“My frail fingers curl around the jagged rock. I press it into the stone wall and drag it up and down until a small groove forms. I drop the rock and step back, glancing over all the lines I’ve made. It is day 2,436 of being in this prison with my mother and younger brother.”
DATHER IS AN ISLAND THAT WAS ONCE KNOWN AS OHAU. A nation that rose from the ashes after an asteroid shower has divided itself when people began to discover their unique powers. At sixteen-years-old Adaline sits in prison with her mother and younger brother, and today is Parting Day where more prisoners will be executed. After seven years of being spared, Adaline’s luck has run out. But she won’t go quietly or easily. Her life depends on her ability to escape the grasps of the King and find a place of freedom. Discovering her unique powers is the turning point Adaline needs to get a second chance at her freedom. In this thrilling novel of friendship, family, and secrets Adaline runs for her life and learns the truth of her past along the way.
“My brain sees him as a threat, as the enemy, a guard at the castle, but my heart feels he is a friend. The question is, which one is right?”
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My frail fingers curl around the jagged rock. I press it into the stone wall and drag it up and down until a small groove forms. I drop the rock and step back, glancing over all the lines I’ve made. It is day 2,436 of being in this prison with my mother and younger brother.
“Adaline, you’ve got to stop tallying. You’ve filled the entire cell with your lines,” my mother, Rosa Sagel, groans. She sits with her back against the opposite wall, and her eyelids threaten to fall closed as she blinks slowly.
“I need to keep track so I’m ready when we escape,” I say in a hushed voice. It may have been nearly seven years of being locked in here, but I’ve almost finished my escape plan.
“Addie,” my younger brother sings in his childish voice.
“Don’t call me that, Titus,” I say, taking a seat next to him on the old ripped up mattress.
“Will you tell me the story about the rocks again?” Titus asks slowly. He has a hard time finding the words he wants to say. I know he means the story about the asteroids that reset civilization on this planet nearly 100 years ago. When we were arrested Titus was just a baby, and I was only nine years old. I’ve been trying to teach him about our history and how to read and do math, but he’s still far behind where a seven-year-old should be. I really only blame myself.
“Don’t you have that story memorized by now?” I joke, poking him in the stomach. He laughs, and just as I’m about to start the story my mother jumps up, alarmed.
She starts spinning around the room and asks me, “Adaline, what day did you say it was?”
“2,436,” I say, scanning her worried face.
“Are you sure?” she asks sternly.
“I’m pretty sure,” I say gently.
“It’s fine. I’ll just count them,” my mother brushes me off.
“I can help,” I say, and together we move around the cell, counting all of my tally marks until we get to the one I made this morning.
“2,436,” my mother whispers, tracing the last line with her thin finger. “It’s time. It’s finally time.”
“Time for what?” I ask, my voice trembling.
“You are nearly 16 years old, Adaline. It’s time to be strong,” my mother says, sitting me down on the mattress with my brother.
“Actually, I’m 15 years and 363 days,” I correct. Ever since we were put in prison, I’ve become a numbers person. I’m always counting up to dates and back from them. It helps to keep time moving in here. Usually, my mother scolds me for correcting her or for bringing up my numbers, but right now her eyes fill with tears, and she gently cups my face with her hands.
“You did such a good job, Adaline,” my mother says, looking deep into my emerald eyes.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” I choke out and give my head a soft shake. She seems to focus a bit and rubs her damp eyes.
“It’s time I tell you a secret,” my mother says.
Titus leans in and his eyes widen, “A secret?” My mother lets out a dry laugh before pulling an old, black diary from her grey prison shirt. “What’s that?” Titus asks.
“I am a Future Holder,” my mother says gently.
“You have a gift?” I ask, shocked. We never talked about gifts before. I learned about them in school once. A select group of people were infected during the fall of the world before ours, giving them magical powers. As a kid, I’d always wondered what it would be like if my family was gifted, but I had never thought it would be a reality.
“Yes, and so do you.” My mother hands me the diary, and I notice a small lock on its cover.
“What gift do I have?” I ask quietly.
“You are a Force Lifter, Adaline. You control whatever you see,” my mother says. “There is so much I never told you about how the gifts work. If someone is born with a gift, they will have a sense that is enhanced in a certain way. You have an enhanced sense of sight that lets you control what you see.”
