Excerpt from book of no working title 🙂
Frank looked around the poorly lit octagonal hall its walls covered in art that read like a history book of British dictatorship. A grand ornate chandelier hung redundantly from the ceiling emitting a dull light that attempted to penetrate the deep layers of dust that had settled upon it.
‘So, The Houses of Parliament. I’ve always wondered what this place looked like on the inside.’ Poppy said.
‘We have not called it that in a long time.’
Frank turned toward the voice. June Whitbread stayed hidden in the shadows for a moment longer. Four soldiers stepped into the light.
‘No? So what do you call it then?’ Poppy said looking directly into shadow from which the soldiers had appeared.
‘Please, we just want refuge.’ Frank said.
‘Home dear, we call it home. We are not a refugee centre, and I do not have time for this. Soldiers remove them.’ June said.
The soldiers stepped forward, guns raised. Poppy continued to wander around the hall, unperturbed by the soldiers and their weapons.
‘Please, just listen.’ Frank said.
Frank pleaded to be heard as the soldiers forced them back toward the door. Poppy screamed at the audacity of them, for touching what was clearly above them. Oliver sat on the cold tiled floor, his hands over his ears, he rocked. As the shouting got louder, he rocked harder. Until Junes voice sliced through the chaos.
‘Stop. Step back. Give the boy space.’ June said.
The soldiers formed a protective circle around her and the boy.
‘Hey, my name is June. I’m sorry we scared you.’
Oliver stopped rocking and looked at her, for a moment they stared intently at one another.
‘Please.’ Frank said stepping toward June. ‘Help us.’
‘I am sorry,’ June said looking toward Poppy ‘but we are not a refugee centre, we cannot de-programme. We can take the child, but you two will have to leave.’
Frank watched Poppy closely as she moved toward June. The sedation was wearing off and her behaviour was becoming unpredictable.
‘You have 30 seconds to make your choice. We will use force if necessary.’ June said stepping away from Poppy.
‘Force Ga-dad.’ Oliver said tugging at his grandfathers sleeve.
Frank grabbed Oliver’s hand but Oliver was fast, and as soon as Frank had grabbed one hand the other was quickly there pulling at the blue chequered shirt. The young boy squirmed and giggled as Frank fought to keep control over him. ‘We’re going! Don’t shoot, we’re going!’ Frank said.
A tall dark haired soldier lowered his gun and pulled open the heavy doors. As Frank turned, Oliver slapped his hand against Frank‘s arm. The soldier was suddenly drawn to writing on Franks arm. He tensed, bringing his gun up he laid the cold barrel on Frank’s temple.
‘Where did you get that tattoo? Where did you get it?’
Frank tried to arrange a coherent sentence as the room became deathly silent. What should he tell them? That The force be with you, was the childish markings of an idiotic man that refused to grow up? Or the truth.
‘Jason, lower your gun.’ June said.
‘The tattoo, answer me.’
Frank looked at Jason and searched his face for an indication of his expected response. His green eyes flecked with golden brown, his skin pale in contrast to his deep auburn hair. Small freckles ran across the bridge of his nose.
‘Who are you, and where did you get that tattoo?’ the soldier said.
‘Jason?’ June said.
‘Mam, he is marked.’ Jason said.
‘You’re sure?’ June said.
The soldier nodded. June pushed the blue chequered sleeve up Frank’s arm and ran her thumb across the tattoo. Her skin lightly dragging across his. She traced her thumb around the edges of the writing.
‘UV ink?’ June said. ‘Lower your guns, all of you. Wake Charlie and take the child to the nursery.’
‘The young lady, mam?’ A soldier asked.
‘Take her to the end room. She’ll be safe there. Keep her monitored. ’ June said.
Frank stood in a brightly lit room, the walls decorated with children’s art. Vibrant paper caterpillars and butterflies hung from the steep ceiling. The door opened without warning and Frank stood motionless. The man in front of him was older and weaker than he recalled. His fine hair was no longer brown but now a peppered assortment of dark grey and muted white.
‘Danny.’ Frank said.
The two men embraced.
‘Poppy, how is she?’ Danny said.
Frank shook his head.
‘Tell me everything, leave nothing out.’
Frank thought about lying. Telling them just enough that it would secure Oliver a place here at the orphanage, but as he looked at Danny he was reminded of the years of solid friendship they had shared.
‘She’s level three with a promotion to level four starting in five days.’
‘Level four eh? Thought as much. IQ one sixty, one seventy?’ Danny said.
‘One eight five, she exceeded us all.’ Frank said.
‘And you Frank, you are well?’ Danny said.
The two men looked at each other. Neither one speaking, neither one breaking the silence. Danny waited for the room to empty.
‘Your skin, I see is wrinkle free, you walk without even a glimpse of your sixty years upon this earth, your eyes a little dull in colour with a slight purple hue. The drug has suppressed your aging processes. You’ll age fast, and painfully, there’s no alternative and no guarantees.’ Danny said.
‘I have some, a little, enough for a few days.’ Frank said.
Danny nodded, eager to move the conversation along. ‘How extensive is Poppy’s programming?’
A black telephone on the desk begun to glow red and emit a loud shrieking sound. Danny snatched it up and spoke. His eyes drooped as he listened to speaker.
‘Dammit Frank, she has a tracker.’
‘No, I checked.’ Frank said.
‘Really, explain this then.’
A large white screen appeared on the far wall. Within seconds a clear colour picture of Poppy’s legs came into view.
‘This feed is transmitting to somewhere outside of Old London.’ Danny said.
Frank looked closely at the screen. The image was coming from Poppy, they were seeing what she was seeing.
‘Can we cut the feed? Well god dammit do something!’ Danny said into the phone.
‘Nano lenses they reckon. We’ll get her down below and run further tests. This does however answer my earlier question. Poppy is clearly important to them. But Why Frank, why?’
Karen Hayward ©2016