Story excerpt: Enders

Here’s a snippet from the beginning of Enders. Remember it will be free this weekend.


The atmosphere was strained. The usual dull exchanges about Joshua’s working day and Antu’s migraine had been no more than brief allusions. Joshua’s face was closed up and silent, but Antu saw what others did not—the worry etched all over it in invisible lines. She cleared away the supper dishes and began the rhythmic, ritual cleaning of the tiny kitchen so that the head of the household could recite the prayers of purification and protection over the apartment.

Joshua cleared his throat, breaking into the soft background swish of the dishcloth. He had not spoken for almost half an hour and the sound dropped loud and jangling into the silence.

“Work’s finished for me,” he announced and swallowed hard. “End of this week.”

Antu turned and stared at him. “Finished? But—”

“There’s no but,” he said sharply and pushed his chair back from the table. “Three new boys start next week.”

Antu knew what that meant: three old boys gave up their places. Her hands shook. She wanted to sit down but daren’t, not while she was working, not without Joshua’s permission. She heard his steps crossing the room, heard him take his coat from the peg, the click of the door handle. Without another word he closed the apartment door behind him. She stopped wiping the kitchen surfaces and dropped the cloth in the sink. In a daze she felt her way to the table and sat down heavily in her chair. Finished. They were both finished.

She wondered vaguely if the same feeling of horror and helplessness swept over everyone at the announcement of the final act. A sharp pain throbbed over her left eye and she pressed the place hard with her thumb. She was glad to be able to feel something, even the start of a migraine. Her eyes strayed to the door, wondering when it would be. Not wondering how she could avoid it. They would come, and that was all there was to it.