Part 1: 200M
Chapter 7: Diggle and Dobcross
By TWG Fraser
Copyright 2016 TWG Fraser
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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“Bacon roll?” shouted the voice.
The whole trip had been very soothing. Or we were very tired. But we woke up and could see daylight round the edges of the canvas. Tarpaulin, sorry, not canvas, was the correct word. And this was the trailer of a lorry, or a truck, or an eighteen wheeler or, I forgot. These things had a lot of names and there you go.
And there was no sign of Jane. There was a sign of Jane in that there was flattened earth in Jane’s corner of the trailer. But no sign of a body, of the person, of Jane.
“Oh Freak.” We muttered. The bacon roll conversation continued outside. Various options were mentioned: ketchup, brown sauce, sausage, egg, white or brown. It sounded like the first speaker opted for everything. Oh, and chips with that. Never found out what ‘that’ was.
There was rustling at the end of the trailer and before we could do anything Jane rolled under the tarpaulin clutching a paper bag that smelled far far beyond fantastic.
“Sorry, some truckers were blathering forever just outside our trailer.” Jane said, then, paused in her crawl across the soil. “You alright?”
“Er, yeah.” We said. “Thought you’d gone.”
“Ah, did you miss me? Get your chops round this.”
Jane handed me a paper bag.
“Its a bacon roll.” We peered inside.
“We’ve heard of these.” Inside was bacon, we knew that, around it was bread that was all brown on the outside but what looked all white on the inside. It was like it had been sliced in half and had kind of bled really thick blood everywhere. We were not sure about this.
“Is there a problem?” Asked Jane.
“What’s um…” We began, not wanting to sound rude, or stupid for that matter, “What’s the blood stuff? Do you need to tell me something about Toplanders?”
“Oh my freak! You’re cannibals!” It came out before we could stop it. We looked at Jane. Jane smiled back and sighed.
“You’ve got to stop this: ‘We’ve had nothing but shit wrapped in shit and then we go to bed in shit’, you know. I mean its sad, and then its boring and then its annoying.”
“This.” Jane continued, waving a bacon roll and licking the red stuff. “Is delicious tomato ketchup. Made from tomatoes, a fruit, or possibly a veg, I’m not sure, that is normal, safe, nice. And not the blood of our babies. Eat it.”
We did. It was great. Wished we hadn’t made quite such an arse of ourselves about it.
“Thank you.” We said when we had finished the bacon roll. “That was unbelievably good.”
“You’re welcome.” Jane bowed a head. “Lucky I had a bit of money left.”
“Money?” We asked. But we laughed before Jane could react. “Don’t worry, we know what it is, we’ve got loads of it.”
“Really?” asked Jane. “That seems unlikely?”
“Stacks of it, everywhere. Coins mainly, with a King on. We use it for weighting fishing nets and lines, a bit of jewellery.”
“Oh I see,” said Jane. “But you can’t spend this money. No, sorry, silly question.”
There was a bit of a silence then. We picked our teeth and rolled up our hammock.
“So,” we started. “What’s happening now? Are we getting off this? Going somewhere?”
“Well” began Jane. “I reckon this is going to a farm supplies place in Buxton. It probably opens at 8 or 9, so we’ve got an hour at least before the driver gets his fat arse out of the cafe.
“We’re in Buxton,” Jane continued. “Well, we’re just outside Buxton in a big roadside cafe. Our best bet is to see if we can change trucks and get a bit more north.”
“How far have we got to go?” We asked.
“Its four or five hundred miles from here to Aviemore, and we have to cross a few seas to get there.” Jane replied.
“Can’t we just steal a boat and sail up there? We’re pretty good at sailing you know.”
“Yes, I’m sure you are. But its dangerous, too dangerous to sail around here, for you and for me.”
“Well you know the Scientologists are in the Wales yeah, to the west, pretty well straight west of here.”
“Well out to the east is a place called Moors Monasteries, its covered in Priests, loads of ‘em. So I think it would be safer, to get further north, quite a lot further north before we try a boat.”
“OK.” We said. “So, what now.”
