For those of you who have read Fadeout, and even if you haven't, here's a sneak peek at the first chapter of Remembered, And Carillians for the Machine Book 2!
Chapter 1: Silas
The wet twigs and leaves slipped with every step Silas Durant took, often overstraining his leg muscles which tried so hard to keep his body upright. It had been two weeks on the run and he would have thought his muscles would be used to it by now. He glanced back at his sister Malina. Her eyes stared off at the distant trees. A bell rang probably from a nearby town, but she was not looking in the direction the sound was coming from. She was just staring at the last spot her eyes happened to look. The downhill slope they had been following seemed to have no obvious effect on her. Silas rubbed the sweat from his brow and then checked Malina’s forehead. She was sweating too, just not as much as he was, although she wasn’t breathing heavily despite the fact that they had been running for eight hours straight since early morning.
“We’ll stop at the bottom of this hill,” Silas said. There had to be some kind of stream or river nearby. He thought he could hear water trickling somewhere downhill. They would also have to find something to eat. Silas wasn’t sure how long he could make three slices of bread and a block of cheese last, but it was all that was left now after two weeks of careful rationing.
“Come on,” Silas said. He stepped and his foot slipped farther than he expected. His other leg slid into the dirt and his hands sank an inch in mud when they tried to stop his fall. Silas let out a laugh. That had to look awkward, but when he glanced up at Malina, she didn’t smile or look concerned. It made Silas feel alone, utterly alone when she did that. She was his sister, but all of her memories were taken out of her mind, removed to be sold for energy. She didn’t remember him, she didn’t even remember herself and he had to carry all of their memories by himself.
Silas quickly checked the pillowcase with the food tied to his back. He could feel the smooth surface of the glass e-mem resting against his back. The pillowcase was clean, which also meant the only memory Malina had left was safe too. The first chance he got he would find a way to get her memories and hopefully one day he would find a way to stick them back into her mind. But her memories were locked up in the Cartiam, the one place he was trying so hard to escape from. How would he ever get back there before her memories were shipped and lost forever?
He started to push himself up, but when he turned his noticed Malina’s right foot was soaked in blood.
“What happened?” Silas asked.
Malina turned her eyes to him at the sound of his voice.
He reached out and gently lifted her foot. Several leaves and a stick came up with it and Silas wiped all but the stick away. The angle of the stick appeared to pierce through her shoe into her foot and Silas couldn’t remove the shoe without taking out the stick first.
“I’m going to take it out fast, okay?” Silas didn’t look up because he didn’t want to see how calm her eyes would be. She never complained and now he wondered if he had been pushing her too hard.
Silas took a ragged breath and closed his fingers around the stick. With a quick tug he jerked it out of the shoe and gritted his teeth against the flow of blood from the hole in her shoe. He undid the laces and inspected her foot as well as he could. The stick had poked through the center of her arch, but the top of Malina’s foot was still whole. There was both old and new blood on her sock which meant that she had been running with the stick in her foot for a while and he hadn’t noticed.
She didn’t say anything. Much like she hadn’t said anything about the stick. He tried to think back if she’d sighed or grunted or made any sound over the last few miles that he should have paid more attention to, but he couldn’t remember. It would be up to him from now on. He would have to pay more attention, especially now that he knew she wouldn’t warn him if she was in pain.
Silas took off his cleanest sock and wrapped it around Malina’s foot. Then he put her sock and shoe back on and pushed himself up. Once they found the water he would clean her up and then they would take the remainder of the day to rest.
“Lean on me,” Silas said when he straightened. He wrapped his arm around her waist and took a few steps with her. Malina walked on both feet almost as if there was nothing wrong, but she didn’t seem to step as hard on her hurt foot as she did with her other foot. Silas tried pulling her weight on him when she did need to step on her bad foot and they slowly followed the sound of the water until the little creek came into view.
He found the safest route down the creek bank and helped Malina down. The mud was thick and oozed around his shoes and the water seemed to fill the air with the taste of cleanliness. Leading her to the nearest flat rock, Silas had her sit while he removed her shoe and the socks and placed her foot into the water.
The mid-spring water was cold and made his fingers go numb while they were gently rubbing her foot and scrubbing the socks. After hanging the socks up to dry, Silas inspected Malina’s foot again. It wasn’t bleeding and the hole didn’t look nearly as big as the amount of blood in the socks had suggested. But there was a large bruise, dark and puffy, that covered the sole of her foot.
“Look,” Silas said and pointed to the foot. “You need to tell me when it hurts. Okay?”
Malina’s brown eyes stared at him, like a little child who didn’t speak the same language.
