Short Story (Part 2): When The Tide Comes In

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Last week our intrepid party-goer Ellie met a rather curious bar-tender and found herself in a bit of a pickle as she hit the bathroom floor. The question is, where did she wake up?

(What do you mean you didn’t read last weeks installment? What are you waiting for, it’s right here: When The Tide Comes In Part 1)

And so the story continues……


2

Ellie remembered a bathroom floor.

Had she managed to throw up?

She was groggy, but the cold air blowing in from the car window was bringing her around from some nightmare about an old aeroplane. The car bucked and bounced through a pot hole. Jon must have found her and they were on their way home….

Next to her she heard voices speaking low.

“Jon?” she murmured, still half gone.

Damn, it felt cold. Didn’t he have the heating on?

Her eyes cracked opened in search of the window winder but instead found the cramped interior of a truck. The sound of its heavy engine surfaced through the haze of her thoughts as a sudden wave of cold morning air swirled in under the heavy canvas covering. The chill snapped her fully awake; she was wedged between two soldiers, and her head throbbed with a persistent ache. She reached up and probed the bandage gingerly.

“What the f – ?”

The truck bounced through a deep pot hole, nearly pitching her to floor but for the strong hand that held her steady. She looked into the face of the soldier next to her, weariness and resignation haunting his face. He nodded at her and went back to staring at the floor.

Ellie took a deep breath and closed her eyes against the vertigo rising up through the soles of her feet. There had been a bar…. the pill….. Was she still tripping? Dreaming perhaps? But it was all so real as she looked around at the soldiers, eyes glazed and staring at nothing, rifles held across laps or stood upright between their legs. No one seemed to have the energy to speak beyond a few mutters of gratitude for the pack of cigarettes being passed around like a form of communion, and she wasn’t about to refuse this small salvation from absurdity. The soldier next to her struck a match, lit up and offered her the flame.

She nodded her thanks and a moment later sat back with eyes closed against the weightlessness of her mind. She felt like a dandelion seed desperately clinging to its stalk while the wind howled and raged…..

*   *   *

It was the voice, not the name it called, that roused from the vague respite of slumber.

“Aphelia?”

Ellie stared into Jon’s face, but the schism in her mind was prepared this time. The man standing over her wasn’t the same Jon she knew: he wore a flying jacket similar to hers, his hand gripping the overhead rail as he looked on her with grave expression. Despite the knowing that it wasn’t him she couldn’t hold the name back, “Jon?”

“What’s wrong with you?” he asked. “It’s me, Theran.”

“S-sorry…. I…..”

“And who’s Jon?” Theran asked with a smile trying to cover his worry.

“No one, I…. I just got confused.”

“Not to worry. We’re nearly back.”

“Good,” Ellie replied, closing her eyes again. She took a deep breath to steady herself, and searched through her mind for the thread of reality that told her this was all a dream, but instead there was only a void, and she was floating between two memories: both were hazy, like dreams, and she didn’t know which one to go to any more. When she tried to retrace her steps, the place she wanted to go to receded further away until the memories she tried to coax from her brain just seemed like faint after images; she’d been at a party, with other people somewhere, and there had been a stranger in dark clothes. He had given her something and she had woken up here….

Or she had been in a plane crash and just dreamed about a party. That was the more probable explanation. As she wrestled with her thoughts the truck started to slow until it halted and soldiers began to stand, shuffling about and jumping out the rear.

“Like the fucking Matrix or something….” she muttered and opened her eyes to find Jon – no, Theran – staring at her with concern.

“What’s the Matrix?”

She frowned. “You know, I can’t remember. It’s a…. book, maybe?”

“The medic said you might have a mild concussion,” he said.

Ellie shook her head. “I don’t think that’s the problem….”

“You’ll be fine,” said Theran with a wide grin. “Which is good, because we’ll have to be back in action for tonight.

“Tonight?”

“Aye, can’t be flying without my navigator.”

“Navigator?”

“I swear, you must have bumped your head harder than I thought,” he chuckled and jumped down from the back of the truck. “Come on, it’s not much of a trek back.”

Ellie got up and followed Theran to the rear of the truck, hopping down onto a hard packed, gravel strewn road. As she stood in the morning light there didn’t seem too much out of the ordinary. The land here was a mossy heathland, purple heather and soft clouds scudding across the chill sky. The confusion she had felt was like a lurking discomfort, but every time she passed through it her mind became clearer: how could she have forgotten that she was Theran’s co-pilot and navigator? They had flown over a hundred night missions in their time together. Last night they had been on the return from bombing the hordes of creatures collectively known as the Tide when an engine failure had forced them down. They had been lucky to ditch on their side of the Front.

“Stand clear!” someone shouted, snapping her out her recollections as the truck ambled off in an arc, heading back the way it had come; it was heading back to retrieve more of the soldiery as they fell back. Ellie watched it dwindle away, passing an approaching truck laden with more retreating troopers, then she turned to follow Theran up the road –

– and gasped.

“What’s the matter?” asked Theran. “You look like you’ve never seen home before.”

They were a good mile off yet still the edifice’s tiered walls rose immense against the sky, bristling with artillery emplacements and gun platforms. The bulk of it was sunk into a rocky cliff face, and access was across a bridged chasm and through a heavily fortified gatehouse. This was the last redoubt of human courage, the hardened spirit of survival made from concrete and steel. It’s walls were thick enough to resist anything that the Tide had thrown at it, and it’s cannon barrages could pound any attack for mile upon mile, thinning their numbers with each step forward.

For a moment she stood amazed, as if she really hadn’t seen it before, but the fortresses name sprang instantly to mind, as if it had been there all along like a book forgotten on a shelf just waiting for her finger to run the length of its spine.

Bastion; last redoubt of a beleaguered humanity.

Aphelia was home.

*   *   *

Via the bridge and through the gatehouse, Aphelia and Theran made their way through the armoured bulk of the fortress for over two miles until they reached the enclosed airfields on the other side. Row upon row of assorted biplane stood waiting, engineers and crews working on those that had made it back and those that were to fly soon. These represented the last of their airborne capabilities, a hodgepodge of retrofitted civilian aircraft, trainers and purpose built scout bombers.

It was a scene so familiar that Aphelia wondered how she could have ever been confused about where she belonged. It was her workaday world, the reality she had lived for years as she and Theran bombed the advancing Tide over and over, sometimes flying three, four, even five sorties in any twenty four hour period until they bought themselves respite for a week, maybe two. Even so, the Front was a constantly shrinking series of trenches as humanity slowly retreated from the apparently unending numbers of the enemy.

The weight of that knowledge settled on her then, the nudging worry that the enemy was getting closer and closer, day by day. Yet somehow this place had become a mental fortress against the creep of an inevitable end. It’s walls were high and thick, impervious like its defenders.

So too did they had food, water and enough raw materials and manufacturing capability to last many more years. The notion that they could hold was reinforced upon them every day by the sermons of the Clerics who rallied spirits with their exhortations to not lose hope, to fight on, for the enemy must have its limits and it was humanity’s task to rain fire on the unholy creatures until those limits were found, until their numbers ran dry. It was a burden that Theran embraced with casual enthusiasm, dragging Aphelia in his wake day in and day out.

And right now he was gearing up to take them straight back out there, despite ditching in the field and with a navigator-cum-co-pilot who might have mild concussion. It had clearly caused some sort of strange bifurcation of her thoughts when she had bumped her head, but she was fine now, wasn’t she? As her comrades in the hangars hailed them with cheers she was certain the fugue in her mind had passed off.

“Aphelia! Aphelia!” roared a woman who looked like she could wrestle a bear. The ground veritably shook as the giant engineer Merrietta came running and scooped her up in her arms. “Dah! When I heard you had were down I feared the worse, but here you are with a head wrapped in bandages.”

“It’s nothing,” said Aphelia.

“Nothing? Pah!” snorted Merrietta and poked a finger at Theran. “I told this buffoon that the kite needed more work. Now he has lost us a plane and nearly lost us you.”

“Hey,” Theran held up his hands, “It wasn’t a complete waste. I managed to radio in the movement through the Gottane Valley.”

Merrietta nodded. “Dah, they are squeezing us tighter and tighter. I hear most of the troopers made it out.”

Theran smiled. “So, one plane for how many soldiers?”

“I’ll let you have this one then,” replied Merrietta and crossed her arms, returning her eyes to Aphelia. “More importantly, if you hadn’t made it back, then you were going to leave me that bottle of rum, dah?”

Aphelia grinned. “No chance of me not coming back while there’s still a drop of that left. I could use a glass right about now.”

“That,” Theran interjected, “Will have to wait until after we make a report to the captain.”