“Well if you come down here,” We crawled the length of the trailer to the back. Very slowly we lifted the tarpaulin and looked out. There were more of these lorries lined up pointing towards a low building with a lot of glass. Beside that was a smaller building which people went in and out of. They always came out adjusting their trousers so we reckoned it was a loo. Quite a grand one for just a hole in the ground, unless..
“Jane.” We asked. “What happens in Topland loos?”
Jane banged her head a few times on the wall of the trailer. We thought it best to not mention it again.
“So, you see the van, the small lorry, three away from us, white with a lot of mud. You can’t see but its got a small trailer on the back with building stuff. That’s going north to New Huddersfield and the M62.”
“How are we going to get to it without being spotted?” We asked.
“I think we should climb out of this trailer back at the top behind the cab. We’ll disguise you a bit so folk can’t see your face so much, and we’ll walk past the van and you try it’s back door or see if there’s a hiding place in the trailer. I’ll walk by, see if anyone notices. Then I’ll walk back and jump in after you.”
“That’s it.” We asked. “That’s the plan. Just get in.”
“It’ll work,“ said Jane. “Honestly, if you move slowly and normally no one takes any notice of you.”
“But the driver will.”
“Yes, so we have to hope he’s not looking. That’s why I’m going to carry on walking, just to see.”
“This isn’t going to work.” We said.
“It’ll be fine.” said Jane. “Just… wrap your baggy thing round your neck and er… top, like its raining and its some kind of scarf. So people can’t see your…”
“My eyes, you’re on about my eyes again aren’t you?”
“Yes, your eyes. Sorry.” Said Jane.
“So, look, I’m going to climb down, take a look around and when I give you a wave, just come out sharpish and we’ll get you hidden.”
And that’s what happened. In broad daylight. Jane climbed out and jumped off the end of the trailer. There was some traffic on the road but they didn’t seem bothered by this, they just drove past. Then Jane gave us a wave and we clambered out and dropped down with our hammock all wrapped round our head. Jane reached out to touch it.
“That’s some crazy material.” We pulled away from the touch. “Sorry, just wanted to… well never mind, later maybe, hey?”
We walked down the line of lorries and past the van and its trailer so we could get a look at where it might be possible to hide. Then we walked back, Jane tried the van’s back doors without luck. We peered over the high walls of the trailer.
“We reckon we could get to the back of this and not been seen.” We said. So we walked off again at Jane’s insistence and then walked back and quickly jumped over the trailer gate and scrambled to the back. There was a big blue barrel with the top cut off filled with long tools and bits of wood. This was tied to the side of the van but there was a bit of space behind it for one person to squeeze in and sit down. We sat there while Jane sat opposite arranging various bits and pieces of what she called plasterboard and other stuff around her. It was not the greatest hiding place but we would only be seen by someone standing at the back of the trailer looking down at us.
We wanted to talk but Jane told us to shush at least until we were on the move.
Time went rather slowly. We wondered quite how many bacon rolls this driver was having. Or if they were calling the soldiers or plotting something horrible. Or just asleep.
We were already very uncomfortable before we felt the trailer dip as the driver got into the van (we guessed a lot of bacon rolls were eaten) and heard the door slam. After a minute the engine started and it was difficult not to cough as the blue-black fumes clouded around us. Then the trailer jolted forwards and stopped and jolted again and we were moving.
It was not a comfortable ride. Lying asleep on topsoil now seemed quite luxurious.
“Where do you get all this oil?” We asked, “We haven’t seen many dandelions, let alone fields of them.”
“Sorry,” Shouted back Jane. “Did you say dandelions?”
“Yes, thats how we make oil for engines.”
“That’s fucking nuts.” We were not sure if Jane was joking now or not. “Dandelions?”
“Yes, How do you make it?” We shouted back. If Jane could shout then we guessed we could shout too.
“We’ve got oil rigs. In the north sea. They pump it up.”
“Hang on, aren’t they what caused the problem in the first place, you know oil and shit?” We asked.
“But you’re covered in wind mills.”
“Yes, but they’re owned by the wrong people.”
“The wrong people? What does that mean?”
“Well some windmills, a lot really, are owned by the local towns and villages, or the f armers. Some are owned by the big families. But the Grand Duke of York and that lot, they make a lot of money by keeping the oil rigs pumping.”
