This is for my parents, Shirley and David, and grandparents and those who went before … and for Ali and Pete and whoever follows afterwards. And for Ozzy, of course.

Contents Cover Title Page Chapter 1: February 2029 Chapter 2: Adam Chapter 3: Sarah Chapter 4: Adam Chapter 5: Sarah Chapter 6: Adam Chapter 7: Sarah Chapter 8: Adam Chapter 9: Sarah Chapter 10: Adam Chapter 11: Sarah Chapter 12: Adam Chapter 13: Sarah Chapter 14: Adam Chapter 15: Sarah Chapter 16: Adam Chapter 17: Sarah Chapter 18: Adam Chapter 19: Sarah Chapter 20: Adam .

Chapter 21: Sarah Chapter 22: Adam Chapter 23: Sarah Chapter 24: Adam Chapter 25: Sarah Chapter 26: Adam Chapter 27: Sarah Chapter 28: Adam Chapter 29: Sarah Chapter 30: Adam Chapter 31: Sarah Chapter 32: Adam Chapter 33: Sarah Chapter 34: Adam Chapter 35: Sarah Chapter 36: Adam Chapter 37: Sarah Chapter 38: Adam Chapter 39: Sarah Chapter 40: Adam Chapter 41: Sarah Chapter 42: Adam Chapter 43: Sarah Chapter 44: Adam Chapter 45: Sarah Chapter 46: Adam Chapter 47: Sarah Chapter 48: Adam .

Chapter 49: Sarah Chapter 50: Adam Chapter 51: Sarah Epilogue – 2033 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Copyright .

too. And she doesn’t like him . or a house for mice. and the pupils in her blue eyes grow wide. but his colours are dark. The girl glimpses metal and rubber and leather between the trees. She hears the motorbikes before she sees them.Chapter 1: February 2029 The little girl sits in the dirt. They stop. She can see them. He scans the trees either side of the road that cuts through the forest. They’re growling softly now. For a moment their eyes meet. but now her legs are tired and she doesn’t want to walk any more. like his clothes and his dragon. She’s never seen people-colours like these before. With all the stones and leaves and twigs around her she could make a nest for birds. but they’re too near. She’s been exploring the forest. Her fingers are busy – picking things up. The girl sits very still. putting them down. She holds her hands over her ears. The man’s face is pale. She makes marks in the dirt with a stick – lines and circles – and her mouth moves as she sings herself the song that goes with her dust-pictures. Can they see her? The dragon at the front takes off part of its head. A swirl of grey and purple and black. The motorbikes slow down. belching out trails of dark smoke. ‘Dragons. She’s never seen a motorbike before and now there are three. There’s a man inside. it’s nice here. Anyway. a background whine that becomes a drone that turns into a roar.’ she whispers. arranging them – and her mind’s busy. big and black and fast. The girl doesn’t like the colours. not roaring.

Better make it big enough to keep her safe. She closes her own eyes quickly. destroying her dust-pictures. snuggles in and closes her eyes. She wants to see if her nest is a good one. too. Closer. closer … ‘Mia! Here you are!’ There are feet right next to the nest. this game. Slowly she unwinds and leans forward. The girl curls in a tight little ball and buries her face in her knees again. She wakes when she hears someone shouting her name. and then they’re gone. boss?’ ‘Just a kid. Let’s go. ‘Seen something. It’s fun. Then she waits for the dreams to come – the colours and pictures that will send her to sleep. closer. almost black. Mia turns her head a . She loves playing hide-and-seek.’ His voice is hard and low. and buries her face in her knees. The dragons’ growl turns into a roar again. His eyes are dark. The girl squints through her eyelashes. gathering in an armful of twigs and leaves. if she can be found. and they are hurting her. ‘Mia! Mii-aa! Where are you? Mii-aa!’ She doesn’t move. she will need to build a big nest to keep the birds and the mice safe. She hears footsteps crunching through the undergrowth. ‘Mia! Mii-aa! Where are you? Where are you?’ The voice is getting closer. If there are dragons here. There’s nothing to show the dragons were ever there apart from a cloud of dust.looking at her. She piles more and more stuff around her. which hangs in the air and then settles.

The skin is creased between her blue eyes. The woman looks cross. hugging her daughter close.’ But Mia doesn’t feel safe. ‘you must stay where I can see you. She wants her to be smiling and laughing. ‘Do you mean motorbikes?’ she says. She lifts her up. then. even now.’ she says. The dragons won’t come near our fire. smiling. ‘I was just worried. She starts walking away from the road and back into the forest. Mia turns her head into her knees again. Mia shakes her head. ‘Dragons. firmly this time.little and peeks upwards. colours that mean one thing – Mummy. We’ll be safe there. Mia doesn’t like it.’ Mia takes her thumb out of her mouth and looks up. ‘Dragons. Then she reaches forward to wrap her arms round her mummy. She heard bikes a few minutes ago. Everything’s okay – there won’t be shouting and tears this time. ‘Mia. holding on to . and holds her close. ‘Dragons.’ she says. But her colours are the same as always. Are you listening?’ Mia puts her thumb in her mouth.’ says Mia. She doesn’t want Mummy to shout at her.’ she says again. ‘Noisy. a haze of blue and lilac around her. I’m not cross.’ Sarah looks towards the road. ‘Me see dragons. I thought … I thought I’d lost you.’ ‘Did you see wolves and bears as well?’ Sarah says. still curled tightly in a ball. ‘Better get back to the camp. Sarah bends down and grabs her daughter under her armpits.

Better to hide. . They’d like a fire. Better to make a nest and hide from the man with the dark colours all around him.Mummy. she thinks. The dragons she saw made smoke themselves. A fire wouldn’t frighten them away.

clothes. and my voice goes all croaky.’ he says. I can’t deal with this. take what little you got – food. trying to get me to make eye contact. but people’ll still rob you. ‘Adam. even firewood.Chapter 2: Adam ‘I know you. It’s happened too many times now. Safety in numbers. ’cause you’re vulnerable on your own. He reaches across and touches my sleeve.’ My heart’s thudding in my chest.’ I’ve watched the guy moving closer. My fingers tighten round the rock. he crouches down beside me. leaning forward to get a look at my face. you saved my life. ‘I know you. too. smiling. ‘You got .’ he says again. I keep my head down. But that’s dangerous. I can see the dirt under his fingernails. Less than a metre away. ‘You’re Adam Dawson. It’s the same everywhere. I want him to go away. He’s too close. ‘Adam. bashing the tent peg into the hard ground with a rock. He’s tipping his face. picking his way through the ragged group of tents and shelters. Here we go again. Ignore him and he might go away. That’s why I try and keep away from people. Sarah says.’ I say. the bits of sawdust in his straggly beard. mate. ‘No. We have to stay near others. I think. We ain’t got nothing valuable.’ I twist away.

scar-faced boy. Now everyone I talk to treats me like some sort of celebrity. ‘Venison. watching as Sarah unrolls the mats we use for beds. There are no TVs or computers in England now. my burned skin. I was only on the telly once. at the beginning of the Chaos. staring into a TV camera and shouting the odds about the end of the world. She’s almost like a little doll. My flat was in the basement. And they remember me because I was right. I’ll never forget you. ‘We’ve got some meat. when it’s clear I’m not going to talk. with that mass of tight blonde curls.’ He means my scars. but it was the last TV most people saw. Mia’s sitting in our hand-barrow.’ the man continues.’ I stop bashing the tent peg.’ Same story. full lips and eyes that don’t miss a thing. a big one. to Sarah’s brothers. ‘You saved me. looking for dry twigs. I’ve heard it over and over. but I know she’s watching . no screens or phones. Adam. I’ve seen you. The world did come to an end – the world as we knew it. Her arms and legs are as thin and brown as the twigs the boys are looking for.the wrong bloke. I saw you on the telly and I got out. your … face. Marty and Luke are scuffing the leaves on the ground. Meat … Can’t remember the last time we ate meat. The networks and transmitters never got put back after the quake. You’re a hero. right by the river. And so I’m stuck in everyone’s memories as that mad-eyed. It’s gotta be better than the nettle soup we were going to have. Sarah’s pretending to be busy. Come and eat with us. I was in London. I don’t want it. anyway.’ ‘No. anything that would do for kindling. Someone shot a deer. some sort of saviour. I look over towards Sarah and Mia. She’s tiny for a child who’s two. So did millions of others. Come and join us.

I can’t do that to her. Thanks. I’m difficult enough as it is. we all are. me and her. I’ve waited . Sarah. the back-slapping. It’s good to meet you. But I know what’s gonna come with it – the fuss. and I force myself to nod at him and smile. I’ve been scarred by fire. ‘I’m Daniel. when she passes from this life. ‘Great. pitched between two tree trunks. everywhere has a number – the day they’re gonna die. My mouth floods with saliva at the thought of a square meal. I know she’s heard every word. Adam. the questions. seeing their numbers … Everyone. brings me the comfort and the warmth it always does – an ending full of light and out of the corner of her eye. and I can’t stand looking at them. The only thing stopping me is Sarah. moody. and her number speaks to me. Sometimes I could grab a flaming stick out of the middle of the fire and plunge it into my own eyes to stop me seeing. it’s nearly killed me twice. waiting for my reaction. She looks straight at me. 2572075. Come over any time. She don’t say nothing. I hate the feelings that come with them. ‘We will join you. I can’t stand people looking at me. We’re in the bender furthest from the path. but maybe it would take away the thing that hurts me most. I hate that I can see these numbers. The words sound like someone else’s. by the way. I turn back to the stranger crouching next to me. His face lights up. She’s hungry. The promise that we’ll be together. easy as if she was slipping into a warm bath.’ I say. Stop me feeling the suffering and pain that’s waiting for every single person I meet. with those blue eyes of hers. She don’t need to.’ He points to a tunnel-shaped tent. then. I couldn’t expect her to stay with me if I was blind as well. fifty years from now. restless. Cool.

I drop the rock. looking after Mia and Marty and Luke – we’re still . ‘Thank you.’ She digs in one of our bags on the barrow and pulls out a tube of antiseptic cream. It was a mistake to say yes. then gently rubs it in. Just took the skin off. ‘Carrie. I shrug. ‘Hurt. They’re all the same. the fire. I take my hand away from my mouth and inspect it.a long time for this. to squeeze every last bit out. Sarah. did it?’ she says. I don’t want to be around people.’ ‘Ssh. I’m glad I’ve got my mouth full. It stops me saying what I want to say. ‘Don’t waste it on me. the anger dying away. Sarah comes nearer. It’s all I’ve ever wanted. still sucking at my knuckles. It’s so intimate – her fingertip touching my skin lightly. sucking hard to take the pain away.’ As he strides off. I can’t handle it. ‘Aargh! Fff … ow!’ I’m trying not to swear in front of the kids.’ She puts a tiny bit on the end of her finger and dots it onto my scrapes. Nothing does. There’s not much left. only a few cells making contact. brush the worst of the dirt off my fingers and put them in my mouth. the gypsy life. he’s here.’ she says. the Chaos. ‘Be all right in a minute. Even after everything we’ve been through – the quake. I raise my arm up and smash the rock down on the hook of the tent peg so heavily that the peg bends and I scrape my knuckles on the ground. It don’t work. It’s fucking difficult sometimes. or the anger. And it don’t take the anxiety away neither. I hear him calling. I’m already regretting it. The end’s been turned over and over. Me and her. I feel my body relaxing. He’s really here …’ There’s anxiety bubbling up inside me.

And at this moment I’d give anything for the rest of the world to go away. Adam. not the conversation. They hated being outside. with a haunted look in their eyes all the time. I hold her hands in both of mine. It bothers me. her wide eyes looking at all the faces lit up by the fire. The moment’s gone. It’s like she’s trying to remember them. The others are talking about the things people always talk about these days. let’s go. water. It’s good to see them filling their bellies. and I’m waiting for the questions. Marty and Luke wolf it down so the gravy dribbles down their chins. ‘Let’s go somewhere else.’ I beg. They’re top boys. ‘We’ve just got here. didn’t know what to do with theirselves. trying to concentrate on the food. She presses her lips together. too. their neighbours. fuel. No one tells them off. I’ve never had brothers or sisters before. The backslapping and the fuss is over. cut off from their X-boxes and flat-screen TVs. their faces glowing with the warmth of it. They wipe at it and lick their fingers. Especially illness. They were so quiet at first. cold. Daniel. how to make a fire. I want to be alone with her. We’re staying. illness. I eat slowly. food. his partner Carrie. pulls her hands away. my arms around her and our faces close.together. But we’ve learnt stuff together: how to set a trap for a rabbit. savouring each mouthful. Mia sits on Sarah’s lap. can’t . We sit on logs around Daniel’s fire. hunger.’ And so we stay. I stare at her finger. His venison stew’s pretty watery. laughing. ‘Sarah. but it’s so long since we had something like this that it’s almost overwhelming. The fire that killed my nan took their mum and dad.’ I hate myself for sounding so desperate.

what do we do? The boys have both got good numbers – 21112088 and 392092 – but numbers can change. She’s got Nan’s number now. ‘We’re just keeping our heads down.’ .’ ‘There are people looking for you. you know.’ someone says. and we manage. raided for drugs. I don’t know the rules any more. Too many people. metal to melt down. ‘You’d have thought people would respect hospitals. ‘So what brings you here?’ he says. Mia showed me that. even good ones. ‘I worked in a hospital in London. looking at the floor. I left after the Battle of St Thomas’s in March 2028. to keep warm. moving around. She’s got a smoker’s death.pretend it don’t. First question. are no comfort to me.’ He shakes his head. From London. turning it back to me. He don’t look like a doctor. Four hundred people killed. the night of the quake. gasping for breath. wouldn’t you? But we became targets.’ I look at Daniel. the night of the fire. The police. Everyone’s quiet. supplies.’ he shrugs. Dirty beard. Where were they? Where the hell were they?’ He pauses for a moment. But if one of us gets ill. waiting for my answer.’ I say. ‘Dan’s a doctor. the government – they all abandoned us. Then he takes a deep breath. His hands are clenched in his lap. before it was trashed by looters after the Chaos. the sinews taut like wires from his fingers to his wrists. It freaks me out when I catch it in her eyes. from the big cities. ‘Used to be. long hair tied back in a ponytail. yellow fingernails. It fitted right with Nan – it seems cruel now it belongs to Mia. too dangerous. ‘It’s not so bad here. ‘You heading somewhere in particular?’ ‘Just away. most of my friends gone. the army. asking. We struggle to find food. Numbers. They’ve been here.

’ He grins. on motorbikes. Adam. too. but I can’t eat no more.’ I sit down again. We had a drone up here. Besides. or the gangs that have taken over the cities.’ Sarah frowns. ‘This morning. I hoped my criminal record would have been wiped in the Chaos. I don’t want nothing to do with gangs neither.’ ‘I heard bikes this afternoon when I was looking for Mia. ‘Shit. tried to silence me. It’s all I can do to get the word out. I got nothing to say to them or their spooks. stay in the country. quietly. Not in the dark. If it’s the government looking. the only people who can still get petrol are the so-called government. The sort of people you don’t grass to. we gotta get out of here. ‘Not now. charged with a murder I never done. slowly. but contact like that makes me edgy.I stop chewing and look up. The government had it in for me.’ Sarah says to me.’ He puts a hand on my shoulder. Three of them. Another reason to clear out.’ ‘We’re going in the morning then. the armed thugs who own the cities now. I definitely don’t want to be found. ‘Shot it out of the sky.’ I say. ‘People? Who?’ Daniel shakes his head. I jump to my feet. ‘They didn’t give names. But maybe not. The thought makes my blood run cold. ‘When?’ My throat’s gone dry. I can’t keep still. ‘It’s dark.’ ‘Didn’t you hear what he just said?’ She shakes her head. I can’t be. And we’re all tired. My legs . and I won’t be banged up in a cell again. He’s trying to be reassuring. The stew is sitting in my stomach like a stone. ‘First light. I was under arrest when the quake struck.

with Nan. They need to live somewhere. and I can’t walk miles any more. Even after all this time. Everyone around the fire falls silent. ‘Mia. looking at me or looking away. No one’s going to take me away from you and lock me up again. And we can’t run faster than motorbikes. And I had another one.’ Sarah says. The buzz of conversation starts up again. thrown in a cell. ‘We can’t keep on the move for ever. completely powerless. ‘I’m going to have a baby. ‘I’m not going to be found. Adam.’ she says. We got all we need with us. after you. No one. ‘We’ll talk about it later. ‘Home’s not a place. If they want to find us. I had a home once. Sarah. ‘And what about my brothers?’ she says.’ I take no notice of her and plough on. Daniel’s a doctor. We all do. keeping her voice low.’ Home. They need a home. There are people after me. We don’t know exactly how far gone she is but it must be seven or eight months. Sarah. ready to run. We have to stay here. quietly. and I want this to be different. I’m not being paranoid. ‘All right. if you hadn’t noticed. ‘We’ve been at it for two years.’ I’m shouting now.’ she says.’ I look at her swelling belly. it’s people. Seems like years ago.’ ‘We need more people. I had Mia on my own. she don’t understand how bad it is to be handcuffed. on a grotty bathroom floor in the squat. ’cept I never realised what I’d got ’til it had gone and so had she.’ She don’t get it.’ ‘Yeah. they will.are jiggling. ‘Think about what staying means.’ . but it stopped being home once Mum died.

too. Sarah flinches and Mia jumps. Like she’s mocking me. ‘Do you want me to go?’ I say. whoever. ‘Come on. trying to carry on the argument. Adam. ‘Mia’s chipped.’ Sarah says quickly. I’m so bloody recognisable. I didn’t ask for none of this. ‘I’m chipped. ‘I’ll take you back to your tent. in a little voice. I force a smile at Mia. Perhaps you saved them. Sarah. ‘We can’t keep running like this.’ I say. but it don’t stop me. I never wanted to see numbers. The laughter and the warmth of the meal’s gone from their faces. Even if it didn’t. Maybe hours. ‘If we stay it’ll only be days before they find us.’ There’s something about the way she says it. I never wanted all this death in my head. Her words sting like a slap on the face.’ Daniel says to Marty and Luke. boys.So that’s it. but I know she’s not buying it. all this pain. People begin to gather up their bowls and drift away.’ Almost without thinking I put my hand up to my scarred skin. That drone could’ve picked us up and sent our location back to wherever. an edge. Then it’s just Sarah and me and Mia by the fire. And then what?’ ‘We don’t even know what they want. ‘Mummy Daddy cross?’ Mia says. I pick up another log and do the same. Adam. it came from.’ The boys trudge off. missing nothing. My hand finds a piece of wood.’ . Her eyes are fixed on us. They might want to shake you by the hand and thank you.’ ‘Do you want me to leave you here?’ I say. Marty looks worried. ‘I didn’t ask for this. I can’t stand it. and I launch it into the fire with such force that sparks fly up. ‘I’m not cross. Her eyes flick up to mine and then away.

but I can’t stop. I know I’m ranting. a baby on the way. and I wish I didn’t. or the next. in everyone.Mia’s eyes are filling with tears. and no home and no food. If she’s not on my side no more. with a girlfriend and three children to look after. and Sarah’s not looking at me. But we have to go. It’s not safe here. then I got nothing. All I know is it’s gonna end one day because I see the end everywhere. ‘I’m eighteen. And even that isn’t certain because it could all change. Do you think I want this?’ ‘Do you think any of us want this?’ she says. . and it’s never gonna get better. And now my stomach’s churning. It could all be over tomorrow or the next day.

I’m scared of what I’m going to do next.’ ‘Sarah—’ ‘No. ‘Sarah.’ he hisses.’ ‘Yeah. slowly. ‘It’s time. Even inside the tent. They’re nice people. you are. and I lie there listening to Adam’s silence. We have to go. My heart’s thumping.’ ‘What?’ ‘I’m not leaving. ‘I’m not leaving.’ I wriggle round so I’m facing him again. ‘Sarah. Have I done the right thing? . the cold air is nipping at my face. He’s a dark shape next to me.Chapter 3: Sarah Adam shakes my shoulder before it’s even light. I can’t see his features. ‘It’s time to get up. I’m going back to sleep.’ he whispers. Moving on. slowly. The blood’s beating in my ears. I want to stay here for the winter. please. and then push the air out – slowly. There’s a doctor and there’s food.’ I pull my sleeping bag up around my ears and turn my back to him.’ I take a deep breath in. We’re packing up this morning. Adam. ‘I don’t want to go.’ But I don’t. but I’m doing it anyway.

But it’s difficult if you know that when he looks in your eyes he can see you dying. If I say it often enough. think it often enough. not loved. but Mia was wide awake. And Adam’s not anyone’s father. Luke. We were dog-tired. . perhaps I’ll still believe it. ‘Dada’. sitting by the side of the road. I close my eyes and try to empty my head of it all. Marty and Luke have already left to forage in the forest. Love him. hadn’t even put a tent up. Marty.But my swelling ankles tell me it’s right. It’s time to stop moving and just be a family for a while. but everything’s all mixed up: people. words. Mia – and the new baby. He scooped her up and danced around with her. Adam. When she eventually crawls out of the tent. I can’t ever be the boys’ proper mum – I’ll always be their sister – but I’m the only relative they’ve got left. though Mia calls him Daddy. It was like the sun coming out. ‘Did you hear what she said? Did you hear. so I’m the nearest thing to a mum they’re going to have now. and reached her arms up towards him. When she said it to him that first time – ‘Da da da da’ – his face changed. and her cheeks are flushed. just for a minute. I love . I remind myself now Love. Mia’s the last to wake. to let sleep wash over me and blank me out. and it was like he’d forgotten everything else. Sarah?’ She did it again. and numbers. which is unusual. Me. Always numbers. It reminded me why I loved him. And the gentle snoring of the kids tells me that we all need a rest. And my blistered hands tell me it’s right. Adam Dawson. Her eyes are pink and glassy. It’s a funny sort of family. places.

He pulls out a stethoscope from his rucksack and listens to her chest. You just need .’ ‘Shit. The night of the quake – in the heat of the fire – she had some kind of fit.’ he says. ‘Not too bad. She’s red hot.’ he mutters sheepishly.’ she whispers.‘Me poorly. I look at it. ‘Nearly forty. but it feels like hours. Let’s give her some paracetamol. I can still see her twitching in Adam’s arms. I don’t know how it happened. her legs and arms all stiff. ‘How? Where from?’ He smiles.’ Adam says. Her nose is blocked and she’s breathing through her mouth. ‘The government’s got a stash. ‘Adam.’ he says.’ It’s only a couple of minutes until Daniel comes. then at him.’ ‘Have you got some?’ Our last supplies ran out months ago. died in the fire instead. ‘I’ll get Daniel. I swoop down next to her and put my hand on her forehead. ‘Let’s have a look. But a full bottle … ‘I’ve got quite a bit of … kit. She was meant to die that day – but Adam got her out and Val. and sometimes we’re lucky enough to find a sachet. Where did he get a full bottle of medicine? We check every empty house and shop. outside the burning house. Will it happen now if her temperature gets too high? ‘Daniel.’ This is the thing we dread: Mia getting a temperature. Their fates swapped. He takes her temperature. Daniel produces a full bottle from one of the rucksack pockets. Her breath is sour and sickly. Their numbers swapped. his nan. she’s burning up. as he crawls into the tent. That’s when her number changed.

‘Just don’t blame me if …’ ‘If what?’ ‘I dunno.’ ‘I know. ‘I’m going to start a fire. We’ll be all right. ‘He’s got a whole bag of tricks.’ I know it’s a big deal for him. ‘Thank you. like Adam. ‘We don’t have much choice. but he doesn’t sound convinced. ‘He’s got medicine.’ he says finally. . I feel sick at the thought. Her trusting eyes fix on mine and her number fills my head. it’s too young.’ ‘And you do?’ ‘I’ve got contacts.’ ‘So this is a good place to know how to get at it.’ I say.’ He sighs. If it all goes wrong. ‘Like a sitting duck.’ He crawls out again. I feel …’ He struggles to find the words. 2022054. ‘Keep her drinking and I’ll give her paracetamol every four hours. but I know hers. shall we say. Adam looks in. ‘Looks like a virus.’ he says.’ I say. My daughter can’t die aged twentyseven.’ ‘Government ones?’ He smiles again but doesn’t say anything more. ‘Maybe.’ I really want to believe it. Twenty-five years left. She’s calmer already. It’s better than the lifespan she started with. Adam. but it’s not enough. ‘It’ll be all right.’ he says.’ I turn back to Mia. I don’t see numbers. Adam told me.

She needs to find another number. I’d give my life for Mia. of course I would. darker and curlier than ever. I’d give it to her. ‘Don’t. I resent him for it. Adam’s brought this gift. Mummy. It’ll be over in the blink of an eye. I gather her into my arms. but still blonde. I wish I didn’t know. Mummy sad?’ I don’t want to upset her but I can’t stop crying. into our lives. All I can think is that twenty-five years is nothing. Her hair is damp from her sweat. Mia puts her clammy hand up to my face. this curse. a better number. It’s like a halo. Could I give her mine. It crushes you. It’s not his fault. . like Val did? But how? How did she do it? If it would help her. Tears stream down my cheeks. at this moment. I hate him. It’s not natural to know this stuff. but right now.

listening. She died. her skin all tanned from living outdoors. It’s wrong. I always thought she’d be there for me. I thought she was safe. I’m ashamed. isn’t it? She’s a beautiful child – with those blue eyes. gone the next. There one minute. that I could rely on her. it’s her number. She had twenty-seven years left. That’s a long time. But she weren’t. It’s not fair. It’s our secret – mine and . like it’s not there. And of course it’s not her looks that freak me out. at the start of the Chaos. then I walk away into the forest. Should I go back in the tent? I wait outside for a moment. I was only five. She don’t have the number she was born with. None of this is fair. It reminds me every time of Nan and that terrible day in the fire. I didn’t want Mia to die so I walked into the fire to save her. too. People look at her wherever we go – after they’ve clocked me first. and so am I.Chapter 4: Adam I hear Sarah sobbing as I make the fire. A golden child. that blonde hair. I can’t blame her for being scared. I’ve been scared for most of my life. Nan wasn’t meant to die that day. I can’t even think about it now without getting a lump in my throat. But I’m frightened of her. She’s frightened for Mia. ever since I realised what the numbers meant. I get this spooky feeling when I look in her eyes. but I can’t help it. Her number sort of shimmers in my head. But I didn’t want Nan to die neither. I can’t help wondering: did Mia take Nan’s number? Was it murder? Or did Nan give it to her? No one knows what happened.

does someone else always have to pay the price? In the evening. Mia’s gazing into the fire and the flames cast a rosy light on her face. He don’t need to say who. They’re pushing each other. I can tell. Three men on motorbikes. I don’t know what the rules are any more. Then I realise everyone’s looking at me. It’s rabbit stew this time.Sarah’s – and I reckon it should stay that way. just a split second. But what about next time? Sarah’s right – we do need people. I’m happy. close my eyes and breathe in. and then. The sort of people you don’t grass to. listening to the singing. I don’t know how it all works.’ Daniel says. It wasn’t natural. ‘They’re back. We were right to stay. and laughing and joking. I kiss the top of her head. The hot food’s intoxicating. She looks more like an angel than ever. it makes me warm and woozy. . an old song. But what happened that night of the fire wasn’t right. For a moment. And this feeling about Mia. The light from the flames flickers on our silent faces. I’ve never even told Sarah. Marty and Luke caught the rabbits – they’re feeling proud. Beneath my fingers I can feel the baby moving. grab the boys’ hands. She leans in to me. I put my arm round Sarah and rest my hand on her waist. The noise of the engines is so quiet at first I hardly notice it. we gather together around Daniel’s fire again. I jump to my feet. Daniel’s paracetamol did the trick. everyone hears it at the same time and the singing stops. If Mia can change things to save herself. She seems better. It’s like it’s part of the singing. Someone starts singing. as it gets louder.

He’s got grey hair. I can’t.‘Come on.’ he says. picking our way between shelters and out into the dark forest where we huddle together. and stop just outside the circle. She sees the look on my face and struggles up. cut short. Soon I can see three figures moving: men in black leather jackets and trousers.’ . clipped. but I’ve got to move. I know it’s not logical. It’s not just their clothes that makes them different. ‘Please. stay put. We’re all here for you. We stumble away from the fire. His voice is deep but sharp.’ Marty and Luke look at Sarah. but now there are three points of light bobbing towards the fire. black boots. We can see here. But I can’t just sit still. like he hasn’t been outside for a while.’ I say. ‘Let’s go. The man in the middle steps forward.’ Daniel says. Now. and a strong jaw. it’s the way they carry theirselves. and their weapons: army-issue rifles slung over their shoulders and a belt of ammo across their chests. but not be seen. with Mia in her arms. ‘Adam. black gauntlets. They sweep the beams of their torches to either side as they approach. He looks round the circle and everyone nods in agreement. trying to stop me. His face is pale. ‘Just looking for somewhere to stay the night. but I couldn’t say how old he is. There’s an obvious gap in the places we’ve left – why did no one think to close it up? Every eye’s on the men. facing the camp. Thirty? Sixty? ‘We don’t want to break up the party. The sound of the bikes has stopped.’ I say. She puts her hand up to my wrist. almost square. He’s speaking for all of them. ‘Adam …’ It’s no good.

Sarah holds her in closer. Next to me.’ ‘Sh. hiding her face in her hands.’ The three of them step closer to the fire and take up our places in the circle.’ The warm. but he’s gone now. ‘You’re welcome to stay. relaxed feeling we had round the fire is long gone. something hot. wiry and mean-looking. a mountain of a man with long dark hair. Sarah’s face is pinched and anxious. ‘Dragons. To his left there’s a smaller guy. Everyone faces the flames in silence. ‘You know who we’re looking for. Will Daniel and the others lie? Will they save us. ‘Have you seen him? Have you seen Adam Dawson?’ I hold my breath. There’s no reaction from the people by the fire. with their backs to us. but nothing can muffle the noise completely. But not a giveaway neither. yes.’ . watching like us. The boys are quiet. ‘He passed this way. Mia starts to cough. Three travellers in need of some sleep. or will they save their own skins? ‘I’ve seen him. Mia whimpers.’ Not a lie. Marty and Luke are shivering. shh. strictly speaking.’ she’s whispering. who’s curled up in her arms. ‘Noisy dragons. The man who spoke is obviously the leader. The other one is huge. Mia. It’s cold now we’re beyond the reach of the fire. Then the questions start.’ says the man with grey hair. ‘How long?’ ‘He left just after lunch.’ says Daniel. Sarah shushes Mia.Sounds innocent enough.’ Daniel says. ‘We’ll find you some food too.

How far do you think we’ll get?’ ‘I don’t know. but Saul wasn’t asking permission. brother. ‘Do you have a tent?’ ‘We do. I don’t need one. ‘No. ‘You want to search in the dark?’ ‘That’s right. ‘But it’s pitch black out here. will they?’ Daniel don’t answer the question. I don’t have a warrant.’ Daniel shrugs. I feel the world crashing in on me.’ So it is the government. ‘What do we do now?’ Sarah whispers. that’s all you need to know. but he’s still civil. like he doesn’t use it often. no one will go far in this darkness. It’s a grating sound.’ Daniel nods. ‘We get our stuff and go. There are babies asleep. Is it the old murder charge? Is that why they’re here? Daniel’s looking uncomfortable now. it’s getting late. My name’s Saul. It’s getting late now. Why not wait until morning?’ Saul pauses.’ ‘In the dark?’ . but you’re right. The three strangers walk away into the darkness to fetch their things. We just need somewhere to hide. He says. but these are our homes. I’m on government business.‘So you won’t mind if we search the camp?’ ‘Do you have a warrant?’ The man laughs. ‘We’ve got nothing to hide here. The evening’s over. We’ll just bed down in our sleeping bags near the fire.’ I say. People start making their way back to their shelters. After all. ‘We could – I suppose.

Mia. rocking her back and forth. ‘Why don’t you come nearer to the fire. How long before they go to sleep and we can tiptoe away? The bottle’s nearly empty. like men used to spending time together. ‘Stop coughing. ‘Away. too. Saul. Look. Sh. Mia. matey. Then. shh. Everyone else has gone now. without turning around.’ Sarah unbuttons her coat and wraps it round Mia.Why doesn’t she understand? Why isn’t she scared of these men? Why can’t she just agree with me for once? Mia starts coughing again. Adam? You must be freezing out there. The gold liquid catches the light of the fire as they pass it between them. The cold’s starting to bite. They talk quietly amongst themselves. the man with the grey hair. the fire’s starting to die down. they’re coming back.’ We watch as the three men put their sleeping bags on the ground near the fire.’ ‘It’s not her fault.’ says Mia softly. raises his voice and calls out into the night air. They have a bottle.’ . I need to think. My body jerks as a shiver runs down my spine. jokey. ‘Man go away.

‘It’s a clever little thing. ‘Away. ‘I picked up your chip in my beam. At least I don’t need to argue with Adam any more. and I realise I’ve been holding my breath. but she’s cowering inside.’ .’ she keeps saying through her tears. ‘She sounds bad. just miles and miles of dark.’ And just for a moment I believe him – he’s a devil. but as we get closer to the fire. It’s as if he’s touching me. a werewolf. Marty and Luke are hiding behind me. burrowing her head under my armpit.Chapter 5: Sarah It feels like we’re cornered. Someone. this. Then he laughs.’ He pats the torch hanging off his belt. with superhuman powers. and her thin little body is racked with tears and coughs. The three men turn to watch us. a vampire. and we all shuffle forward. empty forest. And I heard the child coughing. I’m not scared at first.’ ‘How did you know we were there?’ Adam asks. Saul switches his attention away from me. I can feel the leader’s dark eyes on me. ‘Man go away.’ I say to Adam. and I want to slap him away.’ he adds. I get the creeps. ‘I could sense you. ‘Help me up. and to the men looking at us. something. I wrap my coat further round her. Mia starts to cry. He must have heard Mia coughing. though there aren’t any walls behind us.

his thumb prising open her eyelid.’ ‘Is this your daughter?’ Saul says. Saul doesn’t apologise. and then he laughs again. ‘I’ll be there in a minute. ‘What are you—? Stop it!’ ‘Mum-my!’ Mia sobs. I hate this man.’ he says. And now his fingers are touching her face. He grabs my lapel and peels the front of my coat back. You frightened her. But he carries on staring at her. I’ve never seen her react like this to anyone. He’s not talking to me but to Adam. Her frightened blue eye stares up at him. I can’t believe he touched her. ‘She’s a noisy one. ‘Let me look at her. holding Mia closer. . ‘but I need to get her into bed now. then her chest heaves.’ ‘No. just steps away. forced.‘She’s fine.’ he says.’ I say. ‘Get off her!’ Adam and I are both shouting now.’ But Adam’s not moving.’ I say.’ I hate him. her arms and legs shoot out. who neither agrees nor puts him straight. Adam. ‘Adam?’ But he’s looking at Saul like the rest of the world doesn’t exist. let’s go. It makes me feel sick.’ I say. unnatural sound. Looks like an angel but screams like a devil. and she starts to kick and yell. ‘Come on. ‘The girl in the woods. who thinks nothing of waking a child up and laughs when she cries. turning her head towards him. but Saul’s on his feet and reaching towards me before I know it. ‘She’s frightened. trying to shush Mia. shielding her. Like I don’t exist. that harsh. His voice sounds strange.

‘Don’t worry about him now. black night skies. ‘I don’t either. I start to sing softly. . then I slip out of the tent and sit outside to wait for Adam. ‘No like man. It’s sleep time.’ I say. trying not to wake my brothers. Twinkle. planets and constellations. making them twinkle. Marty and Luke fall asleep instantly but it takes me ages to settle Mia down again. studded with stars.’ ‘Mummy sing “Twinkle”?’ ‘Twinkle. Little Star’.’ she hiccups between sobs. shooting stars. and a moon that’s as familiar to us as the sun. After a while she puts her thumb in her mouth and turns onto her side. She opens and closes her hands. stroking her hair. I tuck a blanket round her. That’s one thing we gained from the Chaos – deep. It’s her favourite. Mia loves stars. Mia stretches her arms above her.I leave him there.

