Free Read

From time to time, I will post either a short story or a chapter from one of my books for you to read.

Here is an excerpt from Tabula Rasa, one of the stories in my newest anthology, Splinters of Glass.

Tabula Rasa

“Tabula Rasa.” The meaningless words floated in and out of her drifting mind. What language was that? None that she was familiar with, she was certain. The question stuck in her head, bringing her back to full consciousness.

Who had spoken? Was someone else present?

She waited for several minutes before she opened her eyes, gathering as much information as she could with her other senses. Her ears detected no nearby voices, no sounds of breathing, only the faint sound of footsteps in the distance. The air was cool and still against her face, smelling of chemicals and antiseptic. Her fingers rubbed lightly against starched cotton.

Cautiously, she opened her eyes.

Everything in the room was white. The ceiling, the walls, the sheet covering her body and the narrow bed on which she lay. There was a machine attached to the wall behind the bed and a tube ran from it to her right wrist. A hospital, perhaps? Had she been sick? She had absolutely no idea where she was, no recollection of events or place. Concentrating, she moved each limb carefully, waiting for a flash of pain or enforced immobility. She frowned. Everything appeared to be in working order. She started to sit up, then stopped as she realised she was naked. There was no closet in the room, no sign of her clothes or even a hospital gown.

“Tabula Rasa.” The words came again from the other side of the white door. “A blank slate. Everything has been completely wiped—like a newborn.”

“Is she dangerous?” The second voice was lower, clipped. American. She didn’t know how she knew that, but she did.

“I hardly think so,” answered the first voice, dismissively. “Not now, at any rate!” There was a short laugh.

The second voice spoke again, coolly. “I was just wondering why there’s an armed guard outside her door.”

“A precaution, merely. This one was an aberration—that’s why I’ve got her—but I can’t afford to risk jeopardising the program. I don’t want anyone else going in… or out.” The door handle turned. “Come on in. The drugs should be wearing off by now. I’ll run some tests and then we’ll be able to get started on the programming.”

She lay down immediately. Without a second thought, she closed her eyes again and concentrated on keeping her breathing low and even.

Someone bent over and took her wrist in his hand. “Hmm, I would have expected her to be coming around by now.” The voice sounded annoyed rather than concerned.

An impersonal finger pulled back her left eyelid. She looked up into a clean shaven face, penetrating blue eyes, receding hairline, white coat collar. The side of her right hand caught him in the throat before he could blink.

Twisting, she heaved the body to the floor and leapt for the second man, who was staring in disbelief.

“Guard!” He squeezed out a single word from a throat tight with shock even as she punched him hard over the heart. He fell straight to the floor.

Not bothering to follow his fall with her eyes, she ran toward the uniformed man entering the room, his hand reaching belatedly for the gun still in its holster. Idiot! No brains! The thought flashed through her mind before she chopped down on his right arm, then finished the move with an uppercut to the jaw.

Scarcely breathing hard, she wasted no time in stripping the uniform from the guard and dressing herself. The fit was not ideal but it was better than nothing. Automatically, she checked that the gun was in working order, fastened the holster around her waist and pulled the jacket down to cover it. She spent a couple of seconds searching the three men, pocketing their wallets and identity cards to examine in more detail later. She needed all the information she could get. Closing the door behind her, she strode off down the corridor, her eyes constantly on the alert.

Suddenly, a siren screamed into deafening action. Apparently someone had recovered enough to call for help.

She began to run and a bank of four elevators came into view, one still waiting on this level. Quickly, she entered the lift and pressed the ground floor button—nothing happened. There was a small device fixed to the wall near the buttons so evidently a security card was required. She took out all three. By the time she discovered that the doctor’s card was the only one which worked, she had changed her mind. She sent the lift direct up to the top floor.

She took the emergency steps up to the roof two at a time and came out onto a surface dotted with air conditioning units. Peering over the edge, she saw the roof of the neighbouring building was only about twenty feet away. Without a second thought, she leapt across the gap, fell into a roll and sprung to her feet. Breaking the lock on the service door was scarcely a minute’s work and she was inside, searching for the fire stairs before she had time to worry about what sort of building this was. Presumably, given the ease with which she had broken in from the roof, it wasn’t a bank! She could only hope their security measures were minimal.

She caught her breath for a moment at the bottom of seemingly endless flights of stairs, opened the fire door onto the ground floor and walked confidently forward to the revolving glass doors. An ordinary office building—her lucky day.

Outside in the street, she allowed herself a brief smile of satisfaction. She didn’t know who she was or where she was going but she knew one thing for certain, she was still dangerous.