Aphelia groaned as Theran began to drag her away, and all she could do was give Merrietta an apologetic shrug before falling in line with Theran as the engineer waved and went back to her tasks with a rueful smile.

In the middle ground of the hangars stood the aerial command bunker, and together the pair descended through cordons of guards and officials, down corridors lined with bare bulbs hanging from cords. They were directed to a briefing room where Captain Nerrund sat amid a whirl of paperwork; he was the eye of a storm as his three secretaries organised, tidied and redeployed orders and communiques before they were lost to the constant threat of over-spill.

Theran knocked and the whirlwind paused. A moment later they stood before Nerrund who had suddenly become an isle of calm peering over his steepled fingers with faint gratitude.

“Good to have you back. You were instrumental to our successful withdrawal.”

“Thank you sir,” Theran saluted. Aphelia followed suit.

“And,” Nerrund continued, “I can see you’re ready for more.”

“Of course sir.”

“What about you?” Nerrund asked Aphelia. “You have a head wound?”

“Just a bump,” Aphelia replied. “I’m fine.”

Nerrund sighed. “I’ll have to take your word for it because tonight you’ll be flying resupply.”

“Fly by?”

Nerrud nodded and Aphelia groaned. “Fly by” meant skimming the ground and dropping supplies literally on top of the friendlies. While she had never missed a target, it was the most stressful kind of mission because you couldn’t make a mistake.

That, and the fact that there were Tidlings that could jump high enough to reach the plane. She’d seen it happen before: a crew in front were intercepted by dozens of creatures resembling giant, multicoloured frogs. They came arcing through the air like a jet of water, splashing over the plane and causing it to plummet. Theran and Aphelia has pulled up just in time to escape a similar fate.

“Who are they?” Theran asked.

“We have an outpost in the Chencorn Pass that was cut off. They’re still broadcasting, and the main flow of the Tide is heading past them on the east side. We’ll try and give them enough time for us to move the 7th Artillery Battery up from Pallasad and clear a path for them. So once you resupply you’ll be flying straight back out and pounding the Tide to stem the flow on the eastern side.”

“Very good sir. Who’ll be flying cover?”

“Sorry,” Nerrund shook his head. “You’ll be flying without escort.”

“That’s madness,” Theran retorted, then remembered himself, “Sir.”

“It’s unfortunate, but nothing I can do. We’re low on numbers and I need them covering the artillery.”

“But – ”

“Those big guns are sitting ducks, while you have the advantage of speed over the enemy.”

“No good if we fly straight into them. It’s a full moon out there, and they’ll see us coming if they’re looking.”

“Of course,” sighed Nerrund, trying not to bristle. “I don’t like it any better than you do, but we’re stretched and there’s a whole battalion of troops out there. I have to weight the risks – a half dozen resupply planes against the loss of an artillery battery and a battalion of men. I’m sorry, but I can only do what I can do. You’ll have to pray that it clouds over.”

“But sir – ”

“Dismissed!” snapped Nerrund in a voice that brooked no argument. Everyone stiffened. Theran’s jaw bunched and he looked like he was chewing a mouthful of bees as Nerrund added. “You’ve got six hours to rest, so I suggest that you make the most of it.”

“Yes sir.”

The pair saluted and made to leave.

“And Aphelia,” Nerund called after her, “Get that head of yours looked at.”

“Yes sir.” With a casual salute she pulled the door closed behind her and found that Theran had disappeared. She sighed, and went to find Merrietta.

It was time for that glass of rum.

End of Part 2


Check out the next episode as our heroine has an (un)expected visitor and takes to the air in Part 3: When The Tide Comes In

Hope you’re all keeping sage and sane out there.

Peace.

DJC


Short Story: A Wolf Has To Eat (Story Dice Challenge #1)

So here’s a quick story in response to the Story Dice Challenge #1 – and I really didn’t let myself spend too long on it. Somehow it all just came together in my mind, which is quite pleasing in and of itself.

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Well flay me alive and wear my skin like a ceremonial robe! Has it been a whole week already?

It’s actually been quite a time of it lately. I’ve been writing some new stuff, editing some old stuff and generally not letting myself get too stressed with stuff.

So here’s a quick story in response to the Story Dice Challenge #1 – and I really didn’t let myself spend too long on it. Somehow it all just came together in my mind, which is quite pleasing in and of itself.

