Count me in

How would we react if we discovered we had to start all over again, that everything we thought of as our lives was gone, wiped out, nada, never to be experienced again in quite that way?
Living as we do in our discrete and separate states, attached to our existence in a largely superficial way, this loss of place, of belonging, would be nothing short of devastating. With everything gone, no strong point of reference, no social platform upon which to stand with everyone else and be counted, most humans would likely fold if they were left on their own.
Animals and other creatures, however, that regularly spend much of their time communing with the Ineffable, would suffer greatly from shock, but drinking as they do from Life’s common pool, they would quickly recognise that although everything in the world had been shot to Hell, their spark of consciousness had not been snuffed out, they were alive, and that would be good enough for them.
People who have suffered severe physical and mental illness or chronic disease know the blank space that comes upon them only too well, and not ‘belonging’ is the single most serious condition after the illness itself. Often sickness and dissociation are taken as one, which makes the chance of recovery very difficult.
Being part of a tight, loving community is the best way to overcome those odds, and frequently has brought about miracles of recovery.


Lucy’s gift to Stevie


Such a gift. Why not use it every day? So easy to remember the woman that had given it to him.
I think the plate must have a splendid history. There was only the one at the place where Lucy found it, but surely it was part of a much larger set.

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

Winking Eye Rock

The better part of a year before Cataclysm, Albert had been drinking in his local pub and had, as he sometimes did, dropped a little too deep into his cups. He waffled on to his cronies, telling long rambling fishy stories and tales of his daring on the high seas, and it was during one of those excursions that he let drop the idea that there was a hidden lagoon, or something similar, tucked under the south-western end of Seal Island, and that to get to it a skipper would have to locate and then sail over a hidden bar when the tide was just right.
His beery comments came out like a challenge to his friends, and before he knew it they began to question and badger Albert unmercifully. Was there hidden treasure in there, did he think? Albert shook his head. Was it a place, then, where beautiful mermaids gathered to call unsuspecting sailors to them as they sailed by? Albert spat on the floor. Well then, were there secret enemy installations trained on Cresthaven, monitorin’ the conversations an’ goings-on of folks, like a drunken old sailor in this pub! The laughter and the disbelief was strong, plainly no one would give Albert’s idea a chance.
“Maybe we’ll git bombed now that Albert’s let the cat out of the bag,” someone yelled over the giggling and chatter.
“I know where that bar is,” Albert had insisted, scowling and hiccupping at everyone, unwilling to back down or shut up. His audience cracked up even further when he struggled to his feet and roared, “An’ am goin’ to find it an’ go over it, you see if I don’t!”
There was no chance of quiet discussion after that, the laughter and jeering was too loud and persistent. The common man had made a decision, they didn’t believe a bloody word old Fairlie had said. Albert finished his drink and slunk out of the pub claiming he was going to the toilet.
Tom didn’t hear the uproar firsthand; he only got a gist of the story when a neighbour, his face bright with suppressed laughter, related parts of his Da’s tale, gleefully describing Albert’s severe annoyance when nobody in the pub had taken him seriously. The idea of a lagoon and a bar sounded interesting, if a bit whacky, and Tom wondered why his dad had bothered to bring the subject up. He’d often noted the strange geological make-up of Seal Island, so he decided, if he remembered, to ask Albert what had been in his mind when he’d set the pub afire.

taken from Cataclysm’s Day, first book of The Gatherers Trilogy.

Big Booby! (part one)

Big Bob Billet, wine-grower and incredibly garrulous know-it-all entrepreneur from downaways hillside, had a serious problem that was rattling his brains. It had nothing to do with Cataclysm as such, although turning up when it did, like as not the issue would never have arisen.
It hadn’t taken him long to figure out that his death would most likely be caused by deep freezing. Bob didn’t fancy having to die at all, but quick-freezing was a process he understood very well, for his fruit crops routinely went to markets far beyond Preston’s valley in that cold condition.
The dilemma which bothered him was of an entirely different sort, and he looked as mournful as a wet puppy as he tried to puzzle it out. By all means blame Cataclysm, for Bob Billet was being forced, by the unexpected and dreadful circumstances, to make a difficult choice – would he die with his wife of thirty-five years, or his secret paramour of ten years and counting?
When Bob woke his wife up early on Saturday the 13th, to give her the bad news about Cataclysm and prepare her for the certainty that they were likely to die as a consequence of it, she flew out of bed in a right rage. Mrs. B could read Bob’s moods like a book, chapter and verse, and, for the most part could tell exactly what he was thinking. This difficult occasion was no exception; Patsie had Bob’s number and no mistake, and it didn’t please her to know of it, not one bit! She wasn’t clear what she was most angry about at first, the undeniable fact that she’d be dead in the prime of her life, or that her big booby of a husband was standing in front of her at the bottom of the bed, fully dressed, for God’s sake, in his second best suit and it wasn’t yet five in the morning! The sod had been two-timing her again, and courtesy of this storm thing, he’d get off Scot free!
She’d good cause to react violently; she’d right on her side, she was the wife, wasn’t she? She stormed about the room in her skimpies, gathering her rage, her nasty intentions towards Bob and her clothes, fully intending to give full vent to her avenging wrath, which had been steadily accumulating over the many years of the deception. [Read more…]