I want to look away. I’ve never felt anything like it. Drink. the more it dances in and out of focus. His number shimmers in my head. though. It’s extraordinary. his number blows me away.Chapter 6: Adam W e stand two metres apart. Have a drink. looking at each other. gnawing.’ Saul says. except it feels like death from the outside in. Ain’t got much choice – my legs . light and dark all mixed up. piercing pain all over his body. gone the next. to break away from his pain. I can’t explain. the shimmering – makes me feel giddy. a split second of pain and despair and rage and panic.’ I do sit down. That stuff. I make myself stand square.’ I say. every cell collapsing. but there’s something else. every surface screaming. ‘Sit down. The more I try and get a fix on it. I’m nearly shitting myself. But it’s not the date that’s getting to me. There one minute. The whole thing – the death. all coming together in a white point of agony. ‘but I don’t. but I don’t want him to know how scared I am. And when I do. It’s something else. ‘Adam. 1622029. and death from the inside out. with scraping. There’s a white scar above his left eye. The ground’s shifting underneath my feet. look him right in the eyes.’ ‘Thanks. It’s the death itself.

He sits down next to me. People who can lead. I didn’t kill nobody.’ I say. Who is this man? What sort of death could feel like that? ‘Why were you looking?’ I say. ‘But the government don’t want to know. Adam. ‘You took some finding.’ It’s like there’s a hand clutching at my throat.’ I’m properly scared now. whatever he is.’ ‘For murder.’ ‘But I didn’t do it! I was being framed. I told Sarah.’ That throws me. They’re after me and they want to take me away. Gifted people. Whoever this guy is.’ ‘Yeah. Saul nods at the other two men. ‘That was then. to silence me. We need people like you. Nobody’s ever called me gifted before. ‘Gifted.’ I say. ‘Take me? Where? Why?’ ‘We work for the government. trying out the word for size.’ Saul says. I’m concentrating on my breathing. he knows a lot about me. Strong people. Things are different now. I told her. trying to control the panic that’s washing through me. reaches out for the whisky bottle and swigs the dregs. We’re putting this country back on track.’ ‘They arrested you. and they melt away into the darkness.have turned to jelly. Too much. ‘I tried to tell them two years ago and they tried to shut me up. We want your . my voice higher than I want it to be. ‘What do you want me for?’ ‘I’ve come to take you away from all this.

help.’ ‘What help could I be now? I already told everyone the end was coming – and it came.’ ‘But it’s not the end, Adam,’ he explains. ‘It’s the start, the start of a new world where people like you are listened to, respected, valued. You can make a difference.’ I don’t know what to say. ‘What do you mean?’ ‘People listened to you before. They started getting out of London. They’ll listen to you again. You can be a figurehead. Where you see danger, you can warn people – get them away from areas that are going to flood, out of buildings that are going to collapse. You can get children to feeding stations. You can help, Adam. You can help us rebuild this country.’ I don’t believe him. Why would the people that tried to silence me before want my help now? ‘It took you long enough to find me. I’m chipped. You could’ve picked me up any time you liked.’ ‘We’ve been putting the information infrastructure back together. The software, the systems. We had the drones but we couldn’t communicate with them. We can now. We’ve got phones, too – a basic network up and running again. We’re piecing things back together, back how they used to be, but we need people like you.’ ‘I want to help people, of course I do, but—’ ‘You don’t have to live like this,’ he carries on as if I hadn’t said anything. ‘You don’t have to live the way this lot do, sitting in the dirt like savages. Your kids don’t have to go hungry or cold. They don’t have to be ill.’ ‘What d’you mean?’ ‘There are places with electricity, heat, food, medicine.’ ‘In England?’

‘England, Scotland, Wales. There are pockets of civilisation left. Enclaves. For the ones who can contribute.’ ‘Cities?’ He shrugs. ‘Parts of cities, some buildings, country estates, farms. Places that thought ahead. Planned. Wind turbines, solid fuel burners, solar panels. Some of them survived intact. Others have been repaired.’ He smiles and throws his empty bottle into the fire. ‘It’s going to be a hard winter, Adam. Hardest since 2010.’ I know he’s right. There are at least three people in the camp who won’t make it to the spring. I think of Marty and Luke and Mia and Sarah, of the last two years just getting by.

Pockets of civilisation.
The thought of being indoors, warm and dry, is almost painful. ‘What would I have to do?’ Saul claps me on the back like it’s a done deal. ‘Play your part, my friend. Play your part. We’re laying the foundations for a different society, where intuition and science work hand in hand. The old ways and the new. People who are special, people like you, who’ve been misunderstood, we want to understand you.’

Gifted. Misunderstood. Understand.
I know he’s choosing his words carefully, spinning them. I can feel he’s pulling my strings and I don’t like it. But they’re warm words. They make me feel warm. ‘Talk to Sarah about it,’ he says, all calm. ‘Talk to her now. Come back and tell me what she says.’ ‘She’s probably asleep by now. I don’t want to wake her.’

‘So talk to her first thing. I’ll still be here.’ I picture him sitting there all night. Waiting for my answer. And only one answer will do.

Chapter 7: Sarah I hear him before I see him, the twigs snapping under his
boots. ‘What did they want?’ There’s a knot of fear in the pit of my stomach. ‘They want me to help them, help the government.’ ‘Why you?’ ‘Because of my … gift. I can see where trouble’s coming and get people away from it. Like I did in the Chaos.’ ‘Adam, these are the same people that tried to stop you then. What’s changed?’ ‘I think they just understand now that I can be useful. They see me as a leader.’ This sounds like bullshit to me. ‘I don’t trust them,’ I say. ‘Neither do I,’ he says, ‘but they’re saying we can go with them, go to somewhere warm and dry, where they’ve got doctors, electricity, everything we haven’t had for two years. You want to settle somewhere, Sarah. You want somewhere safe for Marty and Luke, and Mia and the baby. This could be it.’ ‘I thought we’d found it here.’ ‘Here’s still living in a tent in a wood, isn’t it? What Saul’s talking about is different. Back to civilisation. You can tell they’ve all had enough food. They’re well kitted out. They’ve come from somewhere that’s okay.’

Somewhere that’s okay. In my head I’m back at my parents’ house, before the quake, before I ran away. There’s deep soft carpet under my bare toes; I’m sinking into a claw-foot bath full of bubbles; watching Hollywood blockbusters on a wall-sized screen. I’ve got everything … the sort of life people dream about. But it’s rotten to the core. My family was poisoned and the house was a beautiful cage in which my dad could do whatever he wanted. And he did – night after night after night. ‘People make a home, Adam. You said that. And that man’s a thug. You saw what he did to Mia.’ ‘But we can save Mia and your brothers from living like animals. Think about it. Regular food, a roof over our heads.’ ‘I don’t know. I don’t trust him.’ ‘You haven’t heard what he’s offering. You talk to him in the morning. You’ll see.’ I look at him closely. There’s something about him. His eyes are flicking all over the place. He’s not being straight with me.

He don’t want to answer her. ‘You’re right. It’s pretty impressive. waiting. Up to three .’ ‘There are five of us and three of you. ‘The Cotswolds’. Take an hour or so. just the way he said he would. But she’s pulling her coat further round her and instead of hiding her stomach. more like she used to be when we first got together. ‘Eight into three doesn’t go. it just draws attention to it. one pillion per bike. She obviously knows more than me. The sleeping bags and the rifles have gone. eventually. don’t want to tell us exactly where we’d be going. or are.’ Sarah says. Sarah fires questions at him. and I can’t—’ She stops mid-sentence and I realise she doesn’t want Saul to know about the baby. ‘That must be fifty miles from here. and then.’ he says.Chapter 8: Adam At first light. we leave the boys and Mia sleeping. Mia can’t go on a bike and I don’t think the boys should either. The other two aren’t there. ‘How would we get there?’ ‘Got some big bikes here. I don’t even know what The Cotswolds is. He’s still sitting next to the fire. But I can tell Saul’s impatient. that’s all. and I know the penny’s dropped. Sarah. All we get is ‘south’. So it’s one rider. Saul looks her up and down. and make our way to where I left Saul. Anyway. She’s like a Rottweiler.

’ He lunges towards me. ‘Your final word?’ There’s a warning note in his voice. you. ‘Are you saying I’m selfish to care about my family?’ She’s really riled now. but there’s a bigger picture here.’ He clenches his jaw and there’s a flash of temper in his eyes. ‘We’ll stay here for the winter. ‘Never. ‘Not now. and Mia. ‘I’m arresting you. ‘That’s it. I’m thinking hot food.’ I say. Adam. I’m thinking helping people. It’s all so quick. You’ve got a murder charge to answer.passengers – Adam. Adam Dawson. or had you forgotten?’ Sarah’s barged out of the way and she staggers sideways.’ They both turn to look at me. if you like. I’ve made my mind up and I know it’s the right thing to do.’ she says. but it don’t matter what he says now. Then he turns back to me. firmly. ‘In that case you don’t give me any option. He’s yanking my arm up so hard it feels like it’s going to come .’ I put my hands on Sarah’s shoulders. But I know Sarah’s right. using the numbers like I did before. I have to be with her now and she ain’t going nowhere without the boys. I’m thinking warm beds.’ Just for a moment her jaw drops. tell him. and I feel the tension go out of them. Tell him!’ ‘This isn’t a time for selfishness – it’s a time to think about what we can do for others.’ I say. I know Adam is important to you but he’s also important to all of us. like he’s scoping out who’s where. He looks around quickly. Saul. shoves me round and twists my arm up behind my back. We won’t leave my brothers. ‘Is that it?’ he says. I don’t have time to react. ‘No. grabs my wrist. ‘No. ‘Yeah.’ Saul says smoothly.

My arm flops to my side. His face is like thunder. ‘Bastard!’ I gasp. Let Adam go and get out. All I can hear is the blood pounding in my ears as Saul tightens his grip on my wrist. ‘You can’t pull a gun on me. I stumble a couple of paces away from Saul then turn and face him. ‘Let him go.’ I look up and I’m staring at the barrel of a gun. ‘Thanks. but it’s not aimed at me. He’s calm. Saul. Then he drops it. You’re not welcome here any more. Adam. I want to slam my fist in his face.’ For a few seconds there’s silence. his eyes fixed on Saul. you.’ Saul spits.’ I say. Adam. He pulls harder. If I see your face in our camp again. man. ‘Let him go. A moment later we hear the bikes starting up. Step away from him.’ Saul backs away with his hands up. For such a chilled guy. I feel cold inside. he does a good job as a Wild West sheriff. That guy.’ . ‘I’m acting for the government. Saul. Daniel’s got Saul in his sights. I’m guessing he’s trying to neutralise you.’ ‘I don’t give a stuff about your government.’ he says again. and don’t come back. I turn to Daniel. ‘No problem. ‘Right.’ Daniel’s in control. Twenty metres away. He’s not the sort of bloke who forgives and forgets. he turns and stalks off into the forest. get out of here. Watching him.out of its socket. it’ll get blown off. You’re a legend. ‘That’s it. Daniel and Saul stare each other out. This is my camp. I can’t tell who’s going to crack. Now.

it feels like the whole place is breathing a sigh of relief.’ I say.’ ‘They’ve gone now. It’s all right.’ I look him in the eye. ‘Cheers. A bit of back-slapping and we draw apart.‘What?’ ‘Take you out of circulation. He was right about that – you’re important to all of us. Sarah was right to remind me.’ she says. 3152066. ‘stay here.’ he says. get out of your hair. There’s no always. making the ground sparkle. People are tending to their fires. We should move on. Then I hear Marty and Luke.’ ‘Who needs me?’ Daniel looks surprised. It’s people that matter. but I get what he’s trying to say and I appreciate it. almost ghost-like. Adam. I put my arm round her. ‘What do you think they’ll do next?’ Daniel asks. I s’pose. away from the people who need you. ‘I dunno. They’re yelling. And you’ll always have friends here. But they’ll be back.’ ‘Sarah?’ She’s quiet and pale beside me.’ ‘No. ‘They’ve gone now. Don’t think they’ll leave it at that. After the tension of the last twelve hours.’ We walk through the camp to our tent. There was a frost last night and now the sunlight filters through the branches above us. ‘I don’t like guns. and I make to high-five him but he grabs my hand and pulls me in for a hug. Always. listening to the sound of the bikes leaving. You’re welcome. We’ve all been hoping you’d come. ‘All of us. trying to keep the tears away. I’m blinking hard. . not for anyone.

holding his face. I sprint towards the tent and dive in. his face streaked with tears. Mia’s bed is empty. Finally. His breath’s coming in ragged bursts. ‘Mia … Mia …’ is all Marty can say. First I see Luke lying outside the tent.Sarah and I run. Then Marty running towards us. I see the back of the tent. She’s gone. . It’s slashed from top to bottom.

his . waiting. but there’s pure adrenalin in my veins now. I’m way behind Adam. the edge of the tent flapping gently. ‘It was those men. Marty. We’ve only been gone a few minutes. My stomach throws me off balance. two. Someone must have been watching. He’s heading towards the road. He’s fast. It …’ Adam’s on his feet and running into the forest. They skid round and face us: one. It’s not my fault. not like this. For a moment I’m paralysed.’ I say. ‘I’m sorry. I have to. Mia’s on the second bike. Saul’s men. thrashing through frosty brushwood. ‘What did you see?’ I scream. too. three.’ he sobs.’ And then I’m running. ‘I didn’t mean to … Stay there. I reach the road a split second before the riders do. What did you see?’ I grip his shoulders. I shake him. I’ll be back. Maybe it’s not too late. While we were talking to him … ‘Marty. still crying. I’m sorry. tell me. They’re not clear of the woods yet. I used to be but not any more. scrambling after Adam. He tries to squirm away from me. crunching. I’m looking past Adam at that gaping hole. I can hear the engines revving and stuttering. The other took Mia … Don’t shout. She’s wrapped in her stripy blanket and the big man with the long hair is holding her.Chapter 9: Sarah They’ve taken her. slipping. I have to get to her. ‘One hit Luke in the face. and look after Luke.

‘No! No! Mia!’ There’s an explosion next to me. The bikes are huge – great hunks of angry metal. accelerating down the road. It’s insane. no more. sliding along the road. and for a moment she stops struggling and looks up. I don’t want Mia’s bike to crash. ‘Stop it! Stop it!’ I heave myself up. Was it the second bike that went down? Is it Mia? Adam and Daniel and I start running at the same time. but I can’t just let them go without trying to stop them. teeth gritted against the pain. The bike swerves away from him and towards me. putting both hands on the barrel of his gun and pushing it up towards the sky. He’s shooting right at them. His eyes are on Mia and the second bike. Stop it!’ He drops the gun away from his face. and throw myself at him.arm clamped round her middle. She’s struggling. The third bike weaves to the left and then they’re away. trying to block their path. Something’s thrown clear. I’m in . The wing mirror hits me in the chest. The other two bikes are slowing – they’ve twigged that they’re a man down. ‘Mia!’ Adam’s sprinting towards the bikes. Then another and another. He tries to grab the handlebars. My heart skips a beat. in our direction. They pause for a second. One of the bikes skids and goes over. I can’t work out who’s on the ground. It’s Daniel. and I’m thrown backwards. Saul and his mates aren’t fazed by us. From here. ‘I’m going for their tyres!’ ‘Mia’s on one of them. Saul blasts past first. Adam jumps out of the way. ‘Mia!’ I scream. Her face is a picture of terror. then they rev up and launch themselves forward.

All my breath seems to leave my body. It’s only then that Saul seems to notice Adam and Daniel and me. One of the bikes is turning round. He doesn’t look my way – or at Adam. pulls a revolver from his belt. examining the body on the ground. Saul’s eyes are cold and steely. cradle my stomach with my hands. We stop in our tracks. Mia’. It’s the wiry man. He is completely calm. ‘You shot at me. No reaction. or Daniel. he gets to his feet. I stretch my legs out.’ Daniel drops his rifle and we do as we’re told. I’m fifty metres away now as it screams to a halt. He’s crouching down. A pool of dark liquid is spreading out over the tarmac. ‘Drop your gun. but he can’t hear me or he doesn’t care. and shoots three times. the barrel pointing at the man’s chest.’ he says. He looks up and swings his straightened arm towards us. the other is carrying on down the road. and you shot at my men. Instead.agony. Adam’s closer. He points the revolver at Daniel. but I don’t stop. He doesn’t turn his head. Mia. The bike’s going to get there first. put your hands up and keep them up. One body. It’s Saul. holds his arm out straight. willing myself to go faster. Mia’s on the other bike with the long-haired man. gasping and sobbing. ‘Saul! Saul! Please …’ I’m gasping now. She’s gone. I’m shouting as I’m running now. All I can think of is Mia. terrified. The rider dismounts. The body jerks with the force of the bullets. stumbling towards him. ‘Mia. appalled. .

He fires.’ Saul barks.’ Adam stares at the corpse on the ground and the black pool of blood around it. It’s a beast of a machine and it takes him a couple of goes to manage it. ‘What?’ Adam’s in shock. screaming and clutching his knee. Daniel falls to the ground. I’m screaming.’ Still with his hands above his head. ‘Adam. Saul looks at him with barely disguised contempt. Now take his helmet. Do it. My stomach contracts. My legs are shaking now. The engine’s still running. pick this bike up. ‘Can you ride one of these?’ ‘I’ve never tried. ‘Stand it up. Adam stumbles to the bike.’ He tries to wrestle the bike upright. The barrel of the gun moves in my direction. too.’ It could be my turn next. He hesitates.’ The sound of my name makes my blood freeze.’ ‘What?’ ‘You heard me. It’s for Sarah. ‘Shut up. His eyes are almost blank with terror. You kick it out.’ ‘It’s not for you. I’m going too. Sarah. the skin as tight as a drum across the baby inside me. .’ ‘Put it on its stand. ‘Pick this bike up. Now. ‘I don’t wannit.

Sarah. There’s no time to tell them anything.’ Adam says.’ Adam’s crouching down by the wiry man’s side. Be brave. . I have to hope they’ll be looked after. My voice is muffled by the helmet. surely someone will look after them. ‘I’m pregnant. Don’t make me ride a bike. Give the helmet to Sarah and then get on that bike. Luke … It’s too quick. ‘It’ll be safer for you.’ I croak. but I have to.’ says Saul. his blood going in my hair. God. ‘The boys? What about my brothers?’ I say. ‘Don’t worry. ‘Not on a bike.’ The thought of putting on a dead man’s helmet. is making me gag. Oh. bringing his gun up once more. ‘Can’t I? Shut up and get that helmet on.’ says Saul. His eyes are closing. It comes away but the man’s head thumps down onto the surface of the road.’ Adam says to me. Someone. ‘God. He supports his lifeless head and undoes the buckle with shaking hands. Saul mounts his bike and pats the saddle behind him with the gun. Saul. the blood from his leg’s pouring onto the road. ‘He didn’t feel a thing.’ He points his gun directly at me. ‘Get on.’ Adam helps me onto Saul’s bike.’ He raises the helmet over my head and brings it down. ‘We just have to do it. ‘I don’t want to. You can’t make me.’ ‘You’ll sit behind me.’ I don’t want to say it.’ He’s immovable.‘No. ‘I’m not going to ask you again. Inhuman. The helmet gets stuck when he tries to lift it off and he yanks at it. Marty. under his breath. I take one last look at Daniel.

Then Saul starts his engine up and I get the fright of my life. Adam clambers onto his bike. ‘Come on.’ Saul shouts. Touching him makes me feel sick.’ Saul repeats.‘Put your hands on my waist.’ Saul says. ‘Kick it with your left foot and twist the throttle. You’ll get it. I watch over Saul’s shoulder as he starts to weave down the road. He pulls up. Throttle’s on the right handlebar. What choice do I have? I reach forward and grip the leather of his coat. ‘we’ve got some catching-up to do. Let’s go. twist it to go faster. Who is the man I’m holding on to for dear life? This coldblooded murderer? And what does he want with us? . too. It’s like the thing’s alive – the noise.’ He sits. the vibration is overwhelming. then tries again. I have to. watching as Adam’s hands fumble at the controls. Suddenly we’re lurching forward and my bum’s sliding back. This time it’s smoother. I grip Saul tighter. Clutch is on the left. Brake lever’s there. I dig my fingertips into Saul’s body as the world around us becomes a blur. Adam’s bike jerks forward and he nearly topples off. Kick it into first gear with your left foot. the smell.

I do my best to steer a good course. There are pot-holes and cracks all over the shop. Saul and his mate look like they belong on these things with their leathers and their gloves and their Nazi-style helmets. she’s still just a little girl. I can do this. . I’m so scared I can hardly breathe. and it’s rattling my brain against the inside of my skull. I got nothing. super-charged machine. the engine’s roar goes up and up. I can hear Saul behind me now. but I can’t see the other bike ahead yet. but in my mind I keep seeing that guy lying in the pool of blood. only this is more frightening than any theme park. I run through the controls in my head – right for brake and throttle. I have another go and the clutch bites this time. The clutch has got me foxed: as I increase the throttle. I’m riding this thing in a hoody and jeans. Concentrate. I can do it. Is Mia okay? She was kicking and struggling before – I hope to God she’s staying still. like a kid on a fairground ride. Still and safe. If I come off I’ll be raspberry jam on the road.Chapter 10: Adam I’ve never ridden anything bigger than a scooter before and this is a massive. Whatever weird power she might have. the roar dampens down. but I don’t get it. left for clutch. The bike’s screaming now. Don’t think about it. like a wasp singing scales. I have to get to her. Sarah’s little girl and the one who calls me Daddy. but it don’t change up. I try to change gear. The engine jerks and kicks.

travelling at this speed is a buzz. Her face is white as a sheet. I twist round to see how close he is and the bike tips under me. if … Now I’m thinking about Saul’s number. Bang. if. And then he turned his gun on Daniel … But Dan’s number is sometime in 2066. The world looks different from the saddle of a bike. Yes. Saul is only a few metres behind. Just like that. But I never seen something that cold-blooded. One more twist on the throttle and at last I get a glimpse of the back of a bike ahead. And now I’m back to thinking about him firing his revolver into the guy on the ground. the edges are blurred. Sarah’s leaning forward. Just like Mia’s. You lose the detail. If I wasn’t so shit-scared for Mia and Sarah. bang. I seen people pulling knives on each other. especially during the Chaos when it felt like all the normal rules had gone and people were just looking out for themselves. If. Just like Mia’s. bang. I wrestle with it ’til I can feel the balance again. the way it shimmers in and out of focus. the smell of oil in your nostrils. The noise from Saul’s bike is getting louder. the pulsing of the engine in your hands and legs. she’s gritting her teeth so hard her jawbone’s almost jutting .I twist the throttle again and the bike surges forward. I seen fights. I seen things before. He should be okay. It was like he was putting down an animal. Just like Mia’s. but your senses sharpen up. I’m catching them. if it don’t change. There’s the wind on your face. I might even enjoy it. holding him round the waist. It goes round and round in my head. Saul’s bike draws level. too. threatening to tip over the other way. After two years of walking. veering across the road. bad things. Shit! I lean the other way and it rights itself.

Saul lifts one hand off the handlebars and gives me a mock salute. but it’s too late. There’s a crack in the tarmac across my side of the road and my front wheel hits it square on. I tear my eyes away. then skews round. Just like Mia’s.through her skin. my feet flung up above my head – and the last thing I hear is the sound of Sarah screaming. . I don’t know how much more of this she can take. Our eyes meet and I get a flash of his shimmering number. The handlebars are wrenched sideways out of my hands and suddenly I’m flying.

And then nothing. but I’m on the ground and cradling Adam’s face before Saul’s even got the bike on its stand. ‘There’s a pulse. His body is powerless against the laws of physics. He’s out cold. ‘Move!’ He pushes me roughly to one side and puts his fingers to Adam’s neck.’ he shouts. He was an accident waiting to happen. north of the . ‘Man down. I slam into Saul’s back as he brakes. Over Saul’s shoulder I watched him struggling with it.Chapter 11: Sarah From the start Adam never looked in control of the bike. ‘Let me. smack down on his back.’ Saul says. He reaches into the inside of his jacket and brings out a phone. ‘Adam! Adam. apart from our engine and my screams.’ He moves his hand in front of Adam’s nose. He lands six or seven metres away from his bike. fighting to keep his balance. No movement. ‘We’re on the A46. hands and feet hitting the ground a split second later. ‘Get off. no noise. I haven’t seen one for two years. can you hear me?’ His eyes are closed. Velocity. There are bits of bike raining down around him.’ he says. And now it has. momentum. ‘And he’s breathing.’ He sounds so relieved it’s almost odd. resistance.

‘Can I go with him in the ambulance? Please?’ Again. Each second is like an hour. It’s the first time . Really. his legs twitch. Oh. ‘Will he …?’ No one hears me. really bad. Twenty minutes. Since the Chaos. almost to himself.s.M4 junction. this is bad. It’s as if I’m not there.’ Neck. the smallest sign. ‘The medics will be here in twenty minutes. he turns onto one side and then the other.p. They fire questions at Saul – what. as restless as he is awake. He just looks like he’s asleep. but I can’t leave Adam’s side. The ambulance – a four-wheel-drive – doesn’t announce itself with a siren. when. God. I’m ignored. Saul paces up and down.a. I’m pushed outside their circle and all I can do is peer through the gaps. Four people jump out. his fingers. looking for the slightest movement.’ He ends the call and turns his attention back to Adam. Launch a drone and get a fix on me. There’s no need.’ he says. But there’s nothing. except that I know he’s normally restless in his sleep. peering down the road. ‘Is he …?’ I splutter.’ Saul says curtly. brain function. there’ve been no cars on the road. he mutters and mumbles. back. how? – and all the time they’re getting to work on Adam. I scan Adam’s face. then ease him onto a stretcher. They fix a neck brace onto him. his feet. I need an ambulance here a. His brain function. ‘They’ll assess his neck and back. ‘Get back on the bike. Now he’s perfectly still.

But it doesn’t. Today. He’d leave me at the side of the road. there is a string of tents along the hard shoulder on one side and two people on horseback the other side. . With my boyfriend in an ambulance. I get on the bike. and a baby on the way. I’m expecting the track to go up. Corsham and Bath. And then I see it: a large metal door set into the hillside. A pair of uniformed men. nothing. without a second thought. but I doubt it. We set off before the ambulance does. like all I can do is watch while the world spins out of control around me. stand either side. Doesn’t make any difference to me. The road runs between gently rolling fields. It carries straight on. my daughter kidnapped. crossing a bridge over a motorway. ‘We’ll get there before they do. and I wonder if we’re heading for one of them when Saul starts braking. We pass signs for Chippenham. I’m confused. ‘You can get on the bike or I can leave you here.’ I say. or round. ‘Please.he’s spoken to me since the accident. I can’t face it. My legs ache and my chest hurts where the wing mirror of the other bike hit it.’ In that moment. armed with the same rifles as Saul and his men. in the middle of nowhere. helpless. There’s nothing there. Three years ago there would have been nose-to-tail traffic. I understand I mean nothing to this man.’ The bike. Literally. just a track leading to a dull-looking hill. I only brought you along so Adam would come. You might still be useful to us. A bunker. I feel numb. He barely looks at me.

I don’t move.’ Saul murmurs. The armed men salute. My joints are agony. ‘Is Mia here?’ I say to Saul’s back. empty corridor about twenty metres long – and then I really start to panic. Is he telling me the truth? I have no way of knowing.’ he says eventually. then. I don’t want to go inside the hill. I can’t do it. he grabs me round my waist with one arm and hauls me off the bike. I’ve got goosebumps everywhere. and my scalp’s tingling. a bright. I stagger as my feet hit the ground. and one of them slides back a bolt before pulling the door open. But there’s only one way to find out. ‘I’m losing patience. Saul pauses for a moment. My breath is tight in my throat. ‘I just need to stretch my legs—’ ‘Stretch them inside.’ he snaps. Sarah. ‘She’s here. The artificial glare of strip-lights on the . ‘Can you give me a minute?’ I ask. He doesn’t bother answering me. If I go in. The corridor is empty apart from a few wooden chairs lining the walls. ‘Is Mia inside?’ I ask again.We come to a stop by the metal door.’ he says. shut in with no light. before I can say anything. as if debating whether the information might be useful – to him. I look at the entrance in front of us – a square of light in the hillside. I don’t want to be buried in there. just kills the engine and dismounts. I’ll never come out. no fresh air. ‘Get off the bike.

I follow Saul to the grid. Safest place in England.’ His piercing black eyes turn on me. turning his back on me.’ he says to the guard. Sarah. and one way out. He’s wearing a tweed jacket under his white coat. The guard heaves the lift door shut. Just one way in. He slides open the metal grid. He’s the important one. The lift thunks to a halt. and behind that is something that looks like a lift door. Saul’s standing on the other side of the grid. you know. The white-coats barge past us at the double. but there’s already a whirring and whining sound. It’s an antique. and my stomach flips as the lift starts to drop into the earth. ‘Don’t worry. What the hell is this place? . heading to the bunker entrance. It’s thirty metres deep. and I spin round. and another uniformed guard. ‘And Adam. ‘I’m going to wait for Adam. ‘Adam Dawson’s ETA five minutes. At the end of the corridor is a metal grid.ceiling hurts my eyes. then winds the handle to ‘DOWN’. None of the other white-coats looks at me. The man merely nods. I step into the lift.’ ‘You will. I hear the grid slide shut behind me. though – the control panel isn’t a set of buttons but a retro dial with a metal handle. easily big enough for twenty people. Unimportant.’ Saul says to one as he passes. It’s as if I’ve become invisible.’ I say. There’s a mocking glint in them.’ ‘I want to see Mia. The whole thing judders. He presses a button on the wall.’ he replies. I’m dismissed. Then the door concertinas open to reveal a squad of people in white coats. It’s huge. ‘This is Sarah.

His hair’s too brown. I’m just not sure I’m called Adam. What happened? One of them’s talking to me now. not a hint of grey.’ I understand him. Face like it’s been squashed in a lift door. They’re faces with eyes and noses and mouths and numbers. Fifty-something. and a circle of faces begins to drift into focus. but I’ve no idea who they are or who I am or where I am. 8112034. Am I meant to know these people? I look from one to the other. if you can understand me. whoever he is. ‘Did you see that? He’s back. can you hear me?’ Now they’re shouting at someone called Adam. I feel sorry for the poor sod. A ripple of excitement runs round the circle of faces. All I know is I’m alive and breathing. ‘Adam. parted on one side and hanging in two curtains either side of his puffy cheeks.Chapter 12: Adam I can hear voices. I open my eyes a little but the light’s so bright I shut them again quickly. tweed jacket under a white coat. Adam! Adam!’ I open my eyes again. . blink now. ‘We’ve got eye movement … He’s coming round …’ Who are they talking about? ‘Adam. but I blink anyway. with people yelling at him like that. Adam.

Alarm bells are going off in my head. ‘You don’t know? Are you sure? What’s my number. trying to place him. The voice is in my head. Not ever. ‘Of course. past the big collar thing round my neck.’ I say. You mustn’t tell. Newsome. Adam?’ He asks it all casual. I don’t even know him. He’s got cropped grey hair and a scar above his left eye. Then I hear another voice. ‘We’ll try again tomorrow. Adam?’ ‘That’s enough. I start to relax. I don’t feel relaxed now. just lobs it in like any of his other questions. My mind’s racing to remember. His number’s shimmering as I try to get a fix on it. Leave it.’ he says. Bloody hell.’ he says. He should sleep. Adam. but I can’t get there. deep and sharp. Let’s get him downstairs. legs and feet – all in working order.’ The crowd thins out. ‘What’s my number. There’s a man standing on the other side of me. Not anyone. I move my eyes. ‘Now can you squeeze my hand?’ I peer down my body. The guy’s holding my left hand now. but it’s not the same.’ he says. ‘I dunno. But it’s not someone in this room. ‘Excellent. I don’t know him.’ It’s another voice speaking. Tweed Jacket straightens up. hands.’ He works his way round my body. ‘Remarkable. . ‘Can you feel that? Can you squeeze back?’ I squeeze back. Tweed Jacket looms over me.‘Good. I’ve seen him before. do I? Or is he my dad or something? His chubby fingers squeeze mine. but I’m pleased he’s pleased. Arms.

I’m going over and over what I’ve just seen. You mustn’t tell. I’m Adam. Adam who? . The faces. so it must be true. too. what I know. She called me Adam. but I’m not sleepy. the numbers … and that voice.I close my eyes again. the woman in my head.

Chapter 13: Sarah The lift thunks down. We’re at the bottom. but his hold is firm. keyholes and numbers. I try to note where we’re going. nervously. And now I don’t care about Saul and the soldiers and how weird this place is. but I don’t really take it in. The walls are lined with gurgling pipes and punctuated by metal doors with shuttered grilles at eye level.’ Mia. Relief floods through me.’ he says to me. The squaddie leads the way. Am I a prisoner? I look at him properly for the first time. Our footsteps echo dully on the concrete floor. ‘I’m to take you to see your daughter. Everything’s painted battleship grey. I just want to see Mia. The guard takes my arm. Every step feels like a step away from life and light and everything else I’ve ever known. and his military beret doesn’t seem to sit at the regulation angle. . It’s like a prison. He glances at me. ‘We’re trying to … settle her in. I try to shrug him off. This one’s dimly lit and concrete and so long I can’t see where it ends. He’s young. but it’s also a step closer to Mia and that’s what matters. The guard winds the handle to ‘OPEN’ and then drags the door back to reveal another corridor. She’s here. deeper and deeper into the tunnel. not much older than me. He’s got the beginnings of a moustache. I can hear a low mechanical throbbing in the background. He mutters something about food and a bed.

‘Mia!’ I shout. her arms and legs flailing. At the sound of her voice.’ I say. We might be prisoners. I hear a key turn in the lock. Mia.but we turn so many corners. I kiss her hair. Her eyes are puffy from crying. I get a glimpse of a square. It’s a cell. There’s a bathroom connected to it – for a moment. I think of running . her breath is hot in my face. The woman looks offended as she sweeps from the room. We stop next to a door with the number 1214. But the walls are bare and there’s no window. hug her. Then I hear a sound that makes me freeze. She’s alive. A woman is sitting on the bed and next to her is Mia. He doesn’t stop me. sobbing.’ she repeats. trying to control my sudden panic. ‘Mia!’ I push past the guard and rush into the room. plain room. The guard taps on it. I think. Mia increases the volume of her yells. Mia. clinging to me like a little monkey. slamming the door behind her. a single bed in the corner. I hug her closer and look around the room. ‘She was starting to settle. There are towels on the bed and clothes in two sizes. then she throws herself at me. and it swings open. ‘Locked in. A child crying. Mia stops mid-scream and opens her eyes. The noise is faint but unmistakeable. She lifts her head up from my shoulder. ‘We’re locked in. Give her hell. pass so many doors and everything looks the same battleship grey. but Mia’s here.’ she says. unconvincingly. Mia. her face screwed up and beetroot red. That’s my girl. I soon give up. Mia’s voice blasts out into the corridor. The woman stands up.

then Mia. The shampoo. I don’t care what that man said. the steam and the water all smell clinical. windowless walls. Holding her hand. and one way out. You’ll like it. The bathroom’s functional but clean. stare at the lock in the metal door and at the blank. sweatshirt and jogging bottoms. We step out of the shower and I wrap a towel round me while I get Mia dry and dressed. ignoring her protests. ‘Mia.water. When I hold up the others. But they’re doing their job. Mia shakes her head. One way in. The pipes creak and groan. I undress myself. then hot water squirts out of the shower head. having a hot shower for the first time in two years. clings to me harder. it’s obvious they weren’t expecting me to be pregnant. Soon she’s all pink and clean and warm. . I’ve got to get us out.’ I say. warm rain. We can’t stay here. Where is the air coming from? How can we breathe in here. Bits of twig and leaf stick in the plughole. I tip shampoo into the palm of my hand and rub it into our scalps. it’s like rain – nice. like we’re in a hospital. pulling her in gently after me. The bottoms are stretchy but they’re still pretty tight over my stomach. ‘Let’s have a wash. The smaller clothes on the bed are too big but she snuggles into them anyway. I take in the chemical smell of the shower lingering in the room. There are underclothes and a T-shirt. I turn on the shower.’ I’m not taking no for an answer. thirty metres down? Safest place in England. I step into the shower. the soap. The water draining away around our feet is grey.

