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It is the end of the summer term in a quiet English university. Dave, a nervous student, sets off across Europe to visit his German girlfriend, in the hope that they can continue their brief but intense relationship of the previous spring. Upon arrival he finds himself ill-prepared for a new way of life, and must struggle against feelings of jealousy, alienation and loss. As problems mount up and he is haunted by thoughts and images that he does not understand, Dave finds that the darkest shadows are cast by our own minds.
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Michael James was born in Hampshire, England, in 1981, where he lives and writes today. He is a graduate of the University of Keele. Cloud Gazing is his first novel.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
I met the devil once. There is, I suppose, no scientific way to prove this to anybody apart from myself, but it remains a fact. I met the devil on the day that the summer died.
Perhaps this is a poor description--perhaps the summer does not die, is not really an entity in itself. To many minds it is just a part of a natural cycle. But even so, there is always a day in September when the year suddenly grows too old to sustain its pretence at youth. After that time there may be sunny weather now and again, but the heart has gone out of it, there is the slightest of chills in the air, evening comes too soon and is not long and cool but brisk and cold. And, above all, there is the knowledge that the decline has a long way still to go. For if September is a man grown old, then it is a man who is old in comfort. He has enough strength for bursts of humour and gaiety. He is warm enough to please at times. But October is a different age. October has lost the will to even try, and the year tumbles ceaselessly towards winter. The rain extinguishes hopes, leaving a slushy dreariness that drifts unbroken toward the horizons of our dreams.
Then, that September day, when the summer is suddenly gone, is one that we feel most fully after the event. It is an event, but it is also an inevitability. And it seems inevitable that the devil should have chosen that day on which to appear, just for a little, in a busy city street. I think that he did not come to challenge me, nor to work his own havoc, but rather to share for a moment the soul of humanity, to see for himself the dark spaces at the centre of my mind. There can be little doubt that it was us who attracted him there. In a way it was us who created him.
But this is a hard story to tell, of how I met the devil and how I lost him again--though there was little that I did not lose along the way--and we must begin on a June evening of a summer not so long ago. An evening when neither the past nor the future were within my boundaries of comprehension.
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