45,000 GHOSTLY WORDS

The first draft of Ghost Tracks cracked the 45,000 word mark today. To celebrate, here’s a short excerpt.

 

Their prey was a big teen, almost the oldest kid Paul had seen since his arrival. He was broad in the chest, tall, and when he turned Paul could see the faint shadow of hair across his chin and lip. They watched as he approached down the corridor, checking over the work of the smaller children who sat at the banks of machines, leaning over to whisper in their ears or to cuff them across the back of their head. Paul couldn’t make out what he was saying, but he could see the reactions of the children to whom he spoke: fear, and a renewed energy. The children were terrified of him, that much was obvious. Good. It would make taking him down all the more enjoyable. He turned to Ken.

“Plan?” he whispered.

Ken smiled, a nasty, feral thinning of his lips. ‘This,” he said, and stepped out into the middle of the corridor.

“Oi. Stupid.”

The teen glanced up from where he was looming over a young girl. Ken wrinkled his nose.

“Yeah, idiot. I’m talking to you.”

Slowly, the teen straightened. For a moment, Paul felt a glimmer of doubt. The boy was huge, easily over six feet tall. Ken was big, but next to him he looked normal, almost weedy.

“Who the hell are you?”

Ken ran the half dozen steps between them and punched the teen on the side of his jaw. The teen staggered, and Ken followed up by pivoting on his left foot, and kicking him between the legs as hard as he could. The teen crumpled. Ken looked back over his shoulder.

“Get in!” he hissed, and Paul responded without thinking. He ran towards the kneeling, gasping teenager and without thinking, kicked him on the point of the jaw. Their victim slumped to the floor.

“He shoots, he scores!” Ken raised his hands in a victory pose, and jogged in a short circle while he made noises like a cheering crowd. Paul stared down at their fallen prey, gasping, a little bit horrified at what he had done. Suddenly, all the rage and hatred flowed out of him.

“I… don’t like fighting,” he managed to say.

“Yeah, well.” Ken grabbed an arm and began to haul to bigger boy over his shoulders. “I grew up fighting. If you’re gonna do it, do it hard and do it fast.” He finished hauling the boy, up, and looked at Paul meaningfully. “And then get out before the rozzers arrive.”

“Right. Right.” Paul looked around them. A sea of small, pale faces looked back. Paul focussed on the nearest, and raised his eyebrows questioningly. The child raised a hand, and pointed back down the corridor.

“There’s a big door,” she whispered.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

Ken shuffled away. Paul followed him, then stopped. He turned back to the children.

“You don’t have to be here,” he said to them. “You can be anywhere.”

“I don’t know anywhere else,” the girl said.

He knelt in front of her, and took her hand. “I saw a park today,” he said, tracing a path on her hand. Where his finger touched, her skin glowed slightly. “With the best playground I’ve ever seen. And lots of big houses all around, just waiting to hold parties and sleepovers and games. You don’t have to be here.” He finished laying out the path, and touched her fingers gently. The path stood out, faintly, on her skin. “You can be wherever you want.”

“But what if we get in trouble?”

“You can’t get in trouble if you’re free,” he said. On an impulse, he leaned forward and kissed her forehead. “You don’t have to be anywhere you don’t want to be.”

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