“So they don’t care about the sea levels and that?”
“Well, no, not really, the oil rigs float, kind of on legs.”
“No, I mean the people, us, the folk who are drowning.”
“Look, they could not give a flying fuck about you. In fact the sooner you were all dead the better.”
“Why, what have we done?”
“You,” Jane stopped and looked a bit less cross. “You’re different. Most people don’t like different. Especially if they think its getting in the way of their money.”
We didn’t say anything for a bit.
“But if the seas keep rising they won’t have anywhere to go either. One day. Can’t they see that?”
“I know,” said Jane. “But they just don’t see it like that. Its like they’re ill. With money.”
After that we just drove. At first the road was smooth but there was a lot of stopping and turning and we could see streets and houses above us. They seemed normal, like in the few books we had seen. But they were so solid and secure, built of brick and stone, some with heavy slate roofs, others covered with solar panelling of various ages and upkeep. T hey looked warm and dry and safe. In fact we weren’t sure if we had ever seen any shacks or temporary housing, any crowds of the homeless and hungry. Was this a sign of the success of the Topland world, its system of care for its people and a sign that they could if they wanted help many more people, maybe all of us?
Eventually we got out of Buxton.
“So,” we shouted over to Jane. “Why were you running away from Tissington?”
Jane pointed at a spot closer to me, we guessed to get closer, less shouty, we nodded and Jane crawled over.
“Do you know music?” Jane began.
“Doh.” We replied. “Of course, we know all music.”
“All music?” Asked Jane raising an eyebrow.
We thought about that for a second and answered: “OK maybe not all music but we’ve heard a lot. There’s a bar, with electricity and everyone brings the CDs they find there. We’ve heard a lot of music there.”
“Who do you like?”
Even we knew that that was a dangerous question. To get it wrong is to risk ridicule or even loss of friendship and now was not the time for that. Goodbye Brenda, as the Darts would say. We were not going to mention them, safest to start on the outer edges and gently come in.
“Oh you know, 65daysofstatic, Bon Iver, Pixies, Bobby Fuller Four,” How can we forget? “Phyllis Dillon, ELO.”
“ELO!” Laughed Jane. Freak’n freaks, who knew. Backtrack. Or Defence?
“Yeah, Time, their electronic album. 1981. Damn good.”
Jane seemed taken aback by this.
“Oh, OK. I don’t know that.”
“What about you?” Now the boot was on the other foot.
“Oh, Bowie, Roxy Music, Japan, The Cure, Joy Division.” Ah we had Jane pegged now.
“Ah,” we said. “Bauhaus: She’s in Parties. And Velvet Underground, Lou Reed.”
“Yes, exactly. How do know them all? You must spend a lot of time in this bar.”
“Well, suppose we do. Its the only place to go to. Electricity, booze, music, weed. Its fun. And there isn’t much of that normally. We all go.” We said, meaning us and our friends. Who were now dead, or lost, or hiding somewhere here in Topland, sorry, Scotland, No, Pennines?
“Yeah, well I had somewhere similar: The Cat and Fiddle Inn. Not much weed sadly but music. I was,” Jane paused, “I was in a band.”
“No way!” Now we laughed. “Freak sake, really? With drums and guitars and keyboards and things? What did you play? I mean what instrument? Did you play an instrument? What sort of music was it?”
“I… er sang and… er played a bit of guitar.” Jane smiled.
“Wow. What sort of music?”
“It was a Goth band, playing covers of Beatles songs. We were called the Sisters of Mersey.”
“Thats freak’n genius.”
“Well, we wanted to play other stuff, you know, more darker, proper goth stuff.”
“Why couldn’t you?”
“Its illegal. You get arrested.”
“Yeah, I were arrested. The Priests got me. I was being taken to the Monasteries. I escaped.”
“And the others?” We asked.
“Dunno?” Jane said. “They’re fucked.”
We wanted to leave it at that but weren’t really able to.
“You can’t play other music, or you can’t listen to other music?”
“Both.” Jane answered. “Most folk have a computer.” She stopped and looked at us.
