Sunday, April 5, 2015
First 5 Pages April Workshop - Harrington
Name: Sarah Harrington
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Title: Of Time and Blood
Some Timekeepers saw the Schedules as a rigid set of rules never to be broken, but I thought that was ridiculous. A little bit of creative interpretation never hurt anyone.
The dust was thick in the air and heavy on my tongue as I inhaled. With every breath, history took root in my lungs. My nostrils tickled with a flowery perfume that tried to hide the musty scent, but the smell of years long gone still lived on in the antique store.
“Change of plans,” I said as my assignment partner, Trent, rounded the corner of the aisle. He jumped out of the way to avoid sending a teetering pile of old magazines crashing to the floor.
“What was wrong with the original plan?”
“Too simple for a guy like that.” My eyes drifted over towards our target. “He needs something a little more drastic if we want to get through his thick skull.”
I ran through my mental checklist for assignments. The briefing was on point with everything, but it had failed to mention that Joseph was a real jerk.
Our target, twenty-six-year-old Joseph Bolland, stood on the far side of the store. The window he stood next to, dirtied with years worth of grime, let in very little light and casted his figure in darkness. Even with the dingy overhead lighting, the wine glass in his hands was barely visible.
Trent interrupted my thoughts when he saw the scowl souring my features. “What’d he do to piss you off?”
“Elbowed me out of the way. He was muttering about how rowdy kids don’t deserve to be in a place like this. Apparently we ‘don’t appreciate the history behind the objects’.” I dropped my voice as low as I could, feeling the vibrations in my chest, to imitate Joseph’s grating tone.
We stood at the back of the antique store, surrounded by old books and bits of secondhand kitchen equipment. Although most of my focus was on Joseph, I could just make out our secondary target in my periphery. Coraline stood behind the cash register with her back straight and arms crossed. Her eyes were trained on us and I could practically hear the words she screamed in her mind. Like Joseph, she thought that we didn’t belong in her precious store.
I ached to tell her that nothing about me wanted to be in this dusty old store with uninteresting and poorly maintained items. My whole body leaned close to her with the longing to scream that we were only there to set Coraline up with her future husband and we would really appreciate not having to operate under the shopkeeper’s icy glare the entire time.
Turning to relay that thought to Trent, I stopped short when I saw him cradling a clay Chinese teapot.
“My mom had one just like this,” he said, eyes holding a depth of longing for a stolen time.
A time stolen from all Timekeeper recruits.
“Every morning she woke me up with a cup of tea and we’d drink it together around the kitchen table. She even used to sneak it in while I was in hospital.” Trent ran his free hand over the smooth brown surface of the teapot, light sandy complexion contrasting with the deep reddish brown of the clay.
“Careful!” The sharp sound of Coraline’s voice shot across the room. “These aren’t toys to be played with; they’re antiques,” she snarled.
“They deserve each other,” Trent muttered, setting the teapot down. “We should probably hurry up. Can’t have you being late for your own Advancement Celebration.”
The nerves that had been swimming lazily in my stomach all day burst into a frenzy at his words. I didn’t want to think about this being my last assignment; my last time engaging with the outside world. Staying on as an Agent would be a dream, but it was such a rare occurrence. It wasn’t likely for that dream to become my reality.
Pushing the anxiety out of my mind so I could focus on the task at hand, my feet led me forward until I stood with Trent. Our eyes poured over the store, looking for all possible ways to bring Joseph and Coraline together.
“Do you think it’s mandatory for antique stores to be dusty?” I whispered, not wanting to direct Coraline’s wrath on us again. “How hard could it be to clean the store every now and then?”
“It’s probably to weed out the weak folk. Can’t put up with dust, then you don’t deserve to have your hands on these prized antiques.” Just as Trent finished his sentence, I felt the telltale tickling of dust invading my nose. “And it looks like you’re one of the weak ones.” Trent said as I jolted forward with the force of the sneeze.
I was primed to sass him right back, but a sharp burning sensation interrupted me. I pulled my pocket watch out of my jeans and ran my fingers over the rusted surface. The hot metal singed my skin; it was a warning, but it would be suicide to initiate the interface here to read the message. There was too much of a chance that the targets would see the hologram coming out of the watch. Best to avoid that mess. “They’re telling us to get a move on.”
“The glass display case behind him," I said, squinting in Joseph’s direction, "that wouldn't take a lot of force to shatter.”
“But it would cause a lot of damage. It doesn’t really fit in with the whole “unnoticed” part of our mantra, does it?”
He was right. The Councillors would probably ream us out as soon as we got back to Meridian; but time was ticking down. “Do you have any better ideas? We missed the window for the original plan and the next customer will be here any minute. We need to do this now.”
Trent pressed his lips into a thin line but nodded. We broke away from where we stood, creeping down opposite sides of the store towards the target. Inching closer, I saw Joseph’s eyes dart towards Coraline. He didn’t know what the future held for himself and the young shopkeeper.
But Trent and I did.
We always did.
And it was our job to make sure it happened.
I walked down the aisle, trying to look as natural as possible for Coraline but keeping my footfalls light to stop Joseph from noticing me. My mind wandered back to the last time I saw Joseph. Maybe he remembered the