Extract: Hiding From Herself

For today’s post, seeing as I am in an extract-giving mood, here’s a segment from the beginning of chapter 17, Dust, of the first draft of Don’t Mess With Time.


The best of mechanical instrument pictures...for now.
The best of mechanical instrument pictures…for now.

“Zara, Zara.”

A small voice broke her musing. She sighed – maybe one moment at The Institute she would have time for a proper sleep, instead of a power nap shoved upon a desk in the gut of the technological room.

“What, Max?” she groaned. His voice sounded too efficient, too cold for this moment of the day…whenever it was. In her light serving of sleep deprivation, Zara had quite lost touch of the hours and minutes. She was meant to be frozen, and so, her biological clock acted that way.

“They have returned – or, rather, they are returning.”

Zara grew cold. “Who?”

“Yourself, your…uncle, surprisingly, and one of the twins.”

Zara stepped up to the scanner. Indeed, three familiar, dark-haired figures marched with order to The Institute. In the sparse grassland, they had no other destination. She focused on the tallest, the middle figure with clipped locks and chinos.

“That’s…” She concentrated on what she saw of his face. When the man turned, she watched his unique emblems. “That’s Aries. He has an uneven walk and a scald scar on his collarbone.”

Max chuckled. He nodded.

Three of them this time. Every new moment they broke through her carefully-crafted barrier, their arrangement had changed, as if to test The Institute beyond memory games. But since when had Freidrich become an ally? This must have been the extent of what Max had said had changed. Had she fused the rift between the family’s classes?

“Are we really doing this?” She sighed.

Max looked between her eyes, his warm irises soaking up her doubts.

“You are not,” he said.

“Oh, right.” She frowned. “I’ll go and sit on the stairs, shall I?”

His hand floated over her wrist, but it didn’t settle. “That would be best, thank you.”

Zara marched over to the staircase, Max on her heels. Half-hoping he held apologetic words of comfort for her, she glanced back, but he had already turned down one of the mysterious corridors. When his footsteps only occurred in her echoing aural memory, Zara paced her way up the stairs. Partway, she stopped, thinking on her feet. A gas-lamp hummed a little above the top of her waves.

They wanted her to hide from herself, didn’t they?

purplesky1She turned the gas down in the bell-shaped lamp. As she settled on the stairs, her hands mutated into dewy amber squares. Her face would be as half-formed to any stranger. Good.

She leant forward and waited.

A mere minute later, Max popped back with the grey-haired lady Zara had seen on her first morning in The Institute. He pointed to the door, where she jumped to man it. Where was Winston? He’d probably asked Linacre for some respite from the case of terrible time-travel. Zara sulked. His words hadn’t been fair. She would exist as long as she wanted.

“Oh, what ridiculousness this is.”

“You may say that, but ‘ridiculousness’ shall lead us to our lives once more.”

Zara glanced up at Linacre. She raised her eyebrows – why had he not joined Max? Nevertheless, she was glad for the company. She patted the stair beside her, and, with a small smile, Linacre sat.

“Here they come.” He draped up one hand up, pointing.

First Zara’s counterpart stepped through the portal. As usual, her long, black hair hung loose, curtains hugging her shoulders under their puffed up turquoise fabrics. Zara blushed. She hadn’t worn that top for months. At least her trousers were the usual black pair. Zara would have worn them herself, had she had not been equipped with fresh, foreign clothes in her stay. The jeans didn’t leave too many marks on her thighs, luckily.


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