Khaya’s life, a life the Order say was never meant to be, is thrown into turmoil when she discovers she has a second ability. The Company who employs people like her – with rare and special abilities – insists that having more than one inevitably leads down a dark spiral into madness. So they are watching and waiting, ready to terminate her at the first sign of trouble.
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“Argh! Stupid typewriter,” Leena said from somewhere behind a bookcase.
They only had two of these machines – and they were the only two in the province – but to Khaya it seemed they were more trouble than they were worth. Every day one of the two had some fault or another, which then took so long to repair that it was hardly worth the time you saved by using the blasted thing in the first place.
Boredom drove Khaya to take a look. “Stopped working again?”
“Let’s see, it’s about midday, so yes it is exactly on time,” Leena said as she smacked it on the side. “One of the keys is stuck again, but this time I can’t get it to come up and now it’s not working at all.”
“Do you want me to take a look?”
Leena swept her hand sideways as if to say, ‘Be my guest.’
Without much idea of what she was going to do, Khaya took Leena’s seat at the desk. After plucking in vain at the offending key, she turned the metal monstrosity over, but soon saw that the various parts were screwed together. “I’ll need a screwdriver,” Khaya said.
Leena rolled her eyes and stomped away. Khaya righted the contraption. It was a strange looking thing. It reminded her of a pincushion with all the metal keys sticking up from a central ball. This sort of silly machine would never become popular. She was certain of that.
A glint caught her eye. She had been staring at the machine without really looking. For a second, she thought she’d seen right inside it. A frown knitted her brows as she peered at it. Somehow, without physically seeing it, she saw what the problem was. The key that was stuck was blocking another mechanism. She had no idea what this mechanism did, but she knew with absolute certainty that it was the cause of the problem. If she could only twist it, just so.
There was a click and the key sprung up.
“What did you do?” Leena asked, screwdriver in hand and giving Khaya a dubious look.
“I think I fixed it.”
Khaya rushed down the stairs of the library. Suddenly, she wanted to be as far away from there as she could. She wasn’t fooling herself. They weren’t going to find a cure. They were keeping her in that basement under observation. At the first sign of madness, they would kill her. She was sure of it.
Welcome fresh air greeted her as she pulled the door open. A hand gripped her arm, making her shriek. Another hand slammed over her mouth. She began to struggle. “Shh! It’s me, Khaya. It’s Merrit. I’m going to let go of you, so please don’t scream.”
He released her and she swung around to face him. “What do you think you’re doing, scaring me like that?”
“Sorry. We can’t be seen speaking. Follow me.” He walked a few steps before turning to find she wasn’t following. “Come on! Please.”
He led her into a deserted alley, deep shadows making it hard to see. “What is this about, Merrit?”
“You know very well what this is about. They know you told me about your second ability and they are out to get me.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. They simply want to keep this matter quiet.”
“Yes, and do you know the best way to keep something quiet? By making sure as few people as possible know the secret.”
“You are being unreasonable.”
“They’re having me followed. My every move.”
She looked around with exaggerated motions. “Oh? So, where are these stalkers now?”
“I managed to give them the slip. I don’t think they realised that I knew I was being followed. This is beside the point, anyway.”
“What is the point?”
“I am going to get away from here. As far as I can get as quickly as I can.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“I’ve heard things. I’ve heard that it’s only a matter of time before they terminate you.”
She jolted to attention. “You heard that too?”
He nodded. “Can you believe that’s what they call it? Like you’re some sort of animal.”
“I still don’t know why you are telling me all this.”
“Come with me?” he said, placing a hand on her arm.
“Run away?” she asked, incredulous.
“I haven’t been working at the Company for long,” he said, “but I think their main objective is to stay anonymous. At any cost. They like to give the impression that they take care of us, but it’s all about control.
“If you stay here, they will kill you. Why do you think they want to keep all this so quiet? I’m planning to go at midnight. Think about it. I’ll be at the cobbler’s. I hope I’ll see you there.