London is blown up and the story follows three friends through the ruined city as they make there way across in search of a better life.
This is only the opening chapter. There will be more to follow!
The carriage jolted and juddered. A rude awakening from my nap and I was flung face first into the lap opposite. Terrified screams thickened the air about me and I grappled with some person’s calves beneath my face, hoisting myself up in the panic. Jesus! What the fuck is going on? Then everything went black.
When I was little, I remember asking mother what the world was like when the world was black and white. Naturally, she laughed, stroked my hair and said softly that the reason I thought that was because they didn’t have colour T.V back then. She should see the world now. I kind of wish she could see it now. Grass is a thing of the past, at least round here anyway. Any view from any window will not provide a pleasant image, even if the room is south facing. I have a photograph, in a frame, of my Border Collie, Louey, in the garden of my childhood home. This constitutes my memory of green. I look out of the window at scorched, scarred suburbia; quite a few houses, abandoned, emptied, static and alone. They look bored and miserable, their windows boarded up and bright reflections extinguished forever. But, do you even know what happened? Well, either way, I’ll fill you in.
Basically, this all started some time around the middle of the Olympics. I’m not sure exactly what day but I’d been watching gymnastics on the TV so maybe you could sort of work it out from that. Anyway, I was on the train home from work and unbeknownst to me and every other poor fucker on the network that day, high explosives were beginning to detonate high above our heads. And, get this: on the exterior of the tunnels, the exterior! I don’t know how they managed it but they did. The intended result, I later learned from some fuzzy news report was that with bombs in only strategic places they could flood the whole system, and boy, did it work. It really, really worked. By the time the emergency services had galvanised, all those trapped central were dead. Some, lucky enough to be partially over ground, survived, and of that small number I was one. Obviously, chaos ensued but I slept through that on account of my fractured skull. Everyone had done what they could but it was completely impassable. The brown water of the Thames had shorted the electrics and the whole thing had filled up. From Bayswater to Bank, from Westminster to Warren Street and everything in between, electric brown water all over the tube. Just imagine that.
I tried to imagine it but it wasn’t too nice so I asked James for a fag. “Here you go” he said and hurled one in my direction. “Nice one” I grinned and lit the thing. “I love cigarettes. Mum was of the opinion that the NHS would crumble without us smoking them and I am inclined to agree”. James didn’t look away from his screen but vaguely nodded in response. “What you up to there, mate?” I looked over his shoulder at a computer screen with indecipherable numbers and letters. “Some work for Ezro” he said. “What sort of work?” “Can’t really go into that but it’ll help us get the things we need”. James looked at me then, with earnest, as if he were trying to communicate the details of his secret work telepathically. James has the face of a man that’s been let down a few times too many though if you look real closely you can still see some brightness, some hope. I gave him a weak smile and nodded then padded into my room and lay on the bed. The flat was so cold and the radiators completely inept. I put on my dressing gown that used to be white and wrapped myself in the duvet that used to be white, staring at the wall for a while, and wondered whether there was any way I could ever warm up.
“Leigh” Jennifer woke me from my almost slumber. I answered but I think I must of snapped as she sort of shifted backwards. “What?” I asked, feeling more lazy than ever. I think it was the weather. “Are you okay?” Jennie’s voice sounded muffled and distant and I got up. The way she looked at me told me I should move.
“What’s going on?” I asked when I padded into the living room, rubbing my eyes.
“We might have to go somewhere” said James gravely and I shivered. “Its Ezro”, (Ezro was James’ employer and had been so since before the troubles began.) “Ezro has asked that I go down there, to work” he staggered “to work with him”. James’ eyes were damp with fear and I think he was even trembling. I looked around at the place that had held us safe (but also captive as Jen pointed out, depending on ones perspective) for the last few years since the incident and had found that a small hard lump had risen like a pea in bubbling water in my throat. I looked at Jennie who stared back, incredulous and nearly as bewildered as I. She opened her mouth and went to speak but faltered when looking at James. “But” She sorted of stammered a little “you’ve always worked here, why should we leave now?’ We all knew that the salvaged electricity that supplied us since the grid went down would not last forever but done of us would say this out loud. “And even if you could have”, I said, “You wouldn’t have left this place, look at the colour of you….” My voice trailed off as I caught Jennies frown on me but it was true. The pink that was occupied James pert round cheeks had faded so much so that his complexion blended with the wall behind and he was almost blended with the computer entirely as if, in his being sat there every day he had become entwined with it and inanimate. I stared around the living room; at the dilapidated sofas fraying at the arms, the long dead television set, the broken slats of the wooden blinds, the computer and its surroundings. Pieces of paper were strewn around carelessly as confetti. James gave me a particular kind of blank look and vocalised what we thought. “The generator won’t last forever”.