Moment of Truth

The Old Ones and the Tinkler Council had come to no firm consensus about what they should do, although they publicly acknowledged the truth of young Rachael’s visions and were in total agreement that a threat to Earth’s being really existed.
For the peace of the community, they said that the latest ‘seeings’ were nothing more than the continuation of much earlier warnings, each generation of spirit men and women having added depth and detail to original facts. Though, on occasions, they may have garnished the imagery, never once had they diminished or lost sight of the essential story, which meant, as far as the Tinklers were concerned, that Cataclysm would stay on their community books as a matter of continuing grave concern. It was to be years before the threat of Cataclysm was dropped from regular village gatherings or before at least one person would get up and ask if anything was being done to save them from the impending doom.
What Rachael had told them so many years ago, through her bouts of screaming and unstoppable shivering was being proven true today, and Millie, not blessed with the Sight like her sister, but having an older skill of Sensing, could feel the disaster being tapped out at the ends of her fingers and pounding up through the soles of her slippered feet.
The growling and rumbling and roaring that announced Earth’s birthing filled her body with a bone-chilling terror. She’d become an unwilling witness to the ripping open of the planet’s crust, and from within the gash, that grew ever longer and longer, she felt the pounding power of continuous eruptions and explosions that displaced oceans and collapsed land masses caught in their burgeoning path. Millie stood and shook until she thought she’d drop senseless to the floor.
There was no need for a name as far as she was concerned; experiencing the outburst in the way she did was bad enough, and when she put together the information she’d drawn from the planet’s body with Rachael’s vivid story, the imagery of disaster was overwhelming:scenes of new-formed roaring infernos, that grew bigger and bigger, each one vaulting over the one before it without cease. Solid-looking towers of ash-laden smoke and steam and molten rock pushed, at incredible speed, miles into Earth’s atmospheres, caused them to shrink and pull back, unable to defend themselves against the approach of the super-charged geysers.

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

Not to be.

Belle flew into his arms as he rounded the corner of the house.
“Da, Da,” she wailed, “thank God you’re still here! “Come on, come with me right now,” she insisted, pulling hard on the sleeve of his jacket, “there’s not much time. I barely made it here.”
Gilbert held her tight, just as he’d done when she’d been upset as a little girl, feeling the warmth of her cheek against his, and the heaving of her chest. Then he held her off a little, hoping that he wouldn’t have to see that Belle, not for one minute, had abandoned the idea that he should go with her to Seal Island. Defying Cataclysm she’d come in person to take him to the boat.
“Let’s go, Da,” Belle insisted, pushing him towards her truck, which was standing with its engine running and the lights full on.
“Belle Isle is ready to sail, we’re loaded up. Tom and the rest of them are waitin’ for us. We’ve got a real good place picked out; I’ll tell you on the way. You, you won’t believe it till you see it, Tom says we can survive there for a long time, there’s plenty of seafood and fresh water. No one else knows it’s there, Tom an’ me found it by accident last Fall.”
Gilbert resisted strongly, stubbornly holding his ground. But he couldn’t stop being drawn into her wonderful large and luminous eyes, that so reminded him of his wife Elinor, long dead but never forgotten while Belle was with him.
“It’s past time you were there, Belle girl, get back to the boat.” Gilbert said gruffly, trying to keep his emotion out of his voice and tears from his eyes, dreadfully certain that he’d have to give in once she saw his love for her. He was afraid Belle had come too late, and might not manage to make it back to the docks as it was.
“Hurry, Belle,” he cried, “get back to Tommy, girl. He’s cutting a bit fine anyways, don’t you think?”
“Oh, it’s OK,” said Belle, shifting her gaze and lying to her father. “I asked him about that. He told me it would be OK, for a little while more. He doesn’t fancy hangin’ about out in the bay waitin’ for the tide to fill high enough so that Belle Isle can cross the bar.”

From Cataclysm’s Day, First Book of The Gatherers Trilogy.

as Divine Engineer

“Greatest Spirit as Divine Engineer wouldn’t listen to me either, but insisted that we be guided by his hand and do as we are bid. If those who are in these caves are to survive as human beings and not crazed, half-starved animals, then Greatest Spirit must be allowed to work its will upon them, and in this task we are to be the servants who’ve been chosen to carry out that will.
“They will have a special sleep, for sure; one to rest their bodies, silence their fears and worries and open each of them to the deepest levels of their souls. This will bring them true understanding, and allow their spirits to willingly take the new life path we’re about to step on to.”

taken from Cataclysm’s Day; First Book of The Gatherers Trilogy.

Taking refuge

Anxious moments passed before they saw, rather than heard, a stubby AEV – an all-electric-vehicle – pulling a baggage wagon, race bumpily towards them. George pulled up behind his truck and began to off-load the boxes, sacks and bags. Gertie went to help and soon the little cart was as full as it could be.
“Get on, Gertie,” George yelled, “there’s room for you an’ the lads at the back. Ma kin be on the front seat wi’ me, not so much climbing. OK?” Gertie nodded.
There was no time to waste; it was almost three in the afternoon and the furious tendrils of Cataclysm were reaching out to grab them. Gertie felt its demonic power pull on her very being and weaken her resolve to do anything. Her ears and mind were filled with the crashing mayhem unleashing around them, and the rumble and roar of Earth’s dissolution tore at her heart till she felt disassociated from her life. But knowing this, and as a wild cat defends her young, she fought to prevent herself from collapsing; dead or demented she’d be no help at all. [Read more…]

Salt of the Earth

There seems to be among some people an enormous will to survive, and not only that, they are able to share that power with others. When you are in their company you feel safe and cared for, though no words may be spoken. We have all met people like that, men and women, for whom an Earth-shattering Cataclysm is but an inconvenience to be overcome.
Their hearts are large and open; they carry no grudges, pass no judgements, which allows them to love even that which could easily destroy them.
The Essence that is Life is alive itself; and not being an abstraction conjured up in the human mind, it feels and reacts to that which is heartfelt and true. When it recognises a reflection of itself, it is more than willing to show the way out of a tight spot.

Stevie and Megs are like that; in the stories of The Gatherers Trilogy.

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