This time when I wake up I don’t want to go back to sleep. Somewhere between dreaming and waking I’ve remembered who that voice was. No Dad. . walk for miles and miles.Chapter 14: Adam I go in and out of sleep for hours. I can see her now. was she tough. pupil reaction to light. There were icecreams. but boy. I can see it all. I’m asleep again. That’s who she was. the guy with the scar and the shimmering number – and the mattress I’m lying on. but there’s always some stranger there when I wake up. I’d chase the seagulls. and there are always questions. They soften the edges of the room. blood pressure. the guy with the tweed jacket. Jem Marsh. And sometimes there are injections. They blur the thoughts in my head and before I know it. just Mum. I don’t know how long. My mum. ‘How are you?’ ‘Can you feel this?’ ‘How many fingers am I holding up?’ And there are tests – temperature. We lived by the seaside. donkey rides. She was only little. We’d walk on the sand. the people around me – the nurses.

She must be my girl if I’m holding her like that. ridiculous purple. Her hair a brilliant. I feel a stab of grief just under my ribs as I realise she’s dead. She wrote them in a letter I only got after she died. She understood and she tried to help me. The inside of my nose tingles as I inhale the smoke from her cigarette. a circle of friends. even after she died. I kiss her hair and she twists her face up towards mine. Those words I heard. about not telling.’ she said once. It’s like losing her for the first time. Nan. She saw them too. blue eyes. Adam. my chin’s resting on the top of her head. And that’s where the numbers came from. My girl. My mum’s dead. and I see her blue. I could get lost in those eyes. My God. The smoke takes me somewhere else … I’m sitting by a bonfire. I can see her. What’s her name? Is she still mine? Where is she? . when she was growing up. But I loved her. She’s got her back to me and I’ve got my arms round her waist. too.’ she’d say. bloody-minded and proud of it. and I’ve got my arms round a girl. This girl. like it’s washed through with love. ‘My crowning glory. ‘I’ll be the last smoker in England. she never said them to me. I remember every word on that paper.And I’m her son. Perched at the kitchen table in her grotty house in West London. and I remember who gave it to me. I’m Adam. I’ve only just remembered her and now she’s died again. Her number’s a beautiful thing. in the middle of the woods. She scared the shit out of me at first – I thought she was my worst nightmare. not full of sadness and horror like most of them. I get a a comforting feeling from it. I’m in a circle.

my girl … Where am I? What is happening to me? .’ They’re back again. but I’m outnumbered. I try to fight them off.‘Time for another shot. Not yet. Two people in white coats.’ I don’t want it. No! Not now. to hold on to my memories … Mum. the other to stick in the needle. Nan. one to hold you down. though. ‘Have you got him?’ ‘Yes. I want to stay awake. There’s two of them for a reason. Quick.

absorbed by the trees and the stones. I’ve lost her. I’ve lost Mia in this cold and lonely place.Chapter 15: Sarah I can’t see her. When I open my eyes again. I scream her name. The air is perfectly still. My voice is swallowed by the fog. She’ll smile at me and hold her arms up for a cuddle. She’s gone. ‘Mummy! Mum-meee!’ Mia’s shaking my shoulder. I don’t know where we are or whether it’s night or day. gripping onto a stone. ‘What? What is it?’ ‘Mummy shouting. ‘Mia! Mia!’ How could I let her out of my sight? I only looked away for a second and she was gone. trying to breathe. The gravel crunches under my feet. terribly . But Mia is here. over and over.’ ‘Was I? Did I wake you up?’ This place is pitch black. and there’s no breeze. I can’t smell the musty closeness of our tent. And right now that seems terribly. until my throat is hoarse. She’s not there. closing my eyes. she’ll be here. and I leave the path and walk through and round and over the graves until the pain stops me again and I have to stand. I open my eyes.

But Mia doesn’t join in. ‘Let’s go back to sleep. My eyes start to make some sense of the darkness.important. but they’re still out there. It doesn’t feel right without Adam.’ I say. Mia. she reaches up and puts her hand on my mouth. They can hear us when we sing. I can’t remember the dream any more. But Adam … Where’s Adam? There was a crash. ‘We can’t see the stars here. I hope she’s somewhere different.’ I say. There’s a strip of light at the top and bottom of a door. Saul said they were bringing him here. too. but hearing her voice. and she points to the ceiling. We’re in a room. I wish I could sleep. ‘You don’t want “Twinkle”?’ ‘No stars.’ she says again. feeling her little hands digging into my shoulder feels like the answer to a prayer.’ she says. I put my arms round her and she snuggles in close. ‘Shall we sing “Twinkle”?’ I start singing. We sing together until her voice trails off and her breathing becomes regular and heavy.’ I start again. ‘No stars. Mia. Mia and me. and a bright rectangle where a shutter’s open a crack. although I know I won’t be sleeping any time soon. Halfway through. ‘Oh. She’s asleep. and this time Mia joins in. And then I get it. It stops me in my tracks. but did he arrive? Is he okay? Is he still alive? I’ve got Mia snuggled close. And now I remember. but suddenly this cell seems like a lonely place. He was flying through the air. a cell. somewhere better than this place. . They’re waiting for us. They haven’t gone away. how strange it must be for Mia to sleep indoors.

male. But this time it’s only one set of steps.but I can’t. The eye blinks. My heart skips a beat. I can make out the odd word. screaming in the night. scared of not getting one. There’s a door and a man outside and I’m trapped. I’m trying to think what I could use as a weapon if they come in. My dad’s dead but the panic’s still there. and there were two voices. It ends with a joke. ‘Who are you?’ I whisper. getting fainter until they’re finally gone. but getting louder until they’re outside my door. waiting to get me. They stop. Then footsteps. but I can’t make sense of their conversation. only a few centimetres away from mine. and moves away. Waiting for moments like this. My stomach turns over. I hold my breath. I look through the crack in the shutter. once. though. twice. I’m back in the house where I grew up. Are they laughing at me. I lift it up carefully and lay it on top of her. I can hear someone shouting. then I ease out from under the covers and tiptoe across the room. quiet at first. There’s an eye looking in. a long way away. There are voices. low. . I’m scared of getting an answer. There’s nothing. at us? Then footsteps start up again. Is someone still there? Mia’s arm is slung across my body. Two deep voices laughing in chorus. A man’s voice.

There’s something about that number … but I can’t get it. I don’t want this. ‘What the—?’ ‘Just a precaution. considering what you went through yesterday. My left wrist is held down and strapped too. doing more checks. As he looms nearer I realise he’s gonna attach most of these wires to my head. Adam.’ It’s the guy with the squished face again. sitting silently. Another assistant wheels forward a trolley with monitors and a bunch of wires like spaghetti on it. but I’m weak and there are two of them now. And next to him. ‘No—’ .’ Newsome says. Not right now. ‘Excellent. Newsome. Every time I look at him.’ ‘No.’ I try to fight back. is Grey-hair. the violence of his number hits me. It’s sickening and mesmerising at the same time.’ Before I know what’s happening. Your cognitive functions are excellent. He’s asking the questions now.Chapter 16: Adam ‘You’re doing very well.’ ‘We can’t have movement or the tests won’t work. the guy with the scar and the shimmering number. ‘So now it’s time for some more sophisticated tests. an assistant has put a leather strap through the arm of my chair and buckled it round my right wrist. no.

Really wrong. He turns to the bank of monitors next to him and fiddles with a couple of controls. brown hair that looks twenty years younger than him. Nothing more.’ ‘Okay. It’s got to be a wig. I haven’t asked you a question. I can’t tear my own eyes away. He still hasn’t said a word.’ I feel my temper flare. Stop it. Try to relax. He keeps reaching up. But he started this with the wriststraps. Stop!’ This feels wrong.’ ‘I haven’t started yet. ‘and I want you to fire the answers back at me. First thing that comes into your head. It’s a wig. but my jaw’s clenched and my arms and legs are tense and stiff as they tape me up.’ ‘What?’ ‘That’s what’s in my head right now.’ Newsome says. Just sit back. ‘Essential medical treatment. ‘Undo the straps. Newsome’s set up two other chairs facing me. .‘It’s all part of the assessment of your condition.’ Newsome says smoothly. They wire up my chest. Now he sits in one and Grey-hair sits in the other. ‘I’m going to ask you some questions. What’s that all about? Looks like something out of a spy film.’ I can’t do anything but sit there. I’m not going to make it easy for him. But his eyes … those dark eyes … and that number… . And my fingertips. They don’t need to shave my head: most of my hair was burnt off when I fell in the fire the night Junior died and the rest is so short they’ve got no trouble attaching the electrodes. tucking his hair behind his ear – the thick.’ He’s getting tetchy. too. so they can monitor my heart through the tests. Isn’t that what they do to see if you’re lying? ‘No way. about a metre away.

‘Nothing. What do . ‘Adam.’ ‘What do you see when you look in people’s eyes?’ Don’t tell. He’s focusing in on me.’ The assistant nearest the monitor says.’ One of the assistants stifles a laugh. He turns away and makes out he’s checking the monitors. ‘How old are you?’ ‘Eighteen.’ My mum was a Marsh. too? I can’t remember. and he leaps in. I hesitate.’ Some things are there in my head. ‘What’s your name?’ Start with the easy ones.’ He snaps a finger in front of my face. some things aren’t.’ ‘Adam who?’ ‘Adam … Marsh.’ without looking up. ‘Lie. then turns back to me. just a little bit. Adam. Let’s try telling the truth. ‘You heard him. but I’m not sure. ‘Where were you born?’ ‘Dunno. Newsome’s eyes narrow.‘What are you thinking?’ he says. ‘I was wondering … who cut your hair. and some colour creeps into his face. ‘What’s in there right now? Right now. Don’t ever tell. I think I see the corner of Grey-hair’s mouth twitch. He’s not looking at the monitors any more. Am I.’ ‘What’s your date of birth?’ ‘Twenty-second of August 2010.

’ ‘Do you see a number?’ Don’t tell. emphasising every word.’ ‘You see something else. the coloured bit. So now I’m alone with Grey-hair. He presses his lips together in disapproval and stalks out of the room gesturing to his assistants to follow. Sweet FA. sir. and he’s leaning in even closer see in people’s eyes. They’re squaring up to each other and there’s a moment’s silence. ‘It’s an order.’ ‘I’m fine. ‘No. then Newsome backs down. ‘I know you see something else.’ Grey-hair barks. Newsome.’ ‘Lie.’ ‘What do you see. ‘What is it.’ ‘Is that a question?’ He’s getting really narky now.’ ‘Do you see a number. . He gets up from his chair and puts a hand on Newsome’s arm. questions and answers firing back and forth. Adam?’ ‘No.’ ‘What?’ Newsome says. ‘Go and cool down. closing the door behind them. the white bit.’ ‘The black bit. ‘Nothing. you little bastard? What is it? What?’ He’s losing it now. ‘All right. Adam?’ We’re face to face. Take five.’ He shrugs the hand off.’ he says. Grey-hair steps in.

’ I don’t know what to say. ‘Blue eyes? Yes. It’s up to you. There’s no shame in telling that sort of secret. ‘What?’ ‘It’s okay to tell.’ Sarah. Adam. Or is. You want to see Sarah again. she does my friend. ‘I can help you. But some secrets are like cancer. ‘I know what it’s like.’ he says. Grey-hair frowns for a moment. ‘What it’s like to be different. Is that Sarah? ‘Does she have really blue eyes?’ The question blurts out of my mouth before my brain has a chance to stop it. And if you want to see those blue eyes again you’d better start cooperating.’ he says. Adam.He shuffles his chair forward a little and puts his face close to mine. by the fire? I don’t know who she was. 2572075. don’t you? She’s here. Now. shall I call Newsome back in?’ . Blonde hair and blue eyes. if you cooperate.’ Have I told anyone? Are the numbers secret? I can’t remember. folds his arms and smiles. If I start a discussion then I’m giving away that there’s something to discuss. Yes. ‘It’s okay. I can get you back with her. but what about the girl? The girl I had my arm round. There are big gaps between my childhood – my mum and my nan – and waking up in this place. they eat away at you. To keep secrets. My mum and my nan are both dead. then he sits back in his chair.

I just … look after people. he means. ‘There’s a guard out there. How about some milk?’ ‘Where Daddy?’ ‘We’ll see him later. like you. then closes it. ‘Do you want something to eat?’ ‘Where Daddy?’ I look at the squaddie. ‘He’s busy at the moment. It’s the same squaddie who escorted me from the lift to the cell. I’m not hungry.’ Mia’s waking up.’ he says. peel back the sheet and help her up.Chapter 17: Sarah I’m still awake when the cell door opens and breakfast is wheeled in on a trolley. and then back to Mia. sweetheart. He won’t look me in the eye. He doesn’t look at me.’ Then to the squaddie. There’s tea. She sees the squaddie and ducks down under the covers. milk and toast on the trolley. for your own security. He glances over his shoulder at the open door. ‘Good morning. voices in the corridor last night. Maybe they were changing shifts.’ I say. ‘Will we?’ ‘I can’t answer that. but I know we ought to eat. I go over to the bed. ‘I don’t know. She opens her eyes and looks around her. How many are there here? Who are they? What was that screaming I heard last night? .’ Prisoners. ‘I heard … things.’ I say brightly.

but we’re going to have a chat this morning. ‘Not until I’ve seen Adam. back on more comfortable territory. and metalrimmed glasses. ‘Where are we?’ I press him. almost squirming.’ And close your eyes to everything else?Is that true? He must know more.’ He almost smiles. professional busy-body. Someone like her took Mia away from me once.’ ‘Maybe some smaller clothes for Mia … and some bigger ones for me. ignoring her hand. ‘We don’t often have children here. holding her hand out towards me.‘But you know what’s going on here.’ she says. social worker type. The squaddie leaves. ‘Hello again. and Mia instantly turns her face away from the woman that comes in – she’s the one who was trying to comfort her yesterday when I arrived. I’ve met her type before. don’t you? What sort of place is this?’ He doesn’t answer. We got off to a bad start yesterday. ‘I don’t think that’s possible. Let’s have our chat and then we’ll see. shall we?’ . She smiles and smoothes her skirt. ‘Is there anything else you need? Mr … Saul said I had to ask. ‘I just bring the meals and work the lift. but … I’ll see what I can do. ‘I’m Marion.’ We’re on our second piece of toast when there’s another knock on the door. She’s wearing a sensible skirt.’ She sounds very sure of herself.’ I say. Someone just like her. He’s really uncomfortable now. a cardi.

I’ve been told that he’s awake and alert. ‘You’ll be able to see him later. ‘Come on. try and draw myself up a bit taller.’ she says firmly. and along to the interview room. a baby that opens its eyes when you sit it up and closes them when you lie it down. She picks up a doll.It’s not possible. the sort of tat that everyone used to have. ‘Let’s go. There are leather sofas. have a look at the place. a toy phone. but—’ ‘So how do you know he’s okay?’ ‘Sarah. ‘He’s fine. a coffee table.’ I fold my arms across my chest. It’s not what I was expecting.’ Marion ushers us into the corridor. ‘I’ve been told. Thank God.’ I say. and they’re running some tests. do you want to talk here or shall we go to the interview room?’ He’s okay. . We’ve got a chance to get out of this cell now. She looks at them and puts them to one side. making a show of attending to Mia. My legs are trembling a bit. Things that mean nothing to Mia now. I don’t want that bitch to see. so I turn away from her and crouch down. so I gather up Mia. and some toys for Mia. They’re ordinary enough. Now.’ ‘Fine? What does that mean? Have you seen him? ‘No. but they look like they’ve come from another age. a cash register – commonplace things before the Chaos.’ she says. Why? Because he never got here? Because he’s dead? Or still unconscious? What isn’t she telling me? ‘I’m not going anywhere until I know how he is. sweetheart. a tray with tea and biscuits. while taking some deep breaths to try and get my feelings under control. Plastic cars.

’ ‘Don’t you and Adam play that game? Whose nose? Whose ears?’ ‘No. Although. She’s her own person. She’s just her.’ ‘We’ll be all right. Adam’s Mia’s dad. which is what she is. And it says in my notes that you’re an artist – is that . puts the file on her knee. Halligan through and through. There’s a file on the coffee table. surely. but it was easier than telling the truth. That’s what I told the nosy social worker who found me living in the squat in London. Marion sits on one of the sofas. but I don’t want sympathy from her.’ I say. ‘Mia’s very good. Officially. but it’s blonde and she’s got blue eyes.She’s hooked.’ I block. ‘What about her talents? She’s precocious in her speech for two. ‘So. ‘S’pose. ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Who do you think she takes after? You or her dad?’ This is dangerous territory. What’s in the file? Is it about me? Or Adam? I sit on the opposite sofa and cross my arms again. ‘I don’t look for that. and opens it. ‘That’s going to be difficult for you. It was just a spur of the moment thing. somewhere I don’t want to go. all the Halligan features.’ It’s not a question. but she doesn’t follow it up. you and Adam have been together for quite some time. almost afro. it’s an obvious lie if you stop to think about it – Mia’s skin’s darker after two years in the open and her hair is curly. ‘We don’t play games.’ ‘And you’ve got one child and one on the way?’ She tries to look sympathetic.’ She must have sussed us.’ I say.

‘Where did that image come from. leaning forward. It’s gone. I haven’t picked up a pencil. and she moves it out of my view. and the city in ruins and houses in flames?’ ‘Yes. ‘I did dream it up. She’s sitting on the edge of her chair. She’s pushing me and I want to push back.’ She’s got under my skin now. a vision of the Chaos. or even a lump of charcoal for two years. ‘But it’s fascinating. but I don’t see it any more. It must have come from somewhere.something Mia’s good at too?’ An artist. You saw the future. didn’t you? That’s pretty powerful stuff. Yes. That’s where I got the picture. ‘You painted a mural. I don’t want anyone looking inside my head. Every night.’ Something else I’m uncomfortable talking about.’ I’m looking her in the eyes now. The same one. Sarah? How did you know what was going to happen?’ ‘That was two years ago.’ ‘And you saw Adam and Mia.’ ‘Oh. over and over. ‘You had a dream?’ ‘Yes. ‘That just shows what you know. I try to look at it. . or brush. You were able to express it.’ I say. come on. My dreams. my nightmares – they’re best forgotten. you didn’t just dream it up. I’d pretty much forgotten that side of me. Sarah. What’s the point of talking about it?’ She puts the file down on the desk in front of her. All of that. Where did that vision come from?’ ‘Nowhere. defiant.

’ Marion reaches into a cupboard and pulls out a wedge of paper and some coloured wax crayons.’ I want this to stop now. This is getting out of order. Sarah?’ ‘Nothing. but Mia’s nothing to do with anyone else. ‘Leave her alone.It’s past. but it’s only her mouth that’s moving. I scream her name … ‘You don’t dream anything at all?’ ‘That’s right. Sarah.’ ‘Let’s try her with these. Let’s see. that’s all. ‘Can you choose a pretty colour and draw me a picture?’ . death dates like her dad. or visions like you?’ I scoop Mia up from the floor onto my lap. do you think? Does she see numbers. ‘Mia.’ she says. My dreams have stopped. ‘More than a baby. ‘Nothing. She can talk.’ ‘And Mia. She’s a toddler. how does she fit into this?’ ‘She doesn’t.’ Marion smiles.’ ‘What do you dream now. ‘I’m not touching her.’ She gets up and walks round the coffee table.’ I say. She brings the doll with her. She’s my daughter. She’s just a baby. Her eyes are cold and searching. I can cope with questions about me. shall we? Perhaps she’ll draw for us. ‘What does she see.’ I’ve lost Mia in this cold and lonely place.’ ‘You know what I mean.

She looks at the crayons in the plastic envelope. I lower myself onto the floor next to her. Then she traces round the outside of the blue. Mia peeks sideways at them for a moment. ‘It must be innate. ‘for a two-year-old. but it’s only the first few movements that are uncontrolled. leans forward so her face is only a few centimetres from the paper. Marion puts the crayons and paper on the floor. She must have got it from you. for a part of me that’s been lost. She’s turned the crayon in her fingers so that instead of gripping it in her fist. and for the childhood that Mia hasn’t had. Then she does something else quite deliberate. ‘From within. That crayon goes back and out comes a red one. but I can’t help but watch.’ Marion says. She still hasn’t forgiven Marion for yesterday. I can’t tell what she’s drawing. Without anyone showing her. For a moment I feel sad. hasn’t she?’ She’s making notes in her file. Mia’s making deliberate marks. and then I realise it’s true. fascinated. desperate not to miss anything. Within a minute or so. Marion looks over Mia’s shoulder intently. then looking up and studying Mia again. pulls a face and buries her head in my shoulder. she’s holding it between her thumb and index finger.’ I say. I say scribbling. puts the blue one back and picks out a pink one. She’s got it. shapes on the paper. ‘That’s remarkable. Undaunted. but it’s definitely something – a shape like a potato with a couple of lines coming out of it. Then she slithers down from my lap and kneels by the crayons.’ ‘She’s never seen me draw. .’ Marion says.Mia looks at her. I can’t help being fascinated. I didn’t want this. She draws a similar shape next to the first one. she grabs a blue crayon. and starts scribbling.

’ I say. ‘What are you drawing?’ She’s hunched over the paper. If Adam was here. but I don’t need to see it. but also dark blue. a lump rises in my throat. Are they okay? Mia reaches for the crayons again and draws two more potatoes. I smile back at her. ‘Mummy and Daddy. and she turns and smiles at me. A shiver runs down my spine. ‘What about Marty and Luke?’ As I say their names. Mia. Adam’s the red one. of course. Just like Adam’s nan. ‘Drawin’. ‘It’s beautiful.’ ‘I know.’ I say. harsh and gravelly: Lavender. I look at my daughter. The first time I met her Val described my aura. Marty with tears running down his face. And she’s not just got Val’s number.’ she says. the haze of colour I carried with me. I’m the blue and pink potato. he’d see her number. What is it?’ She sits back up on her heels and points to her picture. And all bathed in pink. one green and yellow. one orange. I know. . She’s got Val’s gift. In my head I’ve got images of Luke clutching his face. I can hear her voice now. 2022054. ‘Me drawin’. the tip of her tongue sticking out of the corner of her mouth.’ she says. She sees us as colours.‘That’s lovely. proud of what she’s done.

Never tell. ‘I see a number. Saul’s next to him. his squashed face. but I feel uneasy saying it. what do you see when you look in my eyes?’ I look at Newsome. you’re doing this for Sarah.Don’t ask me what I see in Saul’s eyes – I don’t know if I could find the words.’ Saul joins in now. ‘I don’t tell people. ‘Adam.’ Newsome starts again. Never tell. Adam. Don’t tell. didn’t I? I don’t tell. Don’t tell.’ It’s true. It’s the right thing to do.’ It’s the truth.Chapter 18: Adam ‘For the last time. Adam. ‘It’s wrong.’ I say. It’s the answer to his question. echoing the voice in my head. the death in his eyes. but why does this feel so wrong? ‘What’s my number?’ I stop. ‘What does the number mean?’ ‘It’s the date you’re going to die. ‘What’s my number?’ he repeats.’ ‘But I’m asking you to. remember? It’s all right to tell. ‘Do you think you’re the only one who can see them?’ . What’s my number?’ ‘I just said.

running a paper printout through his hands. What’s my number? Say it. Say it. ‘Say it.’ ‘I can’t. I told Saul I’d cooperate for Sarah’s sake. but he won’t. will they? My body’s tense against the restraints. Something to make it easier for me to tell him what he wants to know.‘No.’ ‘8112034. ‘I don’t want to say it. I got nothing to say.’ ‘You’re right.’ He’s too close to me. That’s what we deal in here – facts. and it’s okay.’ I want him to back off. ‘I don’t want to. ‘You told the truth. A fleck of his spit hits my cheek. Say it. I dunno. measurements.’ ‘Say it. I know I don’t have any choice … but this feels wrong. exhausted. ‘What’s my number?’ I’m squirming now. I sink into the chair. right in my face. Other people do see them.’ I don’t know if this is just a line. ‘There. I’ve just told him when he’s going to die and there’s no .’ He sounds smug. Other people tell. There’s no harm in telling the truth. My head flops down onto my chest. evidence. They just won’t let it go. was it?’ I don’t answer. like he’s got the answer to everything. He’s looking back at the screens. Wasn’t difficult. There might be other people but I don’t know.’ ‘Just say it.’ The fight goes out of me. my mind’s twisting and turning.

emotional reaction. We’re trying to save the British nation here. People like you hold the key. Just start somewhere.’ ‘What’s that got to do with me?’ ‘We need people like you. get us back where we should be.’ I say. shall we?’ ‘No. ‘You can help us understand the future.’ Saul says. Just walk outside this place and start looking.’ ‘We’ve only just started.’ ‘I’m not part of the government.’ ‘Na-ah. Adam. where it’s not worth our while.’ ‘But what if they’re going to die anyway? We can’t waste our resources. I’m done. who’s sitting quietly. He looks to Saul. this is important work. Adam. you’re against us.reaction.’ ‘If you’re not with us. He puts down the printout and tucks his hair behind his ears. . Adam.’ ‘Adam.’ The room falls silent.’ ‘So you want me to tell you where not to bother? Screw that. We need to know where we can help. We need a generation of strong leaders.’ he says. ‘We need you to cooperate fully. ‘I’m done. Resources are scarce. ‘Let’s have a few more questions.’ Newsome pauses and moves back from me. ‘Governments have to make tough decisions. There are people starving everywhere. people who can establish order. It’s about targeting them effectively.’ Newsome says. Do something. no human.’ ‘You don’t need me for that. We need intelligent early warning systems. ‘You can’t be emotional about this. listening intently. Adam. put the country back on its feet.

‘You lose your temper.’ I try to sit up.’ ‘I want to understand. I want his bullying and his threats out in the open.’ There’s a long silence. ‘Who knows where you are now? Who’d miss you?’ The girl. be stubborn. thrust my chin out. I don’t want him to win. believe me. too. support us. You and Sarah. be childish and be crushed. ‘You’ve got a choice. You killed one of our best operatives two days ago. Gone. I’m feeling like I could lose it now. and I do lose control. What’s he saying isn’t right. Sarah. You can help us. We need to understand how your gift works. You could be a leader. My girl. He shouldn’t be saying this stuff. You’re not in control when you’re angry. something noble. I don’t like this guy. But he’s right. You’re unpredictable. if he pushes me any further. pulling against the straps. ‘What do you mean?’ I know what he means but I want him to say it. What did you expect?’ That old charge again and a new accusation on top. We need you on side. You know when now but what if you . You could be a huge asset to us. I do lose my temper. be part of something great.’ I twist my head away from him. ‘8112034 doesn’t seem to mean anything to you. Adam. Does she know I’m here? Would she miss me? I can’t answer Newsome. Or disappear. but why tie me up? Why humiliate me?’ ‘You killed a boy two years ago. Or you can resist. I stare at the floor. How many times do I have to tell people? When will they believe me? ‘I never killed anyone. ‘Who’ll miss you?’ I say.‘It’s important.

‘What are the readings saying?’ I turn my head. Newsome doesn’t move. You’ve vomited up everything you’ve got inside. For a few seconds. His eyes are bright. but he flicks his tongue across his lips and I know his mouth is dry. more confused. He stares at me. Then he blinks and his hand goes up to tuck his hair behind his ear. but it’s too late. Me taunting Newsome. sicker.’ I look him right in the eyes. You’re breathing in and out as hard and as fast as you can. ‘Yes. shaking his head. He’s excited.’ he says. ‘I see numbers. now you’re bringing up bile. ‘Nice even line right the way through. One of the white-coats is holding a printout in his hand. ‘Very nice.’ he says. ‘He’s telling the truth. Did you get that? That piece of story-telling?’ he asks the white coats at the monitors. It’s over. You’re on the ground. switched on. He moves away from me.’ There’s not a sound in the room.’ . but it sticks in your throat and you’re choking and fighting for breath. I know there’s a stab of fear digging him in the guts.’ He looks nervously towards his boss. thrashing about in your own sick. Well done. you’re right about that. They’re burning into mine. Me describing his death. And you … you’re going to suffocate. He likes this. Saul licks his lips. ‘But I feel them as well. but there’s no oxygen reaching your lungs.knew how?’ That’s got him. we got it. trying to face me down. ‘A nice party piece. The air’s poisoned and every breath makes you weaker. He just looks at me and I look at him.

Marion clicks her tongue with disapproval. isn’t there? We’re not a family without you.’ I say. She’s still frantically scribbling notes in the file.Chapter 19: Sarah ‘W here’s Mia?’ Marion says. Like your hair.’ I say. She shakes her head. ‘Don’t you know what colour to pick?’ I say. ‘How about this? Yellow. ‘There’s someone missing. ‘Just pick any one. ‘Where are you in the picture?’ I look up at her. Draw Mia.’ she says. observing Mia like she was an animal in a zoo. ‘Don’t stop. . ‘I’m not leading. I know she’s wary of Marion. I’m helping. I’m trying not to show anything but inside I’m totally freaking out. This is something huge. Mia sees the things that Val saw – how mad is that? If Adam was here.’ I hand her the crayon and ruffle her golden curls.’ She looks at the crayons and her hand hovers over the packet for ages. Then she looks back at me for help.’ I reach forward and pull out a yellow crayon. ‘Try not to lead her. but she’s loving drawing. Pick a really pretty colour. something amazing. Draw you. Mia pauses. he’d see it straight away. like the sunshine. I shoot her a few daggers.

what does the future hold?’ I say it under my breath and it’s almost like a song. I give her a squeeze and kiss her cheek. quite contrary. trying to smooth over her rudeness. ‘Mia. ‘She likes the picture too.’ she says. Mia?’ Marion’s pushing her now. if you don’t mind. Mia.Mia draws a yellow potato next to the first two. Mia starts wailing and I don’t blame her – I can’t believe the cheek of the bossy cow. She picks up the doll and curls up on the sofa. There’ll be someone else for her to draw soon. how does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row …’ Her breathing becomes deeper and noisier.’ Before I know it. in our room. I’ve got to get me and Mia out. can’t we?’ ‘I’ll take a copy. Mia puts her crayon down. a brother or sister. Mary’ without even trying. The butterflies in my stomach make me feel sick. ‘That’s nice. ‘Mummy do it. It’ll kill me. We can stick it up on the wall. isn’t it? Do you want to do another one while we’re waiting?’ But Mia’s tired now. She holds a black crayon out towards me. ‘That’s beautiful.’ I say to Mia. picks up the paper and gives it to me. and she closes her eyes and puts her thumb in her mouth. I stroke her hair. ‘What else. Marion’s snatched the paper out of my hand and has left the room with it. ‘Mary. Who takes a child’s drawing away like that? The key turning in the lock reminds me this is not an ‘interview room’. She’s not . It’s so close that it turns into ‘Mary. Mary. It’s another cell. I can’t do another night in this place.

‘Whassat?’ she says. My first picture of her. Instantly. Mummy?’ Mia asks again. I look at the paper for a long time. The place where I lose Mia. almost painfully. My ‘abstract’ is a landscape – the light and dark of trees and the spaces between trees.’ I say. The shapes and lines aren’t random at all. just patterns. ‘Nothing.asleep but she’s very close. I start sketching her shape: the curve of her back. the soft halo of her hair. Mia sits up and looks at my picture. shading. experimenting with line and form. The place in my nightmare. Survival’s taken over. I’m scared to be faced with such whiteness. A few lines is all it needs and she’s there. . I’m still holding the crayon Mia gave me. My daughter. There’s been no time for creativity in the last two years. I take a fresh piece of paper from the pile on the coffee table. I look at what I’ve drawn and my chest tightens. with one sketch. Now I don’t know where to start. the profile of her face. Part of me’s been dead for two years and now. It’s the place in my head. Trying not to engage my mind. God. Everything else falls away. I’ve missed this. I let my hand do what it wants. it’s alive again. Mummy do it. I put the portrait to one side and start making random marks on a fresh sheet of paper. but it’s more than that. light and dark. And in the foreground. Creating an abstract. Without really thinking. on paper. Much more. dark slabs of stone. I’m caught up in it – looking and drawing. Slowly. ‘Whassat.

’ he says. Get those straps off him. now?’ All of a sudden I ain’t sure. Saul?’ the doctor says. I can tell he wants him to say ‘no’. . so fierce that it makes me gasp and buckle over. I think we should have another couple of sessions straight away.Chapter 20: Adam ‘That’s it. So I wanna see her.’ ‘Newsome.’ Newsome looks at Saul. ‘Whoah. now. There’s a moment when he steadies me and I glance at his face. I topple sideways. I’ll take you to her. ‘I think that might help. Adam’s kept his side.’ ‘Are you sure. I’m on my feet but my legs don’t feel as if they belong to me. What if I don’t recognise her? What if I make a prat of myself? What if she don’t want to see me? He smiles.’ he says. ‘There’s a lot he hasn’t told us. we had a deal.’ Saul catches me and puts a supporting arm round my shoulders. and our eyes meet and the pain of his death is even stronger. You said I could see Sarah. ‘Yes. ‘What. I’m glad he’s caught me. I’m done. ‘Yes. Can you walk?’ I brace my hands against the arms of the chair and push forward. but there’s something unnerving about being this close to him. Adam. but Saul’s getting to his feet.

Newsome looks at him like he’s lost his mind. pretending to be busy with his charts and read-outs. especially not . and nods to one of the whitecoats.’ Saul cuts in. Saul wheels me out of the room and into a corridor. who scurries out of the room and comes back with a wheelchair. ‘I don’t think so. sharply. ‘What’s your problem?’ Saul says. The corridor walls are grey. but Saul waves them away.’ ‘Adam.’ he says. but I don’t want to rile him. ‘you came off your bike at forty miles an hour yesterday. ‘No. I ain’t no cripple. You want to be one of us.’ He puts pressure on my shoulder. ‘I’ll fetch an orderly.’ Newsome says.’ Saul says. all armed.’ he says. but this ain’t like any hospital I’ve seen before. ‘The safest place in England. The doctor puts his hands up. I can hear Newsome’s voice in my head now: You can help us … or disappear. You’re lucky to be alive. all in uniform. They look uneasy.’ He turns away. but they do as they’re told. don’t you?’ I leave his question hanging. My legs give way and I lurch into the chair. I look at it with horror. I’d assumed I was in hospital. ‘Safe for who?’ ‘Safe for me. I’ll push him. There are two squaddies outside our door. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be one of them. The only people about are soldiers. Get in. ‘No problem. almost forcing me to sit down. the floor’s concrete. ‘Where the hell are we?’ I ask Saul. for us. but he doesn’t explain.‘We’ll get a chair. They make to follow us.