“When you feel pain,” Silas touched the wound, “You tap me on the shoulder.” He took her hand and rested it on his shoulder. He let his hand drop, but Malina left hers there a moment longer and then she placed her hand in her lap.
Silas pulled the pillowcase over his shoulder and opened it.
“Here,” he said handing her a whole slice of bread. For himself, he drank some water and tried not to think about food.
Silas let all his air out in a whoosh. The plan to keep running wouldn’t be sustainable much longer. When he escaped the Cartiam with Malina it was thrilling to be free. What he hadn’t counted on was how hard it was to stay that way. In one sense it was so much harder than he’d ever dreamed possible. He was in charge of everything: food, clothes, a place to sleep and any health issues. Never had he imagined how hard it would be to find food in the forest. There were just leaves, trees, dirt and rocks, none of which looked anything like the food he’d been served in the cafeteria.
The bell from the town rang again and Silas refused to let the sound call to him. There would be nothing in the town but the threat of being caught. Out in these woods they were safe. He had seen or heard no one over the last two weeks and it was best that way. If only he knew how to find food it would be perfect.
“I’m going to look around,” Silas said. “To see how close we are to the town.”
He double checked to make sure her foot was out of the water and resting in the open before he added, “You stay here.”
Malina stayed as she was and when Silas peered back at her five minutes later she was still in the same position. There was something to be said for how well she obeyed him. He should have been worried. He doubted she would move if the creek flooded. She’d drown where she sat and still not move. But he’d be back before that could happen.
It was rough going. The ground was soaked from all the rain that had fallen over the past few days and it was difficult for Silas to find any secure foothold. Still he managed to hike over three wooded hills and at the top of the fourth was a road. Not like the old roads he had seen in the woods every now and then, this one was current. Packed gravel and tar smoothed the surface of the road. He didn’t have time to inspect the road more because a rattle of wheels and clopping of hooves sounded near the bend and he quickly retreated to the nearest trees.
The wheels grew closer and Silas’ heart thumped louder. He checked his arms and legs to reassure himself they were not sticking out in plain sight. They weren’t but he pulled them in closer to the center of the tree just in case. As the wagon passed the tree, Silas inched along the trunk always keeping the tree between him and the wagon. Once the wagon was past, Silas peeked at it.
The wagon was pulled by an ox and it must have belonged to a farmer because it was full of seed bags. On the tail flap of the wagon sat two boys, both younger than Silas. At first he thought they must have belonged to the farmer, but when the farmer glanced back both of the boys ducked so they wouldn’t be seen.
Silas waited until the wagon was almost out of sight before he started following it. The boys stayed on the wagon until it was in sight of the town’s first buildings. Together they jumped off and slipped between the two closest buildings with the farmer unaware of his passengers. Silas wanted to creep closer and see where the boys went, but it would require him leaving the comfort of the trees and that was something he wasn’t willing to do. It made him wonder what they were doing though. Did they have family or were they more like him?
The more he thought about it, the more it seemed like those boys were hiding from society too. It was doubtful they were Carillians too, but just knowing they were there made him feel a bit less alone in the world. He stayed and watched a few more people mill about the town. Each person had their mind on their own troubles and didn’t bother with anyone else. No one was in the habit of questioning random new people. That was something at least. He wanted to get closer and watch more, but the sun was close to setting and he didn’t like to leave Malina alone for long periods of time.
He snuck deeper into the woods before he broke out into a slow run and jogged back to the creek. It pleased him that he had been able to find his way back to wherever he needed to go in the woods. Often when he first left he would take a moment to memorize the trees around him and when he returned he found there was always something he recognized. He felt at home in the trees perhaps because they crowded around him and gave the appearance of the walls he was too used to seeing as a child.
Silas was too busy looking around that when he burst through the bushes the first thing he saw was Malina sitting on the rock with a red fox standing a foot from her hand. The fox’s head whipped up.
“Get away!” Silas yelled and he jumped down the bank into the shallow creek, cold water splashing up his legs. The fox jerked and then trotted away into the bushes. His heart pounded as he tried to walk without slipping.
“Are you all right?” he asked her.
Malina looked at him. He wasn’t sure if she looked a bit pale or not, but her hands were calm and whole. Her foot was still up on the rock where he left it and aside from the bruise looking a deeper brown it didn’t appear like the fox had bit her anywhere.
He collected the dried socks and fitted them over her foot. Then he held out his hand to her and said, “Here let’s find a place to sleep.”
Malina took his hand and he pulled her up. He turned her toward the shore, but what he saw stopped him cold. The rock Malina was sitting on was stained in blood.