Prologue, The River, and The Fire

An acclaimed science-fiction classic, Kindred tells the story of Dana, an African-American woman in 1970s California who time-travels to the American South before the Civil War.
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Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. intermittently
    in a manner of stopping and starting at irregular intervals
    The police were shadows who appeared intermittently at my bedside to ask me questions I had to struggle to understand.
  2. blur
    become vague or indistinct
    Their words seemed to blur together at first, and I paid little attention.
  3. coherent
    capable of thinking in a clear and consistent manner
    Finally, I awoke feeling able to talk to him coherently and understand what he said.
  4. throbbing
    an instance of strong, rapid pounding or beating
    I was almost comfortable except for the strange throbbing of my arm.
  5. perversity
    deliberate and stubborn resistance to guidance or discipline
    “Just struggling with my own perversity. You know, I had half-a-dozen ideas for that Christmas story yesterday during the moving.”
  6. nauseated
    feeling queasy, as though one is about to vomit
    I bent to push him another box full, then straightened quickly as I began to feel dizzy, nauseated.
  7. tranquil
    free from disturbance by heavy waves
    Before me was a wide tranquil river, and near the middle of that river was a child splashing, screaming...
  8. smother
    deprive of oxygen and prevent from breathing
    She grabbed him and nearly smothered him.
  9. tentatively
    in a hesitant manner
    He came over to me, touched me tentatively as though he wasn’t sure I was real.
  10. residual
    something left after other parts have been taken away
    I was shaking with fear, with residual terror that took all the strength out of me.
  11. hallucination
    illusory perception
    “You mean a hallucination.”
  12. brackish
    slightly salty
    I showered, washed away the mud and the brackish water, put on clean clothes, combed my hair...
  13. limbo
    an imaginary place for lost or neglected things
    They made their own limbo and held me in it.
  14. vulnerable
    capable of being wounded or hurt
    Or would I appear somewhere else naked and totally vulnerable?
  15. abbreviate
    When my dizziness cleared away, I found myself sitting on a small bed sheltered by a kind of abbreviated dark green canopy.
  16. flare
    erupt or intensify suddenly
    The fear that had followed me from home flared now.
  17. ancestor
    someone from whom you are descended
    Well, maybe, if I wasn’t completely out of my mind, if I wasn’t in the middle of the most perfect hallucination I’d ever heard of, if the child before me was real and was telling the truth, maybe he was one of my ancestors.
  18. ornate
    marked by complexity and richness of detail
    Maybe he was my several times great grandfather, but still vaguely alive in the memory of my family because his daughter had bought a large Bible in an ornately carved, wooden chest and had begun keeping family records in it.
  19. descendant
    a person considered as coming from some ancestor or race
    His life could not depend on the actions of his unconceived descendant.
  20. companionable
    suggestive of friendship or amity; friendly
    He sat down companionably beside me on the bed.
  21. abruptly
    quickly and without warning
    And I changed the subject abruptly.
  22. antebellum
    belonging to a period before a war
    His environment had left its unlikable marks on him, but in the antebellum South, I could have found myself at the mercy of someone much worse—could have been descended from someone much worse.
  23. incidentally
    by the way (used to introduce a new topic)
    And, incidentally, he was playing with fire again, helping an intruder to escape undetected from his father’s house.
  24. indecision
    doubt concerning two or more possible alternatives
    After a moment of indecision, I got up and followed them, moving carefully from tree to tree.
  25. raucous
    unpleasantly loud and harsh
    There was raucous laughter.
  26. literally
    without exaggeration
    I could literally smell his sweat, hear every ragged breath, every cry, every cut of the whip.
  27. ostensibly
    from appearances alone
    Groups of young whites who ostensibly maintained order among the slaves.
  28. era
    a period marked by distinctive character
    And like me, she was fine-boned, probably not as strong as she needed to be to survive in this era.
  29. consciousness
    an alert cognitive state in which you are aware of yourself
    She regained consciousness slowly, first moaning, then crying out, “Alice! Alice!”
  30. contrite
    feeling or expressing pain or sorrow for sins or offenses
    She looked contrite.
  31. indignant
    angered at something unjust or wrong
    I thought he’d be more likely to believe me if I sounded indignant.
  32. stunning
    causing bewilderment, shock, or insensibility
    Instead, he slapped me stunningly with one hand while he held me with the other.
  33. gouge
    force with the thumb
    I had only to move my fingers a little and jab them into the soft tissues, gouge away his sight and give him more agony than he was giving me.
  34. squeamish
    easily disturbed or disgusted by unpleasant things
    My squeamishness belonged in another age, but I’d brought it along with me.
  35. lunge
    the act of moving forward suddenly
    Just one quick lunge.
  36. parasite
    a follower who hangs around a host in hope of advantage
    “They were my ancestors. Even that damn parasite, the patroller, saw the resemblance between me and Alice’s mother.”
  37. resemblance
    similarity in appearance or external or superficial details
    “They were my ancestors. Even that damn parasite, the patroller, saw the resemblance between me and Alice’s mother.”
  38. grudging
    petty or reluctant in giving or spending
    I moved closer to him, relieved, content with even such grudging acceptance.
  39. groggy
    stunned or confused and slow to react
    I limped over to him, took one of the rulers, looked at it, rubbed my face groggily, and in a sudden slashing motion, drew the ruler across his abdomen just as he was opening his mouth to speak.
  40. atlas
    a collection of maps in book form
    I got up, went to Kevin’s office and took a small scratch pad and a new pen from his desk and the large atlas from his bookcase.
Created on September 7, 2017 (updated September 14, 2017)

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