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This is actually the FIRST chapter I wrote about Arcadia's world. It is the start of the book I want to write... then I decided that I would start the story as if I were Arcadia, knowing nothing of her past, and that Book 2 would be everything she learns when she eventually arrives in the Polis.
So essentially Book 2 is the Prequel. But the reader learns of it as though they are in Arcadia's shoes - ie as the second book and not the first.
There will need to be a couple of changes before it is finalised, but this is the draft of the Prologue to Book 2. As with Book 1, it is from the point of view of one character in the book, who we don't hear from again, although don't worry - he'll be around! Nikau is my favourite character.
Anyway, here it is.
Book 2 - Kassandra's Story (Working Title)
My days at the hospital are filled with repetition. I see little of disease, which has all but been wiped out in the city. The wounds of battle seldom reach us here; our military is far too good for that. And above all, the people are strong, resilient, and suffer silently.
I pity them.
I’ve heard of Pures who choose to die rather than come in seeking assistance. It doesn’t surprise me anymore. Too proud. I was walking home one night when I found a guy lying in the gutter, beaten up. When he came to, he shrank away from me so fast you’d think I was the one doing the robbing. I couldn’t get him to come with me; he wouldn’t even let me bandage his arm where he was bleeding.
They’re going to kill themselves off at this rate. If it weren’t for the babies, babies, babies… constantly I’m testing babies. It’s the hardest part of my job.
Most of the time they pass the test. Just a quick heel prick, sample the DNA, record the results. Apply the nano-patch and wait. Twenty-four hours later the baby’s still perfect. Not a trace of infection, rash, or allergy. But at least once a week there’s an anomaly, and it’s deemed Unworthy. The Unworthy ones, I mark on the wrist and tell the mother. The mother takes them away and I won’t see them again. It’s not easy, but it’s the law.
Some days I think I will never understand them. It made sense when food was so scarce that raising only the strong was sensible. Noble, even, to think ahead for the future of your race. But that was so many generations ago that even my father’s father would not have remembered want. Nowadays it seems unnecessary, but you won’t catch me questioning their laws. I learned that lesson long ago, and bear the marks in case I should ever forget.
I am awakened from my thoughts by my beeper. Called to the desk, I see a woman standing there, straight and tall. Her back is to me but I already know she is Ephori, from her stance, how she wears her hair, how she dresses. How she commands attention even when she looks a little lost and out of place. I smirk. I’m going to have to watch my p’s and q’s today.
Then she turns, and time stops. Her eyes flit around the room, looking for someone – looking for me. Her hair is held back, bound tightly at the base of her neck, but I see it loose, falling in wave after golden wave past her shoulders and down her back.
It’s been years. Three years and… nearly five months. But as soon as I set eyes on her I swear that the smell of her skin - dried salt and sunshine - reaches my nostrils. I can feel the warmth of her lips and the sand under my feet. It feels like only yesterday. It feels like a lifetime ago.
I realise that my feet have stopped, and that I am staring. My hands have dropped to my side. I blink and start moving again, and it takes a huge effort of will not to run the distance between us and fold her in my arms.
She watches me negotiate the furniture between us and smiles. “Doctor?” she asks. All I can do is nod. “I need to speak with you in private.”
As I lead the way to my office, I wonder if she has recognised me. Not a flicker passed her eyes. Does she not remember me? No, she knows exactly who I am. She did ask for me by name, after all.
There is an awkward silence after we sit. I clear my voice. Once. Twice.
“You are well?” I ask. This is a hospital. I am a doctor. She is heavily pregnant. The intelligent mind begins to make an appearance.
“I am very well, thank you. You look… well.”
She does too. She’s pregnant, and blooming. She looks vibrant and she looks stunning. Instead I ask about her family. All Pureborn women love to talk about their families.
At the thought of her family, her eyes soften and she smiles. She looks into the distance and tells me that she has a son who is walking. She has not mentioned her husband.
“Your husband…” I begin.
“Does not know I am here.” She looks at me intensely, her mouth in a tight line. The implication is very clear, and I remember exactly who he is. He could have my head for this. And hers. But that wasn’t what I had been about to ask.
“Does he treat you well?” I ask quietly. I lean forward. I know these men. I know how Pureborn men treat their wives and their children. I see the physical effects of their cruelty, those that are too damaging to hide behind closed doors, to leave for nature to heal. I don’t want to know that she is unhappy. I have spent too many nights wondering whether her husband could be any better than the others, wondering whether her broken body will be the next one I have to mend after “falling down the stairs”. But I also don’t want to know that she is happy. I couldn’t bear that either. I clasp my hands together to hide the shaking, and I force my eyes to look into hers.
“I’m not here about him.”
So I wait, and she asks me to do something unthinkable.