We nodded: “Yeah, the Smithy had one. Its a box that does stuff that you control. It thinks.”
“That’ll do. But they are all connected and they are all connected to the government and the government control the library of music that we are allowed to listen to and they don’t allow much. Sixties is pretty well it.”
“Freak’n Hell!” We said. “But CDs?”
“Yeah, well we have them, but they’re not allowed really, and a CD player that is not connected to a computer is pretty hard to come by.”
“So they watch everything you do?”
“Yeah, what you listen to, what you say, where you go, what you buy, who you meet. Everything.”
“Are we being watched now?” We asked.
“The driver is.” Jane replied.
“His phone’ll be on. He’ll be a dot moving on a map.”
It started to rain. We pulled out the hammock and pulled it over us.
After an hour the van slowed as the road narrowed down to single track. Sometimes we would stop to let other traffic go the other way.
Then the driver stopped for a pee which we had to try hard not to giggle about until after we had set off again. Though we too had similar problems until we decided that we would take it in turns to crawl down to the end of the trailer and relieve ourselves without the other watching.
We were very hungry so we swapped stories of our favourite food. Jane was disgusted by our recent meals and what, when we left the trailer, we said we could find to eat. By the sounds of it Jane was going to go hungry until we found a shop or pub.
We were travelling up the west side of the Pennines. There were no roads over the moors so after Chaple-en-le-Frith where we left the A6 we were low down in the mist with the sea just to our right. Often we had to drive through water. Though most of the time the roads were redirected above sea level for short periods. These bits were very bumpy.
Sometimes we would see road signs going away from us over the back of the trailer: Chinley, Hayfield, Chunal. We did feel that we were making real progress north though Jane said we had hundreds of miles yet to travel. At Crowden we got on to a fast road again, the A628 to Penistone and we got really worried that the driver would hear us both laughing at that.
Then we turned off and began climbing up the A6024, higher and higher, as it started to get dark.
By the time the van started to head downhill it was night and we were getting cold. We had seen stars before but this was the first time we had seen so many and for such a long time without clouds and mist rolling in and hiding them again.
Jane was just starting to tell me about The Plough set of stars when the van slowed down, pulled over and stopped.
“He needs another pee.” whispered Jane. Again we tried not to giggle.
Then the tailgate fell down with a crash and a torch was shone in our faces.
“Come on you two, out yer come.” The torch was shining straight at us so we could not see who it was. Presumably the driver.
Neither of us moved as if the driver could not see us.
“I can see yer both now come on, out of it.” The torch shone down the trailer to show us the route. It stopped at the tailgate. “Oh you bleeding messy fucks. You’ve shat in me trailer. Come on, get out!”
The driver sounded angry. Jane reached round and arranged our hammock over our head again. Then we stood up and rather sheepishly made our way down the trailer. The driver stood back as we jumped down.
It was then we noticed that we were not alone. There were three other cars parked up on the bank under some trees. Their drivers were leaning against the cars watching us. We felt this had gone from embarrassing to bad. Jane had noticed the others too.
“Look, we’re sorry, we just wanted a lift. We’ve got family up New Huddersfield way. Our Mum’s ill. We’re just trying to get home.” Jane said.
“Aah.” said a voice from the dark. “Family, that’s sweet. No harm then hey?”
“Where’s your family then?” Asked the driver, pointing the torch in Jane’s face then ours and back again to Jane.
“Colcar.” Said Jane quickly. “Colcar. Just off the M62.”
“Oh, I know where Colcar is. I’m the bleeding driver. But tell me, what’s the name of the Butchers in Colcar then.”
“Um.” said Jane. “I wouldn’t know. We’re vegetarians see. After that whole Phages thing my parents stopped eating meat.”
“Fucking hippy.” Someone said.
“Enough of this shit.” Said a voice and a man grabbed Jane from behind. Someone else grabbed us. We had heard them coming and had been expecting it.
“You got a lift from Des here. Its time you two paid the fare by giving us a ride.” That got a whoop from another man and they all closed in around us.
“Now then, I think its time we saw what your sister looks like. Hey.” More cheers. They were drinking and passing bottles around.
A hand came up and pulled down my hammock.