Enjoy!

(NB – just for clarification, the interpretations of the dice were open, so for example I took “Trojan Horse” to mean getting inside a fortification by trickery etc.)


A Wolf Has To Eat

The Rector of Darrabock was surprisingly relaxed for a man with the jaws of a dire wolf poised to tear his throat out, and not just any wolf either. This black horror was the feared beast known as Smurl, a beast of alchemical manipulation and thaumamechanic engineering.

“There is no way to breach the wards of Darrabock,” said the Rector with barely a quaver in his voice.”They are infallible.”

The horror before him snorted. “I don’t have time for exposition Rector,” said Smurl. The stud-like protrusions that dotted his skull began to glow with a baleful blue light. “Witness.”

The knowledge sprang unbidden into the Rector’s mind: yes, ever were the vices of men the weakness of any defence, for Darrabock was built to withstand siege and magical assault upon it’s walls, not to withhold against the desires of the men who manned those walls. The Rector saw saw the boat pulling up to the pier, and his men assisting the comely maiden onto the landing. With her they saw only her small pet dog held upon a leash.

An illusion of a subtle making, not crude magic but the shaping of a cloak within  Smurl’s mind. The guards saw nothing but the woman and her dog as they muttered appreciation of her form; full hips and red lips. The Rector was a canny fool, they remarked, to fetch up such a prize.

So Smurl passed through the wards and defences like a blade slips between armoured plate. 

With ease.

“And what is it that you want?” inquired the Rector, beginning to sweat.

“I have come for but one of your magical treasures. Let us call it simple payment.”

“Payment?”

“Aye.” Smurl chuckled. “For a lesson taught, and folly revealed. You are in my debt Rector.”

“Indeed,” replied the Rector as he pulled at the collar of his robe and wiped the sweat from his brow. “So you intend to let me live?”

Smurl nodded with an evil smile. “Unless you wish to compound your error?”

The Rector shook his head quickly.

“Good. Live and let live I say. I require one thing, and one thing only: the winged boots that you have hidden in your vault.”

“How could you know – ?”

Smurl cut him off with a snarl. “I tire of your questions.” 

“Of course,” said the Rector, swallowing. “Let me take you there at once.”

“Excellent. Let us make haste Rector, for my appetite is growing by the minute.”

 

*   *   *

 

“How long must I be your prisoner?” ask Princess Innista of the dragon Phalagyras once more as she sat upon the cold flagstones.

The dragon turned a laconic eye upon her. “As long as the war of succession continues.”

Innista licked a paw. “Surely they must be done with their bitter murder by now?”

“Who can say?” replied the dragon with a yawn and stretched out upon his hoard. “Such are the endeavours of men, to war without end.”

Such was the ritual observed every day as Innista waited; it was all that she could do, for when she had come to the cusp of womanhood she had been cursed. During her coronation she had donned the tiara of her station, and the dark hex had been released, shrinking her body and causing her to sprout black fur. Where once there had been a princess, now there was but a lithe cat as black as midnight. In the confused panic that followed she had been whisked away by one or other of the warring factions seeking the throne, and it was they who handed her to Phalagyras for safe keeping.

The great red dragon had borne her away to the ruin of his flying keep, a great stone edifice set upon enchanted clouds where none could steal his treasure. For Innista there was nothing to do but await the day she might be allowed to return, and as a cat that burden was eased by the feline proclivity of expertly napping for long periods of time.

She dreamed of her mother, and the orchards of Heronreath.

Of her other pursuits it was only the stalking of mice and birds that brought her any great relief from the boredom of being a prisoner. So too would it provide the only luck she had ever received in the dragon’s castle, for one day years ago she had been prowling the wild corridors of the sky keep when she chanced upon a mouse garbed in a leather jerkin and leggings, booted and armed.

“Who are you?” Innista had asked, more curious than anything else.

“I am the brigand Schlondyke!” cried the mouse, “And I see that you are no ordinary cat.”

“And you no ordinary mouse. How come you to the sky keep, brigand?”

“By secret means known to mouse folk. I come seeking to plunder the dragon’s hoard!”

“Ha! You shall have to cross my path first,” Innista teased.

“So be it!” cried the mouse and they had duelled until she disarmed him with a swipe of her paw. Before he could escape she had snared him and dandled the poor fellow by his tail.

“Mercy, oh mighty mouser!” cried Schlondyke.

