Elijah is nothing special. He’s just a skinny kid doing his best to stay one step ahead of starvation and the people who would have him locked away in a labour camp - just another Runner. But what he stumbles upon in a forest in Hampshire will show him that the harsh world he knows will become an even more sinister place, unless he can stop it. As past and present and parallel dimensions collide, freedom becomes the last thing on his mind as he is suddenly faced with a battle to save his world from extinction. But before Elijah can find the courage to be the hero the world needs, he must banish his own demons and learn to trust his friends. And all the while, the sinister figure of Maxwell Braithwaite looms, his path inextricably bound to Elijah’s by a long dead physicist, and hell bent on stopping Elijah, whatever the cost.
Elijah finally opened his eyes, but lacked the strength to move. Darkness, heavy and insidious, held him. He wasn’t sure if it was night. Perhaps he had gone blind. With this last terrifying thought he began to gulp shallow breaths, desperately trying to swallow the hard knot of panic in his throat. And in the midst of this, from somewhere close by, he gradually became aware of whispering.
‘Bet he’s got tokens.’
‘Bet he had tokens.’
‘Have a look while he’s still out.’
‘Don’t you dare!’
‘Alright, there’s no need to get stressy.’
‘Those kids looked pleased with themselves. If he had any, he hasn’t got them now.’
‘He’s been out a long time. You don’t reckon he’s…’
‘Nah. Give him another half hour, if he doesn’t come round we’ll have to clear off.’
‘Don’t whinge at me! It’s not my fault. We’ll leave a few clues or something so he gets found, if it makes you happy.’
‘Xavier, you can’t. He’s a Runner!’
‘He might not be.’
‘He is. Look at him.’
‘Even if he is… so what?’
will pick him up.’
‘Do you want them to pick you up?’
‘Right then. Half an hour.’
The conversation faltered. They sounded like young voices, but he couldn’t be sure.
A Runner. The word crashed into Elijah’s consciousness. It hadn’t occurred to him before but, he supposed, that was what he was now.
With an almighty effort, his arm responded, propping him up to sit. But even that small exertion had been too much. He leaned over to his side and vomited. Shivering, his head spinning and icy sweat erupting from every pore, he passed out again.
Xavier leaned against the wall of the alleyway and folded his arms.
‘We’re not taking him with us.’
‘But, Xavier –’
‘There’s enough of us as it is.’ He cast an appraising eye over the unconscious boy. ‘I don’t trust him.’
‘How can you say that? You don’t even know him.’ The speaker was a girl with long, blonde hair.
‘I don’t need to know him. He’s a Runner.’
‘It just is.’
The boy on the floor groaned.
‘He does look in a bad way,’ said a second boy. ‘He might die if we leave him here.’
‘Not my problem,’ Xavier said.
‘Jimmy’s right,’ the girl cut in. ‘What if you had said that about Rowan? Think of all the ways he’s helped us out since we met up with him. Maybe this kid could do the same, maybe he’d be good for us.’
Xavier nudged the boy with his foot, but he didn’t stir. ‘I doubt it. He looks as though he’d just eat everything we have and then scarper.’
The girl looked down at the injured boy with a pained expression. ‘Please, let’s just take him back to the cottage. I couldn’t bear it if I found out something had happened to him and we could have helped.’
Xavier sighed. ‘Alright then. But don’t blame me if he steals everything you own once he wakes up.’
‘I don’t own anything,’ the girl smiled.
‘You two can carry him if you’re so desperate to get him back.’ Xavier threw a last glance at the figure on the floor and then turned to leave.