Since the extract from Silent Apocalypse went so well, I thought I might tickle your fancy with an excerpt from its sequel…
And why not; it’s fab!
My arrival in the quaint rural conurbation was instantaneous. One moment Tasman was wishing me good luck; the next I found myself standing on the pavement directly outside the village community hall. Tasman had asked me why I needed to be placed in the open air when he could just as easily place me inside the house again.
“I won’t have any difficulty getting into the house.” I’d said, “But I need to know what everyone else is doing before I act.”
So now I stood in a biting late November breeze; in my Navy SEALS battle dress; with my face blacked up; armed to the teeth; and listening to an ill-tuned upright piano being played appallingly inside the building beside me. Moments later a large group of young voices broke into song. They didn’t sing well, and the song itself could only be described as a dirge. Easing my body past a clump of stinging nettles that were tall and well past their best I slid my body along the slatted wooden exterior wall of the communal building. Standing upon tip-toes I peered through the grubby high level window. Inside I could see a facsimile of one of my dearest friends from my own continuum – Thomas Kingsbury. He was two years older than me, but this version looked as though he had twenty years over me. He was leading the youthful villagers in a rather old fashioned song that I didn’t recognise and which would have sounded better coming out of the mouths of people two generations older. In any other circumstance it might have been amusing, but I knew that it was the false meat that had done this harm, and it doubled my determination to correct the situation.
I think my heart must have missed a beat when I recognised the pianist. It was none other my best friend (and Tom’s younger sister) Katherine. Katherine the caustic, easy-quipping heroine had been reduced to playing the role of choir mistress.
‘Not that I have anything against choir mistresses: it’s just not Katherine’s ‘thing’.’
It was difficult for me to see everyone inside the building without running the risk of someone spotting my blackened face at the window. Nevertheless I did as best I could and was horrified to see the previously trouble-making Lee singing heartily. Donald was there too – at the back where I’d expect him to be, which suggested that the false meat hadn’t entirely stripped him of his inhibitions. Even poor simple Kevin Lutchins sang along as best he could. But my greatest horror was reserved to last. It came when the long mousey locks of the only person in the room bearing a gun were cast aside by a casual flick of the head. I too stood there; or at least my double did. I/she wasn’t singing, but I/she didn’t appear to be enjoying myself/herself either. That in itself wasn’t the true horror of the situation – she wasn’t, after all, really me at all: No, that came when the song ended, and Martine stood to deliver a speech. By taking up her position to the right, and slightly behind the alien girl, this world’s Felicity Goldsmith betrayed her position in the new order of Brambledown: She was the enemy’s body guard. Her personal Rottweiler!
I recalled at that moment what this world’s Colonel Cosgrove had told me of ‘his’ Felicity, and how he’d despatched her, Lee, Katherine, and Donald upon a mission from which they were yet to return. Now I knew what that mission was: to fetch the population of Brambledown to the sanctuary of Crag Base. Now they would never return. Now they were mere pawns in game played by a psychotic alien teen-ager who dreamed of her own empire.
‘Not if I have anything to do with it!’
With everyone who was likely to recognise me (despite the black face and cropped hair) together in one place, the time was ripe for me to act. Quickly making my way back to the pavement I struck out in the direction of the house that Martine had sequestered in my reality. I’d recognised it in the video recording so I knew that she’d done the same in this reality.
Less than two minutes had elapsed before I arrived at the house. It stood reasonably separate from its silent neighbours, and was surrounded by a chest high hedge that someone had maintained quite expertly. The gate creaked gently upon only slightly rusted hinges as I let myself on to the property. Gaining entry to the house was no problem; Martine, secure in the knowledge that no one of sufficient intelligence to break in existed, had left the door unlocked. I simply turned the round brass handle and stepped into the darkened house. Once inside I produced a tiny flashlight from a breast pocket and moved directly to the cellar door. Opening it I shone the narrow beam into the stygian darkness below. I was rewarded with the reflected light from a huge pile of metal canisters that had been stacked together in the centre of the room. There was no mistaking their identity; just like the one on the video returned by the camcorder, these too contained the hallucinogenic processed meat that reduced vibrant young people into malleable fools that could, in the worst cases, border upon zombie-like.
