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       Execution, p.26

           Alexander Gordon Smith
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  ‘We stay together,’ she said.

  ‘I understand,’ said the general. ‘I’ll have somebody bring some grub up to you from the mess.’ He walked to my bedside, smoothing down the sheet. ‘Far as we can tell, every single enemy combatant is down, dead. You think there will be more of them, another attack?’

  I shook my head and I could see the relief in the man’s expression.

  ‘That’s good,’ he went on. ‘Then there’s no hurry. You can talk to us about this just as soon as you’re ready. As soon as you’ve had some rest.’

  I tried to think back, tried to remember everything that had happened to me. It seemed as though I had lived a million lives, the days countless, and already I could feel those memories disappearing like sand sculptures before a rising tide. If I didn’t catch them now then they’d be gone for ever.

  ‘I’m ready to talk,’ I said. ‘Just give us a few minutes.’

  ‘No problem,’ said the general. He stood straight, then he saluted me, not waiting for a response before striding out of the room. The doctors left with him, closing the door behind them. The silence that followed was so immense that it didn’t seem real.

  Zee’s eyes were already closing and I knew he’d be out cold in a matter of minutes. Lucy sat beside him, her fingers curled around his sleeve. I called to her quietly, beckoning her to the bed. She sat on the edge of the mattress, watching curiously as I lifted my left hand and rested those weird, elongated fingers on the pendant which hung around my neck, the St Christopher.

  ‘I promised to give this back to you when things were normal,’ I said. ‘I don’t think I can keep that promise. I don’t think things will be normal again, not after this.’

  ‘You kept your promise,’ said Lucy, placing her hand on top of mine, squeezing gently. ‘You did good.’

  I reached round the back of my head, trying to find the clasp, but Lucy pulled my arm down.

  ‘Keep it for another day or two,’ she said. ‘I think you’ve earned it.’

  She stood, then leant over and kissed me on the forehead, the heat of her lips remaining there even as she sat back down on the sofa. The movement stirred Zee, his eyes blinking in shock.

  ‘It’s really over?’ he asked when he remembered where he was, his voice slurred.

  ‘It’s really over,’ I said.

  He was quiet for a full minute. I thought that he’d dozed off again and I realised I was about to do the same, the silence and stillness of the room ushering in a wave of tiredness that almost carried me away. I fought the current, keeping my eyes open.

  ‘You remember that first day?’ Zee asked, his eyes still closed. ‘The day we arrived in Furnace, in the prison.’

  ‘Yeah, of course,’ I said, picturing the bus ride, the elevator doors opening onto a nightmare.

  ‘Feels like a billion years ago.’ He opened one eye in time to see me nodding. ‘I’m glad I was there,’ he said, his words almost unintelligible now.

  ‘Seriously?’ I asked.

  ‘I’m glad I was there. With you.’ And then he was gone, snoring gently, his head lolling against Lucy’s.

  ‘Me too,’ I said. And I knew that if it hadn’t been for Zee then I would be a long time dead. He’d saved my life, but it was more than that, I think. He’d given me something to live for.

  I had almost drifted off again when I heard a gentle knock on the door. It opened a crack, the general’s friendly face appearing. He must have seen how exhausted I looked because he started to retreat, but I waved him on with my bladed hand.

  ‘We have surgeons here who can do something about that,’ he said, gesturing towards my mutated limb. ‘And your other injuries too, we’ll do our best to sort them.’

  ‘Thanks,’ I said, looking down at my distorted body and wondering whether I’d ever be able to shop for clothes in the high street again.

  ‘Have faith,’ he said, smiling with his eyes. ‘Anyway, down to business. Sure you’re up for this? It’s got to be a long story.’

  It was, but I needed to tell it. I needed to remember everything. I’d been through so much that I barely even knew who I was any more, but telling my story, reliving it all, would heal me. It would let the boy back in, it would let me be Alex Sawyer again. More than that, though, telling my story was the only way of keeping them all alive – Donovan, Simon, and the others too. They may have died, but this way they would live on. The whole world would know who they were, and what they had done.

  The general sat down on the edge of my bed, placing a digital recorder between us.

  ‘Ready when you are, son,’ he said. ‘You know where to begin?’

  I thought back to before the island, before the city, before the breakout, before solitary confinement, before the prison, before the night that Toby had been murdered, before I had started breaking into houses. And I saw the instant where everything had changed, where this had all begun – a normal day in a normal school, me stealing twenty quid from a kid called Daniel Richards.

  I looked at Zee and Lucy, asleep on the sofa, then past them, through the window, where the last of the sunlight rested over the world. We were safe. We were free. I could feel my story rushing up from my stomach, a tide that would not stop until every last word had been spoken, a tide that would bring me home.

  ‘Yeah, I know where to begin,’ I said.

  I turned back to the general, waited for him to switch on the recorder. Then I took a deep breath. I was going to need it.

  ‘I can tell you the exact moment that my life went to hell.’

  And then …

  That’s the best thing about endings: they have to be beginnings, too. Perhaps you can guess what happened after my story finished. Perhaps you don’t want to know. For those of you who are interested, check out:

  About the Author

  Alexander Gordon Smith, 30, is the author of Furnace: Lockdown, Furnace: Solitary, Furnace: Death Sentence and Furnace: Fugitives, as well as The Inventors, which was shortlisted for the Wow Factor competition, and The Inventors and the City of Stolen Souls. He has also written a number of non-fiction books, as well as hundreds of articles for various magazines. He is the founder of Egg Box Publishing, an independent press that promotes talented new writers and poets, and is the co-owner of Fear Driven Films. He lives in Norwich.

  Find out more at:

  by the same author








  First published in 2011

  by Faber and Faber Ltd

  Bloomsbury House

  74–77 Great Russell Street

  London WC1B 3DA

  This ebook edition first published in 2011

  All rights reserved

  © Alexander Gordon Smith, 2011

  The right of Alexander Gordon Smith to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with Section 77 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

  This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights, and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly

  ISBN 978–0–571–25988–5



  Alexander Gordon Smith, Execution



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