“And what does mercy buy me?”

“Spare me and I will grant thee whatever boon ye desire.”

“A boon?”

“You have but to name it,” replied Schlondyke, “And I shall discharge the debt in return for mine life.”

Innista considered a moment. “How can I be sure that you will hold to our deal?”

Schlondyke doffed his hat and said, not without umbrage, “I am a mouse of honour, m’lady, and you have bested me in single combat. I so swear by the life that is now yours, ask of me what you wish.”

Innista thought for a moment, then explained what she required.

That had been three years ago…….

 

*   *   *

 

Smurl alighted upon the outer wall of the sky keep, and sensing danger, the nodes in his skull began to glow with baleful fervour. He could taste the dragon in his mind, smell the brimstone of its breath even upon the fresh air without. Smurl knew he must make haste and discover the dragon’s bane, the only tool that could remedy such a scaly problem lurking within the shadowed halls of the castle.

It would not be long before the dragon senses his presence in return.

So with great bounds he crossed the wild lawns and took off down passages long forgotten, through halls where small seeds borne by the wind had taken root into riotous gardens unseen by the eyes of mortal for generations, up stairs thick with dust and through forgotten chambers filled with old books, armour and moth-eaten tapestries.

Closer and closer, the air tinged with the tang of dragon’s gold and lurking hints of a feline presence: yes, the princess was close, and thus the reward…..

Smurl was getting ravenous now.

On silent pads the dire wolf now came to the old throne room, yet despite Smurl’s soundless approach, the dragon stirred.

“Come out dire wolf,” rumbled the dragon.

Smurl stepped forth into the chamber. “I am here, oh Phalagyras.”

The dragon did not reply, but unleashed a torrent of fire. When it abated there was no sign of the dire wolf upon the cracked and blackened flagstones.

“So much for the famed Smurl,” chuckled the dragon, and made as if to sleep once more.

“Are you always so careless?” called Smurl mockingly. The dragon hissed and cast about until Smurl stepped from behind a mighty pillar. “You should have a care dragon, for I am indeed the infamous Smurl.”

“You are fast, I give you that,” replied Phalagyras, “But you’re teeth are no match for my fire. Come hither and I will even give you thy cruellest bite!” and the dragon bared its scaled neck.

Smurl padded forward, his head glowing all the fiercer. “You are unwise to tempt me,” said Smurl.

The dragon chuckled. “There is but one weapon that can kill me, and you do not possess the hands to wield it.”

“Who needs hands,” grinned the wolf, “When one possesses a mind such as mine?”

Behind Phalagyras there was the tinkle of falling coin as something was dislodged, and as the dragon turned its head it beheld Scalebreaker, the only weapon that could defeat him. The mace soared, held in the grip of Smurl’s mind and smote the dragon full on the head, crushing his skull.

“Such is the arrogance of dragons,” snorted Smurl in contempt. “To hoard the very treasures that might slay them.”

“Y-y-you have killed him,” said a voice, and Smurl turned his baleful gaze upon the black form of Innista.

He grinned with wolfish delight. “So I have princess.”

“W-who are you?”

“I am the boon that you requested.”

“I requested no such horror as you,” she replied.

The wolf shrugged. “Did you not send diminutive brigand with a missive, requesting help?”

Innista nodded, still uncertain.

“It was this brigand that sailed to Nulle Isle and found me.”

“But the Nulle Isle is just a story.”

“Nay,” Smurl shook his head. “It is very real, and a place to which I was exiled until a long ship came searching for me, captained by the fabled brigand Schlondyke.”

“Captained?”

“Aye, he told me that he had plundered a dragon’s hoard to fund his venture – “

“That sneaky rat!” cried Innista, cutting in despite her fear.

Smurl cocked his head. “Indeed. He told me that he owed his life to a princess who had been bound by a most powerful curse. By his life’s honour he had travelled the lands in search of one who was brave enough to defeat the dragon Phalagyras. He showed me this letter, written by yourself, and signed with a cat’s paw. It stated that the reward for your restoration to the throne of Heronreath was land and title.”

“And is that why you have come to rescue me, to take land and title?”

Smurl shook his head, eyes burning into her.

“Perhaps you seek the dragon’s hoard then?” asked the princess, backing away.

Smurl chuckled. “One can neither eat gold nor titles, princess.”

Innista swallowed. “Eat?”

