The tension did not leave me as the platform disappeared from view, replaced by a checkerboard vista of streets filled with house, stretching on for what seemed an endless distance. The people around me on the train seemed to press closer and closer, especially after the next stop as more passengers got on. I shuddered at their inadvertent touch, wanting to shove back at those whose arms and backs were pressed against mine. My life is in danger, I wanted to cry out. The dull and distant expressions on everyone’s faces told me how that would be received. I would just be another of the train’s discomforts that had to be endured.
My phone vibrated in my hand, a text from Meredith: In the next car. Did you get on alright?
Yes. But the Seeker saw me, I replied.
Her reply, instantaneous, hinted at her anxiety: Did they get on the train?
I told her they had not, my hands shaking as I tapped at the phone. My face felt flush and feverish, my forehead damp with sweat. There was a knot in my stomach, clenching and unclenching. I began to worry that the other passengers were watching me, noticing my distress, and wondering what was wrong with me.
The phone vibrated again. Good, Meredith said. We’re riding to the end of the line. I glanced up at the transit map above the door and counted the stops left—five it appeared—and tried to focus on my breathing. I relaxed, ignoring everyone around me, being pushed and pulled as though I was adrift at sea, without purpose.
My mind would not stay quiet for long, the lingering glance of the Seeker resurfacing in my thoughts. What had he been thinking in that moment? If I had to guess I would have said that he was indifferent to my escape. There was patience there, a knowledge of an inevitable conclusion. In due time he would run me to ground. I felt that inevitability as well. Even if we managed to slip this particular chase, we would have to stop at some point and he would find us again, just as he had this morning. There seemed no point in running, which made me wonder why Meredith was. She would know how hopeless our situation was. Unless there was something she was not telling me.
After the second stop the train dropped from its perch above the streets and entered a tunnel. The closing off of the view only served to deepen my despair, so that by the time the train had reached the end of the line I was prepared to simply wait upon the platform for the Black Robes to come and seize me. Why prolong this misery further? I did not know who I was, could not begin to understand the situation I found myself in, and I had no hope of escape.
Meredith sensed my desperation when she found me in the swirling mass of people entering and exiting the train. She grabbed me by the arm, pulling me forward. “What’s the matter?” she hissed in my ear.
“Why run?” I said to her, paying no attention to where she was leading me. “They’re just going to find us again, right?”
“Yes,” she said. “But we can’t face them here.”
“We can’t do anything to stop them, can we?” I said, shrugging off her arm and stopping. “The men with the Seeker are trained, aren’t they? They can handle us easily. The Seeker too.”
Meredith turned and looked at me and for once I saw her true face, lined with worry and doubt. “Look,” she said, “this is bad. There’s no doubt. I don’t know if we can survive. Maybe if you had your memory back. Maybe. But we can’t do anything here. Our only hope is to keep moving and wait for our chance.”
“What chance is that?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “But we have to try.”
She turned and walked away, heading toward the harbor front where a small ferry was docked. “Come on,” she said, not even bothering to look back to see if I was coming. Her bluff had the desired effect and I set off after her. What else could I do after all, but try and hope that my memory returned to me in time?
The ferry took us across the bay to the north side of the city. We disembarked at a busy pier, filled with restaurants, bars and tourist shops all housed in a single complex that looked out across the water at downtown. Meredith led me through the complex, glancing at the various food stands as though she were deciding what she wanted to eat. Behind the dockside building was a former warehouse that had been converted into a farmer’s market, crammed with produce stands. Even though it was early in the morning the place was filled with people.
We joined the flow of people as they moved through the stalls, Meredith seeming to be in no rush, which I found strange given we had only a five to ten minute lead on the Seeker, assuming he had taken the next train. She glanced at her phone as we went, nodding to herself, and said to me, “There might be someone here who can help us. Keep your eyes out for the glassworks. His place is beside it.”
I nodded, joining her in looking from side to side. We came to end of the warehouse and turned to go down the next aisle. There was a door open to the street and a grey van was parked at an odd angle outside, hazard lights blinking. Something about it seemed out of place to me and I stopped for a moment to study it. A busy cafe occupied that corner of the warehouse and people crowded around, as they waited for their coffee and pastries, or deciphered the handwritten menu on the chalkboard above the stand.
Just as I started forward, pushing the van from my mind, a large group of people came around the corner, cutting into the flow of traffic and separating me further from Meredith, who had her eyes on her phone. She hadn’t noticed that I stopped, and I was about to call out to her, when a hand was clenched around my throat and what felt like the barrel of a gun was pressed against my back.
“You’re coming with me,” a man said.
This is the ninth part of The Forgotten, a science fiction thriller. A new section will be published here every Thursday.