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Chapter 1

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"Can I have some water please?"

The boy blinked up at the man who stood over him. For a moment, the man seemed to glare at him and the boy's stomach clenched. Had he done something wrong again? Then the man smiled. Everything changed when he smiled. The boy relaxed. When the man smiled, he knew everything would be alright. It was what he was made for; his purpose; his entire purpose for living – to please.

"Would you like anything else? Something to eat?"

The boy shook his head, his long, pale hair swishing with the vigour of the movement. "I wouldn't trouble you. Just water. It's hot and I'm thirsty."

The man glanced around the room with a frown on his face. "Yes, it is hot. I'll have the technicians lower the temperature. I have already given instructions that it be kept at a constant heat. Someone has taken their eyes off the ball."

There was something growly in the man's voice that worried the boy. As far as he could recall, the man had never been angry with him, but he was frightened by the prospect nevertheless. He was frightened of a lot of things.

He almost apologised but the man wasn't happy when he said sorry for things that weren't his responsibility, and he was fairly sure there was nothing in this scenario that was his fault.

Before they could go any further, the door opened and another man came in. This one was much jollier. He was almost always smiling, and never left without a kind word and some form of encouragement. The boy liked this man better, even though he wasn't his absolute favourite.

"Is it me, or is it hot in here?" the smiley man asked.

"I'll see to it right away."

"No rush," the smiley man said. "We're going for a walk."

"A walk?" The boy perked up. "Outside?" He so rarely saw the outside of his suite of rooms that merely a stroll in the corridor beyond his door was an adventure.

"Dr Franks is a little worried about something that came up in your last medical," the smiley man said. "He just wants a quick check. It won't take long. He says I can take you into the garden afterwards."

"The garden?" The boy bounced to his feet, excitement overwhelming him. "I can go to the real outside? See the... the... sunshine?"

"Easy there. There's not so much sunshine today, it's overcast, but you'll feel the breeze on your face and it's better than this stuffy room."

"It's not so bad. I like my room," the boy said hurriedly, lest he be thought ungrateful.

The smiley man gave him an odd look, like he was sad, but it didn't last long.

The boy chatted animatedly as they walked along the corridors, pausing often to examine things; just ordinary things like the fire extinguisher and door handles. His door didn't have a handle – not on the inside.

"Are there rooms like mine in there?" the boy asked as they passed another identical door in another faceless corridor.

"Perhaps a little like yours."

"Are there people like me in them?"

"There is no one else like you."

They walked in silence for a while. The boy had a question. It had been burning inside him for a while but he hadn't found the courage to ask. He wasn't encouraged to question. In fact, he was often told not to, and he hated to be disobedient, but....

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