All of the information my mother is telling me loses me, and I feel a confused glaze settle on my face. My mother pauses and must notice she’s lost me. “I have an enhanced sense of sight as well, but my powers are different. I can see into the future.”
“So I can save us?” I ask, as the idea of having magical powers fully processes.
“No!” my mother almost shrieks back to me. “You have to wait to use it until the time is perfectly right.”
“I don’t understand,” I draw out my words, confused.
“You just have to promise me, or else we will all be killed. Do you promise, Adaline?” she asks urgently, her hands squeezing my arms.
I hesitate and look into her icy blue eyes. “I promise,” I choke out in a small, almost inaudible, voice. “So you’ve seen this all happen?” I ask, starting to piece together my mother’s information about our powers.
“Yes, as a Future Holder, I’ve had visions of how our lives play out,” my mother explains.
I glance at the ticks in the wall and ask her, “So what does day 2,436 mean?”
“Today you escape,” my mother whispers. The ringing sound of the metal prison door slamming open makes me jump. I had completely forgotten it was Parting Day. “I love you both so much,” my mother says tears escaping her eyes.
“Why are you crying?” my voice breaks. I hear cell doors being thrown open as the guards start dragging select prisoners to their executions. An officer appears in front of our cell, and I scream in protest. It can’t be one of us, not now.
“It’s your time Ms. Sagel,” the guard announces before unlocking our cell. My mother stands to go, and Titus begins to scream and sob. They can’t take her. I can’t lose her.
“Mother what do I do now?” I ask between cries. I hope she tells me she was wrong and that I need to use my powers now. I need her to tell me how to use them, and how to save us.
She looks at me very calmly and says, “Hold your brother’s hand, Adaline.” I turn to Titus and see him squeezing the air between his shrieks. I grab his hand tight and he continues to squeeze three times, then a pause, and then three more. I had taught him to do this when he got upset and couldn’t find the words he wanted to say. It was his way of communicating with us.
I look back to my mother who walks out of our cell and the door closes behind her. “Count Adaline,” she instructs. I catch one last glance of her blue eyes and her long brown hair before the guards take her with the other prisoners, and then she’s gone. My mind races trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do now. She isn’t gone. She can’t be gone. “Count Adaline,” her voice reminds me again. I do this every Parting Day. It’s the same every week. From the moment the guards leave with that week’s group of prisoners it’s exactly 1,876 seconds until the guards will drag the dead back through the prison so we know the killings were successful, and then bodies are disposed of.
So I start to count softly and evenly. 1. 2. 3.I now know what my mother had meant when she said I had to wait until the time was right to use my gift. After Parting Day most of the security and help at the castle get the evening off. This will be my best opportunity to escape.
11. 12. 13. Titus continues screaming and squeezing my hand. Three squeezes, then a pause, and then three more. He does this every Parting Day, but today it is so much worse. Parting Day is a way for the King to make room in the prison. Once a week seven or so prisoners are removed and executed in the large coliseum, and everyone in the entire city of Garth, the city I used to live in and the capital of our island, has to watch.
98. 99. 100. Everyone is supposed to attend the killings and is forced to watch us die as a sign to show what happens when the laws are broken. Then, the bodies get brought through the prison to the disposal room to remind us what we have to look forward to.
245. 246. 247. As I count I imagine my mother walking further and further away from us. 451. 452. 453. I have to be strong. I am a Force Lifter. I am a gifted. I can escape and save my brother. 777. 778. 779. Titus has finally quit screaming. He sits quietly beside me while we wait for the dead to be brought to the disposal room.
1,206. 1,207. 1,208. I wonder if she’s gone already. Was she one of the first to go or did they make her wait and watch everyone else die first? I hope it was quick. 1,505. 1,506. 1,507.They’ll start wrapping up now.
1,874. 1,875. 1,876.I stop and the prison seems to balance on a silent beam. Just a beat later and the doors slamming open rings through the concrete tomb. 93 seconds to the disposal room. 1 body. Then 2. 3. I count as they carry the dead, wrapped in dirty white fabric by the cells. 4. 5. 6. There’s a pause, a lag in the line, and then finally my mother’s body is carried by us. Her eyes are closed and her skin is pale. She could just be sleeping. “Mother,” my voice chokes out. I know what Parting Day is, I’ve seen this happen hundreds of times, so why did I let my mother go with them? I had thought it was a plan she had. If she had seen this in the future why would she let herself die?
