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Resonance: Chapter Thirty

       Last updated: Saturday, February 18, 2006 09:30 EST



    They had to do something. People could be on the roof by now. They were bound to find the broken window.

    Annalise’s hand rested on the door handle. Was she going to bluff it out? Open the door and walk straight out into God knows what? A wedding reception, a ParaDim hitmans’ meeting?

    Maybe they should throw themselves on the mercy of whoever was on the other side of the door? Maybe get them to call the police? Or would ParaDim intercept the call and have their men run in from next door? We’re Special Branch, we’ll handle this.

    There had to be another way. There had to!

    “Got any matches?” whispered Annalise, pointing at a smoke alarm on the ceiling.

    Graham shook his head. He’d never smoked in his life but he patted at his pockets just in case. Who could tell what habits his alter ego had acquired?

    Annalise turned off the light and opened the door a crack. The background hum of conversation rose. There had to be over a dozen people, maybe more. The door closed.

    “It’s an office,” whispered Annalise. “Open plan from what I could see. Very busy. You could slip out.”

    “What about you?”

    “I’m orange girl, remember? People kinda notice me.”

    “What do you want me to do?”

    “Look confident. Pretend you work there, pretend you’re a messenger. Find some matches or a lighter and bring them back here. I’ll find something to burn.”

    Graham brushed himself down, took a deep breath and slipped through the door. After the darkness of the stairwell, everything was suddenly bright. He blinked. He was in a large open plan office - they’d removed all the internal walls and replaced them with pillars. Graham was in a walkway at the back of the office screened off at shoulder height from the rest of the room. There had to be dozens of people, he could hear them talking, he could see heads bobbing behind screens, people at the coffee machine.

    He kept going, his head up and back straight. I belong here. I’m the office messenger. He passed an out tray on a table by the wall and emptied it. He glanced briefly at the addresses. I work here. I’m the office messenger. He passed a bank of filing cabinets, a coffee machine, two men with their backs to him. The screen wall parted and he turned into an aisle. Screened compartments came off to his left and right, each cell containing a desk, a chair and a computer. No one looked up, everyone was busy - tapping on keyboards, talking on the phone, collecting print-out.

    Some stations were empty.

    In one there was a packet of cigarettes on the edge of a desk. A lighter lay on top. Graham slipped in, removed the lighter and left. He retraced his steps back towards Annalise. No one stopped him or called out. He felt elated. His pulse raced. He reached the walkway at the end of the aisle and turned towards the coffee machine. The two men were still there - talking, cups in hand - one glanced in Graham’s direction. Graham looked straight ahead, his fingers tightening on the envelopes.

    He passed the two men. Their conversation had stopped. He could feel them looking at him. The back of his neck burned. He wanted to run but couldn’t.

    “Excuse me,” said a deep voice a few yards behind him.

    Graham kept walking, the door was ten yards away. Ten yards and he could slip the lighter to Annalise.

    “I say, you.” The voice was louder. “Who are you?”

    Graham kept walking. He was nearly there. Six yards, five. The door was open a crack. He couldn’t see Annalise but she had to be there.

    Three yards. He could hear a commotion behind him; someone was running - hurried footsteps, the jingle of keys, the flex of the floorboards.


    He kept going. He switched the envelopes to his left hand, reached into his pocket with the right, closed his fingers around the lighter. One yard.

    A hand grabbed his left shoulder and jerked him back. He caught a glimpse of orange through the crack in the door. The lighter was in his right hand, he opened his fingers and tried to guide the lighter through the air towards her as he was spun around almost off his feet.

    “Are you deaf or something?”

    Graham nodded and pointed at his ears, and tried to block the man’s view of the door behind him. The man looked confused. Graham attempted sign language, banging his fist against his palm, flashing his fingers, touching his head and body. He was deaf, couldn’t the man see?

    He could. A look of embarrassment swept over his face.

    “Sorry,” he said, speaking loud and slow and exaggerating his lip movements. “I didn’t realise.”

    Graham smiled.

    The man looked down at the floor by Graham’s feet.

    “You’ve dropped something.”

    Graham’s blood drained. The lighter! Hadn’t Annalise managed to grab it?

    The man bent down. Graham watched, moving his weight onto the balls of his feet, ready to grab the lighter and run.

    “Your letters,” he said, straightening up and holding out a wad of brown envelopes.

    Graham mouthed a ‘thank you’ and took them. They must have flown out of his hand when the man grabbed him.

    An embarrassed silence followed. Graham wasn’t sure what to do. Should he walk away or was Annalise behind him at the moment, her hand reaching out from the crack in the door, trying to grab the lighter?

    A bell rang - loud and insistent - other bells on other floors chimed in. A light flashed from the ceiling. She’d done it.

    “Fire alarm,” the man said, pointing for some reason at the ceiling.

    Graham nodded and prayed the man would leave. Why couldn’t he panic and run screaming from the building? Instead it looked like his conscience was so deeply pricked he was going to take Graham by the arm and personally lead him to safety.

    A sharply dressed middle-aged woman appeared from the central aisle.

    “Mike, there wasn’t a fire drill scheduled for today was there?” she asked looking in Graham’s direction.

    Mike turned and instantly forgot Graham. “If there was, Ursula, no one informed me.”

    “I think I can smell smoke,” said a voice from behind Graham - a young woman, hurrying by, struggling to put on her coat and hold her handbag at the same time.

    Others were streaming away from their desks, grabbing jackets and briefcases, phones and bags. Mike was walking towards the exit, his hand placed at the centre of Ursula’s back. No one was looking at Graham.

