The Navigator

The Navigator by Eoin McNamee Read Free Book Online

Book: The Navigator by Eoin McNamee Read Free Book Online
Authors: Eoin McNamee
time before or the fact that it might be possible for it to gobackward. “What did Contessa mean by an island in time?”
    “That's where the Workhouse is—on an island in time,” Cati said. “Time is like a river flowing around us, but the Workhouse never really changes. And we don’t change either.”
    “You mean you don’t get older or anything?”
    “Course we get older,” Cati said with a heavy sigh, as though she was explaining to an idiot. “It's just that we grow old at the same rate as normal people, no matter what time does. You look like you need air.”
    “I need …,” Owen began. But what did he need? A way to understand all of this? Sleep to still his racing mind? A place to hide until it all went away and things returned to as they were before? He was tired, his eyes felt grainy and his limbs fatigued, but an idea was beginning to take shape.
    Outside, a mild, damp wind was blowing drizzle in from the direction of the town. He could smell the sea on it.
    “Do you want to talk?” Cati sounded anxious.
    “No,” he said. “No thanks, I’m really tired. I need to sleep, I think.”
    “You can sleep here. Contessa will find you a bed.”
    “No!” said Owen, more sharply that he intended. “I want to go back to the Den.”
    “I understand,” she said. “I’ll walk there with you.”
    “I want to be on my own,” he said stiffly.
    Cati watched as Owen turned abruptly away and walked toward the path to the Den. He felt bad. He didn’t want to offend her, but there was something he had to do. As soon as he had rounded the first corner in the path he dived off it into the trees.
    Owen climbed steadily for ten minutes. He knew the landscape well, but it was dark and the rain made it murky, and there seemed to be trees where no tree had grown before. By the time he reached the swing tree, his hands were scratched from brambles and there was a welt on his cheek where a branch had whipped across it. He got down on his belly and crawled to the edge of the drop. He looked across the river, but it was shrouded in gloom. Down below he could just make out what seemed to be trenches and defensive positions that had been dug the whole length of the river.
    As Owen looked closer he saw that they were hastily dug in parts and in other places there were none. He studied the defensive line and saw that it was at its weakest under the shadow of the trees, in the very place where he had crossed that morning. Silently, Owen slipped over the edge and began to slither down the slope, any noise that he made smothered by the insistent drizzle.
    At the bottom of the slope he made his way quietly through the trees. Almost too late Owen saw that there was now a path running along the edge of the river. He shot out of the trees into the middle of the path and ashe did so he heard a man clearing his throat. Quickly he dived into the grass at the verge and held his breath. Two men rounded the corner. Both were bearded and carrying the same strange weapon as the Sub-Commandant. They looked alert, nervous even, and their eyes kept straying to the river side of the path—which was just as well, as Owen was barely hidden by the sparse grass at the edge of the trees. They walked past him as he held his breath and pressed his face into the wet foliage. Within seconds, they had rounded the next corner and were gone.
    Owen stood up, shaking. He took a deep breath. He had avoided the patrol through luck and knew that it might not be long before another one came along. He darted to the other side of the path and plunged through the undergrowth toward the river.
    It was dark on the riverbank; only the sound of the water told him where it was. He felt his way along the bank until he found the old tree trunk that he had climbed across that morning. Suddenly, he felt sick and dizzy at the thought of crossing the black water. He grabbed the tree trunk firmly. If he didn’t start across now, his courage would fail him

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