“Count Adaline,” her distant voice echoes to me. 83. 84. 85.I continue, tears rolling down my cheeks until 93 and the guards have cleared the prison and enter the disposal room. We sit in the cell completely shocked. Titus has begun to cry again, but I don’t feel upset. I feel anger pound through every inch of my body. Anger at the guards that took away my mother, but mostly anger toward myself for letting her die. She told me I had a gift. Why did I do nothing? I glance down to the black diary she had handed me. When I try to open it, the small lock resists. She gave me a diary I can’t read, told me not to use my gift, gave me no other instructions except to count, but there was one more thing. She had said to wait. Now she would say to move.
Before I can act I try and calm myself down, just enough to be able to think straight. I breathe in very slowly until I can’t take in any more air and then release it. I do this a few more times until I feel the muscles in my body relax. “Breathe Titus,” I mumble and he takes in shaky breaths through his cries.
I don’t even have the first clue as to how to do this, but I rise, not wanting to waste any more time. I place the small black diary into the pocket on the inside of my grey prison button-up shirt and take in another deep breath. I waited as mother had instructed and now I need to move. “Run now and mourn later,” I instruct to Titus and myself.
I lift my hand and hold it out in front of me. She said I just need to picture it. I see the caged door so I can control it. I can open it, but I feel the nerves building up inside. What if my mother was wrong? What if her visions were wrong? What if she didn’t have visions at all, and was just trying to keep me hopeful for when she was gone? I know what this prison does to people, it drives them crazy. For a second I doubt my mother and her visions, and I wonder if she had just completely lost her mind in her last minutes. I look from my shaking hand to the barred door. I clear my thoughts of doubt and just try to believe. I close my eyes and imagine the door sliding open.
“Please work,” I whisper. I slowly let my eyes open and I feel my heart drop when I see the door is still closed. “No,” my broken voice lets out. I have to get out. I stare into the barred door and squeeze my fists as tight as possible. “Move. Move. Move,” I repeat in my head over and over again. I focus harder and harder until my hands start shaking and my eyes start watering with tears of frustration, and then I see the bars start to shake.
“Yes,” I breathe, overcome by hope. I continue to think and beg the door to move in my head, and I see it continue shaking and shaking. As the frustration and tension build inside of me I hear myself scream, “Open!” and watch as the barred door flies to the right.
I almost fall over at the release of all the tension built inside me. I did it. I exhale and can’t help but feel relief. I do have the gift. My sense of sight is enhanced so that I can control whatever I see. I am a Force Lifter.
The second this thought crosses my mind I’m hit by another wave of panic. I won’t only be wanted as an escaping prisoner, but also as one of the gifted. King Renon forces everyone with a gift to work directly under him. I can’t get caught. My heart starts to quicken at the thought of the guards catching me and turning me into King Renon crosses my mind. Images of how my mother may have died start to flash in my head. I won’t let her death be for nothing. I turn to Titus who sits frozen on the mattress. “Run now, and mourn later,” I instruct him again and help him to his feet. “Time to go Titus.”
“Addie, how’d you do that?” Titus asks, but I don’t answer because I don’t know. I grab his hand and drag him from the cell. I begin to turn right to go toward the only entrance and exit I know of, but Titus begins to pull my hand left and toward the disposal room.
“No, that’s the wrong way Titus,” I say, but he shakes his head hard.
“Mother is in there. We need to save her too.” His words crawl across my skin.
“Oh Titus,” I say softly and kneel in front of him. Even though nerves and anxiety run through me I try to deliver my words as calmly as I can. “Mother is dead Titus.” His face sets in a stone line. “Today was Parting Day and they took her.” I can see his eyes shifting. His brain knows what happened, but he’s trying to deny it.
“No Adaline,” he says, getting my name right. That’s how I know he’s serious.
