Hannah looks at me with a gaze sharp as flint. ‘They don’t sleep, so we can’t either.’
It’s been 3 days. Apparently, they don’t have coffee in the future. Or common sense. The bags under Hannah’s eyes are turning her into a sort of gollum figure, hunched over in the dim light as she listens intently in the hallway that could connect us to the remains of Scrumpy’s pub.
Yeah, the remains. I’m trying to keep calm about this. When Hannah was grabbed, it turned out to be the climax of a story that I hadn’t been following. Scrumpy had been a very unlawful floating nose, suffice to say. The shadow police (if that is even what they’re actually called) promptly arrested her/him/it/the nostrils, and came for me and Hannah.
Hannah has tried to explain it to me at least ten times, but apparently my stress reaction caused a greening the equivalent of a smoke grenade- the shadow police were temporarily blinded, and we snuck in here before they could find us. Hannah won’t open the tiny door to let us out, and we can only run the sink in tiny drops for fear they’ll hear us.
When she speaks again, it is in a wisp of a whisper- ‘Four more days. Then they’ll have died down enough.’
‘What are we supposed to do about food until then?’
‘You still have that packet of gum, don’t you?’
‘Well then, stop fucking complaining, and give me a square.’
She snatches it out of my hand and masticates furiously, stiffening briefly as though she had heard a noise. She repeats, half to herself:
‘They don’t fucking sleep; why should I? I shouldn’t. Sleep is for the weak. No sleep for the week. Not weak. They never fucking sleep…’
Of course, she falls asleep in minutes. I lie still, every creak from the half-destroyed building setting my senses on high alert. I look over at Hannah and swear she is the only person in the world who actually looks older when she sleeps. Her eyebrows are drawn together in a frown, the lower half of her face contorted in a scowl, and the wrinkles around her eyes make her look like an older woman who used to laugh a lot. I try to think of a time, even in therapy, when I’ve seen this girl smile.
I think about how little I actually know about her. How long has she been on the run? What did she want from me? What does she want from me? How much of what she told me in therapy was pure horse shit?
Therapy. I’m a therapist. I look down at my hands- they’re filthy and covered in soot, but the high-profile nail polish is still there, trying to convince me that this is all some sort of fever dream and I just fell asleep at my desk, and nothing at all could possibly be out of the ordinary.
Of course, the more ordinary things get for me, the more odd they become at the same time. Anyone else who’s travelled forwards in time will agree, believe me.
‘Fuck!’ Hannah jolts up, looks around, and fixes me with an accusatory glare. ‘You let me fall asleep, you little shit!’
‘I had it covered, nothing bad was gonna happen. I can’t sleep. I was listening.’
She rolls her eyes for what has to be the fiftieth time this hour. ‘You haven’t been running from them for as long as time’s begun, have you? I know more about how to see these bastards coming than you ever will, okay?’
As she’s talking a long, dark tendril is creeping under the door. I raise a finger and open my mouth, somewhat terrified as I feel the irritatingly familiar feeling of emptiness and panic sweep over me.
She reaches behind her and grabs it, her hand somehow staying solid and glowing dark green as her eyes roll back in her head. The shadow retreats languidly, as though it doesn’t sense anything out of the ordinary. Hannah looks terrifying, the dark green glow of her hand retreating up her arm, her neck, into her eyes as they roll back into their iron stare at me. She presses her finger to her lips and arches her brow in a look that says, I’m the expert here, motherfucker. Keep quiet and do what I say. The irony of this unspoken message is not lost on me.
We stay perfectly silent and perfectly still until the feeling of emptiness and panic floods out of me and Hannah starts breathing again, fixing me with the first crooked grin I’ve ever been given by her. ‘We keep this up, we just might make it until the end of the week.’