    Or the door behind him.

    He stepped back and opened it. Annalise slipped out.

    They followed the exodus down the staircase; people streamed out from every floor, the same questions repeated - is it a drill? Anyone seen any smoke?

    The crowd spilled out onto the street - across the pavement, around the parked cars and into the road. Some people turned and shaded their eyes as they looked back at the roof of the building - no doubt expecting to see smoke billowing from every attic window. Graham and Annalise drifted amongst them, slowly moving towards the periphery and the corner - keeping as many people between them and whoever might be outside number fifty-six as they could.

    A siren wailed in the distance, conversation thrummed all around them. Where was the fire? Was it a drill, a hoax?

    They reached the corner and turned, a few steps more and they ran, crossing the street three cars down and taking every side street and turn they could find.



    They leant back against the wall and breathed hard. They’d been running for nearly five minutes without any sign of being followed.

    “I’ll contact the girls,” said Annalise in between breaths. “There’s so much to tell them.”

    Graham closed his eyes and tried not to panic. The day after the Resonance project closes they find you unconscious in the street. The Resonance project had just closed. The clock was ticking.

    They had to hide, that was obvious, but where? Hotels cost money. He checked his wallet. He had twelve pounds. A room for the night would cost more than that. His cheque book was at home. All he had on him was a debit card but couldn’t ParaDim trace him every time he used it?

    And how long would that last with no job and no money coming in. He’d have to buy food, clothes. Everything he had was at home, probably being pulled out of drawers and thrown on the floor at this very moment. 

    He looked at Annalise. How much money would she have? Enough to keep them in hiding indefinitely? He doubted it. There’d be no more money from Kevin Alexander. Did she have money in America she could get hold of?

    His mind raced for what seemed ages. For the first time in his life he had nowhere to go. He couldn’t go home, he couldn’t go to work. That was all he knew. Home, school, work - the occasional trip to the shops. That was his life.

    And worse - what had he done to Annalise?

    “What’s the matter, Graham?” asked Annalise, stretching her arms as she re-entered the world.

    Graham glanced over, she looked concerned. “I’m sorry,” he said.

    “For what?”

    “For all this. You shouldn’t be here hiding. You should be out enjoying yourself.”

    She looked at him and shook her head. 

    “You don’t have a clue, do you?”


    “What you’ve done for us, for all the girls. You’ve given us our lives back. We’d never have figured out this alternate reality stuff without you.”

    “But I didn’t do anything.”

    She shook her head. “You did everything. You were the catalyst that brought the girls together. Before you came along we were all too freaked to really talk to each other. Only Annalise One made any sense out of her life - if you can call talking to the dead, sense. The rest of us had no lives at all - we were alone, confused and frightened. I used to lay awake at nights, terrified the voices would tell me to kill my dad.” Her voice broke for an instant and she turned away.

    “Two months ago,” she said, gathering herself together. “I thought I had a brain tumour. I thought that’s where the voices came from - a nasty little growth pressing on my brain. Before that I was just plain crazy, before that I was the next Joan of Arc and before that I was a schizoid psycho killer waiting to be told who to kill.”

    She shook her head and looked into his eyes.

    “But now I’m me. I’m Annalise Mercado. And I matter in this world. Now shut up and tell me where we are on this map.”

“You see,” said Annalise, “Tamisha’s right. We need to get the information to every world. ParaDim scans all data, right? So, we’ll give them something to look at - the Graham Smith story - everything we’ve learned so far, about you, ParaDim, resonance waves, the lot. We’ll create a web page and pack it with every key word a resonance project would look for. The girls are going to do the same. By tomorrow there won’t be a resonance project around that doesn’t know everything we do.”

    Annalise folded her Cyber Cafe Guide away. The nearest Internet cafe was only a few blocks away.

    “Are you going to tell everyone about the girls?”

    Annalise thought for a while. “Don’t think so. Not yet. It wouldn’t be fair to the non-telepath Annalises.”

    Graham thought about the other Grahams. “Would it be fair to the other Grahams?”

    “It’s not the same. The other Grahams are already targets whether they know it or not.”

    They found the cafe, paid for an hour and sat down. Annalise typed, revised, deleted and typed again. Occasionally, she stopped and asked Graham to check a sentence she’d written. Had she got it right? Was that the way it happened?

    He was amazed how much she knew about him. And amazed to see his life chronicled on the screen. It all seemed so unreal.

    “Could you print that out for me?” asked Graham when she’d finished typing.

    “Sure.” She hit the print button and looked around to see which printer they were connected to. Graham retrieved the two pages, folded them neatly into four and put them in his pocket.

    Annalise watched and smiled. “That should help whoever gets your body next. A step up from name, address and job.”

    Graham smiled weakly. “You never know, I might not flip this time,” he said, quickly looking down at his feet.

    “I hope you don’t.”

    Graham beamed and felt even more stupid.

    “Give it here,” she said, holding out her hand. “You’ve missed out the most important part.”

    She took the note and wrote ‘Annalise 15’ on the back. “Now you’ll know which world you’re on.”

    Annalise’s phone rang just as she was uploading the finished page. It was Kevin Alexander.

    “How?” It was all she could say. How could it be him? Had he escaped?

    “Listen, I haven’t much time. There’s something you must know about the resonance wave. Meet me by the bandstand in Hyde Park at five thirty. Bring Graham Smith with you.”

    “Are you sure you won’t be followed?”

    “Positive. No one’s interested in me any more. The resonance project’s finished.”

    The line went dead.

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