think me or your mum have been honest enough with you. About what’s really happening.”

“What does Grandma know about it?”

Conor’s father put a hand on his shoulder. “Conor, your mum–”

“She’s going to be okay,” Conor said, shaking it off and standing up. “This new medicine is the secret. It’s the whole reason why. I’m telling you, I know.”

His father looked confused. “Reason for what?”

“So you just go back to America,” Conor carried on, “and go back to your other family and we’ll be fine here without you. Because this is going to work.”

“Conor, no–”

“Yes, it is. It’s going to work.”

“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.

His father was shaking his head. “This is too much to ask of you. It is, I know it is. It’s unfair and cruel and not how things should be.”

Conor didn’t answer.

“I’ll be back a week on Sunday,” his father said. “Just keep that in mind, okay?”

Conor blinked up into the sun. It really had been an incredibly warm October, like the summer was still fighting to stick around.