“Come with me, Titus. She wants us to go now.” Titus gives one more glance over his shoulder, down the hall toward the disposal room. After a second he takes my hand and we move toward the exit. I just have to picture it. I can do this. It’s just like I’ve dreamed about every night for as long as I can remember.
Out of the corner of my eye, I look in the cells of other families. At first, they all look shocked, especially when they don’t see a guard with us. Then, they start pleading for help. When I don’t offer any they start screaming, “Guards! Guards!” Usually, the prison is filled with guards, but on Parting day there are only ever two.
The two guards turn around the corner, swords pulled and ready to attack. In my head, I try to command the guards’ swords to move away from their hands, but it’s not that easy. The swords start shaking in their hands and I watch as the guards try to use both hands to steady them. I start to look around the room at other things to control, but everything in the dungeon starts shaking. Stones in the walls and ceiling fall, crushing the guards in my path. Innocent people in their cells start screaming and huddling for safety from the destruction I’m causing. I stop trying to control things and the prison becomes still again. I tell myself to start running and Titus and I take off down the dungeon hallway to the metal staircase I was brought down seven years ago.
We climb up the stairwell and to my right is a door that will lead into the castle itself. We turn and proceed through it. The hall is dimly lit with lanterns that hang on either end.
“I remember this,” I whisper softly. As my eyes adjust to the dim light I feel my heart drop. I look forward and everything looks the same as it did the night we arrived, except for the fact mother is no longer with us. The night we were brought here is replaying in my head over and over again, but I know I have to keep moving, for mother’s sake.
I walk forward down the short hallway. The walls are a simple white with gold and red swirls and floral designs. Beneath my bare feet is a beautiful velvet purple carpet lined with gold. It’s a rare luxury in Garth, my family could never afford it. Once I reach the end of the hallway I lift my hand and picture the locks on the other side of the door turn and the doors open. I can’t tell if the locks on the other side of the door flip open or if I simply just shake the door until it breaks free.
“That’s so cool,” Titus breathes and I see his eyes light up. He knows what this means. We get to start over and be free. We step out into the main foyer of the castle. Everything looks the same here as in the last hallway except for the hints of purple and blue running through the walls. I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to recall the way out, but it’s been far too long. My gut tells me to turn right so I stop trying to force my memory, and just follow what feels right.
Quietly, we move down the hall, our feet silently floating over the lush carpet. Trying to get out on Parting Day was the right decision. The castle seems to be empty after today’s events. Everyone from Garth who came to view the killings have returned home, and the majority of security has been off duty. Titus and I continue to move through the castle undetected. We walk past a hall to our right when something catches my eye. About halfway down the hall hangs a large painting of a palm tree. I stop suddenly and focus on it. I remember it from the night we were brought here. The memory from that night surfaces and I see myself and my mother walking by the painting with Titus in her arms. I remember the guards practically shoving us down the hall, and I had peered at the painting through tear-filled eyes.
“We’re close Titus,” I say softly. We turn and move down the hall with the painting. The way out starts to come back to me and I know the front of the castle is just around this hall.
A slam of a door back the way we came causes my heart to pause. “We need to move faster,” I whisper and Titus and I pick up our pace to a jog. Another slam off in the distances sends me into a sprint. I glance over my shoulder and see Titus falling behind.
Then, a guard emerges into the hall behind Titus. “Run!” I scream as the soldier draws his sword. I stop in the middle of my stride and switch to running back to him, but the guard’s blade drives through Titus’s chest before I get there. Through clenched eyes I picture the blade flying back into the guard and effortlessly it does. I drop to my knees, into the purple damp carpet next to my little brother under the palm tree painting. The guard I threw the sword into makes unidentifiable noises as he falls to the floor and silence returns to the castle.
“Titus,” I say gently, tears filling my eyes. He takes my hand in his, wet with red blood, and tries to speak. “It’s okay Titus,” I try and quiet him.
“We need to go find Mother,” Titus gets out.
I drop my head. “You’ll be with her soon Titus,” I say and meet my younger brother’s dying eyes. “You and mother will be free soon.” Titus’s lips curl into a tiny smile before he takes in his last small breath, and his hand becomes limp in mine.
I fight the urge to make a sound. I clench my teeth and fill my head with internal screams.1. 2. 3.I count and squeeze my brother’s hand.
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