Leaving in a hurry

…..The three dogs, thoroughly upset by the unwanted odour of a wet, mangy cat skulking unseen somewhere below their paws and tails, tried to climb into the front seat and search for it. Old Moll made the best landing, but on arrival changed her plan and crawled onto Stevie’s lap to get warm. But her clumsy, scrabbling efforts made Stevie wince with pain again, and furiously he shooed the dogs off, forcing them, with well-placed smacks to the end of their noses and their rumps, back into the rear seat. Mate, snarling and spitting among his feet and the pedals, took the sudden violence personally and made a deep scratch in Stevie’s leg. With a curse, he leaned down, and connecting nicely with the back of his hand, made the cat retreat further under the driver’s seat to sulk and consider his next move. Someone farted or did something worse, and Stevie hurriedly rolled down his window to rid himself of the ripe and vile stink wafting about in the cab. He quickly discovered that the freezing cold, raw, dirt laden, grey and smoggy air outside smelled almost as bad, so he cranked the window up again as fast as he could, and settled unhappily for the honest, organic smells of dogs and a cat.
There was a truce, the animals lapsed into silence, lulled by the heavy grinding of the engine and the swaying of the truck as it bumped and heaved its way down the long lane, often crunching through carpets of red hailstones and drifts of icy, dirty pink snow. With a sigh Stevie also gave up the fight; he relaxed, and his mind, ever eager to leave the ugly present flicked elsewhere.

Warm, fresh breezes rose playfully from the surface of the ocean and rippled through the taut sails, blowing Lucy’s long blond hair across his face as he stood holding her from behind. She was steering Sea Angel towards a soft pink dawn, the herald of a glorious summer day to come…
…then there was the rich vivid greenness of Preston’s Valley, the strong, ever-changing and piquant scents of the forests that surrounded Right Downaways. He could hear, within himself, the busy, burbling sound of Faraway Creek, where, on warm summer evenings, if the mood was on him, he’d take off his shoes and socks and wade cautiously into the chilly waters to nab a fat river trout dozing under the heavy banks or lurking behind a large stone. If he was successful, he’d cook the fish for their supper…

Stevie was far down Quarry Road, and well pleased with the speed he was making, when suddenly there was a deafening crash of thunder and streaks of fizzing and crackling lightning that burned away the dark and heavy clouds in an instant, to reveal a mauve morning sky.
Remarkably, there was a clear view out over the ocean, to Reef Rocks and to the dark low shapes of the far western islands. But there was also a bowel-loosening, ominous trembling and rolling of an earthquake rippling through the ground beneath the vehicle. The truck bounced violently on its tyres, everything rattled and shook rapidly for a few seconds, and the surface of the far ocean, moments ago smooth and shining like silver mercury, broke up into wildly excited waves before calming down again. Without warning a huge black mass of starlings came from out of the north, wheeling and spinning several times in the bright blue sky above him before turning sharply westward out over the sea. Stevie stopped the truck and watched in amazement as the birds spiralled upwards to a great height and then dropped all of a piece, like a slab of speckled stone towards the ocean. His body tensed and his breathing almost stopped in anticipation of their disastrous contact with the water, but it didn’t happen, nothing happened; instead the entire flock winked out of existence, one second it was there, the next mysteriously gone from the sky and his disbelieving sight. Black vaulting clouds and smog rolled in quickly blotting out Stevie’s view of the shimmering sea, and removing all trace of the strange incident with the birds.
Stevie didn’t believe his eyes; he couldn’t, he reasoned that the stress of approaching Cataclysm, his frantic dash from the shack, had sent him over the edge for a moment, and in strong defence of his own sanity, he chose to dismiss the matter from his mind and returned his attention to driving his truck down the winding and slippy road….

Taken from Cataclysm’s Day, Book One of The Gatherers Trilogy


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