Yes folks, despite my hatred of endings I managed to get the final scene in my latest novel written. And so to celebrate, I thought I’d give you the opening.
Emily never thought her life would end this way, but at least the setting suited. The Exit Center’s only windows faced out onto the ruins of the train station, its burnt out shell a reminder to people of the inherent dangers in traveling. The tracks had long since been torn up for their metal and the flat smooth carriageway had become the new road. The celebration of the new fast form of travel had only lasted long enough for the first viruses to cross the country in a day and decimate three towns. The Highest Masters had ordered the destruction of all railways immediately.
And now they were ordering her destruction. Through no fault of her own.
While she waited for the end to come, she couldn’t even distract herself. The room was bare except for the usual health warnings that covered the walls. Wash regularly, avoid strangers, use a mask when encounters were unavoidable. The accompanying images showed the consequences of ignoring the warnings and emphasized the importance of following them to the letter. As if anyone needed the words or images. It was like giving people instructions on how to walk or talk.
For the past eight years, Emily had walked and talked Potions, working towards becoming a Master and render the warning signs irrelevant, or at least less necessary. Yet in the end she didn’t have enough of the Touch. She was no Potions Master and now they were going to destroy her for it.
Nicky, her mentor — and she’d thought friend — entered the room, the small vial containing the end of Emily’s life held in her stubby fingers of one hand. The liquid within gave off a slight glow, something Emily’s potions lacked, and would always lack no matter how much she tried. In her other hand, she held a small vase of roses, six soft peach colored single stem roses. Emily wasn’t a fan of the pale petals, but she did have to admit that they looked really soft and comforting. Which was not what she wanted or needed from anyone, especially not from Nicky.
“You’re wallowing, aren’t you?” Nicky asked, as if Emily was pouting about not getting dessert with dinner.
She put the vase on the bedside table. The bed where Emily would lie down and die later.
“Wouldn’t you be?” she asked.
“No, I wouldn’t. But that’s the difference between us.”
“You mean, that’s why I’m here waiting for you to take my life from me. You’re a positive person, all full of life and healing. Anyone can see it in your Potions, even the ones that take things away like the one in your hand now. And then there’s me, bringing this all on myself with for my negative attitude. I’ve heard it all before Nicky. I just didn’t think I’d hear it from you.”
She turned away so that Nicky couldn’t see tears of anger, frustration and disappointment cloud her eyes. The view outside the window blurred and she breathed deeply, forcing the tears to dry up by sheer strength of will. They wouldn’t see her beg or break down.
“Your life isn’t over, Em. You could stay, you know.”
Emily snorted. As if. A mere technician, relegated to living in the no-man zone at the border of a town and managing transfers and quarantines. That wasn’t what she wanted. She hadn’t spent the last eight years of her life studying harder than anyone to end up a drone. No, she’d made her choice. She’d stick with it. Besides, they would still take her Touch away from her. Why continue working for them?
“I hate that I have to do this to you,” Nicky added.
“Don’t feed me plague spores, Nic.” She spoke to the train station, unable to look at the pity that lurked under Nicky’s nuetral facade. “You’re one of the chosen ones. Your life is a guaranteed luxury. Don’t make it seem like you’re anything but thrilled with your life. I’d be if I were you. A Master of Masters, on your way to becoming one of the Highest Masters one day. Don’t try to convince me otherwise. I won’t believe you.”
“Would you rather someone else do this, Emily?”
Emily shook her head, still staring out the window.
“What are you waiting for? Just give me the potion already and let’s get it over with.”
“Not yet. They want to speak with you first.”
Of course they did. One more attempt to try to convince her to stay. They’d been after her since her final exam potion had failed.
Her gaze returned to the window. They weren’t going to succeed. She’d made up her mind. She’d drink Nicky’s Potion and it’d be over. Nearly half her life gone in a flash. And all of her meager Touch.
She heard the click of the door as Nicky left then a moment later it opened again. The sound of several pairs of feet striding into the room told her the High Master had entered with his acolytes. She resisted the urge to turn around and bow. That was for students and other Potions Masters. She was neither.
A group of horses appeared on the horizon, moving towards the city and the blank wall of the Admittance Center across the square with its single door and inward facing windows where they’d be quarantined for a week before being allowed to enter the city. Perhaps they were new initiates, children with a hint of the Touch, ready to throw away their lives for the greater good. Of course only a fraction of them would become Potions Masters. The rest would be like her, thrown away useless.