’ he says. that’s one thing we do know. That shimmering number. I understand that. He’s helping me. It’s too much to put on me. Saul’s a powerful man. It’s your moral duty. Adam. ‘I wouldn’t want to. Adam. something about it that’s wrong … ‘Newsome asked me for his number.’ he says.’ My mind’s as bruised as my body. And it feels like he’s on my side right now.’ I say. ‘That’s for other people. ‘You don’t want to hurt people. I can’t argue with him – I ain’t got the strength.’ ‘But there’s not enough help to go round. It’s like handing them a death sentence.’ ‘Exactly.’ ‘Death doesn’t frighten me.’ He stops the chair.’ ‘I don’t blame you. For a moment. the man they take orders from in here. walks round the side of it and . ‘I don’t.’ I say. ‘But you didn’t. People are going to die anyway. You should help people. But it’s okay to tell if they ask you and it’s okay to tell if you’re doing it for the right reasons. ‘That’s too heavy.’ ‘I don’t think it’s moral to only help some of them.’ ‘Commendable. Don’t you want to know?’ ‘No.’ ‘The right reasons. the extreme pain that comes with it.’ Saul says.’ ‘That’s why I try not to tell anyone. That don’t feel right to Saul. You can help a lot of people. I wonder why … but there are too many other questions floating around in my head. I’m vulnerable in this chair. You mean like I tried to warn people about the quake. You can reduce the number of deaths if you help us decide who will benefit the most.

‘Are you with me. But that’s all. a pool of dark blood spreading out around him. Saul disappears . Why does his death hurt so much more than other people’s? 1622029. be my right-hand man. too. He pats my hand and stands up. You’re strong enough. My confusion about Saul is pushed to the back of my mind – I’m trying to grasp memories of Sarah.’ he says. God. And a terrible enemy. I understand. The power to see death. I do. I do.’ He puts his hand on top of mine. I want you to work with me.’ The guard salutes and unlocks the door.’ He looks at the door in front of us. ‘You don’t have to answer now. why can’t I remember? No. He can tell I’m confused. Adam?’ There’s something about him that makes me want to say ‘yes’. We’ll talk again. His number dazzles me. I can help share the strain. almost like there’s a fire inside him. And a guy lying in the road. And now I’ve got another number in my head. ‘My theory is that we’re given what we can cope with.crouches down. listen to him. the feel of my hand on her waist as we sit by the fire.’ His eyes are bright. I’ve got no choice but to look at him. He’d be a powerful friend. something I can’t get hold of. facing me. Think about it. skewering me with its pain. I need time. You can use it. Not yet. My head’s spinning. Adam. Where was that? Who was he? What’s the date now? ‘And you’ve been given a very heavy burden. But there’s something revolting about him. ‘Yeah. Adam. 1222029. some of us more than others. My heart starts to thump. I’ve got her face.’ I say. ‘Do you want to see her now?’ This is it? She’s in there? Sarah. ‘Yeah. Is he going to have another go? ‘We all carry burdens.

But I want to see her – I want to see my girl. My nerves almost get the better of me. Why didn’t we go straight in? What’s he doing in there? Is Sarah really in there.inside. or is this some sort of set-up? I’m not ready. shutting the door behind him. .

I turn back to look at him. ‘Adam’s here. What now? Probably Marion and more stupid questions. I loathe him. I don’t want to think. and then the key turns in the lock. She cowers in the tiny space between the bed and the wall. He’s closing the door behind him. I’m starting to hate that sound. He puts his hand up to my shoulder and my . ‘Good afternoon to you too.’ Saul sneers. She scrambles over the bed and hurls herself onto the floor.’ ‘Here?’ I try to dodge past him to the door. even more claustrophobic. ‘Mia!’ She’s got her arms across her face. He steps into my path and blocks me. ‘Bad man …’ she whimpers. I’ve never hated someone so much. The room instantly feels closer. I stuff Mia’s drawing and my nightmare sketch under the mattress. ‘Where’s Adam?’ I say. All I need to think about is how to get out of here. I’ve brought him from the medical wing. It’s not Marion – it’s Saul.Chapter 21: Sarah There’s a sharp knock on the door. What does he want? Mia’s reaction is even more violent. I can’t think about it – what it means. My stomach lurches.

but it is. rooted to the floor. ‘Are you talking about brain damage?’ He snorts. He’s had a bump on the head. I just stand there. Just use your common sense. The look on his face tells me the awful truth: he doesn’t know who she is. Then Saul wheels him in. He smirks. bile rising in my throat. he may not remember much about you. I could never have imagined this happening. your relationship. ‘A word of warning. There’s some memory loss. ‘It’s not about you. .’ I’m scared now.’ ‘What … what does that mean?’ ‘He’s got some gaps. Then he shoves her away from him. Don’t expect too much. You may notice a change in his personality. I jerk my head away. Mia doesn’t hesitate. She’s wriggled out of her hiding place and now she streaks past me and flings herself onto Adam’s lap. The tears well up and spill down her face. hurting!’ She’s starting to cry. ‘Hey! Hey! What’s this?’ He grasps her shoulders. because—’ He raises his hand from my shoulder and places his index finger against my mouth. trying to wriggle out of his grip. holding her at arm’s length. ‘Don’t be so dramatic. though. He took quite a knock yesterday. And it’s like the ground’s dropping away. it’s about Adam.flesh creeps where he makes contact. ‘Dad-dee. the child. The first thing I see is the front of a wheelchair. ‘Dad-dee!’ she wails.’ He opens the door. ‘Shh. He’s doing very well.’ ‘Warning? Are you going to threaten me. Sarah.’ he says.

’ he murmurs. Did he hear what Adam said? Does he know what it means? The way Saul’s looking at Mia and Adam. There’s a sharp intake of breath from the door. almost scowling. I need to get Saul out of here. He’s frowning. ‘Nan …?’ he whispers.Then he looks at her. Oh God. . ‘confused. Something even colder and more calculating than ever. too? Except.’ But his sharp black eyes are locked on to Adam. ‘Like I said. no one knows about it but me and Adam. Mia and Adam … Adam and Mia … Seeing numbers made Adam a target. and then … they switch to Mia. really looks. There’s a new expression in them I don’t like. My head whips round to see Saul leaning against the door-frame. it’s setting my teeth on edge. and his expression changes. He’s recognised where it came from. before Adam says anything else. he’s seen the number. Does Mia’s number-change make her a target.

It dances in my head and brings the smell of cigarette smoke. but I don’t want her on me – this small. her past. And now there are hands on my hands. I don’t want to frighten her. I feel like I’m under attack. 2022054. I know that I love her. the memory of another pair of eyes. hands clawing at me. They’re blue like a summer sky and her number shimmers inside them. She’s our daughter. She’s got a . 2572075. sticky stranger. ‘Sarah. I peel her off me. a girl. hold her away. It floods me with warmth so every cell in my body glows. It’s my nan. But the number’s different.’ How could I have forgotten? I know her now. Val. I didn’t know there was a child. And then I look in her eyes. She’s only little. and another pair of eyes. eyes so fierce that once they got you. our life together. you were caught until she let you go. Just as blue and intense as the child’s. ‘Nan …?’ There’s an intake of breath behind me.Chapter 22: Adam There’s a child. She throws herself at me. noisy. I know her story. And I know who this girl is. I know that she loves me. face down on my legs. What is this? I don’t understand.

Mia. but she don’ now – Mia. I hear the door close. Like how I got here. ‘Could you leave us?’ she says to Saul. so she’s sitting on my lap. I look around. I don’t look at him.’ . Whatever’s going on now. and I believe her. We’ll be together. There’s a long pause. Her curly hair tickles my chin. A key turns in the lock. I wouldn’t blame her if she wriggled off and hid from me. We just sit and hug each other. Take your time. She snuggles close to me. ‘Daddy. She’s so little. I can’t remember things. I lift her up. We’re in a bare cell. ‘Of course. I stroke Mia’s shoulders with my thumbs. ‘It’s all right. It’s just us. are hard. ‘So. I don’t know what to say to her.’ she says. He’s gone. Have a good … chat. how are you?’ she says after a long while. My girl. There’s an edge to her voice now.’ she says between hiccups. burrowing in. ‘Sore all over. ‘Yeah. and watches us with her blue. I put my arms round her. we’ll get through it. but it don’t matter.’ She stops crying and tips her tear-stained face up towards mine. ‘Hello. There are footsteps in the corridor. just at Sarah.’ I say. looking over my shoulder. blue eyes. growing fainter. Her blue eyes. three of us shut in together.’ I say. Tears of relief well up in my eyes. ‘Mia. while Sarah holds my hand tightly. Her number tells me that it will be all right in the end. it’s Daddy.’ says Saul eventually.

He shot one of his own men dead. Is that the killing Newsome accused me of? Why did Saul stay silent? To save his own skin? I can’t say anything for a moment.’ I say at last. or him taking Mia?’ ‘He took Mia?’ ‘Yes. We were in the woods. We’ve got to get out of here. whopping great motorbikes. but I’m grasping at thin air. There were other people. And you don’t remember the bikes?’ ‘Pedal-bikes?’ ‘No.’ He shot one of his own men. Adam?’ I think about this before I answer. too. ‘What do you know about him. The guy lying in the road. He stopped them asking me questions. to search out these missing pages. Then she gazes straight at me again. That’s how you knocked yourself out. Adam. Before Saul turned up. ‘It’ll come back. ‘No.’ I try to look inside my mind. examining her fingernails. got me back here to you.‘What’s the last thing you remember?’ ‘Sitting by a fire with you. ‘Don’t get stressed. ‘He’s … powerful. do what he says. ‘He’s a killer.’ ‘That was Daniel and the people at his camp. stroking my hand. and he shot Daniel in the leg.’ Sarah’s soothing me. ‘… this place isn’t. People listen to him. So you don’t remember him coming.’ She looks away from me. Adam.’ Sarah pulls a face. You’re here now.’ ‘Saul says it’s safe. but …’ she pauses. You’re safe. ‘I .

slap.’ Her eyes fill with tears. to the past. further back. Your brothers. the noise is winding me up more. ‘I think they’re okay – they’re at the camp with Daniel’s friends. Sarah. ‘Adam! Stop it! Adam!’ . ‘What is this place? Why are we here?’ Slap. Her eyes are wide and troubled. He’s holding a rifle to his face. standing in the road. Mia twists round and looks at me. I see a man with a beard. shooting at something … Then the picture’s gone. be my right-hand man … Is this is the man who abducted my daughter and my girlfriend. the shimmering number … I want you to work with me. and then. who shot my friend? But why did he help me. Daniel tried to help us …’ For a brief moment. ‘The boys. But I don’t know for sure. slap.can’t believe it …’ Then I stop. She squirms away from me and sits down the other side of Sarah. ‘What else don’t I know?’ I look at Sarah then. remembering the dark eyes that seemed lit by fire. The movement. A friend. Why can’t I remember?’ I slap my forehead with the palm of my hand. I slap my head again. laughing by the fire. It’s not helping. take my side against Newsome? I struggle back to the present. We have to get back to them. but I can’t stop.’ I feel like I’m going mad. ‘I can’t remember. and another memory slots into place – two boys. ‘What happened?’ ‘It was when we were kidnapped.

Straight away I can see it’s a family. ‘Adam! Look!’ Sarah’s holding something in front of me. ‘Adam.’ Sarah says slowly. . ‘It’s us.’ I put my arm round her and give her a squeeze. trying to shake my thoughts back into place. ‘Mummy.’ says Mia. I can hear the fear in her voice but I can’t stop. ‘Mia’s picture.’ I look at Mia.’ There are five round shapes in different colours. one orange and a little yellow one. Two big shapes – one red. a family of shapes. ‘That’s awesome. ‘I bet you’ll know what it is. ‘Did you really draw this?’ Mia nods. breaking through my mad wound-up state. ‘She’s got it from Val. one green. the other blue and pink – and three smaller ones. I can see by the look on Sarah’s face she thinks so. It’s our family.’ This is big. like a thunderbolt striking or a firework going off. don’t she?’ I say. And then I get it.’ Sarah’s smiling. pointing to the red shape. Mia’s smiling now. if you really look. Me. The colours mean something. Sarah. I whistle through my front teeth. ‘do you remember your nan saying she could see my aura?’ ‘Daddy.’ I say. ‘She sees them. and then at the picture again.’ she says. too proud to say anything. ‘Look at this. too.I’m shaking my head now. ‘Mia done it.’ ‘What is it?’ Peeping round Sarah. too. then to the blue and pink one. Mia and the boys. beaming.

and she can see auras. I’ve got goosepimples all over me. too. She’s a tiny. Sarah. She’s the living proof that something amazing and terrifying happened two years ago in that fire. Did Nan give her all this – her life. but sits oddly with her. A death that fitted Nan. with someone else’s number. fragile little thing. her gift? Or did Mia take it? Can she reach out and take anybody’s life? . and the same question that’s nagged at me before resurfaces in my head.’ I look down at Mia and her number teases my mind.‘She’s got her number.

’ ‘Who? Someone here?’ He pauses. Marion.’ ‘Her number’s different. I don’t want to know people’s numbers. She’s different. But they’re interested. and she was pushing all the time. ‘We don’t know what really happened in the fire. ‘Do they know? Do they know anything about her?’ ‘No. we’ve got to protect Mia.’ ‘Do you think she knew what it meant?’ ‘No. She’s special – even more than we thought. There’s this woman. too. it’s just you and me. He’s wrestling with something inside.’ He’s silent for a moment. I’ve only ever seen one other one like it. Adam. poking her nose into our business. do we?’ I say. ‘You don’t have to tell.’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘It shimmers in my head. towards the door. I don’t think so.’ I say. . so I turn the conversation back to Mia. that interviewed us this morning.Chapter 23: Sarah ‘W e’ve got to get her out of here. and I know not to push him. She was the one who got Mia drawing. like he doesn’t know whether to tell me or not. looking away from me.

‘Really hot. You went out and I held Mia. And we stayed to find Mia. “It’s this way. I’m there with him now. I thought she’d be okay. too.’ He leans towards me and grips my shoulders. or nothing. My number wasn’t that day. mouth half-open. We all were.’ ‘I did. Maybe Val reached out to her. wasn’t she?’ he goes on and his voice trembles a little. I didn’t see her. Her number was a good one. I didn’t see Nan.’ ‘You were there.’ . disorientated in the fire. the splintering of timbers all around us. What do you think happened? Can you remember?’ He rubs a hand over his forehead. ‘Why didn’t you ever say?’ ‘I wasn’t sure if it really happened. tried to shield her from the flames. So why didn’t you get her number?’ ‘I don’t know.’ In my mind. but I heard her voice. I was confused. ‘I sent Nan out through the flames. hard. ‘Well. I can smell our singeing flesh and hair. But I think it did. ‘She was there with you. I can hear the crackle of the flames. Then I just walked through the fire. She touched you. ‘She was hot.‘No. but someone grabbed my hand and pulled me round so I was facing the right way. staring at me. I heard her voice. I felt her hand. Only a few steps more …”’ He lets go of me and flops back in his wheelchair.’ ‘What?’ I’ve never told him this before. was it? Mia’s was.

Before I can blink. Mia too. keep her safe. what happened to her – it’s dynamite. I feel guilty. I draw Mia closer to me. and so has he. Light floods in from the corridor as half a dozen soldiers burst in. sharp voice cuts through the shouting and screaming. I can see he’s in agony.’ And that’s when the cell door blasts open. you’re right. just you and me. They don’t look at us. and I hate him now. I can’t help thinking about the night by the fire. I hated him then. but he’s not looking down at Adam. ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ ‘Adam!’ I’m so focused on him. We have to keep her number secret.’ he repeats. It feels like my fault somehow. I’m screaming.I’ve got tears in my eyes now. arms folded.’ He’s standing there.’ ‘I know. Adam. ‘She reached out to you. We got to keep it quiet. I don’t know why. ‘Take him away. And we gotta get her out of here. Someone’s digging a knee into the small of his back. ‘I never thought … I never thought I’d lose her. He completely loses it after Saul comes in – shouting at him. . But we’re so lucky to have Mia. face pressed against the concrete. He’s looking at Mia and me. It takes half a dozen of them to carry Adam out. I don’t notice Saul coming in until a deep. when he woke her up to look at her. they throw Adam out of the wheelchair and pin him to the floor. What she done. I’m sorry. It’s a miracle we’ve still got her and we have to protect her.’ ‘Yeah. He’s down. they don’t speak. pushing the air out of him.

But that’s how it is. ‘You’ll get some sleep. The same squaddie with the moustache brings food – I don’t know what meal this is meant to be. No windows. Locked in a room that’s five paces by four. ‘I’d take it.’ ‘I don’t understand why they took him away. if I were you. We were just talking … How long will they keep him there? When can I see him?’ He shrugs. No fresh air. And there’s something else on the tray – a little plastic cup with a white pill inside. but awake on my own the thoughts spin in my head. I’ve only just got him back. I need him. but eventually she’s soothed with a cuddle and a song.’ The prospect of another sleepless night is horrific. but there’s pity in his eyes as they flick to Mia. If only that would work for me. ‘Where’s Adam? What have they done to him?’ ‘He’s in solitary. I lose track of time. with a bathroom that’s two paces by three. Mia’s been on a rollercoaster today and it’s left her disturbed and upset. asleep on the bed.kicking out. thanks. Especially after today. No sunlight. I can’t believe I’m going to be shut in here. his anger blotting out the pain from his injuries.’ If Adam’s lost to me. if you don’t count the grille in the door. I honestly don’t. but I won’t take pills. I can’t believe I’m losing him again. Milk for Mia. that’s all I know. I’m screaming. Mia and me. I love him. Soup and crackers. round and round.’ he says. ‘I don’t know. but it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference. then I don’t think I can cope. We all use them in here. Why did it take all this to make me realise? .’ ‘No.

but I can tell he doesn’t like this. He’s the only person I can ask. the only person in this place who has shown me any sympathy.’ he says.’ ‘They wouldn’t give it to you if it wasn’t all right.’ I look at him. confused. keeping his voice low despite the water thundering into the shower tray. They were listening in. That’s why they came to take Adam – to get him out of the way. ‘I don’t take pills and anyway. I can’t take anything that’ll affect the baby. ‘Look. ‘I can’t. I need your help – we need . Overheard. I look at the squaddie. ‘Shall I put the shower on for you?’ he says. They know about her number swap and her seeing Val’s auras. and we stand next to it. Will the noise of the shower really block out our words? What if it’s a trick to get me to talk more? I have to trust him. I frown at him.’ the squaddie says. He shrugs. I follow him in. without a shadow of a doubt. I have no choice. And now I realise. It means we haven’t got long. that the next person they’ll take is Mia. They know about Mia. ‘Otherwise they’ll be in with an injection. nodding to the plastic cup on the tray.’ ‘You really think so?’ He looks shifty for a minute. so there’s no one here to protect us. He turns on the shower.‘I actually have to see you take the pill. He looks at me steadily. And then it does. ‘We won’t be overheard here. We’ve got to escape. suddenly. shocked.’ I tell him. waiting for the penny to drop. And they know I want to get out of here. What’s he talking about? Then he beckons me to the bathroom.

looking at me and then away again. ‘I’ll help you. I’ve put my life – and Mia’s and Adam’s – in this squaddie’s hands. She’d have died if it wasn’t for Adam. I’ll do my best. he’s on our side.’ . He nods.’ he whispers. ‘Wait here. ‘Please. please.’ He’s talking so quietly I can hardly hear him over the sound of the shower. What will happen if they’ve heard? Even if they haven’t.’ ‘Thank you. ‘Adam saved my mother’s life. ‘Really?’ I say. by the way. Adrian. For a heart-stopping moment. If he’s acting he’s doing a good job of it. ‘What does that mean?’ He runs his finger across his throat.’ I’ve said it now.’ I allow myself a tiny drop of relief. The whole lot came down. Sarah. ‘I’m desperate. ‘If I’m caught helping you they could court-martial me.’ He looks me straight in the eye.’ I put my hand on his arm. Will he help us? We stare at each other for several long seconds. I lean forward to catch his words. Then he says. ‘Thanks. ‘She had a flat on the twelfth floor of a block in West London. Hers was one of the blocks that went. So I owe him.your help – to get out of here. I wonder if I’ve misjudged him.’ he says. She saw Adam on the TV news and got out. He looks nervous. He’s blinking rapidly.’ I say. ‘Otherwise I wouldn’t ask you. Can you get a message to him?’ Adrian sucks the air in between his teeth.’ I’m close to tears now.’ He bites his lip. ‘It’s too difficult. ‘I’m Adrian.

in full view. Goodnight. I return to the bathroom and drop the pill into the toilet. It’s difficult to know what to say. and then it disappears. my eyes are open. It’s directly opposite the bed. I promise. I lie next to Mia. Sarah. and puts it in the chest pocket of his jacket. It’ll do you good. In the end. the only light coming from the grille and the two cracks above and below the door. xx’ Adam will know what it means.I run back into the room. He takes the paper. Adam. Back in the bedroom. giving me a brief wink. fixed on the grille in the door. or is he lying somewhere beaten to a pulp? Are Marty and Luke still with Daniel? Is Daniel still alive? All the time I’m thinking. grab my sketch from under the mattress and Mia’s crayon.’ he says. sleeping. We will be watched all night. Will Adam get my message? Will he be able to read it if he does. Trust Adrian. Then I fold it over twice and hand it to Adrian. thinking of the people I’m missing. ‘Down the hatch. I can’t lie there. I close my fingers round it. looking at Mia curled up. Especially if it does fall into the wrong hands. I write: ‘Come back to me.’ When he’s gone. We can be watched all night. on the bed. Marty and Luke. loudly. Not long afterwards the striplight in the middle of the ceiling goes off and the room is plunged into darkness again. . It dances in the swirling water when I pull the flush. He hesitates. he says. ‘That’s it. ‘Now let me see you take this.’ He tips the pill out from the plastic cup onto my hand.

I’ve never felt such terror before. wave upon wave. and they can’t see me. I can smell his sourness. but exhaustion washes over me anyway. I don’t want to sleep. I can’t even walk. I lean my head on the door and close my eyes. his lips. His face is close to mine.I slip out of bed. The baby’s shifting around inside me. It’s someone else. see the stubble pinpricks on his jaw He licks . I look around for somewhere to hide. I can’t see the grille. Pain ripples through me. I’m not alone any more. My legs won’t work. I have to get away. I want to scream but my voice is paralysed. I’m rooted here. sidle over to the door. Help. Instead. to dream. There are hiding places everywhere – trees and stones and bushes. somewhere safe. I put my back to it. strangled within my pain-wracked body. But it’s not Mia with me. ‘Help. Here with him. He’s breathing almost as fast as I am. but misses a small bead of saliva at the corner of his mouth. my screams echo round my head. But I can’t run. and slide down on to the floor. Won’t somebody help me?’ .

‘Adam. The lights have been on the whole time. ‘how are you?’ ‘Tired. I lost it again. My brain won’t work in here. There must be a way out of here. angry.’ he says. He nods to the soldier guarding the door. He leans against the door. I sit up on the mattress. I don’t even want to think about what they are.Chapter 24: Adam I’m in a real prison cell now. but I was only defending myself. seems like a year ago. the day that guy got shot. trying to be ready for whatever’s coming next. There are marks on the wall. There must.’ I say.’ The door closes. I’ve had no food or water.’ he says. a mattress and a bucket. scared. I didn’t even kick off until after they ambushed me. I’m not out for trouble.’ The twelfth. Confused. so what the fuck am I here for? I know I didn’t help. ‘The thirteenth. ‘I’ll knock when I’m done. February. I don’t know how long I’ve been in here. ‘What day is it?’ ‘Tuesday. I must look blank because he adds. I don’t need to be locked up. how I can get back to Sarah. and we’re alone. I hear the lock in the door. dark smears. Bare concrete walls. I can’t figure out what would get me out. And Saul’s number is staring me in the face now. . It’s Saul. I need to tell them this is a mistake.

‘You’re so young. I shift uncomfortably where I sit. I don’t want him in the room.’ He comes over to the mattress and squats down next to me. How old are you?’ ‘Eighteen.’ He puffs his breath out.1622029.’ ‘You’ve got a very simplistic view of right and wrong. I want to look away but I can’t.’ He smiles cryptically. Then he turns and looks directly at me. I don’t like him this close.’ ‘I don’t believe that. looks down at his feet. only a couple of days away now. ‘I don’t want to help if it means choosing who’s left to die. ‘I can’t do that. ‘I want to get back to Sarah. It hits me with the full force of a . It’s excruciating. ‘That’s what you’re here for. shimmering. ‘If only you knew …’ he says. ‘I want out of here. I feel the pain. It’s not right. ‘I can hardly remember being eighteen. It’s full of difficult decisions. Shimmering like Mia’s … Then.’ The smile fades from his face. I don’t want him this close. like a punch to my guts. Adam. I need your help. It makes me feel weak. Adam. it’s obscene to be in that much agony. I get it. and I’m terrified. To understand – and to help us understand your gift.’ He shakes his head.’ I say. breathless. finally.’ I say. He’s got me in his headlights. Why did you take me away from them? Why am I here? I don’t understand. Three days to go. My heart’s racing. Sometimes everything’s the “wrong” choice – you have to choose the lesser of two evils. That’s twisted. to Mia. We need your help. And I feel his final pain. I get the full force of his number and it makes me gasp. His number. Life isn’t black and white.

‘Well. then gives a little laugh. ‘You what?’ ‘I want to see what you see. Is he going to kill me? Is that what he’s saying? He puts one hand on my shoulder. slowly. tinny. nobody I wasn’t just about to kill.’ he says. ‘I only see them at the very last minute.’ What? And then. Adam.’ The hairs on the back of my neck are standing up.’ I stare at him. watching my face.’ There’s an edge of anger in his voice. His breath is sour and there’s a bubble of spit in the corner of his mouth. even though I don’t want to hear the answer. a hint of the frustration he’s bottling up inside.’ he says. my mind takes the next step.’ ‘Why?’ I ask the question. ‘I’ve been looking for you for a long time. like the surface of his skin is alive. ‘At the moment when they leave one soul and just before they enter mine. Adam Dawson. I can’t speak. ‘You asked if I wanted to know my number. But …’ He grits his teeth. ‘But I already know it.sledgehammer. The little muscles in his face are twitching. I want to shrug him off. the very last second. My voice sounds far away. painfully. ‘I’ve never told anyone.’ he says softly. . ‘Because I want you to be my eyes. but I can’t move. leans even closer. I want to see numbers. Saul has someone else’s number. His black eyes are still burning into mine and deep inside them there’s a flicker of madness.’ ‘But I thought … Don’t you know your own number?’ ‘I do see them. There’s no other explanation. I’m paralysed with fear.

I feel the wind on my face. . the smell of oil in my nostrils. then nothing … Just like Mia … There’s no words to express what I’m feeling – all I can do is sit and stare with my guts turning to water inside me. More than nine … Just like Mia … Just like Mia … I’m riding a motorbike. the pulsing of the engine in my hands and legs. A cat with nine lives.Them. and I’m flying. He salutes. A crack. Saul has taken more than one number. Saul’s riding next to me. Sarah on the back. He’s a number-stealer.

’ she says. feel the cold seeping into my . Sarah?’ ‘I don’t know. I’ve never been there but I can still smell the dankness in my nostrils. Is He here now. And finally. her body looming over me. She’s got her hand on my shoulder. one reality crystallises from the soup of memories and nightmares. There’s no lock on the door. or has He just been here? It can’t be me crying – I wasn’t allowed to make any noise. I remember this chemical smell. And Marion. wreathed in sweat. My cell. ‘What were you dreaming. Someone’s crying.Chapter 25: Sarah I wake. I can’t keep Him out. The chemical smell. Reality’s slipping and sliding. into a dark room. She’s silhouetted against the rectangle of light from the half-open door. I’m lying on a thin mattress. Just get out. ‘You were panicking in your sleep. weren’t you?’ ‘Get out of my room!’ I scream. The panic was real – my heart’s still jumping in my chest – and the pain was real and the place was real. crouching in front of me. Which nightmare am I in? Am I fourteen again? Is my dad here? The room’s dark. Leave me alone!’ But I do know. He said he’d kill me if I did … Now there’s a woman. Her face is in shadow. ‘You were dreaming.

And finally she moves. her breathing quickens. But she’s been through so much in the last couple of days. didn’t you. It’s going to happen. This whole place is wrong. Mia’s here.’ But I can’t stop. ‘Sarah. Tears brim in my eyes. ‘give me a break!’ ‘You saw the Chaos. maybe an hour later. I told you already. I drew the Chaos without thinking – it was there. my dreams have stopped. trying to hit her. For Christ’s sake. I can see it – just as I saw the Chaos. After a while. seen so much. Mia’s upset again. in my head. too. You shouldn’t be in someone’s room. slamming the door behind her.bones.’ she says. And I drew the new nightmare.’ ‘Was it you looking before? Is that how you get your kicks. I saw you. looking at people?’ ‘I don’t … I don’t know what …’ ‘You shouldn’t be here. hurt her. Mummy. you evil bitch. what was it? What was in your dream?’ Marion’s still here. hurrying out of the room.’ I shout.’ ‘You were dreaming just now. I know there’s a time coming when she’ll be gone. scratch her. ‘Nothing! I don’t know. too – she reaches up to touch my face. ‘Mummy crying. I watch her chest rise and fall. . Sarah?’ ‘Nothing. What do you dream now. I sit with her on the bed until she falls asleep again. My arms are flailing. Sarah? You saw the date and you drew it. It’s coming soon. It’s wrong. ‘Don’t cry. listen to her regular breathing. Get out! Get out!’ I fling the covers back and launch myself at her.

She’s dreaming. and she murmurs in her sleep.Her arms and legs twitch now and again. .

But maybe you can give it to me. You can save people. It’s like he’s talking to himself now. ‘I just need to find the right one … at the right time. ‘It’s something I was born with.’ he says.’ ‘Save them?’ ‘Save them from me. I’m acting blind now. Adam. He wants numbers with a long life. ‘If only I could see numbers. Telling numbers is wrong. I don’t want him dissing my mum. I need to know. Would you give it to me … if I asked you nicely?’ He’s smiling at me now. ‘You’re not thinking clearly. I like that – it’s a swap. If I could pick it up …’ ‘I can’t teach you. too soon for him.’ ‘No. ‘I’ll give you mine. if I could master it. if you give me yours. like the grin a fox has on its face when it’s looking at a rabbit. ‘you can’t teach me.’ He laughs. Saul.Chapter 26: Adam ‘I can’t help you.’ I say. life isn’t black and white. people that are going to die soon – at least. I don’t even know how I do it. He means saving the ones with the wrong numbers. ‘Yeah. ‘I told you. but it’s a mockery of a smile.’ .’ he says. If I could learn.’ ‘Where’ve you got that idea from?’ I clam up.’ I let his words sink in. If he did that I really would have to batter him. He tuts and shakes his head in irritation.’ he carries on. It’s wrong.

He’s killed more than once to stay alive. Saul. perhaps?’ Then he walks to the door and knocks to be let out. And the worst of it is. I think of her face the first time I showed her a bird’s nest with a clutch of pale blue eggs inside. Saul gets up too. My little girl. when his number is up. I know what sort of monster Saul is now. leaning my hands against it.’ I say. as clear as day. ‘Fuck off. Mia has a number that shimmers. can she? . ‘Who’s gifted like you? Who’s got your gift? Your daughter. The sheer delight. He’ll kill me. too. dropping my head between my arms. The wonder on it. I see it shimmering in my head with my eyes open or closed. To be honest. He comes and stands close to me. She can’t be a killer. I’ve got Saul’s words going round and round my head. Does this mean that Mia is the same as Saul? Is my daughter a murderer? I sit on the mattress and bury my face in my hands. In two days’ time. I jump up and stride over to the opposite wall.I know then. that if I don’t help him. His number’s haunting me. he’ll help himself. ‘If not you. My girl. Nan’s number. He’s threatened to kill me. then who?’ he says quietly into my ear. Fear makes the words catch in my throat. Adam. this room ain’t big enough for all the thoughts in there right now. And he’s threatened to kill Mia. I can’t get away from it. Too close. he’ll take mine and hope my number-seeing comes with it. Left alone.

Ssh. A different squaddie every time. meaningfully. Maybe I need to warn her about Mia … I take the pencil. well. ‘Are you Adrian?’ I ask. ‘Tell her—’ I begin. He holds a stub of a pencil out towards me. not the one he wants anyway.’ And two kisses. It’s a soldier carrying a tray of food. It’s a piece of paper. a skinny guy with a wispy moustache. but he puts a finger to his lips. crackers and a cup of water. He’s clever. a little flushed. Weird. Finally I look up at his face. The soldier turns his back. He’s definitely waiting for something. this one. The guy’s still standing there. I can’t give him an answer. He knows the ropes. But it’s not Saul. It’s signed Sarah. Trust Adrian. not moving. Of course. If it’s Saul. He clears his throat and nods towards the tray. I want her to know that I love her. Six words: ‘Come back to me. I flip the paper over and there’s some writing. He looks the same age as me. I’ve never been good at reading and writing. He’s nervous. I look down.I don’t look up when I hear the door opening again. almost like he’s waiting for a tip. I’ve got so much to tell her. I fish it out and unfold it. There’s something sticking out from underneath the soup bowl. The soldier makes a show of looking at the paper and closing his eyes. they could be listening in. He nods. I need to warn her about Saul – but I know she hates him already. He hands it to me and I put it on the bed – soup. I want her to know that I’ll get back to her. only now I feel like I could write a book. so much I need her to know. I ain’t ready to talk no more. He’s telling me he won’t . I can send a reply. whatever it takes. I tried. There’s a drawing of a graveyard on one side. but I never really got it.

The end of the pencil hovers above the paper. and the soldier turns round. What do I say? Will this guy really not read the message? What’s to stop him having a look as soon as he’s out of this room? I would. I write my message. ‘Thanks. . and the numbers – Saul’s and Mia’s – shimmering in front of my eyes. years and years. It seems lame. He’s a survivor. And I’m left alone with my thoughts again. Then he turns his back again.look at what I’ve written. There’s something weak about him – weak in body and soul. Why has Sarah put her faith in him? I got a look at his number when he came in – he’s got years left. I’ll be back. I nod at him and he leaves. ‘Trust no one. xx’ I fold the paper back up again. But he doesn’t look like someone who should survive.’ I say. I don’t think I want his help. if I was him. Something doesn’t add up. takes the paper and puts it in his pocket.

Get your filthy hands off me. What the hell are they doing? She’s a little girl. I can’t help her. The room I’m in has a huge glass window. ‘Get off me. She’s being put onto a bed. ‘Don’t come in here!’ Mia starts to wake up. tightening straps around her arms and legs. shocking me into silence. Half asleep. ‘Stop it! Stop it! Leave my daughter alone! Leave her alone!’ Someone slaps my face hard. Somebody swoops on Mia and picks her up. I’ve been awake since my nightmare. but they’re holding her down.’ I’m pushed across the room and out of the door. she starts yelling and struggling. I can’t believe my eyes. They’re taping wires onto her now. hear her screams. The door opens. She’s fighting them. and now Marion’s back. It’s outrageous. Through it I can see Mia. Mia’s gone before me. for Chrissake! . ‘What are you doing? What’s happening?’ Mia’s taken into one room and I’m bundled into another. We’ve left our escape too late. you cow!’ I shout. They’ve come for us. I’m pulled out of bed and my left arm is yanked up behind my back. ‘Don’t come in. I can see her hands and feet flailing around.Chapter 27: Sarah The light goes on and I hear the key in the door. It’s obscene. but it’s the whitecoats this time.

