Here’s a sneak preview of Expendables (Book 1 of The Wall series). If you’ve read Outsider, you’ll have already met Aleesha. Now it’s time to meet Trey. Enjoy!
I am sitting in my history class listening to Mr Peters drone on about the refugee crisis that preceded the Great Flood when my right arm begins to jerk uncontrollably. My forearm flops limply from side to side like a fish out of water. Every five seconds.
It feels strange; like there’s an invisible puppet string attached to my wrist, reaching up through the ceiling to an unknown puppeteer. I lift my arm experimentally. It responds to my mental command as if there’s nothing really wrong with it. Then my wrist jerks back.
Others begin to notice. At first, there are just a couple of nervous titters and a few sidelong glances. No one wants to draw attention to themselves. Peters’ detentions are the worst. I push my hand into my desk, tensing the muscles in my forearm, willing them to stay still. One. Two. Three. Four—
The spasm throws my arm into the air. It lands with a thud on the wooden surface. A ripple runs up past my elbow. The next time, my whole arm moves, like a shockwave rippling through my muscles. There’s a slight tingling sensation in my arm, a bit like the sensation you get when you knock that sensitive bit of your elbow. I wonder if I’ve somehow trapped a nerve.
“What are you playing at?” Theo leans over to hiss in my ear. “Surely you don’t want detention again?”
“I’m not doing anything,” I mutter back under my breath. Should I excuse myself, say I’m not feeling well? Nerves grip my stomach. Heat rises in my cheek. What’s happening to me?
The sniggers are louder now. Chairs scrape as my classmates lean forward to look. Smythe seems to have developed a coughing fit at the back. Mr Peters is still gazing into the holo, describing how the geopolitical context of the time, and the lack of strong leadership from the major world economic players, resulted in the failure of the Berlin Refugee Summit to find a solution to the migration problem.
I lift my arm, but at that moment it jerks so violently that I end up slapping myself in the face.
It is too much for the class. I think Jones is the first to break, or perhaps it is Branson, but the rest of the class follows quickly, unable to contain their mirth. Mr Peters spins around, his eyes narrowed behind the wire-rimmed glasses he thinks makes him look intellectual.
“What is going on, boys?”
I hate the way he calls us boys as if we were still in prep school, not in our final year. At what point do we start getting treated as adults? When our hair starts turning grey?
My arm chooses that moment to spasm again. A bubble of hysterical laughter rises in my throat. Must not smile. But just thinking that makes the corners of my lips start to twitch. I grab my right hand with my left and push it down between my legs, meeting Mr Peter’s gaze.
“Is there something wrong, Goldsmith?” He punctuates each word with a trace of sarcasm. He has a well of it. I can read his thoughts. They read ‘detention’. Maybe a trip to the Head. A letter home.
“N-no sir.” Damn the stutter. Deep breaths. A wave travels up my arm, each muscle fibre passing the movement on to the next. Up to my shoulder and back down again.
What is happening to me?
“Is there something wrong with your arm, Goldsmith?” He walks over so he is standing in front of my desk. His cold eyes, so pale they’re almost white, stare down at me. “Put your hands on the desk where I can see them.”
I hesitate for a moment, squirming in my chair. My face is burning.
I place my hands palm down on the desk. Both of them are trembling. How long has it been since the last spasm?
Mr Peters reaches out and at that moment I feel my muscle fibres twitch and my forearm jerks upwards, knocking his arm aside. The laughter in the classroom dies and suddenly I’m enveloped in silence. I feel the blood draining down from my face through my chest to my feet. I grab my arm before it spasms again. It writhes in my grip like it’s trying to break free of my body. I stare at the desk, not daring to look up.
“Go and report to the medic Goldsmith. Johnson – go with him.”
Glancing up, I see Peters has already turned to walk back to the front of the class.
“And the rest of you will stay behind for an extra fifteen minutes.”
There is a collective groan. The feeling of relief fades. Great, now I’ll be in everyone’s bad books. I keep my head down as I walk to the door, avoiding the scowls of my classmates. As I pull the door open I glance back towards Peters, who is standing back in front of the holo. He catches my eye briefly and shock ripples through me.
His face is white and drawn as if he’s seen a ghost, and he looks as though he’s aged ten years in the space of a minute. In that split second, I realise that he knows what this is. And from the look on his face, it isn’t good.