“Aye,” Smurl smiled as he padded forward, licking his lips. “A wolf needs to eat.” The nodes on his head began to glow, and his eyes blazed with the same light. “This will hurt.”

Innista had backed away until her furred ruffed up against the wall behind her. There was no where to run to. Smurl opened his jaws wide and Innista felt a sudden force holding her still. The tiara became heavy on her head, so much so it might break her neck such was its weight. Black threads like evil smoke curled from it and rushed in a swirling vortex into the mouth of the wolf who seemed to swell in stature.

She blinked.

It was gone, the malignant hex that had changed her was lifted, consumed by the black horror before her. “You ate my curse?”

“Aye,” Smurl smiled, licking his lips. “I am a hex eater, and that was a savoury delight. I am of a mind to seek the one who wove it.”

Innista looked down at herself. She was once again a young woman, and now took her leave of the sky keep astride the great dire wolf, returning to claim her rightful place at the court of Heronreath.

And none dare gainsay her, for fear of the famed dire wolf Smurl who accompanied her, his eyes ever hungry and searching for the next meal.

THE END


Well dear Readers, I hope you enjoyed. I certainly had fun writing it. Sometimes the exercise of just writing something random and free from constraint is a welcome relief.

And although I went over the 1000 words by almost double, it didn’t feel like it.

Now it might not be perfect…. but I promised not to spend too long on it, and I think the best thing about these exercises is that you can add it to a pile of ideas and recycle them later when you’re doing something more involved.

Anyhew, if you did enjoy then please let me know and give it a like down below.

Thanks!

DJC


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Story Dice Challenge #1

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As we kick off February and take a quick flashback to Christmas. It’s been noted that I’m notoriously difficult to please when it comes to gifts, and please don’t buy this writer any more books!

That pile is big enough as it is! And unless you’re going to pop a very nice electric guitar in my stocking, probably best to just buy me a good bottle of Port.

However, this year I did receive something of a surprise novelty: a set of Rory’s Story Cubes, specifically the “fantasia” set. These have been quite a bit of fun. The basic premise is to tell a story using the nine images rolled.

Begin with “Once upon a time” and tell a story that links together all nice face-up images. Start with the first image to grab your attention. Use three cubes for the beginning, three for the middle and three for the end of the story. There is one rule: there are no wrong answers.

A Day Out In Brighton

Taking a saturday off, I went for breakfast in Brighton with my wife and son while I left the blog on auto publish. We got there nice and early, and to distact my son from causing too much trouble while we waited, I had pre-emptively packed the dice.

So we experimented with the set and after a trial run to get the idea, we rolled for a proper turn and came up with a story.

I liked the rolls so much that I made a note of the dice, and I thought it’d be fun to sit down and write a short story based off them.

So, The Challenge

Write a short story (doesn’t have to be more than 1000 words) comprised of the following elements:

Beginning:

Wolf

Trojan Horse

Winged Boots

Middle:

Dragon

Black Cat

Tiara

End:

Ship

Quill/Ink

Mace

I gave myself five days to write a draft as quickly as possible, and then to write whatever revisions I felt were necessary.

I’ll post the results next week.

DJC

Cassandra Says Hi, Dickhead

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This one was a little bit Bukowski (*so you want to be a writer?), sort of warts and all. It just popped out and I posted it after being inspired by the decidedly irrational comments section of Radio Leicester’s Facebook page.

A friend had posted how great it was to see people rallying to the climate protest. Hers was, at the time, the only positive comment in a litany of ad hominens against the protesters, many of which repeated the sentiment offered in the text by one particular gentleman who saw fit to hurl the phrase in some sort of verbal drive by.

In honour of such a stylish rebuttal and cutting with I penned this in a flurry of self satisfied mania. It made me smile because if you’re a sci-fi fan you’ll no doubt recognise things that were being discussed way back in the 60s – I think my first experience was Brunner’s Stand On Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up.

But anyway, here it is without recourse to endless revisions and edits. It is as it is.

So beware, there may be mistakes ahead……

CASSANDRA SAYS HI, DICKHEAD

Protesters besmirch the roads, weary from carrying their placards of misplaced concern. There is no emergency, and our hero knows it. With a sneer of disdain he swerves into the other lane and tries to by-pass all the delays. Don’t these people have anything better to do? Bloody hippies! They should be fined! Who do they think they are? He takes his Landrover over the curb and throws a gesture at another road user with the temerity to beep a horn. All this just because of some misguided and trivial notion that its END OF THE FUCKING WORLD.