Recalling how I’d destroyed an identical stash in my own reality I searched the main room for oil lamps. Finding none I tried the drawing room, but without success. As if to prove that no two realities are entirely alike it seemed that this Martine had dispensed with quaint old fashioned technology, and had had an Espeeg generator installed. I found it in a cupboard under the stairs, and took great delight tearing the house wires from it. This act, if momentarily pleasurable, didn’t solve my problem.
‘Improvise, Fel: improvise.’
I needed a material that would burn easily and with high intensity. Balled up paper simply wouldn’t do, but that was all I could readily lay my hand on. I recalled passing a parked Land Rover in the street, but that was almost certainly powered by the virtually non-inflammable diesel; and in any case I doubted that I had the time or means to syphon any from the tank. Finding my way into the kitchen I tried looking in the cupboard beneath the sink. All I found were the remnants of some bleach and a bottle of floor cleaner. From there I proceeded into the integral garage.
From my position in the doorway that led from the kitchen I was looking straight at a shelf upon the opposite wall of the garage. My flashlight beam had ensnared two bottles of white spirit that perched invitingly at one end of the shelf.
I don’t recall crossing the distance between the door and the shelf, or finding a box to stand upon in order to reach the manna from heaven. Neither was I aware of returning to the kitchen; snatching a pile of tea towels from the worktop; and returning to the cellar. It seemed as if no time had passed at all. But I was very aware of what I was doing as I soaked the tea towels with white spirit, then stripped the dining table of its cloth covering and drenched that too.
I tried throwing a tea towel into the cellar, but the false meat stack was too distant and it fell short. A second attempt failed in the same manner. Despite not wanting to descend into the cellar for fear of being discovered and having no escape route I was forced to pluck up the courage and make my way down. Having done so I tucked the towels into every nook and cranny I could find in the stack of canisters, and then draped the table cloth over the top. Stepping back to look at my handiwork I felt reasonably pleased. All I needed now was an ignition source. Unfortunately the contents of several drawers yielded not one match or lighter. I considered turning on an electric ring of the kitchen stove with the idea of setting alight a length of screwed up paper and carrying it down into the cellar. But I realised that my earlier act of vandalism had scuppered that plan. So instead I loosed off a shot from my MP7. It was a standard full metal jacket, and merely split open a couple of cans. The second had the same effect. But the third was a tracer round, and its white-hot incandescent casing ignited the vapours that rose from the spirit-soaked material. Instantly flames erupted across and through the stack of canisters. In a few seconds the blaze had engulfed it – heating up the fatty medium in which the false meat was suspended, turning it to liquid, where it flowed from the bullet holes, and proved most inflammable. I sent several more rounds into the inferno – spreading the fire further and wider.
I was about to congratulate myself upon a job well done when something came from the darkness behind me and knocked me senseless. I felt no pain as I tumbled like a ragdoll down the stairs into the cellar. Neither did I feel the coldness of the flagstone cellar floor or the searing heat of the fire at the cellar’s centre. But I was aware of a female voice screeching in anger and desperation.
“Who cares who she is: put out the fire. Put out the fire!”
This was followed by the abrupt illumination of the houselights on the floor above me and the clatter of a multitude of shod feet.
As my senses returned fully I became aware that I was lying upon my back and looking up the short flight of stairs that I had so recently fallen down. Illuminated by the flames that seemed to be coming ever closer to me I could see a solitary figure looking down at me. She wore her hair long and cradled an MP7 much like my own which lay a distance from me and appeared to be melting as the lava-like juices from the cans engulfed it.
“Fel.” I shouted at her. “Fel!”
She appeared to be startled at this. The barrel of her gun wavered as a look of confusion passed across her face.
“I’m you.” I lied. “I’ve come from the future.”
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014
Whoo – are you wondering what happens next – or even what the heck is going on? Buy the book and its prequel, and you’ll find out soon enough