’ ‘Assessment? What assessment? What are you assessing by treating her like this?’ ‘We’re undertaking a scientific assessment of her extraordinary powers. ‘What do you see? Don’t worry. just look. it’s all right.’ Newsome asks.A man’s standing in front of me now.’ one of them replies. darling. Mia. I’m in charge of Mia’s assessment. got it. including on her scalp. ‘Can you turn her round gently. ‘I want you to listen to me. of course.’ he says. yes. He leans over Mia. a million lights and dials and screens. ‘There was a little eye contact there. Tell this idiot to let go of my arm and I’ll go in there.’ ‘Who the hell are you?’ ‘I’m Doctor Newsome.’ By the time I’ve got into Mia’s room. and a squashed kind of face. Mia!’ I rush to her side. ‘Sarah. Someone needs to be in there with her. Did you get that?’ Newsome asks his assistants.’ Mia squirms her head away from him. He’s got a white coat on. ‘Yep. ‘Mum-meee!’ ‘It’s all right.’ There’s a bank of monitors in the room.’ ‘Good.’ he says. ‘so she’s . they’ve taped sensors all over her body. Let her go. You don’t have to tell me. They’re being checked by technicians and supervised by Doctor Newsome. ‘Oh my God. Do you want it to be you?’ ‘Yes. ‘Look into my eyes. too.

and Mia and me. I feel like an exhibit in a museum. addressing the mirror.’ ‘What tests are you actually doing? Is it an X-ray? Is that why you’re going? I’m not sure I should stay.’ he says. The large rectangle that I know is a window looks like a mirror from this side.’ Mia’s whining. we’ve got the baseline data. near the ceiling.’ I say.’ Newsome’s voice booms into the room.’ he says and closes the door behind him. ‘Could you turn the heating down. I know they can see me and I know they can hear me. to comfort her. All I can see is this grim room. trying to move her arms and legs against the straps. ‘We’re ready. ‘It’s very hot in here. or put on the air con or something?’ ‘Yeah. because of the baby …’ ‘You’ll be fine. loud and clear.looking at you?’ I do as he asks. ‘What’s happening?’ Newsome turns to face me. sure. I know they’re all watching. Your role is to stay with Mia. As soon as we’re face to face her features crumple. . I hear a bolt sliding on the other side. or an animal in a zoo.’ The technicians start leaving.’ ‘Okay. ‘Are you getting this?’ ‘Yes. I glance up – there’s a speaker above the mirror. ‘We’ll need to leave you for this part of the procedure. She tries to reach out towards me. ‘We’ll sort it out. but only because I don’t want him touching her.

‘I’m going to have to take her top off.’ ‘Sarah. She’s only wearing a little T-shirt and some pants.’ I say. I told you.’ ‘Is it hot where you are?’ ‘Yes. ‘Thirty degrees. but not because he’s told me to. Then. there’s a fault in the central heating system. The spots of colour on her face are getting brighter. please?’ I’m sweating now. My legs are starting to feel wobbly. Can you open the door. What are you doing?’ ‘I’ll explain later. yes. We’re working to fix it now.’ ‘There’s nothing to be alarmed about. But we must continue the tests. do not touch the sensors.‘Try and lie still a minute. Do you understand me? Do not touch them. Please sit with Mia. We’ve got a temporary problem with the heating system. it’s the whole system. and so is Mia. to the mirror. moaning. Her forehead is damp and her cheeks are pink.’ I do sit on the bed. This is getting dangerous. Mia’s showing signs of distress too: thrashing her head from side to side. I’ll have to disconnect all the things on her head.’ ‘Is the heat part of the tests?’ ‘No. We’re gathering a crucial set of data that will help with our analysis. ‘It’s getting hotter.’ . ‘What is the temperature in here?’ I ask. Just stay with Mia. I’m sweating all over and it’s hard to breathe.’ ‘We need some air in here. I’ve seen them before.’ ‘What analysis? What data? You never actually told me.’ I say. ‘Mia’s getting too hot.

‘Thirty! For God’s sake, that’s enough. Open the door.’ ‘It’s the same everywhere.’ ‘I don’t believe you.’ Mia’s straining at the straps. I touch her face. It’s red hot. I look round the room for some water, anything to cool her down. There’s nothing. ‘Can you bring us some water, please?’ I can hear the panic in my voice. I know I should be keeping calm for Mia’s sake, but I can’t. Alarm bells are screaming through my body. ‘Doctor Newsome, can you bring us some water?’ ‘We’ll be with you very soon.’ ‘No!’ I scream. ‘We need it now!’ My breathing’s out of control now, coming faster and faster, but I’m getting more light-headed. ‘Try and keep calm, Sarah.’ I look at the bank of monitors near the bed, a battery of traces moving across the screens, with numbers and counters of all sorts. They don’t mean a thing to me, except one number. On several of the screens there’s the same number: 35 degrees. I watch as it changes, and, yes, it changes on every screen. 36 degrees. We’re being cooked in here. Mia starts to cry, not a hearty full-on yell like she does if she’s fallen over or hurt herself, but a thin, watery noise. Her cheeks were very pink before, now they’re mottled – livid red blotches sitting on pale, almost alabaster skin. She was moving around a few moments ago, showing her discomfort. Now, she’s gone very still. Her eyes are glassy. The changes in her are all happening very, very fast. ‘Oh God. Doctor, help us, please. Mia’s overheating. Please, help us. We can’t let her overheat.’

I start scrabbling at the buckles on her straps. I should have done this to start with. I shouldn’t have let it go this far. ‘Don’t touch the straps, Sarah. We’ll be right with you. Keep her on the bed. Keep as calm as you can.’ ‘I need to get her out of here.’ I’ve undone the strap round one of her arms, but my sweaty fingers keep slipping on the other buckle and my strength has been sapped by the heat. I can’t do it. ‘Stay where you are. We’ll be right with you.’ One more glance at the monitors – 41 degrees. The room’s spinning around me. I can’t keep it together. I keel over onto the mattress next to Mia. The baby’s squirming inside me, pushing against my stomach and my ribs. Saliva floods into my mouth – I’m going to be sick. I move my head and spit onto the floor. I can’t see any more. The room’s gone black. I’ve got my left arm across Mia. I can feel her even if I can’t see her. And I can hear her. ‘Mum-meee.’ It’s a thin, reedy noise, like an alarm bell in my head. It brings me round. I open my eyes and the room comes back into focus. I lift my head just in time to see her eyes roll back into her head and her body go stiff. ‘Oh my God. Oh my God. Somebody help us! Help! Please help!’ She starts to convulse, arms and legs twitching against her restraints, head jerking. I can hardly breathe. I try to hold onto her limbs. ‘Mia! Mia, come back to me! Mia!’ The jerking gets more violent. It’s terrifying, but I can’t do anything to stop her. All I can do is watch and try and keep her from harming herself. Then her whole body goes stiff. Her eyes are still open but I can only see the whites. I cradle

her face in my hands. ‘Mia. Mia. Can you hear me? Mia. Mia!’ It feels like she’s gone, like her body’s empty. ‘Oh God, no. Please, please, please.’ I slap her face. She gives a little moan and her eyes roll down and just for a moment she sees me again, I know she does. ‘Mia, don’t leave me. It’s not your time. Mia, stay with me. Stay with me.’ She’s pale now – the blotches have gone – a pale, stickthin girl lying on a bed much too big for her. Her eyes close and her arms and legs go limp. The door blasts open bringing a rush of cold air. Newsome and the whole team of staff sweep in. ‘Stand back, please.’ They jostle me aside and I stagger backwards. My body’s got no strength left in it. My back hits the wall and I sink to the floor. I don’t know if my daughter’s alive or dead.

Chapter 28: Adam Saul’s back. This time he brings a couple of armed thugs
with him. Am I going to get a beating? Is he going to kill me now? They cuff my wrists behind my back and shove me out of the door. ‘Right or wrong, you’re going to help me now. You’re needed,’ Saul says, and he barges past and sets off down the corridor at a run. My posse are digging me in the back, pushing me, dragging me along – it’s all bruises on top of bruises. I ain’t in any position to resist. ‘Leave off,’ I say. ‘I’m coming, all right.’ My words don’t make no difference. They enjoy this shit. We lose sight of Saul, but it don’t take long to catch up with him. We turn a corner and the corridor ahead is full of people running around like headless chickens. They’re mostly piling into one room, and that’s where we go. To start with it’s difficult to work out what’s going on. It looks like there’s a crowd of people round a bed, so many I can’t see who’s on it. Saul is shouting at Newsome. ‘What the hell were you doing?’ ‘I was doing my job, Saul. The girl changed her number – we were scientifically recreating those conditions to analyse what happens.’ The girl. Mia. They know she changed her number. How? How could they know that? Then I remember the soldier with the

message, putting his finger to his lips. They could be listening in. They did listen in – they listened to me and Sarah. That’s the only way they could know. What have they done? ‘I didn’t agree to that,’ Saul spits out. ‘I don’t need your sign-off, Saul. I’m the Chief Scientific Officer. I sign off all research. This is my project. You’re just

They’re facing each other, standing nearly chest to chest like two fighting birds. ‘I’m in charge of this facility,’ Saul shouts into Newsome’s face, ‘in charge of the whole place, or are you forgetting that?’ ‘What do you know about science?’ Newsome sneers. ‘What do you know about numbers? What are you even doing here?’ His chins are quivering. Saul shoots me a quick look. I twig instantly.

Newsome don’t know about his number-stealing.
I open my mouth – I’ll shout it from the rooftops, if it helps me get out of here – then I think about Saul’s threats. And I remember. He’s murdered before.

If not you, then who?
I close my mouth. I’m helpless. I can’t tell anyone. And anyway, they’d never believe me. My word against his. What can I do? ‘What do you know about this girl, Newsome?’ Saul’s saying. ‘What has your research shown you? Has her number changed? Or has your scientific meddling killed her?’

Killed her?
I try to shrug off my minders, to get to the bed. As I twist

Saul. 2022054. I lift her up and carry her over to Sarah. Somehow we’re gonna get through this. Her arms and legs have been strapped to the bed. She’s alive. I reach forward. Her eyes are closed. Nan’s number. loving future waiting for us.’ ‘Do it. There’s a happy. they’re free. 2572075. I can’t let Saul near her – but what about Mia? ‘Sarah. peaceful. but then. Her face is flushed and shiny. She opens her eyes slowly. My hands are wrenched up my back. her eyes dull. suddenly. I’m not doing anything until you’ve untied us both. unable to speak. are you all right? What’s happened?’ She shakes her head. but they’re still that piercing blue and the number’s the same. Adam. Tell me what you see. but that’s what her number’s saying. She’s floppy and pale. I call her name and she looks up. Her eyes are bloodshot. Saul grabs my arm and leads me away from her. And I can’t let that number change.’ Her chest is rising and falling – shallow little breaths. It’s still there. Saul ignores them. ‘Fuck off. And now I can see Mia.around I notice a figure slumped on the floor. Even in the middle of all this madness. She’s breathing. . Once she’s free. pushing through the crowd. Some people protest as they’re shoved out of the way. I crouch down on the floor. while they fumble with the cuffs. It’s Sarah. Mia’s number. Difficult to believe it.’ he says to the people round him. and completely still. ‘For God’s sake. helping the others get the straps and the wires off Mia. but her number’s the same. her number comforts me. what’ve you bastards done to her?’ ‘Look in her eyes.

‘If you won’t tell me. He’ll gamble it’s better than his own – that her gifts will be more powerful than his – and he won’t be wrong.’ he says. but I’m not in the mood to give in to him. Saul. the very last second. He’ll have her number. just so he can find out what it is. I do see them. He’s standing right in front of us. there’s another way I can find out. We need some space. ‘We’re all running out of time …’ His voice sounds strangled and I glance up. ‘So what?’ ‘Has her number changed?’ ‘I’m not telling you.’ he says. looking at me for an answer. His number sears my mind.’ One of his heavy boots shifts on the floor – he’s itching to kick me. leave us alone. are you all right?’ ‘Mum-mee. and she’ll have his. Adam. . But at the very last minute. 1622029.’ ‘Time. ‘For fuck’s sake. some time. looking down. ‘Give me the girl. I know exactly what he means. then glare up at him. Time really is running out for Saul.’ ‘What does he mean?’ Sarah’s holding Mia as tight as she can. and one of the heavy boots starts tapping on the floor. I see them just at the moment that they leave one soul and just before they enter mine. I close my eyes for a couple of seconds.‘Is she …? Mia. He’ll take her away from this room and he’ll take her number.’ I put Mia in Sarah’s arms. ‘So?’ Saul’s voice cuts in.

I’ll do anything —’ Sarah’s lost it.’ Newsome shouts. Saul. I hold my breath.’ he says. Newsome included.’ Behind him. I can hear the terror in it. Is his secret out? ‘Yes. continue the experiment.’ ‘No! No. ‘It’s Mia. please. my blood runs cold. They didn’t swap. Her voice is high-pitched and piercing. ‘How very … poetic. what it means for all of us. Saul?’ Newsome says. ‘Damn! Why didn’t it work? We didn’t push it far enough. striding towards the door.’ Saul says thoughtfully. She’s like …’ He stops and looks round. Newsome curses. Sarah. Her number’s the same. We stopped too early. ‘No?’ he says. It hasn’t changed.’ Saul says.’ . do we? I think we should clear the room. ‘Start setting up the room. I’ll tell you anything you want to know. ‘It has to be her last day. ‘It’s not you. please! Don’t do that to us again. coolly. ‘but we don’t know that.‘No!’ I shout. We bottled it the first time. ‘You don’t need to do that.’ Newsome says. ‘Like?’ ‘She’s like … an angel of death.’ His voice is high-pitched with excitement. and as hot as this room is. his hand on the door handle. ‘What do you want? What do you want from me?’ Newsome stops. ‘Let’s go again.’ ‘It wasn’t her last day. Whatever she’s been through has pushed her over the edge and beyond. Please.’ He looks as mad as Saul now. We’re all looking at him. ‘This child changed her number – we have to find out what that means. ‘You nearly killed us!’ Sarah screams at him.

Do you think she sees numbers?’ ‘He’s not her father. She’s only two. Saul. She’s shaking. Think about it.She hugs Mia even tighter. . Another gap in my memory is suddenly filled.’ Sarah sobs. Sarah?’ ‘No. ‘She’s just a little girl. why would she?’ ‘Because of Adam. Sarah.’ ‘Does she see numbers. How could I have forgotten? Mia’s not my daughter. I don’t know. like daughter. almost convulsing. Like father. It’s important.’ I feel like the ground’s tipping underneath me. Anyway. ‘Not her biological father. She doesn’t even know her numbers yet. Two years ago … Sarah was already pregnant when I met her.

‘I’ve had quite enough of your interference. I meant we. I wanted both – seeing numbers and changing them. His eyes dart from one person to another. He’s staring at Mia. . ‘Yes. ‘And Saul’s right – she changed numbers once.Chapter 29: Sarah It’s gone quiet now. and everyone in the room is looking at us.’ I’ve had enough. Happy now?’ I direct this at Saul. ‘But for some reason. ‘Why does this matter? We’re only interested in the fact that she changed number.’ Saul backtracks. I want out. that’s right. too. beyond any normal behaviour. Then I turn to Newsome. Newsome.’ Newsome says. These people are crazy. aren’t we? She can change. ‘I don’t get it.’ Saul shoots him a look. ‘Think of her power. Saul?’ Newsome sniffs. but he’s not looking at my face.’ ‘You wanted both?’ ‘We. ‘I’ve told you what you wanted to know. She can … live for ever.’ ‘Do I have to remind you again whose project this is. and finally end up on me. And she can’t see numbers – she’s not like Adam. if she has both. out of control. He’s thinking fast. cradled in my arms. you can see it in his face. Your experiment didn’t work. she’s only done it once. She can renew. They don’t know what they want – but I do. She can’t see numbers.’ he murmurs.

We don’t know if she can change again. ‘You’re the only father she’s ever known. ‘You’re the best father she could have. I hear a voice. I need him to back me up. and I’m taking my daughter. I lean closer to him. trying to get a little energy into my bones. I’ve got no strength at all. I want this nightmare to stop. but you’re not putting her through that again. and heave myself up. Newsome’s. I squeeze his arm. They’ve been through enough.’ I squeeze my eyes tighter shut. The baby inside me feels heavier than ever.’ I open my eyes. ‘No. The bump is sitting lower in my body. ‘And so. Adam. stand firm against this unhinged. mouthing something. ‘No. Newsome’s squashed face is a picture of angry confusion – and then Saul turns away from me towards him. My stomach goes soft inside. but he stops spluttering and sweeps out of the room. I get my feet under me. stunned. ‘we continue. I close my eyes for a second and breathe. it stops here for today. but he carries on sitting there.’ he says. He’s stepping . I want to leave this place. Saul’s a metre away from me now.’ He doesn’t react. It was one piece of the jigsaw his mind had put in the wrong place. I lean against the wall. It feels like it’s pressing on the top of my legs. bickering pair. He hadn’t remembered she wasn’t his biological daughter. Once I’m up. But he’s not listening.’ I whisper. Newsome’s face darkens. It’s a huge effort. He’s gazing at Mia too – and he looks shocked to the core. I don’t think he’s heard a single word I’ve said.’ It’s Saul’s voice. who’s crouching next to me. are you with us?’ I turn to Adam. He thought he was her father.

I stare at his hand. I just can’t. ‘I can’t sleep in this place.’ Why’s he being nice to me? What’s he trying to do? My brain can’t make the connection between what’s happened. ‘Sarah. He touches my stomach. For a second Saul’s hand grips a little tighter and I’m ready to scream. but then he drops it to his side. We can arrange that. taken aback at the venom in my voice.’ He sighs. My back’s against the wall – I’ve got nowhere to go.’ ‘Then you need a little something to help you. Immediately I turn and reach out for Mia. We’ll see how you are in the morning.’ Adam’s on his feet now. shepherding me towards the door. ‘And sleep on the ground? In the mud? In the cold? I don’t think so.’ Saul says. ‘I don’t want to go back there. She clambers on to me. ‘you must be exhausted. I just want to get out of here. and what’s happening now.forward.’ he says softly. My knees nearly buckle with her weight. This guy’s given me the creeps ever since I first saw him. I can’t stand it. ‘Let’s get you back to your room. I’ve hated him from the moment he prised Mia’s eye open when she was hiding in my arms. ‘Take your hand off of her. can’t stand the contact. You need a good night’s sleep. ‘No!’ He looks at me.’ he says. He puts his hand on top of Saul’s and his fingers shake as they try to peel Saul’s away.’ I snarl.’ His hand is on my arm now. Come along. his hand outstretched. I’m horrified. ‘Get off me. .

fingers. and they’re grabbing me. . and Mia. There are no rules here. making sickening contact with Saul’s jaw. I’ve seen him like this before and I know what’s coming next. He’s twitching – hands. Adam. Before I know it. pulling us out of the room. clutching his face. They’ll take you away again. don’t. catching him off guard.‘No. Didn’t you hear me?’ ‘Adam!’ His elbow flies back and then his fist flies forward. Please don’t!’ But it’s too late. ‘I said get your hand off of her. It’s all about survival. There are no human rights. shoulders. ‘No. I don’t want … I don’t need anything. too. I’m back in the place I dread. Now people are grabbing Adam. But this time it’s different. Saul reels backwards. just to be out of here … Adam? Tell him. Please don’t. I’ve seen what these people are capable of. desperate and facing another long night. restraining him. face.’ I glance sideways and Adam is bristling with energy.

then who?’ He thought it could be Mia. Real danger. We don’t know when the baby’s due. Looking death in the face every single day. Knowing I can’t meet anyone without being forced to think about their last moment. Saul’s time is running out. But the minute he heard Sarah say that Mia wasn’t mine. He said it. but she don’t know what I know. I should be sorry. Sarah’s not stupid. I knew what he was thinking. He could grab a random life but that’s not what he wants. he changed. And my fists didn’t leave us any time to talk about it. Feeling people’s pain. Now he thinks he’s found what he wants. He wants to steal a life that doesn’t just give him extra years. didn’t he? ‘If not you.Chapter 30: Adam So Saul wants to see numbers. Not even a newborn baby. Adam. I could say what it’s been like for me for the last eighteen years. He weren’t thinking about Mia no more. When he stepped forward and put his hand on Sarah’s stomach. I could tell him. and he’s got less than forty-eight hours to find one. their suffering. he wants extra powers too. Now I know as clear as day that Sarah and our baby are in danger. and she’s never liked Saul. Here I am again. . but Saul won’t wait. that’s why he was so hepped up when he heard about Newsome’s experiment. If he asked me what it was like. He can’t wait.

Fifty more. A pain behind my eyes. I am sorry. That’s better. I rest down on the floor. The bruises hurt. There’s got to be some way out of here and I can figure it out. I got no one to turn to for advice. Over and over. but I grit my teeth and carry on. the exercise gives them a focus. They’ve gone. but instead of blocking out the thoughts. Sarah and Mia. lie there flat. push with my arms. but only that I didn’t finish the job properly. the feeling of missing them is a physical thing. I’m going to. . Two and a half steps there.locked up. and I start to feel it in my arms. Two and a half steps back again. with my head turned. Saul’s a monster. There’s nowhere to hide in this cell. I walk from one side of the cell to the other. and the danger they’re in. Fifty more. one cheek on the cold concrete. and I’m sweating. Then I drop to the floor and try some press-ups. Nan and Mum. a tightening in my stomach. I know I can. I’m going to have to do this by myself. I should have killed him. there’ll be an opportunity. I’ve got to protect Sarah. Fifty. and I’m still fresh. If I keep my wits about me. Then. I will kill him. I want to be tired and I want to stop thinking. but I keep thinking about the people who aren’t here. get us out of here … and kill Saul. I’ll see something. I brace my body. I don’t know where they are. Will Adrian help us? I can’t help thinking he won’t – not in the end. I just have to stay alert. Somewhere? Nowhere? Suddenly my grief about them. I’m frantic with terror and it hits me all over again that I’m the only one left of my family.

happy little girl to a frightened shell. silent and dry-eyed. a woman. unmoving. and I believe him. The doctor runs through some routine checks. Since we got back to the cell she’s been pale. She lies on the bed. but I regret it when she’s gone.Chapter 31: Sarah Another doctor. What have we got to lose? Adrian brings us food and drink.’ he says. ‘But he couldn’t reply. anyway.’ he says. Is there any chance we can get out . I haven’t had a chance to ask him until now. ‘Her temperature’s fine now. I try to give Mia some milk. I shrug. ‘Are you all right?’ he whispers underneath the sound of the water. She takes hold of the cup.’ ‘Thanks. ‘Is Adam back in solitary? Did you take the note to him. Her heart rate’s good. He looks worked up. looking away. So sorry. I bite my tongue. ‘Yes. In less than two days I’ve seen her change from a bright.’ TLC. but doesn’t drink. Too much surveillance. I want to spit the letters back in her face. I should have told her how it is. Adrian goes straight into the bathroom and turns on the shower. comes to check Mia. She just needs rest and some TLC. before?’ I say. ‘They tried to kill us – how do you think we are?’ ‘I’m sorry.

Their attention is all on me. that’s for sure – but not in a good way. Mia starts to whimper when we get there. The only thing they give in to is my insistence that Mia comes. and soon she’s lying on the floor underneath the bed. It won’t be long. You look tired. They give her crayons and paper again. Well. then we’re going with them this time – there’s no way we’re getting shut in here again. they don’t seem interested in her. they’re different. ‘I know it’s tough. A scan. You should rest. ‘I don’t know if I can cope. I hate the thought of sleeping here. ‘I won’t need a pill. I thought things were going to be different with this one. stroking her fingers with my thumb. but I can feel exhaustion creeping over me. . I didn’t even have any help with the birth. And if I see people leaving the room. I can get you a pill …?’ My legs are like jelly and I can feel the bags of skin sagging under my eyes. They’re saying they’re going to do an ultrasound on the baby. This morning.tonight?’ He shakes his head.’ ‘Hang on in there. I never had an ultrasound with Mia. but a part of me is curious. I don’t want to let her out of my sight.’ It’s too long to wait.’ he says. you know. ‘I need some time to plan. I kick up when I realise where they’re taking me the next morning – back to the room with the observation window. too. I don’t want Newsome or any of his cronies anywhere near me or Mia ever again.’ I say. It doesn’t make any difference what I do or say. though. Another night or two. I’m getting outside help. wanting to see the baby inside me. She was my secret. I hold her hand firmly. scribbling away.

Newsome.’ I say. ‘Have you had any ante-natal care?’ he asks. I’ve been living rough.’ That does it. Its deep. ‘I’ve never enjoyed sarcasm.’ he starts.’ he says.’ I say. ‘Any what?’ I snap. ‘You have a responsibility to this child.’ He’s got the grace to look embarrassed. ‘You didn’t give a flying fuck about this baby yesterday. Watching. trying to keep his temper in check. I look at him warily.’ he says. ‘Ante-natal care.And now Newsome is here. It’s not easy. . and then a voice comes through the speaker. sharp tone makes the breath catch in my throat. I want a woman. ‘Let’s just do this. All I see is my own pinched face looking back at me.’ ‘You’re in no position to make demands. Have you seen a midwife?’ ‘Course not. Behind the mirror. and his face flushes a deeper pink. shall we?’ ‘Not you.’ ‘My heart bleeds for you. ‘That was … different. And Mia.’ It’s Saul.’ Newsome tuts. a duty of care. but I know he’s there now. You nearly killed us both. ‘Do what she says. He sighs. ‘I don’t want you doing it. I’m not taking a lecture from him. I can’t help glancing towards the mirrored wall. ‘I’m trying to balance medicine and scientific enquiry here.

That’ll be all – thank you.’ she says.’ I don’t know what she means. arms in front. I look up and there’s a woman in a white coat. and I can. sliding it around. Can you see?’ I crane forward a little. the spine. I’m coming back in. The skin is stretched taut. There’s a baby on screen.’ Newsome’s voice cuts in. ‘We’ll have a picture soon. but someone’s putting a restricting hand on my arm. She flicks the screen on and starts pressing a plastic gun-thing into my skin. like she’s pleased she’s told me. knees bent. ‘Here we are. eyes closed. ‘Can you see. clear jelly onto my stomach. The doctor shakes her head.’ ‘No. ‘Just lie back. pushing and tilting. ‘Yes. ‘That’s not important. face in profile. ‘Any problems?’ It’s Saul’s voice again. its spine curled. black and white screen. ‘Everything seems fine. Doctor Newsome. the baby will like “Twinkle. then she goes back underneath the bed with her crayons. the same one who checked Mia last night. ‘Try and relax. ‘Baby twinkle.’ . standing on tiptoe. She lifts up my top and squeezes cold. There’s the heart.’ she says.’ she says. please.’ There’s a monitor on a trolley next to her. ‘Baby twinkle.’ she says. do we know what the estimated delivery date is? I can’t find it on the records. cross.I want to get off the bed and get out of here. Twinkle”. Mia?’ Mia’s out from underneath the bed. peering up at the grainy. There’s a hand. She nods firmly.

’ he repeats. ‘I don’t want this. but I can’t make any sense of his words. he stops talking. She stays by my bedside as Newsome comes back in. ‘I don’t want an operation. . the location of the placenta.’ I say. like a fleshy toad. At one point he leans forward and puts his hand on top of mine. then at me. I struggle up. And it’s as if I’m seeing it for the first time. He gets to his feet. but he ushers her out briskly. What is it with people around here? Why do they think it’s okay to touch me? I pull my hand away roughly. and through the gap I see someone lurking outside in the corridor. Saul. faintly. I’m too stunned even to push it away. Newsome’s talking. sitting there. of course. ‘I don’t understand. A Caesarian is the safest option.’ The decision’s been made for me. My brain stopped working after his first couple of sentences: ‘There’s no need to be alarmed but the ultrasound is showing that we need to deliver the baby early. The way the baby’s presenting.’ I say again. a gesture of reassurance. his lips fold and unfold.’ ‘Do I have a choice?’ ‘It’s for the best. ‘The other doctor said that everything’s okay. trying to make my voice strong.’ I say. ready to run if I’m shut in here again.’ ‘She meant that the foetus – baby – is alive now but there are other factors here. I look down at his hand on mine.The doctor looks up sharply. quickly. ‘It’s for the best. Eventually. I’ll be doing a Caesarian tomorrow …’ I watch his mouth open and shut. He pauses by the door.

Behind him. Saul’s eyes are glittering and dark.‘I’ll see you in the morning. . He rubs his hands together. The door closes. then claps Newsome on the back.’ Newsome says.

like the cat that got the cream.Chapter 32: Adam ‘I’ve come to pass on my congratulations.’ ‘What operation? What’s wrong?’ ‘Nothing’s wrong. it’s not until tomorrow. and jump up.’ When it suits. She’s having a Caesarian. She’s had her scan and everything’s looking good. ‘Something’s the matter and you’re not telling me. jittery. Saul.’ ‘What? How do you know?’ He’s still grinning. telling me stuff I should have been the first to know. ‘Because that’s when she’s having the operation. ain’t it? They do that when things go wrong. She’s having the baby.’ ‘There’s nothing the matter. I ignore his dig about Mia. ‘What for?’ ‘You’re about to become a father. He’s loving this.’ Sarah. Nice and clean and safe. . but he’s also smiling.’ ‘Calm down. That’s the beauty of a Caesarian. He’s edgy.’ A Caesarian? That’s when they open you up and take the baby out of your stomach. I promised I’d be there. Adam. you can have it exactly when it suits.’ Saul’s back. ‘I gotta be there. For real this time.

‘I’m not saying. He’s pretty relaxed considering I thumped him last time I saw him. ‘Would you give me your number?’ ‘You’re asking me things I can’t say yes to. ‘You could …’ He’s laughing. I need to get back to Sarah.’ I say slowly. ‘I’ve got to see her. trying to choose my words carefully. Anything. But how? ‘Saul.When it suits who? ‘Who’s decided this? Is it the doctors? Or Sarah? Or …?’ He don’t answer me. I’ve got to. He’s enjoying watching me squirm. Or maybe there’s a chance I can turn things round.’ ‘What’s Sarah’s?’ I shake my head. please let me be there.’ I try to walk away from him.’ He’s right.’ . ‘She needs me. I’ll do anything. but it ain’t easy in a room this size. Saul. I’m trying really. Adam? Would you tell me any number I wanted to know? Would you promise to help me find a good one?’ He pauses. I shouldn’t have gone for you. I should. ‘What’s Mia’s number?’ he says. Maybe I’ll do it now. but now I’m thinking I should've finished the job.’ ‘Perhaps you should have thought about that before you attacked me. his arms crossed.’ He’s leaning on the wall. ‘I’m sorry. ‘What would you do. Saul. really hard to work out what I should do now.

He’s over by the door while I’m still scrambling to get up.’ ‘So you make the decisions round here. I feel stupid. ’cause of what had just happened to Mia and Sarah. It’s better for everyone this way. with one parting shot.’ he sneers. ‘Look at you.’ He’s back to looking smug again. Saul! You leave my family alone!’ . ‘you shouldn’t.’ ‘Yes. From Sarah and Mia and the baby. but he’s ready. Newsome over-reached himself. I’ll do what I like …’ I launch myself at him. Empty threats. I’m the boss. He blocks me and uses my own momentum to throw me onto the floor. I’ve reminded him who’s in charge. He won’t do that again. I want to wipe that smarmy look off his face. I can’t suck up to him any more. I’ll do it quickly. ‘Are you really ready to be a father. Adam.’ ‘Empty threats. It’ll all be over. ‘Stay away from them. a boy fighting a man.’ ‘That’s right.’ ‘And it’s you who’s decided that my baby gets born tomorrow.’ he says. hammering my fists on the rusty metal.’ The door slams and I slam into it. A sacrifice for the greater good.’ ‘That was … unfortunate.‘No. Adam? I’d feel sorry for the child – if it survived.’ ‘I was wound up. ‘You bastard. Don’t worry. almost before it began. It’s opened from outside and he’s through and out.

But could be soon. What’s changed?’ Adrian doesn’t answer. as Mia sits on the floor. Saul. ‘I’m trying to get everything you’ve asked for. hoping he’ll pick up on my meaning. ‘When?’ I whisper. The shower thunders into action.’ he says – and then I know we’re talking the same language.’ he says.’ He puts a hand on my shoulder – the contact feels welcome this time. the covers on the bed have been replaced by a duvet. ‘Try and rest. . Could be very soon. ‘Saul’s orders.’ I try not to mind when the door closes this time.’ he says.’ I say slowly.Chapter 33: Sarah There’s extra food in our room. taking comfort in knowing that Adrian’s on the case. ‘Leave it all to me. ‘What’s this?’ I ask Adrian. ‘Nothing’s changed for me. We go straight to the bathroom. working her way through the box of toys. and there are toys for Mia – it’s the box from the interview room. ‘I’m relying on other people. ‘Why’s he doing this? He thought I was something he’d found on the bottom of his shoe before. looking for the dolly. It all comes back to Saul.

The baby settles down. with every cell in my body. I watch Mia with her toys. The handle is some sort of bone or horn. Instead. I hold my hand to the place where a knee or an elbow is pressing close to the surface. why he’s like this.’ I’m begging him now. I don’t understand what I’ve done. My stomach’s not exactly painful.I get onto the bed and prop myself up on my side. I close my eyes. he draws a knife. ‘Sleep. If only there was someone else here. If only I could run. He’s panting like a dog. He doesn’t wipe it off. I believe him. lying it down and standing it up again. please don’t. twinkle. .’ he says. The bead of saliva swells and bursts. with a pillow cushioning my bump. He’s not listening. Ssshhh!’ The baby moves inside me. just really uncomfortable. It’s a hunting knife. It’s me and him. But there isn’t. She’s found the dolly again and she’s busy talking to it. He’s staring with the light of madness in his eyes. ‘Baby.’ she says. baby. Begging for my life. ‘I’ve done it before. the blade is curved. ‘Please. trickling down the side of his chin. Me and him and his knife.

I’d have one shot at it and one shot only. He checks where I am in the room before he comes in. with a hand each side of the tray. I dunno what time it is. The guy with the tray’s got his hands full. I could flip it into one guy’s face and barge him backwards into the other one. I reckon I’ll just have to go for it the next . but he’ll be ready for me … unless I use the tray as a weapon. Saul hasn’t shown his face since he came to taunt me.Chapter 34: Adam The walls are solid. trying to take in exactly what they do when they venture into my cell. I study the soldiers. That’d be the time to strike. I haven’t seen Sarah’s squaddie. It all depends on speed and surprise. The door stays open so the whole business can be observed by the soldier outside with the key. the ventilation hole in the ceiling is the width of my arm and there’s a grille bolted into it. so I reckon I could take him fairly easily. There’s a moment’s hesitation when they first open up. then he sets the tray on my sleeping platform and walks out backwards so he’s facing me the whole time. either. who shuts the door and locks it again. The guy with the key won’t shoot me if his mate’s between him and me. And the only people doing that are the ones bringing my food and collecting my tray. I can’t tell by the food ’cause it’s always the same. the floor is concrete. The only chance of escape is when people come in and out. There’s always one with a gun outside who unlocks the door. then the one with the food appears.

She puts her bony arm round me and rests her head on top of mine. Once I start thinking about what might be happening my mind runs away with me. but no one will say it. Her face has changed shape. I wanna be ready. I don’t want to hurt her with a clumsy elbow or knee. I close my eyes and try to remember Mum.’ What’s wrong? My world’s falling apart. and I know she loves me. She’s slipping and sliding away from me. but I’m using up precious energy. I’ve lost too many people to lose Sarah too. ‘What is it. Adam? What’s wrong? You’re a bundle of nerves. My need to stop him. I make myself sit down again. She beckons me nearer. You’re ill.time they come in. but you can’t stay in that position for long. It’s almost impossible to hold onto people once they’re gone. Think of something lovely.’ ‘Relax. She’s propped up in bed. I clamber carefully onto the bed. And when I finally do. You’re dying. the picture that comes to me isn’t the one I want. ‘Nothing. Her breath smells. with that smug smile. And when I picture him. a shadow of who she used to be. I feel the adrenalin pulsing through my veins. I try pacing about. try and focus on Sarah. I’m scared of how different she is. her eyes are sunk in her head. I can’t get hold of her. like she’s breathing out all the chemicals they’ve been pumping into her. I perch on the edge of the bed like a coiled spring. I’ve learnt that the hard way. If that’s taken away. He’s the one who’s going to get me through this. Where would you like to be right now? Where shall we go. I’d have nothing. but that’s just mental torture. My need to protect the people I care about. I love her. the two of us?’ . I’m tense and twitchy. So I shift my focus to Saul. Mum.

