Epilogue

The rhythmic hum and vibration of the car engine was threatening to lull SMS to sleep as he leaned back against the headrest and slowly tapped his fingers along the spine of Innis’s notebook. It was past midnight now, and beyond the reach of the headlights the world was as black as the void. The moon and stars were hidden behind clouds, and the massive trees that loomed over the highway on either side gave the impression of driving through a forested tunnel.

“Are we getting close?” asked Esther from the back seat. Continue reading

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Collision

Kevin and Esther strolled quietly down the sidewalk, hands in their pockets, glancing furtively at each other every now and then and pretending to be embarrassed when they caught one another looking. The warm bellyful of steak and the bright sky full of stars had Kevin feeling happier than he could remember being in a long time. Happy enough even to try something a little bit brave…

He withdrew his hand from his pocket and casually swung it back and forth a few times, then, as if by accident, let it brush against Esther’s hand, which was still inside her pocket. In half a second flat he felt her fingers twine into his and give a firm squeeze. He looked up in surprise, and she flashed him a modest smile. His cheeks turned red and he grinned like a little schoolboy.

The rest of the world melted away. The street noises faded into the background. They were walking, and they were holding hands, and life was good.

Suddenly Kevin was jolted out of his happy place by a shoulder to the chest. Continue reading

Move

The truck swerved hard to the right as Taylor jerked with the impact of the bullet. A low concrete wall sprang out of the darkness towards them and SMS flung his arms over his head. The front grill of the truck crumpled inwards and SMS, who hadn’t had time to put on his seatbelt, was thrown up onto the dashboard and against the windshield. It shuddered and cracked, but somehow held.

SMS’s head was ringing like a bell, but his instincts of self-preservation were blaring warning sirens, telling him to move. Continue reading

Gunshots

Cyber reached up with his other hand to steady his aim.

SMS’s bravery faltered, and he closed his eyes. If Cyber didn’t kill him soon, he thought the anticipation might do it first.

Then: crack-crack-crack! Gunshots, followed by another burst of fire: crack-crack-crack-crack!

SMS’s eyes flew open. He wasn’t dead! The gunshots had come from behind him. So who was—

A blur of movement caught his peripheral vision and Pavelec slammed into him, throwing him against a stack of pallets. Continue reading

Decision

SMS balanced the weight of Pavelec’s pistol in his hand and looked at Olivia, who was shaking with terror. She was biting her lip, her thin cheeks pale and wisps of hair falling over her face. Something about the fear in her eyes melted away the aging she had undergone, so she looked more like the young girl in the family photo than the wispy specter sitting on the couch in the middle of an abandoned warehouse, being used as a pawn in the mad game between Pavelec and Innis.

“Go ahead, SMS,” said Innis. “Shoot her.”

Continue reading