Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Extract From 'The Beach' by Alex Garland

[Richard talking to Francoise]
"Do you want me to tell you something funny?"
"What about?"
"Infinity. But it isn't that complicated. I mean, you don't need a degree in-"
Francoise waved a hand in the air, tracing a red pattern with the tip of her cigarette.
"Is that a yes?" I whispered.
"Okay." I coughed quietly. "If you accept that the universe is infinite, then that means there's an infinite amount of chances for things to happen, right?"
She nodded and sucked on the red coal floating by her fingertips.
"Well, if there's an infinite amount of chances for something to happen, then eventually it will happen - no matter how small the likelihood."
"That means somewhere in space there's another planet that, by an incredible series of coincidences, developed exactly the same way as ours. Right down to the smallest detail."
"Is there?"
"Definitely. And there's another which is exactly the same, except that palm tree over there is two feet to the right. And there's another where the tree is two feet to the left. In fact, there're infinite planets with infinite variations on that tree alone..."
Silence. I wondered if she was asleep. "So how about that?" I prompted.
"Interesting," she whispered. "In these planets, everything that can happen will happen."
"Then in one planet, maybe I am a movie star."
"There's no maybe about it. You live in Beverly Hills and swept last year's Oscars."
"That's good."
"Yeah, but don't forget, somewhere else your film was a flop."
"It bombed. The critics turned on you, the studio lost a fortune, and you got into booze and Valium. It was pretty ugly."
Francoise rolled on to her side and looked at me. "Tell me about some other worlds," she whispered. In the moonlight her teeth flashed silver as she smiled.
"Well," I replied. "That's a lot to tell."
Etienne stirred and turned over again.
I leaned over and kissed Francoise. She pulled away, or laughed, or shook her head, or closed her eyes and kissed me back. Etienne woke, clasping his mouth in disbelief. Etienne slept. I slept while Francoise kissed Etienne.
Light-years above our garbage bag beds and the steady rush of the surf, all these things happened.

After Francoise had shut her eyes and her breathing had eased into a sleeping rhythm, I crept off my plastic sheet and walked down the sea. I stood in the shallows, slowly sinking as the tide pulled away the sand around my feet. The lights of Koh Samui glowed on the horizon like a trace of sunset. The spread of stars stretched as far as my ceiling back home.


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