Don’t they know that it’s just an excuse so the government can put the tax up?

Alone, weeping at the curb, is a woman. She is Cassandra. She has been telling people for decades that there is a problem, but as our hero drives past he winds the window down and shouts, “I bet you drove here.” He is too busy making a living to tolerate all this cultural marxist bullshit about the end of the world. There’s always been climate change, and don’t they know it’s just the Sun stupid!

If there was really a problem the newspapers would have been trumpeting it all the time, and oh god! These hypocrites who drive to protests and who eat food from supermarkets and who use electricity are saying that he shouldn’t be doing any of that himself! The nerve! Who do they think they are? He worked hard for this! Worked for his villa in Spain and his big house and his huge TV and his swimming pool and five bedrooms with en suite. EN FUCKING SUITE! This isn’t the Dark Ages! People aren’t grubbing in the dirt like cavemen.

Meanwhile, thousands of miles away children are used as slave to mine the raw materials that will go into our heroes new mobile phone.

And things begin to change.

Slowly at first, then quicker, the world slips a bit further. The third world dries up and civilisations dependency on mass production starts to strain. Riots break out and people begin to eat the food they grow for export to western supermarkets. Yet the world is drying quicker and quicker now, and they are forced at gun point to work like prisoners in death camps just to feed the civilised.

Wars are fought over liveable land, but more importantly over water as it becomes even more precious than oil. Water is the gold standard now.

Meanwhile, there are a few who have chosen wisely, but their foresight is hampered by the state’s monopoly on violence. Those that choose to resist are swept aside as martial law becomes the standard. The military soon takes complete control and even the rich are finally put against the wall as their money becomes worthless. The chain of command breaks down and the soldiers become marauders, enthroned in the palaces of the wealthy.

The refugees who fled to the wealthiest of civilisations have long been exterminated because their numbers threatened to overwhelm the last defenders of the husk that is civilisation. In the English Channel bodies clog the water after boats were sunk and families left to drown. At the borders mass graves were filled with those who wouldn’t be turned away because there is nothing to return to.

Was the world spared atomic warfare? Who can say any more…..

Our hero, meanwhile, is holed up what’s left of his house, eating another can of baked beans and thankful that the looters weren’t able to break into his garage. He’d made sure it was built like a bunker to keep anyone from thieving his beloved car collection. Now it was more a prison as his food supply dwindles. The power is out and he amuses himself by weakly jerking off to tattered old porn mags and drinking the stash of whiskey he murdered some looters over.

He is the alpha male, and he will survive.

But soon the food will be gone, and he might have to drink his own piss to survive because the bottled waters running out. After six months of fear, isolation and occasional hysteria he decides that it might be safe enough to venture forth and find help. There must be survivors out there. His teeth are falling out from malnutrition. He has a large can of petrol, perhaps the last can of petrol in the country.

Desperation forces him out into the world, hopeful that he can find other human beings who will help. So he fuels up his Landrover and takes off through the end of the world. The sky has turned to a pale orange and the plants are all dead.

It is hard to breath.

The world he knows is gone. Civilisation collapsed in on its own ruinous corpse. The poor have eaten the rich, and then the cannibals turned on each other and consumed what was left of the cadaverous society. Skeletons line the streets, fires smoulder and the crows now rule. Out of this charnel house of despair rides our lone hero in his Landrover, searching for signs of humanity.

Eventually he finds a cove where survivors have fortified one of the final pockets of viable bioscape, a land base that ekes out drinkable water and meagre sustenance. Armed with bows and liberated shot guns, these are the ones who chose to work together to prepare for the future. They have made this place their last bastion against all others; they were the ones who stood on the pavement and demanded action, they were the ones who quickly understood that greed cares nothing for life, they were the ones who activated and formed networks, the ones who learned full spectrum resistance and built future proofed communities to stand against the horrors of a world dying.

Now, as our hero rolls up to the fortified compound he is tired and weary, barely able to keep the wheel straight. Ahead he faces the slings and arrows, the hand made spears and civilisations final bullets sitting in their barrels. Surely they won’t turn him away?

A masked, apocalyptic warrior approaches. She steps closer, pulls the scarf from over her mouth and smiles. It is Cassandra, and she looks our hero up and down in his big car, then leans in closer and says, “I bet you drove here.”


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