R is for Runners… what else did you think it was going to be for?

Yay!  I’ve been desperate to get to R so that I could share an extract of Runners with you.  Runners is a YA dystopian novel set in a near-future Britain (about 100 years, is that near-future?).  Runners is the name given to kids who live on the streets, and the novel follows a gang of these kids as they battle to stay alive.  As if that’s not bad enough, they stumble upon a secret guarded by a powerful man, a secret that will threaten their lives and the very existence of their entire world. Here we go…

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.’

‘We’re Runners!’

‘That’s different.’

‘How?’

‘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.

 ***

When Elijah came to the second time he felt better, as if he had just woken from a good night’s sleep.  His eyes remained closed while he savoured the sensation.  Some instinct he couldn’t name told him he wasn’t in immediate danger.  When his eyes finally opened, he could see that he had been taken indoors.  Instead of concrete hardness beneath him, he was lying on something lumpy – but soft, at least.  As he pushed himself up to investigate, his head reacted to the change in position and exploded with pain.  He clapped his hands to it, holding himself until the pain subsided into a pounding throb.  Gingerly, he felt the spot where the blow had struck.  His hair was matted and sticky. Inspecting his fingers, he recognised what could only be his own congealed blood.  As he dropped his hands to wipe them on his trousers, he looked up and found two faces near his, watching him with a mixture of concern and curiosity.

‘D’you think he’s ok?’

‘Dunno, looks a bit rough still.’

‘You could check him.’

Elijah looked from one to the other.  In a weak, hoarse voice that he hadn’t expected from his own mouth, he interrupted: ‘I am actually here, you know!’

The boy addressed Elijah uncertainly.  ‘Sorry… um… how many fingers am I holding up?’

‘How many am I holding up?’  Elijah raised two fingers of his own in a dubious salute.   The boy’s frown changed into a broad grin.  It was such a disarming grin that, despite himself, Elijah couldn’t help a small smile in return.

The boy was about Elijah’s age, slim, taller than him, brown haired with a floppy fringe.  It was a frank, honest face; the corners of the boy’s mouth had a natural upturn which gave the impression that he was constantly suppressing a grin, and lively brown eyes added to the air of mischief.

Elijah’s gaze flicked briefly to the girl.  She was about his age too; blonde, blue eyes that spoke of summers past, with a melancholy to them that made Elijah wonder just how long she had been running.  Judging by the way she was dressed, in jeans that looked far too large tucked into battered lace up boots, her wrists covered in coloured beads and fabric bracelets in varying states of decomposition, he figured it was quite a long time.

‘What’s your name?’ she asked Elijah.

Did he lie?  He stared dumbly at her, not knowing what to say.  She smiled patiently.

‘You’re ok here.  Maybe you should just lie down again.  D’you want some water?’  Elijah nodded. ‘I’m Sky,’ she continued.  ‘And this,’ Sky gestured toward her companion as she crossed the small room for a plastic bottle of water, ‘is Jimmy.’

Jimmy grinned in acknowledgement and pushed a hand through his fringe.

Elijah took a chipped mug of water from her.  It wasn’t cold, but it was clean and fresh.  ‘How long have I been here for?’  Elijah sipped again, his eyes not moving from them.

‘Well,’ began Jimmy, ‘we found you yesterday afternoon…’

‘And it’s about four now,’ completed Sky, looking at a nurse’s fob watch pinned to her grubby jacket, ‘so about a day.’

Elijah was going to ask how they had found him, but Sky anticipated the question.

‘It’s a good job you’ve come round before Xavier got back.’ She glanced at Jimmy as she spoke. ‘We saw two guys at the precinct before you got there.  We were out looking for stuff in this boarded up store and we saw them hanging around in that alleyway.  They looked a bit dodgy, so we hid and waited for them to go.  Next thing we see you come along with another boy and get clobbered.’  She looked suddenly pained. ‘They went through your pockets… and they took your rucksack. I’m sorry we couldn’t…’

Elijah stopped listening. He remembered that he had been running. He remembered what he had been running from…

Runners is due for publication 8th June by Immanion Press.  You can check out the Goodreads page here.

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