It might as well be the other side of the world – Mum’s not able to get out of bed at the moment. ‘Is it sunny. I’ll beat you there …’ ‘No way! I’m already miles ahead. then. Mum. I’d rather go back in time – to when she was just a mum like anyone else’s. let alone stroll along to the prom. on and on and on into the sea … I open my eyes. you’ve got to catch me …’ We run across the flat sand towards a line of gleaming silver breaking almost silently onto the shore. Adam?’ ‘Yeah. we’re running. let’s go on the beach first.’ ‘Only about half a mile to bloody walk then …’ ‘We’re not walking.’ ‘Right. Hold my hand…’ ‘No.’ ‘Wait for me. The tide’s in. Except she wasn’t ever like anyone’s else’s mum: she was always funnier and crazier and better. Why did she go? Why did she leave me? I got nothing left of her.’ Weston beach is only a few hundred metres down the road from our flat. Mum.For a second I can’t think. I’m in a bare cell. before she got sick. I don’t want to be anywhere with her like this. I slow down on purpose until she grabs my shoulder – ‘Caught you!’ – and then we run hand in hand. but not too hot. Truth is. I close my eyes again and I hear her voice and mine . ‘Let’s go to the beach. alone.’ ‘Fancy an ice cream?’ ‘In a bit.

Maybe it makes him vulnerable. the ones I read in the letter she wrote to me when she knew she was dying: If you start to forget what I looked like. Maybe that makes him more dangerous. Just remember the love. he hasn’t learnt what really matters. I’ve got love in my life and that’s something worth fighting for. or anything. Remember the love. I’ve still got her love.mixed up – and we’re saying the same words. That’s what matters. That’s what matters. Not even death. I don’t know. . It’s worth dying for. No one and nothing could take that away from me. However many lifetimes he’s lived through. That’s what Saul doesn’t understand. And I’ve got people who I love now and who love me. but I know that I’ve got it. or sounded like. don’t worry. He just doesn’t get it.

I’m looking at his eyes. not reacting to my fear. people brushing against the walls. He holds the tip against my skin. Don’t cut me. They come in groups. The sound booms down the corridor. God help me. for the room to turn upside-down. It’s happening again. more of them this time.’ I say. shouts. She’s awake. There’s a racket outside in the corridor. and it’s choking me. The noise thuds in my ears. then another two or three. but it’s people. ‘I don’t know what it is. pleading with mine. The first thing I think of is the Chaos. grey metal. The corridor’s full again: thudding feet. The explosions start again. . and I believe him. I’m braced for another shock. ‘Mummy?’ she says. Don’t kill me.Chapter 35: Sarah The blade is dull – cold. But I can’t say anything. I open my eyes in time to hear the next explosion. and the alarm shrilling on and on. I look round for Mia. clattering past our room. Then the people are gone. two or three then a pause. An alarm starts ringing. ‘I’ve done it before …’ he says. There’s a gag in my mouth. He’s not seeing my terror. And then there’s a bang. Only his eyes are strangely blank. It doesn’t mean a thing to him.

We’ve just got to go.There’s so much noise I don’t hear the key in the lock.’ Adrian says to him. but suddenly Adrian’s in the room. Wrap her up and bring anything warm you can find. and sets off against the flow. Sarah. ‘Adrian!’ I call out. ‘Prisoner coming through.’ ‘What’s happening? What’s all the noise?’ ‘I can’t explain now.’ I wrap Mia’s stripy blanket around her. He hesitates in the doorway. ‘Where going?’ she murmurs. ‘I keep getting a stitch. ‘To see Daddy. I can see Mia’s face looking for me over Adrian’s shoulder. Adrian scoops her up and I dig my old coat out from under the bed. His uniform isn’t buttoned up properly and his hair is sticking up. I’ll carry Mia. ‘I’ve got orders to evacuate these two further away from the entrance.’ he barks.’ . Soldiers are hurtling past in a never-ending stream of khaki. I’m having trouble keeping up. who also stops. ‘Can you lead the way? We’ll head for the medical wing.’ he says. though. He checks behind him and stops. The further I drop behind the more I’m getting bumped and barged by people coming the other way. ‘Now.’ I say. ‘Wait!’ he shouts at our escort. then she disappears behind a sea of faces. Adrian and I follow in his slipstream. expecting others to get out of his way. I can’t go very fast. ‘I’m sorry.’ I whisper. ‘It’s got to be now. The guard outside our room is still there.’ The guard doesn’t question him.

Walk in front of me. ‘This is where I say goodbye. but I’m puffing with the effort of keeping up.’ ‘What does that mean?’ I ask Adrian. You’ll find the way without me. sure. This time the floor shakes and everyone stops running for a second or two.’ Adrian says. ‘We’re fine. ‘Bye. get sorted out.’ ‘The stores?’ I’m trying to talk to him as we walk.’ he says. Entrance 1 is a code 5. Code 5. and puts Mia down.’ We’re nearly at the medical wing when there’s another volley of explosions. Adrian? I don’t want to go to the medical wing. ‘We’re heading to the stores. We’ll go at your pace. ‘It’s a code 5. Sarah. Come on. medicines. He strokes her cheek. all sorts. People have been coming in and out that way since the bunker’s been occupied. ‘It means this place is in trouble.’ Our guard is pushing back past us. They start off in a corridor and then lead into a network of caves going right through the hill. Just keep moving.‘It’s okay. ‘It’s the only other way out. ‘You all right from here?’ he says. They get stuff from the stores.’ . this way. sweetheart.’ We’ve turned into a side corridor now.’ ‘What’s happening. We watch him go and then Adrian says.’ ‘We’re not.’ ‘Yes. And there’ll be someone to meet you at the other end.’ Adrian says.’ The soldier heads off at the double. ‘You’d better put that coat on now. Then a voice booms along the corridor: ‘Code 5.

’ . ‘Won’t you come a bit further?’ I say. Suppose there are more explosions. but not far.But I’m not ready to let him go yet. Let me get my breath back. I can’t carry her in this state.’ ‘Okay. Suppose Mia gets so frightened she won’t walk. ‘Just a bit. I ought to be back in post before they realise you’ve gone.

I lean against the door and listen to the panic outside. Then the noise comes. He’s hunched over. . officers yelling out orders. He turns to face me and his face widens to a grin underneath the dirty beard. This ain’t no soldier. I stay silent. Then the door opens.Chapter 36: Adam The concrete vibrates against my cheek. but the bell keeps on and on and on. back pressed to the wall next to the door. Twice. like car doors slamming. They don’t normally speak and the light normally flickers on before they come in. By the time the crack of light widens into an oblong. And the something he’s dragging into the cell is a body. There are people running down the corridor. That weren’t no car doors. but he’s shorter than most of the squaddies here and his hair’s tied in a pony tail. After a while the sound of boots on concrete is gone. I sit up. It feels like it’s inside my head. so he has to come right in to the room to see me. I’m on my feet and ready to thump whoever’s coming in. ‘Adam!’ A man calling my name – that’s odd. Once. The light from the corridor outside shows army kit. an alarm ringing. Two bangs. dragging something behind him.

though. a sick place. There’s a knife and a torch and all sorts in there.‘Adam … Adam. Trust me. unconscious. ‘This isn’t going to fool anyone. the face that was on the telly in a million front rooms. ‘You can fill me in later. ‘Tie this scarf round. The pockets are bulging. my supplier – Adrian. You ready?’ ‘God.’ ‘Adam. Daniel. We’ll meet them if we’re lucky. slapping my back. ‘I’ve come to get you out. we’ll see them outside.’ ‘What are we waiting for?’ My answer comes in the form of a massive series of explosions. Daniel straightens up.’ I point to my face.’ He hands me an army jacket. If not. I feel inside. hardly believing he’s here. They won’t be looking at you – the focus will be somewhere else. my contact here. it’s under control.’ ‘I gotta see her.’ He looks grim. . Put this on. I hold onto him for a minute. steps over the guard and pushes the door nearly to. are you all right?’ ‘Daniel?’ ‘Let me park this …’ I help him lug the body clear of the door. They’re after our baby. Someone else is helping Sarah. That’s all we need. It’ll get you past a first glance. Yeah! We got to get Sarah. It’s a guard. Then he finds me and wraps his arms round me in a man-hug.’ He holds his arm up to catch the light seeping in round the door and looks at his watch. It’s sick in here. yeah. ‘Let’s give it a minute.

We’re okay – no one’s behind us. and then I remember – three days ago Saul shot him in the leg. They must have heard . ‘Let’s go. Must have just been a flesh wound. breaking into a jog. ‘Not far now.’ And then we’re off. Daniel edges towards it.’ ‘I can’t believe you’re springing me.Immediately sirens start wailing and there’s the sound of running in the corridor again. it’s the perfect diversion. We couldn’t let you disappear. Through the back door. Here we are. destroy the place. They may get in this time. letting the soldiers ease ahead before he darts down a side turning.’ ‘And Sarah?’ ‘She’ll be there too. But even if they don’t. Adam. We run for a few minutes – at the back of the pack – then Daniel slows. Try not to worry. I follow him.’ We turn a corner into another corridor. as I catch up. ‘Believe it. a soldier and a woman and a girl.’ he says. Daniel’s limping.’ I put my hand up and he meets it with a high five. soldiers in front of us.’ he says. checking over my shoulder. and peers out. ‘I told you – we need you. Friends. I hope to God no one sees the cell door is open. Sooner or later. Halfway down there are three people with their backs to us. ‘Fuck! What is that?’ ‘Friends. ’cause it ain’t slowing him down much.’ There’s another series of explosions and the whole place shakes. ‘Where we goin’?’ ‘Same way I came in. We’re running with the herd to start with. Adam.

Sarah looks past me. They spin round. She puts her hands round my neck and draws me down for a kiss. Maybe more of our people have got in. Are you coming.’ We look at each other. you just have to follow them. There are white marks on the wall. huge rings under her eyes. ‘Someone’s been in there. see what the . Mia’s clinging to my legs. thank God. though. or come out. At the end of it is a door. Daniel. It’s a bit tight in places.’ Another explosion booms through the bunker. ‘I’m staying. Just as he lifts his arm to take aim Sarah shouts. But we’ve got to get through these caves first. I locked it. but her eyes are blue as ever and they’re sparkling now. begging to be picked up. and I’m running to Sarah and Mia. ‘Daniel. ‘You’ll see them soon. I’ll see you in a couple of months. ‘I’ve got a key.’ he says. What would I do outside? Good luck. ‘No. The soldier draws a gun from his belt. Safest place in England. ‘That’s not how I left it.’ I set Mia down.’ Adrian says. ‘Daddeee!’ Adrian relaxes and puts the gun away.’ We start walking away from him down the corridor.’ he I keep one arm round Sarah and reach down to her. so I can go in with Daniel. is that you? You’re alive! Oh. ‘I’ll still be here. Where are Marty and Luke? Are they safe? ‘They’re fine. Daniel stops dead. Sarah looks exhausted. ‘Now let’s get out of here. too?’ This to Adrian. Here—’ He digs in his pocket and gives Sarah a torch.’ ‘This place might not be here by then. but I don’t think that was the plan. but you’ll be okay. ‘Adam!’ and Mia screams. It’s open.

head tilted to the ceiling. The room beyond the door isn’t empty.’ Daniel says. ‘The door’s open. ‘Adrian. and he jumps out of his skin. leaning against a wall. Was that you?’ ‘No. We all freeze. all of you. ‘It’s clear. Let’s just go. ‘Daniel. Come in and . ‘There’s no one here.’ ‘I’ve got to get back. eyes closed. Adrian walks into the room. An open door to an unguarded exit.’ ‘Come and look.’ he snaps. can it? Daniel takes the gun away from Adrian’s neck and gives him a shove in the back of the ribs with it. I can smell the sharp whiff of fear coming from Adrian. But he’s already dodging back.’ Daniel follows him in.’ I call. I let Sarah and Mia go next and bring up the rear.’ he says. ‘I didn’t do anything. There’s sweat trickling down the side of his face. As they pass.’ Adrian says. holding both hands up.’ he shouts. Daniel. running towards Adrian. I freeze. ‘Adrian’s going to go first. Saul is standing in front of Daniel and Adrian and he’s holding a revolver.’ Even at this distance I can see his face is flushed. who’s still standing where we left him. It can’t be that easy.’ But he’s pulled a gun on Adrian now.problem is. ‘Do come in. ‘Aren’t you?’ He walks him towards us. I don’t get what’s going on – I thought they were mates – but I’m not going to argue with Daniel in this mood. ‘Welcome. ‘Leave him.

shut the door.’ .

’ Adrian can only just get the words out. Even Mia. He’s aiming at Saul.Chapter 37: Sarah I turn round and grab the edge of the door. It’s a huge. His gun is still in his hand.’ Adam digs the knife tip in deeper. Soundproof. Daniel. Mia and I are past them now and. ‘start running. Adrian and Daniel. Then he reaches into his pocket. Sarah and me.’ ‘Put the knife down. ‘You know . ‘Adam. with rivets and old-fashioned locks. He twists his left arm and pulls it up his back making him squeal. Adam suddenly lunges towards Adrian. ‘You knew. but Adam’s holding him tight and he’s not letting go.’ Adam yanks Adrian’s arm further up his back. Adam. Daniel’s standing next to them.’ he says. thick wooden thing. ‘You ratted on us.’ I squeeze Mia’s hand and start edging behind Adam. Your mate. draws out a knife and holds it at Adrian’s neck. keeping our backs to the wall. ‘I don’t want to hear your excuses. ‘Sarah. ‘I’m s-s-sorry. Yet. We’ll catch up. His voice is staccato with fear. You betrayed us. It’s not breaking the skin.’ Saul cuts in.’ he says turning his head my way and speaking through gritted teeth. As I swing it to. thickly. we sidle further into the cave. ‘I d-d-didn’t have a-a-a choice. stop it! Stop it!’ I scream.

It doesn’t bother me one way or the other. We’re three or four metres away from them now. Saul.’ . I’ve seen him throw objects around and smash things up. panting like a dog. I just want this sideshow to be over with. Then Adam speaks. I’ll kill him if I have to. silent apart from the sound of Mia and me shuffling along on the uneven stone floor and Adrian. I can’t do it.’ Adam says. then. I’ve seen him hit people in a temper.’ ‘Keep moving. Then it’s me and you. Get rid of the hippy with the six shooter as well. and I’ll kill you too.’ ‘Let him go then. the sinews in his hand taut like violin strings. I ignore Saul and keep moving.’ ‘What?’ ‘Kill him. Looking at him now – with the hatred in his eyes. the vein in his neck pulsing with anger – I’m not sure he won’t use it. ‘Kill him. ‘You’re right. Get rid of him.’ Adam says. He’s defending Mia and me. ‘You want me to kill him. ‘Go on. but I never thought I’d see him threaten someone with a knife. ‘I can’t do it. ‘I don’t particularly want you to. I can’t tell what’s going to happen next. stay where you are.’ Saul says.’ he says. It’s frightening seeing him like this but there’s something noble about him too. his breathing fast and loud. Sarah. He’ll fight to the death for us. Saul. but I don’t want Mia to see any more.’ This is an Adam I haven’t seen before. a sound of sheer animal terror. Sarah.’ Adrian’re not going to use it.’ It’s silent for an achingly long time. ‘I will use it.

I follow the line of the rock wall. arms flailing. It’s only a tiny movement. I race deeper into the cave. Daniel’s gun flies out of his hand. I put my hand over Mia’s eyes and I start running. He bends over clutching his wrist. Adrian convulses where he stands and then folds forward. echoing off the walls so if you couldn’t see the smoke coming from the barrel you wouldn’t know where the sound had come from. I glance back. Saul moves the gun towards Adrian. . Adrian staggers forward.’ Still aiming the gun at Daniel. dragging her with me. but the ear-splitting blast fills the cave. past the first white mark and on and on and on. I don’t look back any more. but I can.Adam moves the knife away from Adrian’s throat. There’s another gunshot and another. ‘You can’t. he squeezes the trigger.’ Saul says. I can’t. ‘This is how you do it.

‘Sit back to back with him. ‘Saul. squeezing his wrist. Adam. Daniel’s crouching on his haunches. . carrying on with his task. ‘Put it down. Adrian’s lying on the floor. though. He’s very close to me. There is a way to save her. I can see his pulse throbbing in his neck. please.’ ‘What?’ ‘Just do it. I’ve failed to stop him.Chapter 38: Adam Adrian and Daniel are both down. I do what he says. he’s going to be chasing after Sarah. won’t you?’ Saul says. Saul kneels next to us and binds my hands to Daniel’s behind my back with the belt.’ Saul says.’ Saul says. trying to stop the flow of blood.’ I drop the knife.’ I duck down next to Daniel. undo his belt buckle and pull the belt out through the loops. Daniel yelps as Saul touches his wrist. I’ll bleed to death like this. ‘Gun beats knife. I haven’t even bought her much time. before you do yourself some harm. face in the dirt. ‘Now take the hippy’s belt off. his voice as cold as ice. you will. As soon as he’s done here. I need to keep hold.’ ‘Yes.

’ ‘All I need to do is make contact. ‘you don’t need to catch up with Sarah. I can do this for them and I will. ‘Yes. ‘You want to see numbers. Think what we could do if we worked together. shutting him out. I wouldn’t stop you taking it. but his hand switches from my shoulder to my jaw. Adam. but we’re not.I could give Saul what he wants. ‘You want some more time. ‘We are different.’ he says. I screw my eyes up. but I do. I can’t kill you. like I’ve let them down so many times. ‘Saul. ‘You really don’t get it.’ I can’t help it. At least. I’ll give them to you. I let my girls down.’ I say. I didn’t have the guts to kill him when I had the chance. You’d give me your number?’ It’s the only thing left to me.’ I say. if you promise to leave my family alone. They’re yours. Why do you think your number will do when I can have hers? ‘Anyway. He forces me to face him.’ he says. You don’t need to kill my baby. He laughs and lets go of me. I haven’t given up on you yet. however it is that you do it. Mia’s and Val’s? She’s the product of generations of gifted people. Adam. ‘I thought we were the same. Instinctively I try to look away. do you? Your baby is everything I’ve ever dreamed of. my gift. ‘—look into your eyes and reach inside. You haven’t . ‘Oh. pushing my head away from him.’ He tightens the belt until it digs into my skin. My life. like this—’ he leans forward and grips my shoulder. You can see them through my eyes. What gifts do you think she’ll have? Yours and Sarah’s.’ He studies my face. like he was seeing it for the very first time.

But for his own warped reasons he’s choosing to keep . to persist. working together. It’s being better than animals.’ Maybe he’s right. You get one chance to get it right. Don’t talk like that. I’m begging you. We’ll be like blood brothers – number brothers.’ he sneers. Saul? What about caring for other people. ‘Stop it. Go on for ever. I am begging. someone else dies. ‘People come and go – you find that out when you go down the path I’ve chosen. It’s being able to outwit nature. but you’re young. Adam?’ he says. But he’s missing something.’ ‘Like what? Like someone who’s lived for two hundred and fifty years? Like someone who knows the score?’ ‘No.’ ‘But it’s what life’s about.’ ‘But every time you gain a life.’ ‘That’s old thinking. You’ll learn. He’s an insanely dangerous man. living together? What about families. Like someone who’s forgotten how to be the stomach for it at the moment. neighbours.’ ‘That’s how it is.’ I’ve known it all along. Three score years and ten is over before it’s begun. in a blinkered sort of way.’ ‘Like I said. One lifetime to live. ‘What about love. You’ve got plenty of time to breed another one and another. Leave Sarah and the baby alone. to triumph. I can have as many lives as I like. Something massive. you’re young. ‘It’s having intelligence. No point getting attached if they’re going to die after seventy years.’ ‘What’s being human. Saul.’ ‘Please.’ I’ve got goosebumps on the back of my neck. friends?’ ‘Not important. As many as you like.

Saul.’ Behind me. I’ll tell everyone exactly who you are. You’re—’ He picks up his gun and holds it by the barrel. And if you leave me here. He don’t know what’s at stake. I’m out before we hit the stone. dragging Daniel with alive. Ever. I’ve just got time to close my eyes and I keep them closed as the force of the impact carries me over. He shrinks away from me. what you’ve done. You’re beneath contempt. go further. ‘You’re the weakest. He don’t know I have to do this. ‘You really are stupid. Never. . I can’t.’ I say. what you are. then he slams the handle into the side of my head. almost as if I’d hit him. I wouldn’t lower myself. then my baby will die. Daniel is tugging at my hands. trying to shut me up. I’ll escape and I’ll do everything I can to stop you. ‘Stupid to think I’d ever help you. wind Saul up until he bursts with rage. I can’t let it happen. I’ll have to make him kill me. And if I live. stupidest person I’ve ever met.

Before long I get a sense of the walls closing in.Chapter 39: Sarah I keep moving. Mia is doing pretty well. let’s stop for a minute. There are lights at intervals along the path. trying to make my voice more confident than I feel.’ ‘Where Daddy?’ . It looks like we’re heading for a blank wall. Mia. ‘Okay. Ahead. That carries on through a tunnel of rock about a metre wide and just taller than me. there’s another mark on the rock. ‘keep holding my hand. The ceiling is way above our heads – this place is huge. The ceiling’s getting lower too.’ I say. but she doesn’t have much choice. Each one is like a prize. Mia. We’re managing a slow jog at best. there’s only a dense blanket of blackness. but the surface under our feet is rock. Just when I start to wonder if we’re still on the right track. It’s the end of the stores. They’re not obvious – you wouldn’t see them if you weren’t looking. I’ve got an iron grip on her hand and I’m pulling her along. And then the lights run out. It’s going to be a bit dark here. There are boxes and crates piled high to one side of us and solid rock to the other. I can hear a murmur of voices behind me. but not the end of the path.’ I switch the torch on and train the beam ahead of us. The boxes and crates are only stacked one layer deep and you can see rock the other side. ‘All right. wet in places and very uneven.

but I twist round so I can still hold her hand. walk with bent legs. is water dripping into water. ‘I think this is it. Mummy. Darkness in front of us. up and down. then three.’ I say. She’s quiet as a mouse. ‘You’re being very good.‘He’s going to catch us up. and my voice sounds like it belongs to someone else. I can’t hear Adam or Saul any more. keeping up. I shine the torch in front of us. darkness behind us. that becomes two centimetres. ‘We’re nearly there. I go in front of Mia. about a metre high. I daren’t think too hard about it or I’ll panic. We’re stuck like rats in a trap. apart from our voices. What the …? We’ve been set up. but soon I have to crouch down. Have you still got your blanket?’ ‘Ah-huh.’ The only noise. I think we go through there. with a white mark above it. How long did Adrian say the tunnel was? Did he say? The space gets narrower. It’s a dead end. trotting along. We could .’ ‘Dark. There’s a hole in the rock on the left-hand side. It’s not so bad when I can walk standing up. ‘Stop a minute.’ ‘Good girl. Water drips from above us.’ she says. Mia. I turn round and give her a proper hug. I shine the torch ahead and there’s a solid wall a couple of metres ahead.’ I say. Come on. Mia. to the left and right. There are puddles on the floor and then we’re walking through a sheet of water one centimetre deep.’ The roof is getting lower and lower. although I haven’t got the foggiest if that’s true or not. a million tonnes of earth and stone above our heads. try and keep it out of the wet.

honey. Keep going. I’ll go first.’ I put the torch in my mouth and lower myself down on all fours. What if the water gets deeper? What if the tunnel drops away? My heart’s going fast now. bumping into me with her head. I can feel it in my throat and my ears.’ Mia. and I press on. God knows what’s happening in that room. but every little nudge reminds me why I’m here and spurs me on. At two hundred and seventy. And so we go on. I crawl forwards a metre or two and then I freeze. three … At sixty. I’m not touching the rock above me but I can still feel it. Time doesn’t seem to exist here. Mia’s right behind me all the time. She snaps me out of my panic. shall I? You follow me. ‘You crouch down. ‘Me not like it here. It’s up to my wrists. I’m paralysed. hammering away. soaking my knees and shins and feet. Don’t think about it. so I start counting under my breath. I can manage a minute like this. It’d be irritating in any other circumstance. One. I promise myself that I can do another minute. Something barges into my bottom. Mia puts an arm round my legs and leans her head on my . I’m going to have to go on my hands and knees. I can’t move. I’m doing this to keep her safe. my hands and feet are numb with cold. Mia. and Adam and his knife. the ceiling rises the only people left in the world here. Stay close. The water’s ice-cold. I take the torch out of my mouth and pull myself up on the wall. Should we just go back? But there’s Saul and his gun. the colossal weight pressing down. two. My knees are sore.

We turn a corner and there it is – a soft grey lozenge of light ahead of us. I think we’re nearly there. It’s only propped there. ‘Mia. I can’t turn to jelly now. Mia. Then I play the torch beam along the wall. Oh. I lean against the wall and try to calm down.’ The first sign that we’re near the surface is a change underfoot.’ My legs start to shake. I shine the torch around and I can’t believe what I see. The path starts to slope noticeably upwards. thank God. too. We’ve got to get out and find somewhere to rest and hide. We walk out of the standing water and into dry rock.’ I say.’ ‘Nearly there. ‘Wow.’ We stand and gape for a few seconds. ‘We can hold hands now. The air’s changing. A padlock dangles open and useless from one of its bars. though. the sense of space is mind-blowing. Sure enough. empty apart from a mass of stalactites clinging to the roof and their twins reaching up from the floor.thighs. Look. after the tunnel. ‘Come on. It feels like I’ve been holding my breath for hours. There’s a rusty metal gate across the entrance. There’s a smoky undercurrent hitting the back of my throat. Adrian said there’d be people here to meet us. A vast underground cavity – I’ve never seen anything like it. Then there’s a softening of the darkness.’ she parrots. After our cell. there’s one a few metres on. but he . looking for white marks. I gasp clammy air into my lungs. just a hint of something different. ‘This is it. We’re in an enormous cave.

‘Hello?’ I call out. but there’s no sign of anyone the other side. ‘Come on. His betrayal sits like a cold. but Mia’s ahead of me. I take hold of it and heave it to one side. In my head I see him stroking Mia’s cheek. and recently. but I know it’s there. jumping over the molehills. I can’t see any people. There’s no answer. crazy circles and comes back to me. but it’s okay. People have been here. ‘Hello?’ Even outside the light is muted. to get us into the stores. laughing as she runs. I can’t see the sky. It feels like a huge weight’s been lifted off me. Her tongue’s . Then I slide the gate back in place. She feels the release from our prison. the fog mixed up with woodsmoke. really breathe. I can breathe again. We’ve got no chance of hiding in an open field. I’ll never understand. too. But he sent us into the cave with Saul. Everything’s shrouded in a grey haze. didn’t he? He said what he had to. ‘Wait.lied. hard lump in my throat. ‘Here we go. I peer through the makeshift gate. I thought he was on our side.’ I pick my way through the gap and Mia follows. because she runs in random.’ I say. The bramble patch is in a sloping field with layers of buildings beyond. but we’ve stepped out into a foggy world. Wait for me!’ I can’t catch her. How could he do that? I don’t understand. I try again. so we’d better make for the cover of the buildings and take it from there. but the branches by the entrance have been broken back and the ground here is trampled. It must still be early. She’s taken off and is running through the field. Mia. We’re in the middle of a bramble patch.

but the fresh air gives me new strength. I take Mia’s hand and we walk to the edge of the field and on to the cobbled street beyond. Mia. though. Someone else has come through after us.’ I say.’ I feel a stab of anxiety at backtracking – so much wasted time. I can’t help glancing at the field we’ve come from. Run. ‘We’ll have to go back. There’s an empty canal. I tug on Mia’s hand. and at the bottom of it a metal structure lying at a sad angle. a concrete channel three or four metres deep and three metres across. But we haven’t got any choice. the bridge that used to go across. This place is so quiet that I hear the whine of the drone even though it’s still far in the distance. run!’ . The road slopes down towards the middle of the town. As I look. We go up the path again and back along the cobbled street. It’s too big to be Adam. My legs are tired and shaky. run. I can’t just sit and wait to be caught. a figure appears in the fog. We pick our way over broken cobbles then follow a path between the houses.hanging out like a little dog and there’s a light in her eyes which has been missing for a long time. ‘Run. ‘We can’t get across this. Is there any point running? Is there anywhere we can hide from the spy in the sky? Daniel’s mates in the forest had the right idea: shoot the bloody things down. Mia’s chip. the trail of dewy footprints we left heading away from the mouth of the tunnel. Oh God. We stand on the edge looking down for a moment. I can’t give up now.

I can feel the lumps and bumps of the rock through my clothes and part of me relaxes. We got out. Where are we now? On some cliffs? In a cave? ‘Sarah?’ My voice echoes back to me. We got out of that prison and we’re back under the stars. His hand’s a bloody mess. It’s either pitch black or I’ve gone blind. but it don’t make no difference. along with someone else’s.’ My hands have gone numb. . At least. Can you tense your wrists.’ ‘Shit!’ ‘I’ve nearly got out of this belt. Saul’s got away. This isn’t flat concrete. He sits up and finds the torch in my pocket. pulling sensation and then Daniel’s free. Adam. Daniel. You’ve been out cold. Me and the knife. ‘Not Sarah.’ It all comes back to me. ‘How long’s he been gone?’ ‘About five minutes. and my hand finds hers. really tense them? I think I’m there. Me bottling it. Saul and the gun. I think I do. I reach out for Sarah. but I feel a tugging.’ Where the fuck am I? ‘Daniel?’ ‘We’re in the bunker. I move my eyelids.Chapter 40: Adam The ground’s hard beneath me. I open my eyes.

’ ‘I’ve gotta go. I might go back in there. Keep going. A stream of small stones and dust tips down from the ceiling a metre away from us. You get started.’ I double back and go through Adrian’s things.’ I haul myself up to a sitting position. Daniel. mate. Adam. He’s unconscious. Go. But you must go after Sarah. Daniel shouts out. yeah. ‘I know. He’s got five minutes on you. I won’t be far behind.’ ‘No. ‘I need to stop this bleeding. I’ll follow you.’ ‘There’s others in here might need a hand. There’s a phone. That’s either very good news or very bad. But he don’t deserve to. I’ll see you later. have a look.’ He laughs weakly.’ ‘Can you manage?’ ‘Yeah. I remember his number – he’ll live. That’s the second time that bastard’s shot me.‘I thought he’d killed you for a minute.’ he says. Adam. Go on.’ I set off.’ Another explosion sets my spine vibrating. but still breathing. I pocket the torch .’ ‘Okay. ‘I’m out of here. Thanks. ‘I wasn’t expecting any more bombs. but it’s okay. that’s all. ‘Have you got your knife? Check Adrian’s pockets. You can catch them. this ain’t a great place to be if they’re blowing it up.’ ‘Just get out.’ I say. This one sounds more like a rumble. heading away from the door. Behind me.’ ‘Yeah. Might take a while. another small torch and some keys in his jacket. Follow the white dots. ‘Daniel. I’ll fix myself up first. you and me both. There’s a bit where you have to crawl. Daniel.

Saul.and chuck the keys over towards Dan. There’s so much stuff here – food. ‘Here. but there’s one person in between.’ Then I leg it. catch them up. you might find a use for these. I can’t think about that now. . What’s in my mind is that Sarah and Mia came this way. saw this. clothes. I run past boxes and crates and bottles and buckets. I’ve got to get to them. medicine. were here minutes ago. Stuff that’s sat here for two years while outside people have been starving and suffering and freezing.

Still holding hands. She can smell it herself. ‘Run. The square in front of it is full of tents and makeshift shelters. streetlights lying at all angles like metal tree trunks. She’s caught my anxiety. lose ourselves in the crowd. ‘do this. but I can’t. I squeeze her hand even tighter. The sort of place that was meant to make do for a few weeks until we all got back on our feet. but you can tell it used to be a beautiful place. run!’ I say and we do. Parts of it still are. ‘Mia. She nods and a frown creases the space between her eyebrows. as fast as we can down a big sweeping road and into the city. The cardboard boxes. Her eyes are . we run past a big church with a great arched doorway. But as we pick our way through. Instinctively I look down. Do it with your blanket. the wads of newspaper are all sitting in a thin soup of human waste. She can feel my terror in the sweat oozing out of me. the stench hits me. Hold it up. There are piles of rubble. I grab the hem of my coat and hold it up to my face. Two years later it’s the sort of place most people are still living in. the sort of refugee camp that sprang up in every city after the Chaos. We’re treading in it. Here and there the buildings remain intact. Briefly I think about stopping. the plastic sheets. from my hand to hers. Maybe we could stay here. It smells like a farmyard.’ I shout. standing like sound teeth in a mouthful of decay. It’s on our shoes now. I’m too scared.’ She doesn’t argue.Chapter 41: Sarah I want to make it a game for her.

but she digs in her heels so I’m practically dragging her along the ground. We’re nearly through the camp when I get a stitch. Don’t!’ She twists her hand out of mine and starts running away . ‘I know. ‘Mum-my. run. I know. We haven’t got time …’ I try to tug her away. for goodness’ sake!’ She’s looking at it. The pain’s nearly taken my breath away. come on. I stand still and lean forward.’ I try to breathe slowly and steadily.’ ‘No. down the side of the church and on through the streets. ‘Mummy!’ she wails. ‘There’s no point whining. She’s crying now. Just hang on a minute. but Mia tugs on my hand.watering and red-rimmed. making the blue darker as we watch. I pull up and gasp as the squeezing pain grips me. The pain eases away. Mummy. and my words are no more than a whisper. ‘In a minute. We’ll have to leave it. She’s dancing from foot to foot on the spot. Mia. no!’ She stops dancing and stamps. No. I let Mia pull me past the last shelters. She stumbles and the blanket falls out of her hand onto the flagstones.’ Mia whines. ‘Mia! Stop it!’ ‘Mummy. my stomach muscles relax. But her foot catches in the trailing edge of her blanket. flapping her hands about.’ I say. wetness soaking into it. dancing from foot to foot again. Her precious blanket is lying in a puddle. I know she hates it here – I do too – but right now I can’t move.’ she says. ‘Mummy. ‘Oh. ‘Mia.

The pavement is cobbled and slippery. away from the church. ‘Mia!’ I shout. I look ahead again. There’s a path. It could be someone’s garden or yard. Where’s Mia? Where the hell is she? I pick up the pace. The sound of our feet is muffled by the fog. .from me. And now I listen I realise there’s hardly any noise at all. I try to run too.’ I can’t see her. About halfway along I come to an iron gate. There’s nothing there. Still moving. It’s open. She’s getting further away. And now I get a tingling in the back of my head. It’s the only place on the street she could have gone. Inside I can see bushes and trees and suddenly I’m overcome by a sense of dread. a sense that I’m being followed. There’s a tall wall running down the right-hand side of the road. The road’s empty. cradling my stomach with my hands. away from me. It’s cold and wet – everything’s wet in this fog. This city has a ghostly feel – it’s a place that’s had the life sucked out of it. but I can’t manage more than a couple of steps before I get a stitch. ‘No. wait!’ She doesn’t turn round. But she must have gone in here. ‘Mia!’ Her back shouts defiance at me. All I can see is a couple of hundred metres of empty street before the fog swallows it up.’ I mutter to myself. I put my hand on the metal latch. ‘Come back here. with branches reaching over the top. I look over my shoulder. not here. with trees either side of it. She’s running hell for leather down the street. ‘Mia.

