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i'm not scared
excerpt from the book io non ho paura

translation by Wendell Ricketts
(return to books)

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I'm not Scared

The hottest summer of the twentieth century. A tiny community of five houses in the middle of rural Italy. When the adults are sheltering indoors, six children venture out on their bikes across the scorched, deserted countryside. While exploring a dilapidated and uninhabited farmhouse, nine-year-old Michele Amitrano discovers a secret so momentous, so terrible, that he dare not tell anyone about it. To come to terms with what he has found, Michele has to draw strength from his own sense of humanity.

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We were on the move again toward the hill-- all of us, just like the first time. We pedaled in single file. The only one missing was my little sister, Maria. The air was heavy and the sky had turned an unnatural scarlet. Earlier the clouds had massed on the horizon, but now they rushed toward us, dense and dark, jostling one another like hordes of Huns preparing for battle. The sun was murky, as if a screen had come down across its surface, filtering out the light. It wasn�t hot and it wasn�t cold, but the wind had picked up. On the sides of the road and in the fields the straw had been caught into bales and left sitting there like checkers on a checkerboard. Remo was looking worriedly at the horizon.

�It�ll rain now,� he said.

The closer I got to the hill, the worse I felt. A weight pressed against my stomach and what was left of my breakfast churned in my guts. I couldn�t catch my breath, and a coating of sweat bathed my back and neck. What was I doing? Every time I pushed against the pedals, another piece of my vow crumbled to the ground.

�Listen to me, Michele. You can�t go back there again. If you go back, they�ll kill him. And it�ll be your fault.�
�I won�t go back.�
�Swear it on my life.�
�I swear.�
�Say it: �I swear on my father�s life that I won�t go back.��
�I swear on my father�s life that I won�t go back.�
I was breaking my vow. I was going to Filippo and if they found me there, they�d kill him. I wanted to turn back, but my legs went on pedaling and an irresistible force dragged me toward the hill. A far-off clap of thunder cut through the silence....

�Let�s go home,� Barbara said, as if she was reading my mind. I gasped for air.
�Yeah, let�s go home.�
Teschio pulled up along side us, sneering. �Go home then, if the two of you are going to shit your pants over a little water.�
Barbara and I looked at each other and kept on going...
�Here we are. That was a ways, huh?� said Teschio, skidding to a stop on the loose gravel of the road.

The path to the house lay in front of us. We started the climb. I was having a hard time keeping up with the others.... A flock of crows rose into the air from the fields on our right, cawing and circling with their wings held wide, pulled along on the currents. The sun had been swallowed up in a gray light and it suddenly seem like evening had come. A clap of thunder. Another. I looked at the clouds that circled and rolled against one another. Every now and then a cloud lit up from within as though a skyrocket had exploded inside it. The storm was coming.
And what if Filippo was dead?

For the rest of the story, you'll have to buy the book! Read the review and follow the link to purchase, above.

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About the Author
Niccolo' Ammaniti was born in Rome in 1966. "I'm not Scared" is his third novel and he has also published a collection of stories. At thirty-four, he was the youngest ever winner of the prestigious Viareggio-Repaci prize for this book.


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