Yes, after much frivolity its time for an excerpt from this fair tale…
And why not, it is my better-selling tome after all.
To shield his eyes, Driver crammed a wide brimmed hat on to his balding head. He then clambered in with us; extracted a huge hand gun from a metal box; before returning to the driving seat. He arrived in time to see two figures – one male, and one female – arrive with a confident stride from the darkness beyond. They were both dressed in identical, well-tailored coveralls and wearing helmets with rather intimidating mirrored visors. They held sophisticated-looking hand guns, the like of which none of us had ever seen.
Driver shook his gun at them: “You two can get lost, for a start!” He shouted.
The two figures either didn’t notice, which seemed unlikely, or they simply weren’t interested in what he had to say. To me it reeked of great arrogance; and that worried me.
Surely they recognized the lethalness of the weapon he held? ‘Or do they? Do they care? Who are they?’
They seemed far more interested in Horse. They approached, not with caution, but with open fascination. Horse tried to back away, but the Crag Bus stopped it. A small, sharp blade appeared in the hand of the male figure. I was horrified at the thought that they might actually dissect the animal then and there.
Naturally Driver was alarmed. He fired a shot in the air. This gained the attention of our two strange visitors. They approached Driver – totally oblivious of the gun aimed at them. They looked at his face – moving hands to their visors – which seemed to become transparent automatically – as though they were comparing the lines of Driver’s face, with an absence upon their own.
Kevin was absorbed with the whole situation. Unseen by any of us, he’d begun to lean out of one of the windows to gain a better view. Because of this the male figure became aware of us. It was a slow awareness. Not the sort when something catches your eye, or when you hear a sudden sound. No, this was slow – almost as if he’d known all along, and was only now letting us know that he’d seen us: that we’d finally gained his interest. His gaze gradually moved in our direction. It was like the whole world had gone into slow motion. His gaze slid along the sides of the Crag Bus, until his eyes locked with mine. How I knew this, I can’t say because his eyes were in deep shadow: But I knew. Then Kevin fell out of the window.
The two sophisticated handguns ascended as one. Both fired a single shot that made an unusual, but characteristic ‘zip’ sound that I’d not heard before.
Driver roared, “No!” He then squeezed the trigger of his handgun. Nothing happened, and he began shaking it in frustration.
The stranger’s weapons shifted their aim to the drivers’ seat. As if in response came several ‘puffs’ of silenced machine gun fire from an unidentified source. Both figures received direct strikes to their torsos. They staggered for a moment, and although we could see no blood or obvious damage to their coveralls, we were sure they would fall.
Katherine screamed in horror. Then she screamed again, but this time in fear for her own safety as, unbelievably, both figures recovered their balance and began casting around for signs of their assailants. Clearly confused, the female brought her weapon back to bear on Driver.
Lee let loose with the SA80. The female was flung bodily across the road by the impacts, but, as far as I could see, her suit was undamaged.
‘Wafer-thin body armour?’
The Male reacted by firing in our direction, several holes appearing in the side of the vehicle, but mercifully missing any living targets. Driver’s gun suddenly freed its obstruction, and seemingly fired itself at extremely close range. The old gun packed a huge punch; but although the male figure was sent reeling, he remained essentially unhurt and rolled back on to his feet with worrying agility.
“Get down.” I yelled at the old man.
But he was already on his way to cover. Showing remarkable nimbleness for a man of his age he was able to leap clear before the female figure opened fire upon his driving position.
Wonderful thing – adrenaline: Makes us all into Superman.
Donald and Katherine fired as one. By luck, or chance, each had selected different targets. Both scored hits, but with the same lack of ultimate effect. Rather belatedly (I thought) I finally squeezed off a few shots. Some hit their targets – most didn’t. But it helped keep the strangers off balance – if not really turning the tide of battle – for that was what we were surely in, as our opponents were able to respond with occasional shots in our direction.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Kevin rise slowly. He spotted Driver lurking behind the Crag Bus. As quickly as his four limbs could carry him, Kevin scrambled to join the old man. I then noticed the two holes in his haversack. Once again he’d escaped serious harm, and at that moment I promised myself that if I ever met the man who’d manufactured such a sturdy haversack I would give him the biggest kiss that there ever was. Then, almost simultaneously, our ammunition ran out. That stark moment of silence was followed by a lingering moment of horror as the two figures began advancing toward us – their guns raised.
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014