Escape, perhaps.

…Trudy and Megs stepped with care among the groups of bundled up bodies, asking questions, checking to see if anyone was nursing an injury and could do with help. The latest batch of animals and birds to arrive, in crates, or being held on ropes, had been put with the others at the back of the car, which made it easier to reach people, talk to them, and offer them kind words, hot drinks and food, a little hope, perhaps, and something to smile about. The small children sat on the seats nearest the stove, holding baby piglets, little lambs, goats and chicks of all sorts in straw-filled boxes, for no one had had the heart to put them with the other anxious, stirring animal rabble.
Stevie was pleased and couldn’t keep a smile off his dirty, scratched face; scenes of confused panic always became a great deal more orderly under Megs’ firm hand and no-nonsense eye, and he was struck by the fact that though the people around him had no idea about their future, nevertheless he felt a strong sense of community developing in the stuffy, smelly coach.
If they can find that here, he thought, maybe there’s hope for us after all.
“We must be gettin’ close to Right Downaways,” said young Cal, pushing through the crowd and interrupting Stevie’s train of thought.
“Where we makin’ for anyways, Stevie?” What Cal knew of Right Downaways and the railway Turnabout, didn’t suggest anything to him in the way of protection from a brutal storm such as Cataclysm.
“Turnabout, first off.” Stevie replied loudly, “an’ if there’s folks waitin’ there, we’ll bring ’em in t’ keep ’em warm. Larry has t’ uncouple Engine Welland an’ drive right around, t’ hitch ’im on at the back, an’ then on we’ll go.”
“Where?” Cal wrinkled his nose and thought to speak.
“Hang on, Cal.” Stevie interrupted, holding up a hand for silence. “I’ll tell ya!”
Cal’s eyes widened with excitement, and he leaned in closer to hear the rest of Stevie’s plan; others did the same, keen to hear the rest of Stevie’s explanation.
“At the very back o’ the Tunnel, is the machine shop, the one I rebuilt a few years back.”
Stevie longed to give Lucy her due; the renovation had been done at her insistence and with her money. Maybe, if things settled down, he’d tell them the whole story, for, by God, Lucy was owed it!
“What folks don’t know,” Stevie went on cautiously, “is that ‘hind the back wall o’ the shop there’s a shaft that goes downaways an’ ends up in a big hole that came about when the coal was dug out. I’ve made it bigger an’ straightened it out in a regular sorta way.”
Stevie’s memory streaked back to the time when he and Lucy planned the work, when Rachael visited and told them, in great seriousness, that Badger’s Hole would have a future far greater than they could ever imagine.
He screamed inside with frustration and an agonising new grief for Lucy, not knowing why she’d been coming into his thoughts more and more in the last few days.
Cal and the others were staring at him, waiting for him to go on. He grunted in embarrassment and continued with what he had to say, trying very hard not to drop a remark that could lead to no end of speculation later.
“It’s not a palace, folks,” Stevie spoke out loudly for the rest to hear, “but it’ll definitely do till we can work up to somethin’ better.”
“What ‘bout the big animals in the car back there, you got space for ’em?”
The confounded look on Stevie’s face confirmed what everyone already knew.
“’Cept for a few hens an’ chicks, the little goats an’ pigs an’ a lamb or two,” Stevie said very sadly, the rest will have to be left in the Tunnel, right where they are in the cattle car, ’less someone can think of something better.”
Nobody looked happy when they heard that; farming folk don’t lightly sacrifice good animal stock…

from Cataclysm’s Day: Book One of the Gatherers Trilogy


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