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 shows 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.
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Elijah woke in the early hours of the next morning. He lay quietly, listening to the sounds of regular breathing and the occasional shuffle or cough of his companions as they continued to sleep. He couldn’t tell what time it was and remembered bitterly that he no longer had his dad’s old watch. A shaft of dazzling sunlight blazed across the ceiling from a gap in the boarding at the window, so he guessed it was after dawn. He also mused, staring lazily at that bright streak, that if it was too hot, he may not be able to get away after all, at least, not right away. Looking across at Rosa, who was curled in a sleeping bag with a hand tucked under her chin, her hair spread gloriously across the pillow, he didn’t feel entirely sorry about that. The others were all in sleeping bags too, making him the only one with a mattress. He wondered idly who usually took the mattress when he wasn’t there.
He felt at his head; the swelling had subsided and it didn’t ache so much now. Pushing himself up, he unlaced his boot and felt inside. Satisfied, he began to re-tie it when the morning peace was shattered by a piercing squeal. Sky bolted up, golden hair flying behind her and eyes wild. She stared at Elijah, panting heavily. Rosa groaned and half opened her eyes, and Elijah saw a tattered cushion fly from Xavier’s direction at Sky’s head. It missed and bounced across the floor. He mumbled, ‘not again,’ before flipping over and closing his eyes. Oblivious, Sky continued to stare at Elijah with a terrified look until he felt compelled to speak.
‘Are you ok?’
At this, she seemed to snap out of her trance. She nodded weakly, and then lay down again to stare at the same dazzling bolt of sunlight that Elijah had been watching all morning.
‘Looks hot today.’
‘Still thinking of going?’
‘I should really.’
‘Why?’ She sat up and looked at him squarely. He shrugged. Then, without the least sense of absurdity or irony, Sky said: ‘I had a premonition.’
‘A premonition? Are you joking?’ Elijah could tell by the earnest look on her face that she wasn’t.
‘It was about you. You were floating face down in a river and we pulled you out.’
‘Cheers. Don’t tell me any more, eh? What makes you say it was a premonition? Couldn’t it be a dream? You were asleep… it could have been a dream…’ Elijah wasn’t sure he liked the way this conversation was going. He had been there five minutes and already this weird girl was having visions of his imminent demise. As if he didn’t have enough to worry about.
Sky shrugged. ‘I just know. I have them all the time.’
‘Don’t listen to her,’ mumbled Xavier, half asleep from across the room, ‘she’s mental.’