It’s been a while since I last visited my better literary works – those being Silent Apocalypse and Silent Resistance…
So I thunk to myself; “Let’s give the guys an extract from the former, quickly followed by one from the latter. A kind of two for the price of one sort of deal.” The result of this altruistic thought is…
It was Kevin who found the road map of Great Britain in a desk drawer. It was old and stained, and probably horribly out of date; but Wayne spread it out upon the table and immediately bent to the task of matching his co-ordinates with those printed upon the map. Since he was no cartographer it took him a while; but eventually his two index fingers slid across the map, on a collision course, until they met upon the boundary of land and sea. He ringed it in pencil. Everyone craned their necks to look.
“Winston Crag.” He read out the accompanying reference. “Anyone heard of it?”
No one had.
“Catch the Crag Bus.” Katherine almost breathed the words, “Now it almost makes sense. There must be a bus waiting at Winston Crag.”
“Would you risk your life on it?” Candice spoke, the sullenness of earlier remaining, despite a general rising tide of optimism.
“Do you trust in your prescience?” Katherine countered, though none of us saw the significance.
“Not if I can help it.” A hint of a smile returned.
I wondered then, if perhaps she really did have the ability to see future events. By taking us to the farm she had led us into a trap: This argued against such an ability. ‘But yet there’s something about her…’
“Right:” Lee announced, “Let’s go. How do we get there?”
“Well I was thinking of a top-of-the-range four-by-four, with leather upholstery and air conditioning.” Katherine spoke with not a hint of sarcasm obvious.
“And a telly.” Kevin added. And I knew with certainty that there was no sarcasm present in his suggestion.
It was so infuriating: we now had the information we required. We had somewhere to go. Some hope. But a group of stupid boys, who had better, more important things to do with their lives, were besieging us. All our hopes and plans were now in unnecessary jeopardy. It made no sense. It was all so illogical. It almost made me glad that the whole stupid human race had virtually wiped itself out.
“There’s a combine.” Kevin spoke into the silence that I hadn’t noticed, “In the barn.”
All eyes turned to him.
“A combine harvester?” Donald asked, “In that barn out there?
“I see it through a hole in the roof.” Kevin said proudly. “Looks like a good ‘un too!”
“Given a choice, I’d pump for a time machine.” Katherine stated. “But failing that I’d take a combine harvester. But, assuming that it goes, isn’t a little on the slow side? We’d do well to outrun a sloth.”
I warmed to the idea instantly. “It would be very difficult to stop.”
Lee lent his support. “I wouldn’t want one of them things coming at me.”
“But it’s so slow.” Katherine returned to her original argument, which was validated as she continued, “They could run alongside and simply pick us off at will. Heavens, with us hanging on for dear life, they could probably pluck us off with a baling hook!”
No one was listening though: They didn’t want to hear contrary arguments: They had a vehicle to hand, and somewhere to drive it.
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014
The ride from hell lasted approximately fifteen minutes. No one was actually watching the clock or counting the passing seconds; instead they were either hanging on for dear life, or threatening to copy Dainam, who now appeared almost comatose in his misery.
The moment that I realised that we’d finally gained upon our quarry was when Kylie flicked the headlights to low beam, and stepped off the gas.
“Tail lights ahead.” She said without taking her eyes from the road. “A ways ‘round the corner. How do you want to play this? Full speed ahead, and run them down?”
With the bus upon a more even keel I was able to consult the ageing AA roadmap.
“We have to get in front of them – without their knowledge.” I answered. “Stay as close as you dare. Can you drive on side lights? They mustn’t see us.”
As the external lights dimmed further, Kylie said, “Are you sure this is a good idea? I can hardly see beyond the end of my nose.”
“Lucky it’s such a large one then, isn’t it!” Colin laughed from somewhere near the back.
“Thank you – I’ll remember that.” Kylie said as she concentrated upon keeping the bus in the centre of the road.