I’ve seen this before. It’s evil. . I’ve been here. Like they did in the Chaos. ‘Mia! Come back!’ I’m desperate now as I realise what’s happening. You can do this. The pain lessens a bit. I reach up to push the gate wider so I can follow her in. There’s no one there. It’s not just in one place now. squeezing. It’s my nightmare. Why now? Why? I grasp the ironwork of the gate with both hands and lean into it. aching. Breathe. There’s a hand with a knife. I know this place. I can feel the gravel underfoot. I can’t go into this place. paralysing me. it’s spreading over and under my stomach. I close my eyes for a few seconds. I’m in labour. Breathe. layers of dark trunks and stones like sentries in my mind’s eye. like they did before. and I open my eyes and look through the gate. It’s not a stitch – it’s a contraction. Mia’s gone and I have to go after her. There’s a face close to mine. My eyes are closed but I can still see trees. Dreams and reality are colliding. trying to breathe my way through the pain. but the stitch is back.

when the numbers were crowding in on me. more serious this time. a second or so later. breathe. so I can. trying to filter the crap out of the air. and the sound of my blood thudding in my ears. Everything else looks . Now there’s just the noise of my breath. The noise dies away. Sarah and Mia must have done this. That’s what my mum taught me when it got too much for me. The whole lot could come down. breathe. The beam of torchlight moves about as I crawl. desperate. I’m choking. out through your mouth. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. I’m crawling on my hands and knees with my torch in my mouth when I feel the vibration and. There’s been another rockfall. swishing my hands and knees through the freezing water.Chapter 42: Adam Breathe. in and out. too. The boom of the explosion mixes with the rattle of falling stones dropping into water and onto me. bouncing crazily on the rock wall next to my face. hear the noise. It makes the whole place feel even smaller. in and out. In through your nose. I’d be buried here. I take the torch out of my mouth and cover the bottom of my face with my hand. I feel like I’m buried already – the air’s so full of dust it gets stuck in my throat. My chest’s heaving. All it picks out is a metre-wide circle of rock with a weaker circle outside that. I put the torch back in my mouth and press on.

It’s difficult to work out where I am. Still on my hands and knees I grab the torch and shine it around. hasn’t it? I gotta be near the way out. It ain’t moving. all over the place. buildings. It’s foggy – a cold. not just the space. I can breathe in here. too. I’m in a gigantic mouth and the jaws are closing. But Saul is on their tail. Now I’m upright and breathing.blacker. ‘Christ!’ For a moment my mind plays tricks on me. Which way now? There’s a white mark on the wall. it’s way over to my right. I can taste smoke on my tongue. a hillside. and it’s picking up these weird shapes. one made up of little feet. a city. and I’ve got to get out of here. like someone shoved it from inside and trampled it underfoot. even though my knees are killing me. And leading down. There’s brambles all round where the tunnel comes out and then a field. There’s a metal gate flat on the ground in front of me. growing down. clinging sort of fog. . This has got to be it. almost like it don’t exist. It’s a cave. I belt up to it and burst out into the real world again. concentrate the light on one of the weird shapes. not a mouth. Sarah and Mia made it out. Light filters in from an open entrance. three sets of footprints in the dew: two following a straight line. I can run again. I start jogging. Something’s different here. like teeth sprouting up from the floor. My chest heaves as I suck the air in. I try to hold the torch steady. glad to get out of the water. A couple more minutes and then the bright circle of light isn’t near my ear any more. And I am. The ceiling’s five or six metres high and there are teeth there. I ease up onto my feet. I can just make out some shapes below.

.I set off down the hill at a run.

It’s a winged figure. Then other shapes appear among the tree trunks. but as I get nearer I can see it’s not an animal and it’s not alive. deadens it. The gravel crunches under my feet and I leave the path and walk through and round and over the graves. How many have been buried here already? Does their sickness lurk in this turf? Does it hang in the droplets of fog that I’m breathing in now? ‘Mia!’ I spin round. A creature looms out of the fog. For a few metres it’s gravel and trees and grass. . Didn’t she hear or is she playing some kind of game? I shove open the gate. a huge bird or something. I’ve got to find Mia and I’ve got to get her out of here. kills it.Chapter 43: Sarah ‘Mia! Mia!’ My voice reaches out into the fog. the filth of it. an angel on top of a pedestal. Gravestones. greyblack oblongs. There’s no reply. which flattens it. Everywhere’s the same. I can’t make it out for a moment. This is where most of those people will end up. I think of the camp we’ve just walked through. stumble in and set off along the path Mia must have taken. Trees and stones. Grey and black.

Something darting behind a gravestone. I’m coming. Quick and silent. sing-song. ducking behind a tree. Was she down there all the time? Did I plough my way past her? ‘Mia?’ The shape disappears again. A child calling out to its mother. I want it to be Mia. It doesn’t seem to have enough oxygen in it. something’s moving in the mist. child-like. too slow. I look right and left. It could be Mia. she’s not there. I catch a movement. Mia? My hormone-addled brain registers a child who needs a mum. I’m frightened. please. Oh. ‘I’m here. I can see you. where’s Mia? I can’t do this. ‘Mia?’ ‘Mum-my. ‘Mia! Mia. . Water drips from the branches onto the top of my head.’ I struggle up the hill but when I get to the stone.The path leads uphill. Ahead of me. Mummy. The fog sticks in my throat and my lungs. visible now and then between the grave markers. Where are you?’ Further down the hill. ‘Mia.’ Two-tone. I’m coming. It was too big to be another rat. I’m puffing now. Something low and dark flashes away from me. A drop trickles down the nape of my neck and I shiver. too tired. ‘I’m here.’ High-pitched. Then a thin voice reaches me. God. Stay there. A rat. back the way I’ve come. I’m too big.’ I’m close to the spot where I saw the movement. crouching low.

One more step and I can see. He smiles. I draw level with the stone. bigger than a child’s feet. Maybe it’s power. I won’t let him get her. Mia. more piercing than ever. two feet sticking out. but something scuffles behind a gravestone in front of me to my left. the thing I can see in his eyes. He turns his head and looks at me. He sits up. I walk forward. His eyes seem brighter. willing them not to make a noise. ‘On your own?’ If he’s after Mia. ‘She’s somewhere safe. back against the stone. ‘Sarah. in heavy leather boots. There’s madness there. It’s a man. ‘Somewhere I won’t find her?’ . stretches out his legs. It’s not a child. Someone sitting on the ground.’ I say.’ He smiles again. slowly. ‘Mum-my!’ It chills the blood in my veins. ‘It’s just me.‘Where are you?’ I call out. but it’s something else too. maybe it’s magic. knees drawn up. wherever you are. ‘Saul.’ he says. mocking me. There’s someone there. Stay hidden. There’s no reply this time. ‘Yes. He starts to move his lips. placing my feet softly on the ground.’ I say. and I understand now.’ ‘Where’s that lovely girl?’ Where is she? Keep still.

I don’t want him to see me like this.’ He unfolds it.‘That’s right. you and me. ‘Have you forgotten?’ ‘Forgotten what?’ ‘She’s chipped. My skin crawls.’ But I only manage a couple of steps before I’m gasping with the pain. I can look for her myself. ‘I’ve got no business with you. I curse Adrian in my head.’ I say. and I had your lovely picture to help. 1943. Eliza Sansom. Saul. Hurting. How did you know I was here?’ ‘I wasn’t far behind. Saul springs to his feet. Saul?’ ‘We’ve got business. 1854. departed this world 19th February 1932. . Sarah.’ He reaches into his pocket and brings out a piece of paper. letting the beam pick out the words carved on the neighbouring stones. b. ‘What’s this all about. Much loved wife to Rupert. ‘I’m going. At peace. Emily Barker. I was a fool to trust anyone. Taken by angels. putting his arm round my shoulder.’ The ache spreads from my back to my stomach. ‘I can send up a couple of drones. 1893–1911.’ He’s playing with the torch now.’ He moves his hand and flashes his torch into my eyes. Another contraction’s on its way.’ ‘I’m not chipped. ‘Don’t follow me. Vulnerable. If I want to. and I’m cursing myself too. He’s next to me in a second. Bernard McAllister. Sarah. d. laughing.’ He shakes his head. ‘So helpful of you to draw me such a strong visual clue. and mother to Violet and Isabel. My note to Adam.

An hour. twitching. for years and years. I don’t know. He’s breathing almost as fast as I am. It was Saul. I can smell his sourness. I can’t fight him. Powerless. trickling down the side of his chin. ‘I’ll do this on my own. My power taken away by a man. The bead of saliva swells and bursts. but I can’t do a damned thing about it. I’ll help you.’ I say. pinning them to my sides. ‘Five minutes? Ten?’ ‘I don’t know. The images I see match the pictures in my head. Breathe. Keep breathing. The pain eases. This is how I felt at home. Breathe. I don’t want him here. He’s panting like a dog.’ ‘How long?’ he says. Of course it was Saul. but misses a small bead of saliva at the corner of his mouth. ‘Leave me alone. He’s gripping my arms through my coat. An hour maybe. ‘an hour is a long time. That’s . He doesn’t wipe it off.’ he says. but his isn’t. isn’t it?’ he whispers.’ His eyes flick from side to side. His face is close to mine. I can’t speak. see the stubble pinpricks on his jaw. I’m in labour. ‘I don’t know if I can wait that long. ‘How long will it be?’ My breathing’s back under control now.’ I’m trapped.’ ‘An hour. I can’t run anywhere.’ The tiny muscles in his face are alive. What does he mean? ‘Sarah. I never wanted to feel like this again. I can’t move either.‘It’s coming. Anger surges through me. and this twitchiness seems to be racing through his whole body. He licks his lips. But I’m here.

The pain’s got me again.why I left home. ‘Get off me! Get off!’ He backs off. Sarah. I gasp.’ ‘What?’ He reaches to his waist and draws a knife. my brothers. home. please don’t … I’ve done it before. ‘I don’t want your fucking help. Adam knew. I left everything. I wish .’ he says. my baby. ‘I’ve done it before. running his index finger along the side of the blade. don’t you?’ I don’t know what to say. I’ll cut it out of you. but all the time he had me in his sights. Adam. The handle looks like some sort of bone or horn. ‘I’m staying. school. That’s why he went for Saul when he touched my stomach. Another contraction starts. and slightly curved. he smiles. I don’t want it and I don’t want you here.’ Maddeningly. or rather. ‘Is it coming? Is it coming now?’ I can’t answer him. The blade is long. like a tiger in a cage. Nothing’s solid. I want you to leave. His madness is written all over his face. Nothing’s safe. ‘but I like you. and Saul puts his knife away and grips me again. I hold on to the nearest gravestone and concentrate on my breathing. where are you? The ground’s dropping away all around me. I thought he was after Mia. Saul’s pacing up and down. Sarah. maybe twenty centimetres. I don’t want to hurt you. Nothing’s real. Saul. It’s a hunting knife. Oh God. And if that baby’s not here in an hour. Please. You believe me.

Then he stops and looks directly at me. I hate them. What’s that got to do with him? He’s still pacing. He pulls the knife from my fingers and comes at me again. He catches me easily and sits on my legs. I twist my head away from him. but it’s hopeless.he was in a cage. They’re the same: Dad.’ He shoves me down onto the grass and draws his knife again.’ he says. stuffing material inside. He comes at me with the knife and I try to grab the blade. pushing myself away from him. No!’ I spit and cough. I don’t feel the cuts.’ I’m twelve again. Saul. I scramble with my legs. but the scarf’s there now and he’s pulling it tight behind my head. ‘Bite on it if you need to. really scared. Fighting for my life. scraping my back along the ground. ‘I haven’t got time. Saul. Fighting for the life of my baby.’ he says. Again I block him. I’m seeing the emptiness in Dad’s eyes as he holds me down. ‘Keep still. The pain’s blotted out by my anger.’ And he reaches up to pull his scarf from round his neck. I’m scared of him. New life. I didn’t fight Dad – I was too scared of him – but I’m fighting now. He wrenches the blade away and throws .’ That’s all he says. ‘Bite on it. ‘this’ll hurt less if you keep still. I hate them so much. New life. forcing it open. Sarah. His fingers are in my mouth. ‘New life. New life. over and over. ‘Saul—?’ He springs forward and starts wrapping the scarf round my face. ‘No.

Then he scrabbles at his belt buckle and rips his belt out of his trousers. He stares as another contraction takes hold of me. ‘What is it?’ ‘It’s coming. there’s something else now. Untie me. pulling it roughly down over my chin. He’s poised and ready and just for a moment everything is still. He grabs my wrists and. He tugs at my gag. Then he’s back on top of me and the knife’s back in his hand. ‘Please. I think. Easier. The anger’s ebbing away now. The pain’s changing. ‘Saul! Get off me!’ The urgency in my grunts reaches him. the desire to push. Saul.’ ‘No. watching as the skin on my belly tightens. Please. It’s more painful lying down and I start to cry. Let me get on with on the ground beside him. You might cut the baby. naked terror in its place. He’s pulled my top up and my joggers down. It isn’t happening. The baby’s coming anyway. untie my hands. leaving raw. it’s riskier. Let me do it my way. the baby’s coming now. The need to push. and he’s holding the knife to the bare skin of my stomach. Only he’s not looking at my face. please don’t. no.’ ‘It’s quicker my way. he can’t really do this. takes them behind me. but he could read them in my eyes if he was looking.’ . He doesn’t have to cut me. or rather. There’s nothing else I can do. tears trickling from the outside corners of my eyes and into my ears. almost calm.’ My words come out as muffled grunts. easing off my legs for a minute. wraps his belt round them and ties it in a knot.

He stops. like he’d forgotten I was even there.’ And then he stands up and starts walking away. My hands strain against the belt tying them together. and. I move my fingers. Breathe. crying her head off. ‘A good. The baby’s crying. I try to move . Breathe. ‘let me hold her. I want to hold her. you stupid bastard!’ Instinctively he raises his hand to slap me. hand frozen in mid-air and stares. He stands. Breathe. I need to. then the other. ‘Saul. fascinated. but as he does so. willing the life to come back into them. I hold my arms forward. I can’t think about anything else. My baby. ‘easier for you that way. This can’t be happening. I can’t believe it. I wish Adam was here. Do you think I’m stupid?’ ‘For Christ’s sake. The knot has loosened already and I wriggle one hand free. He gets off my legs but he doesn’t move away. No.’ he says.’ He looks up then. strong girl. God. Is it blood from the baby or blood from me? ‘A girl. startled. I’ve been lying on them so the feeling’s gone. I can’t think about him. talking to himself.’ he says.’ She’s got her eyes tight shut.‘I’m not untying you. watching. That’s all I can do now. His hands are so covered in blood he could be wearing red gloves. ‘It’s better if you don’t. What do you think I’m going to do? I’m in labour. Saul’s holding the child. grunting and growling with the pain and the need to push. I start breathing heavily.’ I say. I wish I was now. This isn’t how it was meant to be. I was alone last time.

but it’s impossible. I’m pinned to the ground with pain. There’s a lot of blood, more than when I had Mia. My stomach is still contracting. ‘Saul, what are doing? Where are you going?’ He doesn’t answer. ‘She needs me, Saul. She needs her mum. Don’t take her.’ I try to get to my feet, but the world turns red and then black behind my eyes and when I come to I’m lying face down. I look up and Saul’s thirty metres away. ‘Saul! Saul! Come back! Please!’ I’m on my hands and knees now, crawling across grass and leaves and gravel. And then another contraction stops me in my tracks. The afterbirth. I’d forgotten about that. The thing that nourished this baby. The thing my body doesn’t need any more. It’s coming out too. I can’t fight it. And now I know that I’ve got no chance of catching up with them. Saul’s taking my baby and I can’t stop him. I rest my forehead down on the gravel. I’m too tired, too desperate even to cry.

Chapter 44: Adam In the tunnel, I knew where Sarah and Mia had been. I was
following in their tracks, even though I couldn’t see an actual trail. Out here, it suddenly strikes me that they could be anywhere. There’s a whole world out here. I don’t think they’d have stayed in the field but when I start to get into the city, I feel even more hopeless. I try asking myself what they’d do. Find somewhere nearby to hide, or keep running? Look for a quiet corner, or go where there are people? Sarah was getting pretty slow on her feet, and Mia’s not the best walker in the world, so I reckon they’d both run out of steam fairly quickly. They could be in any of these buildings, or tucked away between piles of rubble. I half-walk, half-run through the ruined streets. You can still see that this place would have been beautiful. The stone is pale, almost like honey. It’s got a sort of light of its own, even in the fog. I’m in Bath. The place where my dad died, fell off a big church and broke his neck. He was fifteen, younger than I am now. Once I’d read about it in the press cuttings Nan kept, I looked it up on the net, saw pictures. Being here feels like an omen – like I’ve come to a place of death. I don’t want anyone else to die here. I want my girls to be all right. I start running more quickly, jumping over potholes and cracks in the road. There are abandoned cars everywhere. They could be in one of them. Do I stop and look in each

one? This is useless. I’m like a headless chicken. I need help. I need other people, people who may have seen them. There’s smoke mixing in with the fog, woodsmoke. It smells like every fire we made when we were camping out together and it fills me with memories of food, company, sitting with my arms round Sarah, watching the flames together until our eyelids went heavy. Fire means people. I follow the smell and come out into a big public square, next to a church. One half of the church has gone, but the front’s still there, a big doorway and a massive wall of stone dotted with holes where the windows used to be. The area in front is a sea of makeshift tents, a refugee city. There are fires going and people picking their way around or just sitting. I scan the scene. What were Sarah and Mia wearing? Is there any way I can pick them out? I start weaving my way through. The ground is wet and filthy. These people are sitting in filth. The whole place stinks. I can’t imagine Sarah stopping here unless she was desperate. But maybe she was … I go up to to a woman squatting by a fire, heating some water. Her hands are grey with dirt, her hair’s all matted and stiff. ‘Scuse me,’ I say. ‘Have you seen a woman and a little girl, a toddler?’ She looks at me and screws up her eyes, like she’s trying to work out if she knows me or not. Then she shakes her head. I carry on, looking at faces, stopping here and there to ask about Sarah. People are watching me now. There’s a buzz of talking and I can pick out my name being said. They recognise me. I’ve cursed my so-called fame for so long, but now I can use it. I’ve got an audience, if I can get them

to listen … I stand in the middle of the crowd and take a deep breath. ‘I’m Adam,’ I shout. A few people shout back, ‘Hello Adam!’ and there’s a ripple of applause. It takes me by surprise. I didn’t expect that. I don’t know what to do, how to react, so I just stand and listen, waiting until the noise dies down. ‘I need your help,’ I continue. ‘I’m looking for two people. A woman, not much shorter than me, she’s pregnant’ – I hold my arms out in front of me to illustrate – ‘nearly ready to pop, and a little girl. She’s only two, got curly blonde hair like a little angel. Are they here? Have you seen them? Has anyone seen them?’ There’s a lot of shaking of heads but then a woman’s voice pipes up. ‘There were two like that. They stopped for a minute, but then they went away.’ I spin round to see who’s speaking, but at that moment a door opens to the main archway in the church and a man comes out. He’s carrying a pair of buckets that steam gently in the cold air. A roar sweeps across the square, and people jump up and charge towards the church. The man sets his buckets down a couple of metres from the door and a queue forms as he starts ladling out something hot onto plates and bowls and anything else people bring him. ‘Wait! Wait a minute. Who saw her? Who was it?’ Whoever it was is lost in the feeding frenzy. I get swept along in the tide. The guy with the buckets seems to belong here, maybe he’ll know something, but I can’t get near enough to ask him. I’m trying to push through to him when my foot steps on something soft. I look down. It’s a blanket.

A blue and white stripy blanket, though the blue’s wet and dark and the white’s grey. It’s Mia’s. She was here. I’m in one corner of the square and there’s a road leading out. They either came into the square this way or this is where they left it. I leave the queue and head for the exit. No one minds me trying to go this way and I’m soon out of the crowd and into the side street. It’s empty, a long straight cobbled road, with the abbey on one side and a long, high wall on the other. The end of the street’s lost in fog, I can’t see what’s beyond. I start running. To my right, a branch dangles over the top of the wall, like swollen, knobbly fingers. Trees, I think. Trees in the middle of the city. There’s a gate in the wall, an ancient metal thing. I glance through as I run past. A path leads away from it, with trees and bushes either side. I’ve gone twenty or thirty metres before I skid to a halt. The place behind the gate. I’ve seen it before, at least I think I have. If I’m right, there should be stones there, too. Gravestones.

Give me my baby. Slowly. ‘Give her to me. He’s back. Isn’t that enough?’ ‘She’s freezing.’ He reaches forward and I think he’s going to hand her to me.’ he spits out. She’s no good to me and you know it. I can see his heavy black boots next to my face. like a rag doll. ‘Have you got something to wrap her in? Can I have your coat?’ ‘No. I’m too tired to open my eyes. you evil bitch?’ It’s Saul. Please. I force my eyes open. I can hear gravel crunching. bleeding fingers.Chapter 45: Sarah I’m not alone any more. ‘What have you done to her. feel the vibration through the ground. but he lets her drop. I find some energy from somewhere and my hands move to meet her.’ . ‘No!’ I forget my pain. you can’t. She’s naked and very cold. but somehow I manage to hold on to her and gather her safely in to my body. There are footsteps. I have to keep her warm. ‘You’re a witch. She nearly slips through my wet. You knew it all along. I twist round and look up. He’s holding the baby at arm’s length. You’ve hexed her.’ I don’t know what he’s talking about. ‘I’ve got your mess all over it anyway. Saul. I haven’t got the strength to lift my head and see who it is.

not crying any more. She has eyelids.’ ‘I didn’t. eyes closed. The area below is smooth. ‘I don’t know and I don’t care. She’s no good to me. How can she sleep through this. so still. ‘You fixed it so she’s no good. all the noise. She’s so cold now. She’s no good to me because she has no eyes. My daughter has no eyes. being thrown about? ‘Hello. I don’t know what you’re talking about …’ He crouches down beside us. Saul. Sarah. But her face looks so perfect. She has eyelashes. Her lashes mark the line where the gap would be. Saul? Is she dead?’ I look up at him and there’s pure venom in his eyes. I want her to see me and I want to see her. I look at her again. There’s no eyeball. As I hold her. He’s wrong. But it doesn’t matter now. I move my thumb down.‘Give her your own coat then. ‘I didn’t do anything. Is it too late for her? Is this her first and last day? ‘Is she dying. not rounded. Look at your precious girl.’ .’ he says.’ I whisper. I don’t know what’s happened.’ I put the baby carefully on the ground next to me and slide out of my coat.’ ‘I don’t believe you. making sure her hands and feet are tucked in. I wrap her up. a bit of colour is starting to spread into her cheeks. Saul’s right. her eyes so firmly shut. Only the top of her face is showing. I want her to open her eyes.’ It feels like my stomach’s falling away from the rest of me. There’s no gap between the eyelids. but it’s solid. I place my thumb above her eye socket and gently pull the skin. Maybe she’s going to be okay. round like a little apple. She’s no good to me. She’s warming up. He’s got to be. ‘Look at your baby.

so I’ll have to make do … with you. I’m completely defenceless. My daughter can’t be the same as this monster. You can steal numbers …’ ‘Steal is an unpleasant word. she’d bring me the gift of seeing numbers and who knows what else. And with Adam as her father. Is he like Mia? Is Mia like him? Are they the same? They can’t be. Can she? I thought you wanted Mia. his fingertips in my hair. I prefer swap. Today’s the day. Sarah. ‘Her number. you as her mother. Closer. There’s nowhere to hide. Closer. each pimple and pockmark. I don’t want him near me. the heel of his hands at my chin.’ ‘Why today? Why now?’ ‘My number’s up. I need another one. He spreads his fingers out so he’s holding my head still. each pore. each little scar.‘What did you want her for? Why did you do what you did?’ He frowns and looks at me like I’m stupid.’ He fixes me with his eyes. ‘I did when I thought she had Adam’s blood. Now. I don’t want .’ ‘You wanted to steal her number. I’ve used up one life.’ I say. Just like Mia. sit still. He’s excited. another deceit. Sarah. I can see every detail. but that was another of your lies. He moves his face close. like he was before the baby was born.’ Swapping numbers. really alive. It makes you feel … alive. He cups my face. His hands are red and sticky from my blood. dully. wasn’t it? But I’m running out of time. There’s nothing better than a newborn number. and the bead of saliva is at the corner of his mouth again. Her life.

His eyes are just black and white now and however much I want to look away. Or maybe it’s me. I scream. Sarah. Fuck off and leave me alone. or perhaps I just think I do. Saul lets go of my face and moves away. Saul. defenceless. and his voice is no more than a whisper.’ I say.’ I screw them up tighter. I can’t. ‘Look at me. There’s a flash of light and a pain as sharp as a hot wire slicing through my head. but not defeated yet. Goodbye. but I don’t watch him go. Look at me. ‘That’ll do. the Sarah who left home and made a new life for herself. the Sarah who struggled and kept three kids alive through two harsh winters. I look into his eyes and it’s like I’m falling. ‘No. Sarah.’ he says. somewhere timeless and dark and empty. ‘No. The ground beneath me has disappeared and so have the trees above. I close my eyes. no. There’s still a remnant of the old Sarah. Open them!’ I’m in pain. ‘Fuck off. Any energy I had left has gone. ‘Open your eyes. keeping my eyelids clamped shut. forcing them open. obscuring his irises.’ I hear leaves scrunching. I’ll need your eyes open. That’ll do nicely. gravel scraping. I lie where he . no. Sarah. His pupils are dilated. so cold.him touching me. pressing his thumbs into the skin above my eyelids. I’m not there any more – I’m somewhere else. somewhere lonely and hopeless and cold. He’s only a few centimetres away. ‘Forty-six years.’ He snarls like an animal and then moves his hands on my face.’ His eyes are locked into mine. ‘No. My body jolts and my head slams backwards into the ground.’ he says.

I force my eyes open. I want to see her again. I wish I had the strength to gather her in to me. twinkle. He’s taken my life. the baby will die. I close my eyes and keep singing. She must be hungry. ‘Hello. My baby’s learnt to sing. Perhaps she’s an angel. wet leaves. The baby’s lying beside me. so desperately sad. but gently testing out what her mouth and lungs can do. little star. as the last of my strength saps away. but there’s nothing I can do now. My breathing is fast and shallow. shut as though she were asleep.left me. I sing and I watch her for as long as I can. I like to think that she’s listening.’ My voice is hardly there. At the sound of my voice. face flopped against cold. She turns her head in my direction and then moves it from side to side.’ I say. and then. ‘Upper buv the wowd so high …’ What a beautiful thing. taking in every little detail. now. Just one more time. but the baby is quiet now. Saul’s taken every scrap. her little nose. Perhaps she was sent to take me away from here. I can see the top of her head. There are two little faces in front of me. but now I know it. And if I die. but I draw in some air and I sing to her. But it’s not my voice. I follow them with my mind and they get louder again. her eyes. She’s making a noise. My voice is tiny. she stops making her noise. She’s searching for me. I thought I might the moment I saw Saul’s knife. it’s someone else’s. ‘Twinkle. She won’t get any milk from me. . Except soothe her the only way I can. But she’s not asleep. a whisper. Two angels. I’m going to die. It’s so sad. It hits me then. Not crying. But I don’t. and then it’s not there at all. Only one of them is singing. too. The words are still in my head. an echo.

Baby twinkle. I don’t want to frighten her. the thing that Saul did. She used to do that sometimes when I was asleep in the morning and she wanted me to play with her. Bitter because this is goodbye. She’s crouched down in the leaf mould next to the baby and she’s got her arm round her.’ Mia says.‘Like a diemond in de sky …’ ‘Mia.’ Mia leans over and rests her other arm on my leg. I love you. darling. just like mine. Mia. ‘Mummy tired. My eyes close. Mummy. ‘Mummy poorly. I love you. I love you and I love your sister. it would have been Mia.’ She stops.’ She leans in again and kisses me. Then she lifts her hand up. ‘So tired. Anything. Sweet because if I could have chosen anyone to spend my last moment with. ‘Yes. ‘Yes. It’s bright red. But it’s too late. Your sister. I’m going to have a little sleep now.’ My eyelids are sagging. ‘Just tired. and now I lose . I’d do anything to stay awake. This is our new baby. It drove me mad. ‘Mummy poorly.’ she says. Then she does that thing. Mia. darling.’ ‘Love you. She opens my right eye with her thumb.’ she says again. Adam used to say he could lose himself in that blue.’ she says. ‘A baybee. but now we stare eye to eye and I know it’s the last I’ll see of her and it’s so bittersweet it hurts.’ I murmur. Her eyes are the bluest blue.

They send their light through me and it brings pain too. my heart. My golden child. hopeful. Blue’s meant to be a cold colour but this is a different blue – warm. but it’s a beautiful pain. A golden glow around her. It radiates through me. a pain which blocks out everything else. something high-pitched and insistent. ‘Love you. comforting. Mummy.myself in Mia. But it doesn’t matter. . my lungs. she’s bathed in light.’ ‘Love you. The last thing I see are those deep. Nothing matters. my mind and as I look into Mia’s eyes.’ There’s another noise now. deep pools. into my toes and fingertips. my skin. Mia. I can’t hold on any longer.

a great cry of victory. ‘the proud father!’ Then he sees the look on my face. And by the path. there are stones. I start running towards him. ‘Yesssss! Yesssss!’ I don’t need to see him to know who it is. I should find Sarah. It’s a whoop of triumph. dancing even. and he stops. but as I watch him capering about I can feel the blood boiling in my veins. This is the place. He shouldn’t get away with this. He’s evil in human flesh. flat slabs of standing stone. leaping. The noise is louder here and the whooping has turned into words. her dream. He don’t see me until I’m really close. He’s laughing. but soon I catch my first glimpse of him between the trees. I should leave Saul. I swing round and through the gateway and then I stop. He’s running. He done what he set out to do. I’ve stepped into Sarah’s picture. I ain’t never seen him like this and there’s only one reason why he would be.Chapter 46: Adam I’m running towards the gate when I hear a voice.’ he says. There’s a line of dark trees by the entrance and a gravel path leading through them. Tall. ‘Adam. through the trees. He done it. He stole the number from my baby and now my baby has only got a few hours left to live. He’s not going to. reaching out to me through the fog. He . And it’s coming from the other side of the wall. find our child.

I lift my head up and peer round. His new number. He staggers backwards. because I’m on him. ‘Adam!’ he splutters. When I heave. I tear after him. I’m only a metre or two behind. It’s a peaceful death. I’ve got no answer for a gun. I lunge forward and yank at his ankles with both hands. All I can do is get to him before he fires. then springs across the gap to land his other foot on the bottom of a monument. I don’t feel nothing. He dodges away and sets off running away from me. ‘You bastard!’ I launch myself at him again. I roll over. hear the crack as I make contact. The angel’s fallen .don’t have time to draw his gun. spinning across soft grass. and now I’m throwing myself out of the way as Saul and the statue plummet down towards me. one foot on the pedestal of a tomb. It’s Sarah’s. searching for his gun. hard stone and grass again. The anger’s giving me speed I didn’t know I had. a warm death full of love and light. And suddenly he leaps up. 2572075. I try to get hold of him but I’m not quite there. Saul is lying awkwardly on his side. He wraps his arm round the waist of a stone angel and fumbles at his belt. ’cause I seen his number. I flinch as the gun goes off. but he’s ready this time. When I stop moving.’ But there’s no calming me now. I slam my head against his nose. his legs come away from their perch and the angel starts to topple. ‘Calm down. hands up to his face. drawing his revolver with the other. He’s not going to get away this time. My fingertips are touching his jacket. He’s clinging on to the statue with one hand.

’ He flaps his arms at the dark space where his legs are trapped and for the first time I notice his hands. One of his legs is sticking out at the sort of angle a leg shouldn’t make. You know you won’t. but his body will only move so far. ‘Get away! . They’re red. looking at it. He braces himself against the angel.’ I sit up carefully. I’m okay. Then I bend down and pick up his gun. A shadow streaks across the ground and around the back of a grave. ‘Whose blood is that?’ I ask. The other leg’s bleeding from a small dark wound – the place where the bullet from his own gun went in. like he’s wearing scarlet gloves.’ he says. I stretch my arm out so there’s a line from my right eye to the barrel of the gun to Saul’s forehead. pinning him down. testing out my arms and legs. Sarah’s number stares at me. ‘You won’t do it. He tries to twist around. It’s on me.’ he says. My finger tightens on the trigger. I hold it in both hands. The gun’s lying a couple of metres away. It’s near me. Adam. I catch a movement. ‘Put the gun down and get me out of here. I get to my feet and take a step towards him. I turn my head in time to see the wormy tail disappearing. ‘There’s a rat. For a moment he thinks I’m going to help. grips it with both hands and tries to shift it. Get me out of here. His eyes are fixed on mine. It don’t move. feeling its weight. ‘Get this off me. Out of the corner of my eye. too. Saul’s seen it.across him. ‘What?’ He’s still thrashing his arms about. ‘Adam!’ Saul yells.

But I think there’s something worse. Rats shriek as I crunch them underfoot. You broke my nose. It only takes a few seconds before I’m there. By the side of the bigger heap. And then I turn and start running away. there’s a small one. Another rat trots along the top of the angel’s wing and balances on the end. There’s a dark stream dripping down to his mouth and a streak smeared across his face. his nose is bleeding. I’ll leave you alone.What?’ ‘Whose blood have you got on your hands?’ He stops for a second and looks at his own fingers. ‘Mine. gabbling the words out in desperation. come back please. darting. I’ll give Sarah back her number. that’s all. I tuck Saul’s gun into my waistband. If they’re interested in Saul and his blood. Then something else moves. before clambering down towards Saul. ‘Adam. it’s the baby. Don’t leave me here with them. then Sarah needs me more than ever. Then he starts pleading.’ I say. A pale flash. Oh my God. It’s not one heap. I could kick his head in. Adam. She’s . It takes him a couple of seconds to realise what I’m doing. I could shoot Saul.’ It’s true. It doesn’t explain his hands. a tiny bundle. Just move the stone. shifting. thrashing from side to side and I look again. it’s two. Adam!’ I run through the graves as his shouts turn to roars. There are rats there too. The bundle’s making a noise. moving. a lump or a heap on the ground. for it to sink in. There’s another shape up ahead. blurring the edges. Adam. Shadows scatter to left and right as I blunder along. you bastard. sniffing the foggy air. reach down and scoop the baby up. ‘Rot in hell. He’s wiped it once. Saul.

’ I say to myself. I crouch down. There’s nothing in the world I want to do more than look at my daughter now.crying and her eyes are tight shut. She's alive. . but I’m drawn to the other heap on the ground. I turn it over and flinch at the vivid red lines across the palms. Then my stomach flips and I stare and stare. Someone’s cut her. Her legs are covered in blood. She’s breathing. ‘Sarah? Sarah? It’s me. whatever’s happening to him right now. It’s Sarah.’ I know she’s got Saul’s number.’ Saul’s roars are still ringing round the place and I think. and I feel a flutter of hope. They come back for more. ‘He did it. I don’t want to see it. 2022054. but I kick at them and stamp on them until at last they thin out. 1622029. but not stone cold. It’s wet. it isn’t enough. Her skin is pale as the marble slabs around her. but I can hardly bear to look. She’s been cut with a knife. stare at her. I lean in closer to her and hold my hand just in front of her open mouth. Death in her eyes. the flaps of skin either side. There are rats swarming on her legs. She’s got Mia’s. She hasn’t got Saul’s number. I keep hold of the baby and take Sarah’s hand in mine. ‘Sarah. Adam. Am I too late to even say goodbye? My eyes run down over her body. I sweep them away with my feet. Her hand is cold. Her eyes are closed. take her in. Can you hear me?’ Her eyes flicker open. ‘He did this to you.

