Cloud Atlas: Chapter Summary (Chapter 4: The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish)
Tim Cavendish is an older man setting down his story in writing. He begins by rambling about a time he was mugged by a gaggle of prepubescent girls, then gets to the story he wants to tell.
He was Dermot “Duster” Hoggins’s editor. Before Hoggins was a big hit, they went to a rooftop party. At the party, Hoggin’s flying-kicks a book reviewer who gave him a negative review off the roof, becoming overnight Britain’s most famous murderer. Hoggins was locked up, but his books began selling.
Tim’s publishing house became so successful, he was visited late one night by 3 money collectors who wanted 50 thousand pounds. He doesn’t have enough money and begins asking everyone he knows.
At the office, he receives an envelope with a copy of Half Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery. Dismissing it as junk, he calls his brother, Denholme. Denholme doesn’t have enough money for him, but tells him that he can find him a safe place to stay called the Aurora House up north.
The next day Tim goes to the train station. He can’t buy a ticket from the machine and waits in line. The teller won’t sell him a ticket because he’s in the wrong line, and Tim becomes enraged. Eventually he gets on a train headed out of London. Bored, he leafs through the Luisa Rey manuscript.
The train makes an unscheduled stop at Little Chesterfield. He has visited this town 40 years ago, with a woman named Ursula. Tim goes to her house; she is a grandmother now.
Eventually the train gets back on, and he is forced to ride coach. They enter the outskirts of Cambridge, and Tim becomes nostalgic. There is another delay, and Tim gets off to find some food. A Rastafarian man asks him for a light and offers him a puff of his cigar. The cigar causes extreme hallucination, and eventually Tim wakes up at a stop called Hull.
He hails a cab and asks to be taken to Aurora House. Once there, Tim is greeted by the receptionist. She has him sign a sign-in sheet and shows him to his room.
In the morning, an older woman is going through his things. Tim yells at her, calling her a thief, but the woman just takes away his lighter and keys and tells him breakfast is at 8.
When he gets to the breakfast room, he knows something is wrong; no one is younger than 70. His brother had him sent to an elderly home. The receptionist won’t let him leave because he signed the papers. When he tries to get out he is forcefully taken back inside by the gardener. Tim bites the gardener’s ear and is beaten. The nurse sends him to his room without breakfast.
After a few hours, two elderly people walk in, introducing themselves as the resident committee. They warn him to control his behavior or he will be medicated.
After the talk, Tim goes down to lunch. He addresses his younger self, warning him of his own fate. As he is plotting ways to gain power in the system and escape, he has an intense pain in his head.