But I wasn’t really paying attention. My eyes pored over the roadmap in search of a turn-off that we could take that might allow us to get ahead of the Espeeg and their prisoner. Not necessarily a short-cut, but a route where our superior speed could be put to good use. Then I found it – a narrow lane that branched off to the right. A lane, according to the roadmap, that was so narrow that it might actually be a dirt track. It cut through arable farmland, and included a tiny hamlet and a farm along its length. Most importantly it cut across a loop in the road that followed the bank of a river that was almost five miles long. The lane, I was exhilarated to calculate, was only one mile long.
Peering into the darkness beyond the light of the passenger compartment I could make out exactly nothing of the world outside. I had no idea where we were in relation to the map.
Joining Kylie at the front of the bus I said, “Keep your eyes peeled for a turning to the right. It’ll be really narrow, and might be signposted Bittern Dabney or Bendals farm.”
“We just passed it.” Kylie yelped in delight – before hitting the brakes like a Formula One driver arriving at a chicane.
Whilst I was busy picking myself up from the floor, Kylie was trying to find reverse.
“Can you drive one of these backwards?” I inquired as I rubbed a sore elbow.
“They call this on-the-job training.” She responded. “If I can’t right now, I will in a few minutes. I just need a little practise.”
“No time for that, I’m afraid.” I said with false solemnity.
Kylie grinned as she found reverse. “I didn’t think there would be.”
Kylie had never reversed a vehicle of any kind, and in the darkness her mirrors told her almost nothing of her immediate surroundings. Instead she relied upon all of us looking out through the rear and side windows to shout instructions to her. As a result it took us several precious minutes to back-track the three hundred-or-so metres to the turn off; but once she had the vehicle lined up Kylie was able to set the road ahead ablaze with the power of her full beams. The diesel engine roared as it quickly shifted up through its multiple gear ratios, and we fairly raced along between high banks and overgrown hedgerows upon a relatively recent tarmac surface.
As expected, both the hamlet and farm had been abandoned – presumably being too far from anywhere significant to have caught anyone’s eye. I took note of their location: they might be useful one day.
Within moments, it seemed, we were approaching the opposite end of the lane. Without any instruction from me, Kylie cut the lights, and rolled the bus into position across the main road – blocking it entirely. Anyone wanting to pass it would have to take to the fields on either side, which would be difficult because of the barbed wire fences that formed their perimeter.
“How do we know we’ve got here first?” Colin said sullenly. “They might have passed already.”
It was a fair point, but I was confident that despite our initial lost time we’d more than made up the difference.
My confidence wasn’t wasted: moments later Dexter shouted, “Lights. I see lights.”
As one the entire party threw themselves against the side windows and stared into the night. We were rewarded with the sight of twinkling headlights a mile-or-so distant as a pair of quad bikes made their relatively slow progress through a series of bends that would ultimately bring them to us.
With little time to prepare Colin and I immediately donned our helmets, whilst the others hurried from the bus.
“Right,” I said as I joined them upon the tarmac surface, “you lot get lost. Go hide up the lane. If there’s a ditch there – jump in it. I don’t want anyone getting hit by stray rounds and ricochets.”
Shane shook her head. “We can’t leave you two alone.” She said.
“Yeah,” Dexter, as per usual, agreed with her, “the odds’ll be fifty-fifty. Those are bad odds. It aint like you’re betting money: this is your lives.”
I felt, rather than saw, Colin’s resolve waning.
“Rubbish.” I said to both of them. “We have the element of surprise: That’s worth at least two extra guns. They literally won’t know what hit them – until it’s too late. Now get out of here. Scat.”
No one was keen to leave us alone to face the approaching alien Law-Keepers; but Tasman urged them to join him in the darkness beyond the range thrown by the interior lights of the bus. And suddenly Colin and I found ourselves standing in the only available light for miles around, and feeling very vulnerable indeed.
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014
Although both books were published during the same year, they were actually written ten years apart. I’d like to think that, as a story-teller, my skills had grown during that decade and that Resistance is a better work that Apocalypse. But, of course, the later book couldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for the earlier book, so I like them equally. Both are available as paperbacks and e-books via the book cover links on the sidebar.