Away from the Dark (The Light #2)


by Aleatha Romig

Forever is composed of Nows.

—Emily Dickinson

AS WE LEFT THE END OF INTO THE LIGHT . . .

Jacob

Taking a deep breath, I recalled the number I’d memorized and stored away. I steadied my hand as I fired up the other burner phone and dialed. Running my fingers through my hair, I listened to the rings.

Special Agent Adler, my handler, answered on the fifth one. “Agent McAlister?”

“Yes, sir,” I answered through gritted teeth.

“Fuck! We haven’t heard from you in over two years. Tell me you’re calling because you’ve got the evidence. Tell me to get the bureau ready, that you’re ready for the raid. Tell me you’ve got what we need to bring Gabriel Clark down.”

“Special Agent, we have a problem.”

CHAPTER 1

Sara

More than a week earlier

The granulation was off. From what I was seeing, that had to be the answer. I wasn’t sure why it had caught my attention or whether I should mention it to Brother Raphael or Brother Benjamin; however, the more I scrolled and clicked, the more apparent the problem became. From what little I’d picked up over the months I recalled working in the chemical lab, I understood the medications we created allowed Father Gabriel’s vision to be shared with the world.

Due to the energy constraints at the Northern Light, most of our electricity coming from the hydropower, we were forced to use dry granulation in the manufacturing of the pharmaceuticals. If the granulation of this new medication was off, slightly larger than that of its model medication, it could affect the absorption rate. I’d overheard many of Brothers Raphael and Benjamin’s formulation discussions.

The difference in the weights of the finished products was what caused me to question.

“Sara?”

Why am I questioning?

“Sara!”

Small beads of perspiration dotted my brow as my research all but drowned out the sound of Dinah’s voice. I reasoned that with most patients this minor difference might not be a significant issue, but I also worried that in others it could be life-threatening.

“Sara, what are you doing?”

Dazed, I looked away from the computer screen into Dinah’s concerned expression. My coworker, friend, and Assembly wife sister had an expression of sheer terror as she scanned the screen of my computer.

“I’m . . .” My words faded away as I looked from the report beside the keyboard to the screen. My mouth dried. I wasn’t in the program I was supposed to be in. I wasn’t adding the data and quantities I was supposed to be adding.

My pulse suddenly quickened. “Oh, Dinah, I don’t know what I was doing.”

She looked toward the wall and my eyes followed hers to the clock. It hung near the ceiling and was simple, plain, with a round silver frame. It reminded me of the clocks in my elementary school when I was a child.

When I was a child!

I recalled a clock in my past. It was the first thing I could recall in nearly a year.

Shutting my eyes, I tried to see beyond the twelve numbers and the hands in my memory. As if it were right in front of me, I saw it. I even saw the skinny red second hand running circles around the black minute and hour hands. I blinked twice, wishing for more of the scene to materialize and at the same time fearing that it would. Below the clock from my childhood was a large green blackboard.

Wait, that didn’t make sense. Blackboards weren’t green. Besides, my elementary school would’ve been in the dark, a place that was gone to me forever. How then could I remember that clock?

Dinah was speaking, and finally her words broke through my thoughts. “. . . Brother Benjamin will be back from Assembly. What will he say when he sees you’ve not completed your assignment, but taken the liberty—”

I moved my head back and forth as I exited screen after screen that I didn’t recall opening. “You’re right. I don’t know what I was doing. It was because something in the numbers seemed wrong, like it didn’t fit. I was curious. I started looking . . .” I pulled my lip between my teeth. “I’ll confess.” My head hung in shame. “To Brothers Benjamin and Jacob.”

Dinah’s arm moved protectively around my shoulders. “We still have a few minutes. I’m not saying you shouldn’t tell Brother Jacob. You should. But if I help you, maybe we can get the data entered before Brother Benjamin gets back from Assembly. Besides, Brother Raphael won’t be here for another hour. He still has the Commission meeting. Depending what Brother Benjamin wants us to do, I’m sure we can get this entered before then.”

I let out a long breath. “Thank you, Dinah. I’m not even sure how I knew what I was doing. I don’t know. It was just—” I knew the answer. It was the same problem I continued to battle. It was my curiosity. “I didn’t want anything to be wrong. Father Gabriel’s mission is too important.”

Its importance was real. We all believed in his mission.

Dinah pulled a high-backed stool from her workstation up next to mine. The wheels easily glided across the smooth cement floor. “Do you want to read or enter?”

I pulled the correct screen back up on the computer. “I’ll enter. You read. Start with yesterday’s production . . .”

It was only a few minutes past ten when Dinah stopped reading and asked, “Sara, how did you know how to get out of our program? I mean, we don’t know any of the passwords.”

As I tried to recall, the memory was a blur, as if someone else had taken control of my movements. My lip disappeared between my teeth. I wasn’t trying to be deceitful or cunning. What I’d wanted to do was to help, to figure out why the weights weren’t matching. Finally I replied, “I don’t know. I don’t remember.”

It wasn’t like me to be secretive, but as I answered, I willingly shadowed the truth in ambiguity. Brother Benjamin had created this program. I recalled entering Raquel’s name and 05. Raquel had told me once that she and Benjamin had been together here at the Northern Light for five years. It was a guess, but I’d been correct on the first attempt. From that moment on, I hadn’t thought, I’d just clicked and scrolled as if propelled by a sense of inquisitiveness that felt familiar yet foreign.

I replied to Dinah the way I did because if I confessed to Brother Benjamin that I’d been outside my program and he changed the password, I’d never be able to go outside it again. And though my conscience weighed heavily upon me, the yearning to keep access and learn more was too strong to ignore. Therefore, as we worked to complete my early-morning duty, I simultaneously contrived a way to confess without disclosing everything.