With the coming publication of the final volume of the Sojourners Cycle, The Sojourner, on September 30, we’re revisiting how it all began with an excerpt from the first book in the series, The Forgotten:
Meredith is the first to move, releasing her grip on my arms and plucking the button from my neck. She returns it and the one she wore to her jacket pocket while I rub my throat, the cold gradually receding from my skin. I am giddy with relief at our apparent escape and have a thousand questions, but Meredith’s face is marked by a coiled sort of anger that warns me from asking any of them just now.
By the time we leave the apartment, nightfall approaches, the sun low in the sky and the shadows long. We slip out the back into a taxi Meredith has called. She sends the driver on a circuitous route, watching out the back window for the entire trip, with the same grim expression on her face. When she is satisfied we have not been followed, she directs him to an apartment building called the Ivanhoe, an older brick building in a neighborhood I think is near to my own. Each floor, I note as we ascend up the stairs to the fifth, has a slightly unpleasant odor in its hallway, all of them distinct from the others somehow.
The apartment that Meredith brings me to is cramped and narrow, filled with ornate antique furniture too large for its rooms, forcing us to navigate with care in order to move about the place. There are shelves heavy with books, some of them very old, and the air is dense with the smell of them. Everything here seems to run counter to the person I met this afternoon; it has none of Meredith’s care or precision.
Seeing the look on my face, Meredith says, “It’s a friend’s. Someone they couldn’t possibly know, so it should take them awhile to find us again.”
“We can spend the night.”
What happens after that, she leaves unsaid. She tells me to sit and make myself comfortable while she gets us something to eat, which I try to do, though I am seized by a restlessness that will not quiet. All the tension and fear of the day, which at times seemed remote, even when the Seeker was staring directly at me and our discovery seemed imminent, collapses upon me now the danger is past. As smells of the meal Meredith is preparing waft over to me, I try to steady myself by staring out the window to watch the sun descending, bathing the city’s downtown in fiery purples and reds.
A sense of hopelessness seizes me, the little that I know, and the vast ocean of all I do not, utterly overwhelming me. The wrongness of myself, of this body, resurfaces now that I am left alone with my thoughts, and I want nothing more than to lie on the couch and sob. I know I cannot, though, not while Meredith is here. Until I have a better sense of what is happening and of who I am, I cannot trust her or anyone. There are too many mysteries and, to this point, no answers, beyond the fact that my life is in danger.
Though I can still remember nothing of my past, the world seems to me no longer the one I had known. Men with insect eyes who can find me seemingly at will. Buttons that hide people in plain sight. Languages and symbols unlike anything I have seen or heard. It is all too much to process, on top of everything else I am dealing with. And yet from moment to moment I have the sense that it is all there, all the understanding and knowledge I need is somewhere in my mind, always slipping just beyond my grasp.
Meredith brings me our supper—mushroom soup and toast—and we eat in silence, both of us uneasy in the other’s presence. I cannot even begin to think of what I might say, where to begin with all that has occurred. The food pushes aside all such worries, for I am ravenous beyond belief, unsurprising given that I have no idea when I have last eaten. When we are both done I do the dishes, enjoying the simplicity of the task and the distraction it provides.
I return to the living room when I am done, where Meredith sits on the couch, her legs curled up underneath her, a book on her lap. “It’s about religion,” she says, noticing my interest, “My friend studies it.”
“All religion. Or a religion?”
“Well, he’s interested in the philosophy, I guess, and the history of them.”
“Trying to find the right one,” I say, trying and failing to sound lighthearted.
Meredith shrugs. “Aren’t we all.” She sets the book aside and motions for me to sit down. “How are you feeling? I know it was probably not the day you were expecting.”
“No,” I say, “I guess not.”
She looks away from me, hesitating again, staring at the darkness beyond the window. “How much do you remember?”
“What do you mean?” I say, smiling, even as my heart begins to race and sweat gathers on my palms. What can I tell her that might make any sense?
“No,” she says. “I need to know for sure. The Seeker will not stop, he will find us, and we’ll need to be prepared. Do you remember anything at all?”
She looks at me, concern etched upon her face, yet all I can think is that she knows what the Seeker whispered in the apartment. She has the buttons. None of the day’s events prove that she is any more trustworthy than the Seeker and his minions. There is something about her that makes me question her motives. The concern on her face, the emotion in her eyes, it all feels false somehow. But I have no other choice.
“No,” I say, “I don’t remember anything before this afternoon.”
The Sojourners Cycle: