The ‘this’ to which the title refers is writing. Sure the sentences between the photos in my Earplug Adventures is ‘writing’: but it isn’t proper writing. Proper writing is when the author describes the scene. Proper writing is the sort of stuff I used to live for. The sort of stuff I used to dream that (one day) I’d be really good at. The sort of stuff that comprised these four books…
The sort of stuff that looks exactly like this…
An extract from Silent Apocalypse.
Horse knew the way to our destination. Without any input from Driver, he turned across the road. By dawn’s early light we could make out the shape of a service station. Weeds grew through the cracks in the concrete, and rust had rotted the pumps. It had obviously been abandoned long before the plague had struck. Driver pulled us up in front of a plate glass window that had become opaque with dust and grime. The remainder of the building was coated with neglect also, and at some time a graffiti artist had immortalized himself. All in all this was a place that no one in their right mind would give a second glance. It was because of this very reason that the building had been selected. But that was something we were to learn later. An up-and-over door rattled open. Before us stood our man in black or at least someone who looked very much like him. Their isolation suits made each of them indistinguishable. Only body language could tell them apart. He beckoned us from the Crag Bus. I looked at Driver. He nodded.
We disembarked. Taking instructions from our mystery-man, we hurried into the dark recesses of the service station. I turned to watch him return to the Crag Bus. For some reason the acoustics of the building allowed me to catch their conversation. Driver leaned forward to best see the other man: “Cosgrove, is it?”
The man, whom Driver referred to as Cosgrove (and quite clearly hailing from somewhere in North America), spoke without preamble: “We’re not exactly packing them like sardines.”
“Can’t help that.” Driver replied flatly.
“It’s not like we have unlimited time…” Cosgrove spoke as though this was a well-worn conversational path.
“P’raps if you made them Whispers of yours easier to understand…” Driver suggested.
“Whispers, is it?” Cosgrove might have been amused if he hadn’t been so worried about something, “That’s a new one. No, we can’t make the message any clearer. We can’t take every urchin we find. We have to be selective – you know that. Only the brightest and the best…”
Driver finished his line for him. Obviously he had heard it many times before: “Only them what can decipher the hidden message. Yeah, I know. Aint too sure I agree with it: we could missin’ an awful lot of good’ uns.”
Cosgrove appeared weary. Perhaps this made him reply snappishly: “You don’t have to agree with it: Just do your job.” Instantly he regretted the outburst, though Driver appeared to take no offence. “I’m sorry, old-timer. Forget that. You’re a brave man. We owe you a hell of a lot.”
“You don’t have to go payin’ me compliments: It aint no bother. You’re the brave ones so far as I’m concerned: I don’t need one of them isolation suits. But you…if you get just one nick in it…”
He left the suggestion hanging. Obviously it meant death-by-virus. Cosgrove clearly was a brave man.
“Well you’ve brought us another six: That’s six more than yesterday. If I get a little unreasonable once in a while, you’ll forgive, won’t you?”
Driver took up his reigns, “I’ll forgive you anything ‘cept failure.”
Cosgrove gave Driver a long, lazy salute. “I won’t fail. Our future depends upon it.”
Driver gave him a wink. Horse then turned the Crag Bus around, and they disappeared into the dawn mist.
Cosgrove quickly made his way to us – sliding the door closed behind us. Electric lights came on. We were all taken by surprise at the cleanliness of the buildings’ interior.
“Kids.” He said, (I hated the term) “Follow me.”
Without a word from any of us, we followed him to a door, which for all the world resembled an airlock. It hissed open, and we entered behind him. I felt a little trepidation run up my spine as it closed behind us once more. There were two small doors opposite.
“Right,” said Cosgrove, “I’m going to take the left-hand door: You take the right. One at a time, please.”
Then without another word Cosgrove promptly disappeared, as promised, through the left hand door. We all looked at each other. No one seemed eager to take the first step.
Lee put it into words. “Hey, we’ve come this far together: I aint too keen on breaking up our little team.”
“Yeah,” Wayne agreed, “Why should we separate? I say we all go through together.”
‘Is it camaraderie? Or are we just frightened kids who’ve been whistling into the dark for too long?’
We strode to the door as one. Donald pushed a green coloured button, just as he’d observed Cosgrove do. A lock was heard to ‘clonk’ open. He pushed upon the door. It swung silently open upon well-oiled hinges. Inside was a small room, not unlike an elevator. It was just large enough for us to pack ourselves in with a little room to spare. There was yet another door leading to somewhere else. The door through which had entered closed. The ‘clonk’ was heard again. Locked in. I didn’t like it.
“Thank you.” An electronic voice spoke, “Now please remove all of your clothing.”
Everyone erupted with varying degrees of colourful expletives. Unfazed, the voice repeated its instruction. It then added, “Decontamination will begin in one minute.” Now it dawned on us why Cosgrove had wanted us to go through one at a time. Donald tried the door, but there was no green button to press. In fact there were no controls of any kind. This was a one-way door!
“P’raps we could be decontaminated with our clothes on.” Lee said in desperation.
“Perhaps if we hammer on the door.” Katherine suggested.
I looked from one to the other several times. “Which door?”
“Both.” Wayne yelled.
Three to a door, we began hammering upon the hard metal, and shouting at the top of our voices. The electronic voice informed us that we had thirty seconds to prepare. At ten it began a countdown. When it reached zero we heard the now familiar ‘clonk’. Donald dared push at the door. It swung open into the ‘storeroom’, where Cosgrove stood waiting for us. It was difficult to make out his face behind the mask, but his eyes told us that he was not best pleased.
“Now that was a painless lesson about doing what you’re told, when you’re told. Ignore me again, and the next time it’ll be a whole lot less agreeable. Now go through one at a time.” He emphasized this last line. With that he re-entered his own door.
We shuffled about awkwardly for a moment or two. Finally Kevin made a decision, and approached the door.
“Need a bath anyway.” He said as he entered the room. “Bye.”
The door closed on his cheerful wave.
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014
A rather inactive excerpt, I think you’ll agree; but you can’t expect to have action-action-marvel-mystery-and melancholy at every turn – can you? No, of course not. By the way, this book, and those appearing above, are all available as paperbacks and e-books at Lulu.com; and as e-books at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and many other suppliers.
And to answer my question in the title of this post: God, I hope so!