Todd tells us two things in the first sentence: Dogs talk, and they don't have much to say.
Todd and his dog, Manchee, are walking in some fields outside of Prentisstown, where they live, headed toward a swamp to pick apples. Apples in a swamp—now that's different.
Todd complains that he didn't want a dog but got one for his birthday.
He also tells us that he doesn't feel like going to get apples is an important job, but since he won't be a man for a year, he's stuck with the dumb jobs. It kind of seems like he's both dreading and looking forward to coming of age.
Although he doesn't like the swamp, Todd likes to get away from the Noise of Prentisstown, where he lives. What is this Noise?
Manchee starts chasing after a squirrel; the squirrel's Noise is teasing the dog as they chase.
In his anger, Todd swears at the dog, and suddenly some guy named Aaron appears and smacks Todd to the ground, scolding him for his choice of words. Aaron's Noise reaches Todd's brain in snippets of Bible quotes and other preachy things.
After a lecture from Aaron the preacher, Todd is left on the ground, reeling from being smacked and feeling angry about life.
Todd and Manchee continue their walk to the swamp.
Another mystery: Todd says that spacks bury their dead in the swamp. What's a spack? It's apparently like a person… but not. And tons of them are buried here. Okay…
Todd tells us a little bit about the world that he was born into. He doesn't "remember a world without Noise" (1.53), and his parents died so he's being raised by Ben and Cillian.
His is also a world without women—he's been told that his mother was "the last of the women" (1.53). The plot thickens.
This also explains why he feels like such an outcast: He's the youngest kid around.
All of a sudden, Manchee's hair stands on end and he starts to growl. Todd worries that it's a crocodile, but while he listens he realizes it's something different: There's a hole in the Noise.
Todd gives us another history lesson that helps to uncover the mystery of what is going on in this story: Noise is a germ that these spacks released during a war and killed most people, while leaving those it didn't living with Noise.
And because of this, it's impossible that there is any place where there isn't Noise.
They realize the quiet is coming from a building nearby, so they slowly approach the building. It's empty, though they find some old Spackle words written on the side of the building, which translate to "The People." But there aren't any people around. Todd wonders if maybe the spacks have returned—an option that doesn't seem likely.
The hole in the noise starts moving away, which makes Todd feel this horrible sensation of losing something, so much so that he can't help but cry.