I lay on my back panting as my body shivers uncontrollably, my soaked clothes cling to my body. As a pair of arms wrap around me and haul me to my feet, and I am vaguely aware of being dragged up a path, the smell of damp earth and the sea filling my nostrils.
I blink as I emerge into sunlight and notice the temperature is slightly warmer now, we are in the open. The acrid smell of burning assaults my senses but I don’t have the energy to turn my head to see where it is coming from, although I have smelt that before, when I ran with my Mother.
When I was seven the home, I was in was attacked and raised to the ground. The staff and any Mothers were murdered, and the boys taken to be playthings. My Mother managed to hide us and keep us safe until Gen-Corp troopers came.
For this reason, the homes the boys are kept in are heavily guarded. There locations kept secret. You wouldn’t find my home on any map. I know the dangers out here. I never had any interest in being free and struggle to understand why Adam would run away.
‘Aaron, we need to run, not safe yet,’ I gaze into Andrea’s eyes concentrating on what she is saying I nod my head. The light is fading as the night draws around us. I am numb from the cold now just running on automatic pilot.
‘Aaron there is an inn up ahead we will stay there until my contact arrives,’ Andrea turns me to look at her and I can see concern in her eyes. ‘Aaron did you hear me?’ I nod as a shiver consumes me.
The warmth from the fire makes my cheeks heat up as I stand next to Andrea while she talks to the lady at the desk. I see a few eyes on me and I shiver again ducking my head as my stomach clench’s with nerves. Am I safe here? Two women are stood at the bar drinking wine and they are blatantly looking me over as I have undone my coat and removed my woollen hat and gloves. Turning away from there gaze so I can ruffle my hair. It is plastered to my head and itchy from the saltwater.
‘Oh look, isn’t he cute,’ one of the women says glancing at me. Andrea takes my hand while still talking.
‘Some of them are just adorable, I heard they breed the aggression out of them,’ another woman replies sipping her wine.
‘I was going to buy one with my bonus this year, you can, you know when they go to retire them, they offer them for sale first,’ the first woman comments and I feel Andreas hand grip mine that bit tighter.
‘I heard you can go to that spa and be inseminated naturally. They buy up the retired ones,’ red wine woman reveals her expression bland as if she is talking about the weather.
‘Oh, really, is intercourse trendy again, can’t say I fancy it, doesn’t sound very sanitary,’ white wine woman grimaces.
‘Shame this one belongs to Madame Ramsbottom he is very cute,’ red wine says her voice wistful.
‘Yes, that is one of Gen-Corps imperial guards with him. Must be special for that amount of protection,’ the two women smile at me when they catch my eye before Andrea leads me away.
I have a much-needed shower and then lay on the bed feeling exhausted, I don’t even bother put on pyjamas just my pants and vest out my bag protected by the plastic bag they were in. My wet clothes on the floor in the bathroom.The room is basic but clean and warm. I must have fallen asleep as I don’t hear the door open.
‘Aaron you need to eat,’ Andrea wakes me her face a picture of concern. I push up noticing I have pyjamas on. Her hand brushes my hair from my face. ‘You are sick?’
‘No,’ I argue eating the pasta it is delicious or I am so hungry it seems that way. ‘Just the cold,’ I add placing the bowl on the side table. ‘Are we safe here? Those women on the beach?’
‘You are safe they have been taken care of,’ Andrea smiles and it is sort of scary. ‘You sleep, my lamb,’ she tucks me in, and her expression softens.