You’re red and gold. I don’t understand. There’s a light around him. It’s the same. like your nan always said. And then I realise. Thank God. Like Mia’s drawing.’ It’s me. Can he see these colours too? Has someone flicked a switch somewhere and flushed the world through with light? ‘What colour am I?’ I say. but it’s Adam like I’ve never seen him before. confused. my mind. so bright its purity almost hurts my eyes. holding the baby. Something’s changed in me.Chapter 47: Sarah I open my eyes and he’s there. ‘You’re alive. I can’t see ’em. I close my eyes and open them again. It’s Adam. Mia was bathed in gold light and now the baby’s lying in a twinkling silver-white glow.’ His eyes are locked on mine. though. ‘Sarah …’ he says. Saul looked into my eyes. What colour am I?’ ‘I dunno. my eyes. And Mia looked again . He’s kneeling next to me. 1622029 – it flashed through my mind as he ripped my life out of me. red and gold.’ He’s frowning. ‘What is it? What’s wrong?’ ‘Nothing. Adam’s staring at me like he’s never seen me before. took my number and gave me his. searching my eyes. ‘What?’ ‘I can see your colours now. I’ll tell you later.

I start to push my top up. She’s moving her head to the left and right. tickly.’ For a moment. And everything that comes with it. Val’s and Mia’s? That’s what you can see. I think he’s going to cry. I try to prop myself up on my elbows. filling the air with their noise. ‘I don’t know. Not far away someone’s shouting. Adam wheels round and hits out. ‘What is it?’ I say. I know. Then something moves on my leg. ‘I’ve got their number.’ ‘What has?’ But he won’t answer me. ‘Give her to me.’ I say. I’m looking at the world through her eyes. and I shuffle backwards and lean against a gravestone. The baby’s crying in his arms.’ I look at Adam. ‘It’d be better if you could stand. You don’t need to say it. something scratchy. through Val’s eyes. ‘It’s gone. He gently hands her over.’ he says. a smile. looking in front of us and behind.’ He helps me. getting ready to feed her. isn’t it? Isn’t it?’ He presses his lips together. haven’t I. mouth open wide. ‘Can you sit up?’ he says. Our daughter’s hungry. ‘What is it? What’s wrong?’ . ‘Don’t worry. always has. ‘She’s hungry. ‘Not really. I jerk it instinctively. ‘It’s okay. Adam. a loving gesture. ‘Can you do that standing up?’ Adam says. He hates to tell. expecting some sort of response. So that must mean … I’ve got hers.and took his.’ I say. 2022054.’ He’s glancing over his shoulder.

Rats. But I do now.‘Nothing. But there’s no sign of Mia anywhere. He’s sweeping it across the ground in big semi-circles. I don’t ask again. It’s all right. Adam turns to look at me and the baby and we both speak at the same time. doing what mothers and babies have done for the whole of time. I bet Mia’s cold without her blanket. It’s me and her. I start to shiver violently. ‘Where’s Mia?’ .’ ‘Adam. It was so astonishing I didn’t take the next step. Now we’re settled. The baby knows what to do. Her head is covered by my clothes. Animals scatter in all directions as the brushy twigs reach towards them. Carry on. She was singing to me before I went to sleep. in a graveyard in the fog. but I don’t want her getting cold. She latches on and even here. She’s here somewhere. Just now my mind stopped at the realisation that I’ve got Val’s number. If Mia gave me her number. our mouths mirroring each other’s. what’s that noise?’ He looks at me and his eyes are haunted. I wrap my coat round them. Adam’s got a huge branch in his hands. she could snuggle in too. her suckling relaxes me. I try and get comfortable. I could look at them for ever. then what number has she got? She must have Saul’s. I look up. but her little legs and feet are sticking out. Before she gave me her number.

as waves of rats fan out from her feet. He’s touching hers. but it’s nothing compared to Saul’s noise now. He’s where I left him. pleading. but he’s not alone. but I’m drawn towards Saul.Chapter 48: Adam I leave Sarah the branch to defend herself with and I start running. His roar could split the sky. And then I see him. I hurtle towards her but just before I get to her. Mia twists round. She’s touching his face. like this. get away! Get away from him!’ Still touching Saul. It sounds like 1622029. but his voice is softer. He’s got a number that should never be his. disconnected. My head’s saturated with noise – it’s making me deaf. scraping her knee. He’s still roaring and it sounds like the noise I heard every time I looked in his eyes. she slips on a slimy stone and falls. look into your eyes and reach inside. dodging and weaving. Around them. the ground is black with rats. I speed up. blotting out every other sound. Mia could be anywhere. ‘No! No. It fills my ears. He’s not dying … is he? I get nearer and the noise goes quieter. I can still hear him. . Mia’s next to him. But he’s changed. He’s talking to someone. She starts to howl. trying to find the quickest route. before today. All I need to do is make contact. whining. squatting down. Mia. ‘Daddee!’ She leaves Saul and starts running towards me.

but you can. It’s all about happy endings. She must have grabbed it back from Saul. ‘Of course you can. reaching out towards us. Saul. they’re eating me alive! Help me!’ ‘I can’t do it. Adam. like this was happening to someone else. fingers grasping at nothing. like an electric fence plugged into my brain. She’s got Sarah’s number. It’s not going to . I need to …’ ‘You need to take my number or hers. The girl’s tricked me.’ He’s not shouting any more. ‘Adam! Adam! Get me out of here! These things. So Saul’s got …? ‘Come here! Come back!’ Saul bellows. I’m watching the action unfold on a screen. Today. but I can still hear the sound in my head. He stops squirming and looks at me. don’t you? But you have to. warmth and love.I’m seeing everything like I wasn’t there. It’s come back to him. I need to get out.’ I say. 2572075. I reach Mia and she looks up at me from the ground. There’s tears all over her face. It’s echoing round and round as his number shocks me over and over again. her cheeks are streaked with blood and dirt – she’s a picture of distress. the number he tried to get rid of. ‘Adam. He’s got it. 1622029. You can lift it enough for me to—’ He stops and his face changes. ‘You mean you won’t do it. But her number tells me something else. I look beyond Mia to where he’s writhing on the ground. the number he had when I met him. I can’t get any purchase. She gave the sixteenth back to me.

Please! PLEASE!’ I turn around and I start running. I don’t think anyone’s ever held me that tight before. I won’t hurt you. There’s a rat crawling over his face. he forgot it.’ I shout as I run. I’ve felt it.’ I say to her. It’s the sound of reality catching up with him. We can help each other. Two hundred and fifty years coming to an end. No one’s gonna rescue him. or if he ever did. please. I wipe her tears with my thumb. I’ve got one daughter in my arms. I wouldn’t do that to you. his cruel. Not yours. Adam. Saul.’ I bend down and pick up Mia. ‘Let’s go and find Mum. No one on your tail. then I’ll leave you alone. I promise. Saul knew nothing about love. Adam. I won’t touch you. but it don’t pull me back.’ ‘Not yours. ‘I’m letting someone else live. shall we?’ I look at Saul one last time.’ He unleashes his animal roar. You’re a murderer!’ ‘No. Saul. I’ve seen it. selfish everlasting life – belongs in the past. No one following you. I’d never hurt you. And now it’s coming true. Saul – his twisted views. Adam. Help me find a good number. It tears at me with every step. don’t leave me. ‘It’s all right. I won’t make his mistakes. ‘You’re killing me.happen. . another taking her first breaths on earth and a girl I’ve loved since the moment I saw her. I promise. come back. Adam. You’ll be free to go. There are hundreds of people back there. ‘Adam. Don’t leave me here. She wraps her arms round my neck and her legs round my middle. Adam.

.I’m running towards the future.

’ She won’t let go of him. Won’t.’ ‘But her number.’ he says. What about her number?’ ‘It’s all right. Her eyes are open. they belong to me.’ The roaring cries in the fog go up a pitch. turning into piercing screams.’ he says.Chapter 49: Sarah Red and gold. ‘Are you all right.’ he says quietly. glassy. She’s clinging on to Adam as if her life depended on it. ‘Later. but they blend together. ‘What happened?’ He shakes his head. ‘We’ll talk later. sweetheart? Come here. ‘Her number’s good now. Her pale face is smudged with mud. can’t speak. covering her ear. They look like they belong. coming towards me through the stones. The colours of fire. ‘Mia!’ I cry. Adam. traumatised. holding her closer. ‘With Saul. And. Mia’s golden flame merges with Adam’s. . thank God. He may not be her biological dad. What on earth has she been through? What has she seen? ‘Where did you find her?’ He puts his hand on the side of her head.

‘This is Sarah. I’d like to . but he soon puts it away. They’re dazzling. kicking. And I know without a shadow of a doubt. and Mia. isn’t it?’ I tip my head towards the noise. For a while the only sound is the rustle of rats. women as well as men. It came back to him.‘That’s him. Adam draws Saul’s gun when we first see them. Then we hear the buzz of a drone overhead.’ Adam says. ‘I’m Simon. Mia gave it back.’ he says to me. at least Mia and Adam are with their silicon Judases lodged under their skin. It sits heavily in the fog. ‘If you can walk. ‘It’ll stop soon. too. Their auras merge together in a rainbow haze. In the end he couldn’t escape his number. But it’s not uniformed soldiers we see emerging through the fog – it’s ordinary folk armed with pieces of wood or bits of railing or not armed at all. But a few minutes later. And this is our daughter. then. Make the noise stop. His colour is blue.’ he says. sweeping the branch around. ‘Yeah. He closes his eyes briefly and I know what he’s thinking. Please stop now. There’s a whole crowd of them. the silence is almost worse than the screams. clinging to the branches above our heads. ‘You found them. It brings me calmness and confidence before he’s even spoken. We’re sitting ducks. The guy at the front isn’t carrying any weapons and his pale-blue eyes light up when he sees the four of us.’ he says to Adam.’ The man crouches down. Adam keeps them away – stamping. the wet leaves on the ground.

’ One of the women comes forward. Close to. Adam moves to my other side and puts his arm round me. Her face is like a little apple. I carry the baby and Adam carries Mia. We leave the graveyard the way we came in and turn into the cobbled street. She helps me get cleaned up. towels and clean clothes. I lower my voice. so that only her little face is showing.’ he says. including Simon. wraps bandages round my cut hands. wipes the blood and muck off the baby. I’m remembering the sea of filth outside the abbey. She’s brought cotton sheets. Alona. but when we turn the corner into the abbey square. ‘She hasn’t got any eyes. It’ll be safer for you all. Alona helps me to my feet. then wraps her tightly in a sheet. She tells me she’s a midwife. Her silver-white light nearly takes my breath away. I don’t know how to say I don’t want to camp there. and a soothing green presence. We have food there. away. tattered flesh and bare bone that is all that’s left of Saul.take you back to the abbey. ‘All her vital signs are very good. I don’t see dirt and . He’s looking after Mia and talking with Simon. ‘she hasn’t got …’ I glance at Adam. ‘Don’t look.’ Alona frowns. but it’s too late. It’s a developmental thing. As we walk. I’ve already seen the mass of rats. and she ushers the others. I beckon her nearer. scorch marks in her golden flame. ‘No. I’m wobbly but I’m able to walk slowly. but the child can be perfectly healthy otherwise. Everyone’s being so kind.’ She puts a hand on my shoulder. When we get nearer to the gate.’ And she is. and shelter. ‘Have you seen a baby like this before?’ She shakes her head. but I’ve heard about cases. I can see that her light is flecked with strange dark spots. She’s a beautiful girl. ‘The baby.’ I say.

I don’t want to. No cheering. a chapel I suppose.’ Adam says. ‘Adam. He’s not uncomfortable with it. no shouting or whooping. peachy cheek. but leans over and tickles the baby’s face. ‘I’m almost bursting. My spirits soar.’ He’s nervous now. the baby in my arms. ‘What’s that for?’ I ask. People bustle around fetching bedding and blankets. no bother. just hundreds of people clapping. they leave us alone. but it’s a beautiful space. gently teasing her round. Then we go inside. colourful variety. He turns back briefly and waves to the crowd. ‘It’s for us. even more wonderfully. the very old and the ill. a ripple of applause breaks out in the crowd outside. ‘What is it?’ He doesn’t answer. but there’s an overriding sense of calm. Someone brings us hot tea and then.’ ‘And I’ve got so much to tell you. pressing his lips together. It builds and builds.’ I say. We’re taken to a smaller place within the church. I see people in all their rich. Her face twitches in response and she moves her head against his finger. My eyes have been opened to the world – I feel like I’m seeing it how it should be seen. We’re ushered inside the church. eyes blinking fast. She’s awake. away from everyone else. . It’s almost like a hospital – the place is full of the very young. It’s busy here. and soon we’ve got a sort of nest. I gotta do something first though. As we go through the big studded door.’ he says. ‘I need to tell you something. No fuss. We’re not the only ones here.rubbish. The four of us cuddle up under a duvet. Mia still clinging to Adam. Half the windows are missing and not all the walls are intact. but I’ve got to. he’s smiling.

‘Don’t hate her.’ Then he runs his thumb gently across the place where her eyes should be. wanting me to encourage him and his face changes as he sees mine. But at least she doesn’t have to bear the gifts Saul thought she’d have.’ He glances up at me. I have to tell him.’ He won’t look at me now. He’s frowning now. The frown eases away. I don’t know the end. perhaps that’s a blessing. ‘She is awake.’ he murmurs. His face relaxes. ‘Trying to wake her up. . He couldn’t.’ I say. he’s still staring at her. That’s why Saul didn’t take her number. never hate her. ‘I’ll never know. She’s still our daughter. ‘Not knowing.’ he says. Adam. ‘I don’t hate her.’ ‘Is that okay? Are you okay with her?’ ‘Course. though. Sarah. All I know is we’ve got today.’ ‘Like the rest of you. don’t hate her.’ ‘Just like the rest of us. but inside me I know. won’t she? It’s a tough old world. It’s not a bad thing – it saved her life. I need to see … I need to see her number.’ ‘What?’ ‘She hasn’t got any eyes. Anger? Disgust? He stares at our baby’s face. And she’ll grow up loved. ‘She just can’t open her eyes. She’ll have it tough. ‘I can look at her and I’m the same. ‘I won’t know her number.’ I say.’ ‘Yes. I could never. Course I am.‘What are you doing?’ I ask.’ he echoes. He screws up his eyes and I can’t tell what’s going on with him.’ The frown deepens. I don’t wanna but I know I got to. ‘Adam.

I haven’t said things in the past and I regret it. silent. ‘Adam.Adam. That’s all she needs.’ She pouts and looks at me from the corner of her eye. Now. I put my arm round her little shoulders. ‘It’s all right. now.’ ‘I wanna hold her. We could call her something else if you …’ ‘Gemma. For everything. ‘Thank you Sarah. wondering what will bring her back to us. For Gemma. this intimacy.’ I say later. shall we hold the baby?’ Mia still hasn’t said a word. She snuggles in and they look so content together. ‘we could call her Gemma. Her lips are moving. Only if you think it’s okay.’ I say. I look down at her profile. For Mia. but similar. ‘Mia.’ he repeats. and I realise that the black spots in her golden glow are bigger. a little tribute. She’s stayed in Adam’s arms. I lean nearer. I look at her. I want you. Some things need saying. curled up.’ ‘Yeah.’ Mia’s restless beside me. I do. this peace.’ Adam takes the baby from me and holds her close.’ Then he looks at me with tears in his eyes. kiss Mia’s curly hair and bask in this moment. . That’s beautiful. ‘Mia. They’ve stretched out. She unwinds a little and lets Adam sit her down next to me. Here.’ ‘You don’t need to thank me. ‘We’re safe. England’s a harsh place now. I can’t help thinking Adam’s right. Come here. ‘Gemma. Sarah. Mia.’ he says. Are we really safe? What on earth does the future hold for us? I shut those thoughts away. but I can’t hear what she’s saying. I love you. spreading like stains. Not the same as your mum.’ ‘I love you too.

‘Don’ leave me,’ she murmurs. ‘What’s that, sweetheart?’ ‘Don’ leave me.’ I kiss her face and hold her close. ‘We won’t leave you. We’ll never leave you again. You’re safe now. Everything’s okay.’ I rock her gently, singing under my breath. After a few minutes, her breathing has gone heavier, more even. I think she’s falling asleep, but when I peer down at her face, her eyes are wide open. She looks like she’ll never close them again.

Chapter 50: Adam Sarah whispers to me.
‘I’m worried about Mia.’ They’re cuddled up together, but Mia’s not asleep. She staring at nothing, her skin pale, her pupils wide. She looks like a little ghost. ‘She’ll be fine,’ I say, but they’re empty words. She’s seen things a two-year-old shouldn’t see. She’s done things no one should do. I feel that thing again – a shiver of fear. She’s a little girl now, but she won’t always be little. What’s her life going to be like? How the hell is she going to cope with this? How are we going to cope with her? ‘Do you think she knows what she did?’ I ask. ‘How can she?’ Sarah says. ‘She’s only two. It must have been instinct. She could see I was in a bad way and did what she could to help me.’ ‘And Saul?’ ‘Maybe she thought she was helping Saul too. He was shouting for help, I could hear him.’ I’d like to think this makes sense – and maybe it does. Mia’s such a generous girl. Her instinct is to help. I’d like to think it, because it’s way more comfortable than the alternative. That at some level she knew Saul’s number was bad and she gave it back to him to save her own skin. Is that what really happened? Did she beat him at his own game? The thought of it chills my bones.

‘How the hell do we deal with this? A girl who can change her fate? Change other people’s?’ ‘Maybe there are two of us,’ Sarah says quietly. ‘I’ve changed twice now.’ ‘Shit. Would you … could you …?’ ‘I don’t know. It doesn’t seem like something I did. It was like something that was done to me. I don’t know if I could.’ ‘What did it feel like?’ She breathes out, like she’s forcing all the air out of her lungs – a long breath, almost a sigh. ‘I only realised what was going on just before it happened. I feel so stupid, as if I’ve been going round with my eyes closed. The baby was no good to him. He dumped her and came after me. He was desperate then. He needed a new number and so he took mine. He got close to me, really close. I tried to look away but he forced my eye open and it felt like he put a hot wire into my soul. It was painful, physically painful. He was taking something from me, ripping it out of me. He was taking my life away.’ ‘Sarah—’ ‘I just felt what I was losing. All my energy, my will to live – he took it. And in that last second I saw his number, felt it. 1622029.’ She closes her eyes, screws them tight shut and when she opens them again her pupils are wide and there’s shock and fear in them. ‘I saw his death date, Adam, the number he was giving to me. I saw Mia’s too, when she gave it to me. I understand now, what you see every day.’ She twists around and puts her hand up to my cheek and there’s something so tender about it. It’s not pity – she knows how I feel now. She’s felt it too. ‘He took my life away, but Mia gave it back. She gave me her life, her number. She saved me, Adam.’

Mia’s still awake, her blond curls framing her face, her eyes blue and wide. She looks like an angel. And that’s what she is. She was Sarah’s guardian angel and she was Saul’s angel of death. ‘We have to be so careful with her,’ I say. ‘Bring her up right, whatever right is. If only Mum was alive, or Nan. If only we had some help.’ Sarah puts her finger to my lips. ‘If only’s no good. It’s no good, Adam. Your mum and your nan are here anyway. You and me, Mia and Gemma, we carry them around with us. They’re part of us. They’re in our hearts and minds and they always will be.’ ‘It’s not the same …’ ‘No, it’s not the same, but it’s what we’ve got. When we’re stuck, when this all gets too much, we need to look inside. The answers will be there.’ She’s speaking from the heart. She believes this. We can cope. We can do what we need to do. And listening to her, I’m starting to believe it too. I leave Sarah tucked up in her nest with the kids. I feel like my eyes are open, really open. The last time I felt like this was just before the Chaos. I knew back then I had to try and help people, get them out of London. But since then I been sticking my head in the sand, denying who I am, hoping the world would leave me alone. I can’t do that no more. I’m not sure what I can do, but I know where to start. I gotta find Daniel. I walk through the abbey and out into the yard. People notice me. Some of them try to shake my hand as I pass. I don’t blank them or pretend I haven’t noticed. I don’t look at the floor. When they call out to me, I stop, take the hand that’s offered, look them in the eye. I spend a moment with them, whatever their number’s telling me.

‘Where are you going?’ someone asks me. ‘I’m heading back to the bunker,’ I say. ‘I need to find my mate, the one who rescued me.’ People gather round. I recognise some of them from the graveyard. They want to come too. And instead of shrugging them off, I accept their help. So we walk together through the streets, past the heaps of rubble and tents and looted shops, and up towards the hill. Overhead, a drone tracks our progress. ‘Did you know about the bunker?’ I ask. ‘We knew. It was a badly-kept secret. That’s where half our supplies come from. Black market. And when people disappeared, the rumour is that’s where they were taken.’ ‘Did people often disappear?’ ‘If they started organising things, making a fuss, making trouble. If they were different. They were picked out. One minute they were there, the next they weren’t.’ The shouts in the night, the blood streaked on the walls. How many, I wonder? ‘Look!’ We’re at the bottom of the grassy slope now and there are people coming down the hill towards us. A straggly line of the walking wounded. One of the group with me gives a shout of recognition and starts running up the hill. When he reaches his man, they fling their arms round each other, holding tight without a word before they break into backslapping and excited conversation. ‘The disappeared are coming back,’ I say. I scan the faces coming towards me. Many are bruised or cut. Some people are limping, walking in twos or threes, supporting each other. Some are slow, confused. Others are wildly happy, birds set free from their cage. All of them are met with kind words and helping hands and shown the

way to the abbey. I curl up and tuck my head in as debris starts raining down. uncurling too. She had the baby. ‘They blew up command control. We’re in at the main entrance – we’re going for the communications centre. the line of people is picking itself up. No more drones. ‘Adam. . It’ll go up any minute now. ‘Is she okay?’ ‘Yeah.’ We sit up. The last one out is Daniel. shaking hands. Not until everyone who wants to has got out. His face lights up when he sees me. ‘Where’s Sarah?’ he says.’ He breaks into a broad grin. Below us. You’ve got to move away. There’s a crash a couple of metres away from us. so I walk up to the exit in the brambles and I join the welcoming committee. People near us start running and we set off too. ‘They got it. start whooping and hollering. When I look up there’s a drone lying on the ground next to us. they high-five each other. no scanners. a little girl. As people look back up the hill and start to realise what’s happened. We’ve only gone twenty metres or so when there’s a massive explosion. I help Daniel onto his feet.’ Daniel says. nothing to keep track of us. try to make myself smaller. Everyone on the hill drops to the ground as dust and bits of rock shoot out of the tunnel over our heads. directing people down the hill. I wince. All I can do is wait. you’ve got to move away. Daniel and I hit the deck. The steady stream of refugees keeps on coming and I realise there’s no way I’ll be able to get into the bunker. she’s fine. and wait for the noise to subside. Move away!’ he shouts to anyone within earshot.

’ ‘I want to help. We can start here.’ He claps his good arm round my shoulders and we start walking towards the city.’ ‘Not the way they wanted. He …’ I’m struggling to choose my words. I’ll get Carrie to bring them here. they’re fine.’ Daniel’s grin gets broader and then he tips his head back and lets out a ‘Yee-hawww!’ his voice joining the weird and wonderful chorus on the hill.’ ‘Are you staying here?’ I ask. I want to help people to live. ‘We’ve got rid of the cancer.’ ‘Sooner the better. ‘I was hoping you’d say that. ‘And Saul.‘Congratulations. are Marty and Luke really okay? I know what you said to Sarah. I’m sick of thinking about death. what happened to him?’ ‘He’s gone.’ he says. but …’ He’s still grinning.’ I say. mate. ‘Yeah. I want to help everyone. . ‘He had a nasty accident.’ he says. ‘It’s as good a place as any. I don’t want to choose who to help and who to leave. I wait for him to draw breath. ‘I gotta ask you.’ ‘Of course. it’s time to help the body to heal.

‘Everything all right?’ ‘She’s just crying. but her cries drown out my voice. perhaps he could calm her down – I don’t seem to be able to help her. Her round face is scarlet. isn’t she?’ I say to Mia. didn’t I? I’m sweating and uncomfortable. If he was here. My frustration and panic are there in the way I’m moving. lips moving. ‘She’s noisy. scraping my damp hair off my forehead.’ ‘Can I help?’ ‘You can try. I stand and watch. She hasn’t even noticed the . Mia stays put. rejecting my attempts to soothe her. I wriggle out of our nest and walk round the chapel. The day’s taking its toll now. only notice the difference when I look away and look back. I don’t see them changing. I coped with Mia on my own. She’s staring ahead blankly. Simon pops his head around the archway.Chapter 51: Sarah Gemma’s crying. She doesn’t need changing. I bounce Gemma in my arms. I should be able to do this. She doesn’t react.’ He takes Gemma from me. Adam’s been away for a while now. and singing. She jerks her head from side to side. The stains on her aura are spreading. She doesn’t want to feed. I try talking to her gently. Her aura is a mottled mess of gold and black.

Leave her. ‘Hold your hands out. She obeys me. Her pupils are huge. I gently place Gemma in Mia’s arms. mumbling something only she can hear.’ ‘Maybe this will help. She’s … she’s still in shock. ‘do you want to hold your sister?’ Her eyes flick to mine. but like a robot. Her lips are moving again. She hasn’t got eyes like you and me. ‘Mia.’ ‘Of course …’ He hands Gemma back to me. Mia.’ she says. Mia stares at her. A crying little sister’s no fun to hold. And suddenly.’ I resume my pacing. ‘Will you hold her?’ She doesn’t seem to have heard. I kneel down next to her. red. ‘Mia. but not with the vacant stare that’s been rattling me – she’s looking. examining her sister’s face.’ ‘No.’ I say. angry. Very. A black halo. cradling them both. to bring her back. Her face is screwed up. Wherever she is. ‘I’ll get Alona. very wrong. ‘What about her sister?’ ‘No. She’s still crying.change. . don’t. Better to wait until she’s quiet. She’s good with newborns. I’m sure she’s not really here. firmly. I need. She’s stuck somewhere. ‘Baby wake up. it’s a bad place. but soundlessly. putting my hands underneath. really. This time. Gemma notices the change. I desperately want. like they contain a world of pain. The aura around her head is inky black.’ I say.’ I say again. ‘She is awake. There’s something wrong with her. I’m really scared. but she turns her face towards her sister. watching Mia at the same time.

The moment the two touch. bleaching away the black stains.’ Mia says. a buzz of excitement rippling through the church. I’ll help. their colours blend. Where the girls are holding hands.’ she says. Here …’ I move Mia’s hand so that it makes contact with Gemma’s little fist. Gemma’s sparkling light is moving up her arm. ‘How are my girls?’ Adam says. I’m transfixed by what’s going on with my two girls. ‘You do it. Mia looks up at me and smiles. with Daniel in tow. She can hear you. ‘Baby hold on.’ ‘Do Twinkle. Give her your finger to hold. Mia looks up and beams. Can you sing to her? She’ll like that.’ There’s noise drifting in from outside. Gemma stops crying.She’s got sleepy eyes. baby. . though. She wants to hear your voice. She loves it.’ I say. You can talk to her. Mia.’ We start singing. ‘She likes you. Gemma unwinds her fingers and grips onto Mia’s. Pure gold.’ Mia says. Mia’s aura is changing before my eyes. Mia glances up at me. Adam clatters into the chapel. sweetie. Mia pokes at her face. arms round each other’s shoulders. but soon my voice fades and stops. Daniel’s hand is wrapped up but they’re both in high spirits. ‘Keep going. not like that. ‘No.’ ‘Hello. ‘You’re her big sister. But I’m not going anywhere. Mia’s is becoming gold again.

‘Mia. ‘Shh.’ ‘She’s still got mine?’ ‘Yeah. her blindness saved her.’ Adam puts his arm round me. I can’t believe it. baby. shining gold. Good girl. When she touched her. looking down at me and pulling me close again.’ ‘That’s right. and a smile plays at the corners of his mouth. ‘What?’ I don’t know how to say it.’ she says. something amazing’s happening. Are you singing to Gemma? Did you make her stop crying?’ Mia looks up.’ I keep my voice low. Her number’s the same. ‘It’s all right. ‘Look at Daddy. I can feel his heart pounding in his . ‘Baby like Twinkle. Pure. He lets go of Daniel. Do you mind?’ he says. ‘Mia’s aura was marked. Her eyes are shiny with excitement. but I know I have to ask.’ He turns back to me. Hate the thought that’s come into my head. ‘but I think Gemma’s … cleaning it. ‘Is Gemma safe with her sister? Has Mia’s number changed? What if she’s so powerful she doesn’t need to see Gemma’s eyes to take her number?’ I have to know. Perhaps she’s stronger than we both thought.’ he says. Mia’s becoming gold again. the darkness started to go.’ ‘Adam. pulling me in. Adam looks at the girls. ‘Adam. Maybe she’s the most special of us all—’ I stop sharply.’ I say. ‘I thought we’d be the ones looking out for her all the time.‘They’re fine.’ he says. ‘So Gemma’s got her own gift.’ I leave the girls sitting together and run over to him.

but just think what she might help us see. The only black spots are around her legs and they’re dissolving as I watch.chest. isn’t it?’ I say. Sarah. and . Whatever happens to you and me. He looks pained. ‘You don’t have to answer. Sarah. ‘I couldn’t ask for anything better for her. His mouth is next to my ear. ‘It’s your number. I close my eyes and he whispers to me. ‘This is the way it should be. We’ll teach Mia to hold on to her number and Gemma can use her gifts to heal. before the Chaos. slipping out of this life will be so calm for her. His eyes are closed but a tear squeezes through his lashes and trickles down his face.’ I wipe his tears away with my fingers. We’ll raise our family the best way we can. no one else. ‘No.’ I open my eyes and tilt my head so I can see him. there’s a happy ending waiting for both of them. ‘It’s a good number. Mia leans forward and lays her cheek against Gemma’s. Mia’s head is bathed in gold again. There’s anguish all over his face. Who knows. He holds me closer and for a moment it feels like it’s just me and him here. There has to be. It should be yours. ‘What’s wrong?’ I say.’ he says quietly. then cup his face with my hands. She hasn’t got eyes. It’s the most beautiful end anyone could have.’ I say. we’ll surround them with love. If she keeps it. ‘It’s bathed in love and light.’ His eyes flick open and more tears spill out.’ ‘It’s the best number I’ve ever seen.’ I turn away from Adam and look back at the girls. so peaceful. not even the children. I saw it in your notebook. our girls might have something to teach all of us.

the last pinpoints disappear. .

taking turns to swing her round. Gemma’s properly dizzy now. She wants to stay put. That’s why they’ve moved around so much.Epilogue – 2033 The girl sits on the beach. ‘Careful. It’s been a long day but a good one. She stumbles to one side. a house can grow from nothing in a few hours. She looks back at her drawing in the sand – a house and six people and a big sunshine in the sky above – and she traces some words underneath: HAPY EVA AFTA. People like it when he visits. Not too much!’ Her mum’s voice carries across the beach from the sand-dune. She draws pictures in the sand with her finger while the others run and chase in the evening sunshine. She hears the boys’ raucous laughter. standing with their arms round each other. ‘That’s enough!’ her dad shouts. Behind them she can just see the patched-up roofs of the cottages and the bare rafters of the new houses being built. When lots of people work together. She staggers drunkenly between the two of them. tries to right herself and careers off the other way. Marty and Luke are playing with Gemma. somewhere they can all live together for ever and ever. Her dad’s good at getting people to work together. The girl twists round to look at them. But she’s tired of travelling. have a home. .

When she’s a metre away. ‘Shall we find Mum and Dad?’ ‘Yeh. holding hands. you big lump! What would you do if I didn’t catch you?’ Gemma flings her head back and laughs. joined at the hand like cut-out paper dolls.The girl calls out to her. then she moves her hands up to the girl’s face. ‘Mia. ‘Gem. ‘Eugh. The girl wipes the saliva away. that was a wet one. The girl catches her and they tumble backwards in a heap of arms and legs. ‘Come here!’ Gemma weaves her way unevenly across the sand.’ And she kisses her full on the lips. running towards the distant sea. ‘Gemma. diving through the air. come here! Gem.’ she says. she launches herself forward towards the girl. .’ she says. Their long shadows streak across the rippled surface of the sand. Mia and Gemma turn towards the dunes and set off walking. the laughter lines by her eyes. arms held wide. The boys are miles away now.’ They disentangle themselves and stand up. Gemma. this way!’ Gemma turns towards her and smiles. tracing the creases at the corner of her mouth. ‘My Mia. as the girl guides her in with her voice.

Rachel Leyshon and Chrissie. Imogen. School Library Service staff. and for matchmaking. and especially. who have done such a brilliant job.ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to thank everyone who has supported me during the writing of all three Numbers books: David. The wonderful librarians. the readers. especially work-friends at Keynsham Town Council and Bath & North East Somerset Council. Your reaction to my books . for encouraging me through their short story competition. Friends and family who have hosted. Ann and Peter in Spain. especially those who have looked after me in various countries – Anja and Hilke in Germany. and Monique and Janetta in The Netherlands – and Elinor for making all this possible. especially those who’ve written to me or come to see me speak. for pointing me in the direction of the Frome Festival. All the lovely people involved in translating my books and publishing them outside the UK. especially Mum and Dad. this time. and Ann and Dave in Jersey. and encouraged my writing. Everyone at The Chicken House. The Frome Festival. And finally. including Barry for all his wheeling and dealing. Friends who have taken an interest in my writing. teachers and journalists I’ve met who are so busy promoting and celebrating reading.

Rachel Ward April 2011 .has meant the world to me.

From the Chicken House Rachel Ward’s Numbers series has fascinated the world. Barry Cunningham Publisher . That’s the secret – and it takes a rather terrifying last twist in this final book. it’s about how to live with the knowledge. it’s not about dying. From Brazil to Beijing. the story of the teens that can see the date of your death has caught every reader’s imagination. Actually. Don’t close your eyes.

No part of this text may be reproduced. mechanical. transmitted. 1988. without the prior permission of the publisher. By payment of the required fees. reverse engineered. electronic. photocopying or otherwise. you have been granted the non-exclusive. non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. decompiled. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. to be identified as the author of this work. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted or utilized in any form or by any means. Produced in the UK by LibreDigital Cover design by Steve Wells British Library Cataloguing in Publication data available. or stored in or .doublecluck. downloaded. All rights reserved.Copyright Text © Rachel Ward 2011 First paperback edition published in Great Britain in 2011 This electronic edition published in 2012 The Chicken House 2 Palmer Street Rachel Ward has asserted her rights under the Copyright. Designs and Patents Act. Somerset BA11 1DS United Kingdom www.

eISBN: 978-1-908-43506-4 .introduced into any information storage and retrieval system. in any form or by any means. whether electronic or mechanical. without the express written permission of publisher. now known or hereinafter invented.



Table of Contents Cover Title Page Chapter 1: February 2029 Chapter 2: Adam Chapter 3: Sarah Chapter 4: Adam Chapter 5: Sarah Chapter 6: Adam Chapter 7: Sarah Chapter 8: Adam Chapter 9: Sarah Chapter 10: Adam Chapter 11: Sarah Chapter 12: Adam Chapter 13: Sarah Chapter 14: Adam Chapter 15: Sarah Chapter 16: Adam Chapter 17: Sarah Chapter 18: Adam Chapter 19: Sarah Chapter 20: Adam Chapter 21: Sarah Chapter 22: Adam Chapter 23: Sarah Chapter 24: Adam Chapter 25: Sarah Chapter 26: Adam Chapter 27: Sarah Chapter 28: Adam Chapter 29: Sarah Chapter 30: Adam .

Chapter 31: Sarah Chapter 32: Adam Chapter 33: Sarah Chapter 34: Adam Chapter 35: Sarah Chapter 36: Adam Chapter 37: Sarah Chapter 38: Adam Chapter 39: Sarah Chapter 40: Adam Chapter 41: Sarah Chapter 42: Adam Chapter 43: Sarah Chapter 44: Adam Chapter 45: Sarah Chapter 46: Adam Chapter 47: Sarah Chapter 48: Adam Chapter 49: Sarah Chapter 50: Adam Chapter 51: Sarah Epilogue – 2033 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Copyright .

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