SHADE

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1. Prologue: Myles

The sun hangs low in the sky, half dipped beyond the distant horizon. Gusts of wind blow through deserted streets, the electric lamps lining cracked pavements flickering weakly in the fading light. Orange stripes streak across the darkening sky, interspersed with purple clouds and the faint pinprick of stars overhead. As night falls and curfew looms, only one soul dares to remain outside, watching as the last warm tones of light fade from the sky.

Myles stands on the roof, the entire city spread out below him like a map. From his vantage point in the sky he can see the squares of building-tops stretching out in blocks in all directions. To the north, beyond the twist of the parched river bed running through the middle of the city, lies the dried bed of the old lake, stretching as far as the horizon and probably beyond. South, the city is bordered by towering mountains, stretching up into the sky with their rocky sides scraped bare by the wind. The west of the city turns slowly from buildings to an expanse of desert, pale yellow earth cracked by the sun bordered by collapsing shacks and dilapidated fencing. To the east, there stands a wall.

The vast grey structure stretches as far as the eye can see, from one edge of the earth to the other. Its serpentine form winds across the dusty landscape, starting at the foot of one of the mountains and snaking its way across the lake until it hits the boundary between land and sky.

“Master Lakeman,” A voice calls, from somewhere deep within the dark confines of the building behind him. “It’s time to come inside.”

Myles shakes his head. His olive skin glows golden in the last of the light. Wind whips his dark hair across his vision, partially obscuring his view as the last inch of sunlight edges its way towards the horizon. Tear tracks line his cheeks, cutting through the day’s accumulated dirt in an act of betrayal. He wipes the last drops of salty water from his eyes and stands with his back to the guard, whom he knows is standing just inside the door, a gun resting lightly in his hands. On the streets below, the meekly flickering streetlights give up, plunging the city into darkness.

He had told himself he would be brave. He told himself that he wouldn’t fight this: that he would take each day as it came, do as his father told him and complete his mission, whatever that may turn out to be. But as the dawn of his eighteenth birthday edged steadily closer, he started to dread the moment he would come of age. In the darkness of the streets below, slinking shadows begin to move through the streets, winding their way between the buildings and pressing themselves against the crumbling walls.

A gloved hand closes around his arm and he starts, turning to face the guard standing beside him. Something hard and cold is pressed into the small of his back, forcing him to stand upright. “Master Lakeman, I have been instructed to bring you inside right this instant.”

“One more minute.”

“You will co-operate, or I will be forced to administer a sedative and drag you inside myself.”

Myles shakes his head once more, drawing in a deep breath and letting his eyes follow the dark, inhuman shapes scurrying along the roads below. “What are they?”

“I fail to understand what you are talking about, Lakeman.”

He blinks again, and the shapes are gone. “Down there, in the streets.”

The face of the guard is stony and blank, his heavy features ironed into a poker face that reveals no sign of recognition. “Lakeman, inside. Now.”

Myles allows himself to be steered away from the edge of the building, his eyes searching the ground for the darting shadows as the guard’s grip pulls him towards the door. Just before they step into the dimly lit hallway at the top of the stairs, he peers back over the edge of the building and sees the familiar white of a guard’s uniform darting through the shadows, illuminated by the moonlight emerging from behind the purple clouds. He is pulled into the hallway and pushed in the direction of the stairs, and he can’t tell if the bang that follows is the slam of the door behind him, or a gunshot on the streets below.

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