Jennie stretched her long limbs and groaned a little. Her eyes flashed some blue sparkle and she said brightly “So! When do we leave?” and clapped her hands in mock anticipation. She look at me, I nodded and she said, “I s’pose it’ll be an adventure, to go back into town. It might not even be as bad as we’ve heard. You know how people exaggerate. It might even be fun!” Jennie was always a girl of innumerable enthusiasm. But her enthusiasm was infectious and I came to believe what she said myself.
So we did it. Transport proved difficult to come by as obviously, they hadn’t rebuilt the underground and there was no one to drive the buses. We’d make our way as far as Baker Street on foot being that we had barely any possessions. I’d packed some clothes and books and my picture of Louey. James had his hard drive and a six pack of old warm beer and only the clothes on his back. Jennie had a bottle of fine malt whiskey from her dad that we were saving for a special occasion; some books; travel Scrabble and a few necessary items. We needed to travel light. Our first steps in the outside world were taken with considerable care and consideration and for most part the journey as far as Wembley went by without incident and I guess I could describe it all to you but that would be very boring and I don’t really feel like it anyway.
We walked through deserted London streets in relative silence, peppered only really with some memories of the past as we passed places we knew and occasionally broken by random shouts or cries into the echo laden dead air. We first encountered trouble under the graffiti decorated Westway. A group of mangy looking cats were gathered around some sort of decaying meat. “Look over there!” I sort of gasped and spat the words out at the same time (if that’s possible). The cats were in a frenzy and the noise was horrendous, like when you’re in bed and you hear cats fighting outside in the garden and they sound like deranged babies or something but ten times worse. Jennie clapped her hands over her ears so hard that I wondered whether she might have gone deaf. James looked at me and puked watery foam all over his shoes. They were a little closer to the feral creatures than I when I stepped closer I realised what had caused James to be sick. The thing the cats were fighting so ferociously over was a dog; the putrid, rotting corpse of what might have been some kind of long haired Labrador going by the size of what was left and the long shock of filthy, matted blondish hair that sprawled out around the brown mess. I guess I must have been in some shock things began to feel distant again. I looked at Jennie who was screaming but the sound had diminished to almost a whisper. James was a contorted heap on the floor, clutching his stomach as though his intestines might make their exit next. Looking around, the dusty streets were littered with the old, brightly coloured packaging; glittering epithets of consumerism which caused me to laugh involuntarily; Subway wrappers and McDonalds Cups and Pampers bags and old nappies and to the other side of the street, abandoned houses, sofas, televisions and bits of tables. Pieces of lives left behind when their owners came to the realisation that it was pointless to take them. What is the use of an Ikea lamp in a refugee camp. When I looked back at the grizzly scene I noticed the impression of what had really been eaten there and it wasn’t a Labrador or any other breed of dog. I sank to my knees. The impression left of a child, made from its own dry blood and bones, a gruesome testament to its last moments. The poor thing was in a foetal position, probably clutching its belly from fear and hunger. I snapped back into life and felt something I hadn’t for a while. Hot tears boiling up in my eyes. To think of that poor kid there, starving and abandoned like old furniture and left to be eaten by a beloved pet. I couldn’t stand it. My stomach churned and my heart beating like a fucked clock. I grabbed one of the fast food bags within my grasp and began to breathe into it. I looked at Jennie with her arms around her man and I am ashamed to say that for one tiny brief moment I craved a Big Mac.
When I fully regained my senses, I looked around and noticed that the feral animals had turned their attention toward us, mewing eerily and poking out their little red tongues. “Maybe we should put them bones where they can’t be mauled anymore?” James suggested meekly, in a way I’d never heard him speak. “What’s the point?” asked Jen. James looked pained. “But there’s nothing we can do and it looks like we’re next on the menu anyway” I added “lets just get out of here”. We walked on. The silence thick as heavy fog in the air that felt too resistant to attempt to break.