“Wow, Jesus fuck!” The man who held me let go. “Its a fucking freak.”
“Its a Wetter!”
“Will you fucking look at that.” Jane was struggling. We stood still, waiting. We had been in this sort of situation before with Mugs. They always pulled the same shit.
“What is it? A boy or a girl?”
“Looks like we’re going to get our Freak on tonight!”
“I’ve never had me a fucking freak before.”
“Haha a fuck’n freak, a freak fuck’n. That’s what’s happening a freak fucke’n.”
“We’d better take a look see then. See what the package is.”
“Well I’m not having some rag covered freak, I want the sister.”
So the first person to try to pull on our clothes lost a hand. Then it all happened quite quickly. The man was clutching his wrist as we put our pin up through his chin into his brain. The man beside him took a swing with a bottle, missed and as he lost his balance going past we pushed our bayonet into his armpit, then got a foot up to his torso and kicked him off our blade. He went down. Another came up behind me, but heavily, we heard him and swapped grip and stabbed backwards catching him in his gut. A car started up and screeched away up the road we had come. We turned and saw two men left. One still holding Jane, the other stood beside him. But as we looked he turned and ran off across the moor.
“Fucking coward Jack!” Shouted Des, gripping Jane tighter round the neck. Keeping her between us. “One step closer and I break your sister’s neck.”
Fishing, and hunting birds is an art. We think. Some use long spears for fish and flick stones in a sling. Some even have working crossbows or bows and arrows. But you need to be prepared for all of them and often the moment is lost. A heavy, sharp pointed thing, like our pin for instance, can be, with a lot of practice, very effective. And very accurate.
We flicked the pin. It went through Des’s eye into his brain and he collapsed. Jane dropped to her knees.
“You killed them.” She said.
“They would have killed us after they raped us. There’s probably bodies buried all over round here.”
“But they might not of killed us. You don’t know that.”
“How else do we stop them?” We tried to put our arm round Jane and pull her up. She resisted at first but then stood up shaking our arm away.
“We’d better get going.”
“Can you drive?” We asked
“Yes,” said Jane and bent down and got Des’s keys out of his pocket. “Fuck it, lets go.”
We unhitched the trailer and pulled it off the road. Jane opened the bonnets of the remaining two cars and yanked handfuls of cables off the engines and threw them into the woods. Then we got in the van and set off.
“Clever, about the cars.” We said, watching the lights cut through the dark on the road, sheeps’ eyes flashing red in the darkness.
“Goth bands.” replied Jane
“So,” Jane went on. “We began removing lines from the songs. Made She Loves You very sarcastic. And louder. And slower.”
“Then we noticed that if we introduced a song as, say the B side of How Do You Do It? By Gerry and the Pacemakers, we could play almost anything. So we claimed A Forest was by the Pacemakers, In Between Days was an Elvis song, we had to throw in a few Uh-Huhs to keep the adults happy, if they cared. Well, until..”
“Don’t tell me, a Priest showed up.”
“How did you know?”
“Oh, they just love finding people to damn. So, what did the Priest do? Did they actually know all their Elvis?”
“No. He began looking up the songs on the internet.”
“Well, I’m not really clear on what the internet is, but I thought you said it was kind of totally controlled.”
“Yes, for us, but not for them. They can look at anything.”
“Of course. Actually, I’ve just got to stop.” Jane stopped the van, ran round the back where we could hear the sounds of retching. We got out our side and leant against the van side so we couldn’t quite see Jane.
“You alright?“ We asked after a bit.
“No.” Jane replied. “Yes. I don’t know. Are we murderers now?”
“You’re not.” We said. “But for me it was self-defence. Bad things were going to happen and… How did they know? Is this the internet thing again?”
“Its mobile phones. Telephones. Des, the driver, must have seen us get in and phoned ahead.”
“Oh OK. We’ve found mobile phones in the water. Just didn’t realise they still worked.”
“Probably aren’t many masts down south. We’ve got lots. The Linux bunch fixed it all up and got it working again.”
“So are we still trying for them then?”
“Guess so. If we can. Its a long way to go and I think the cops’ll be after us now. Though I’m not sure how those men’ll explain it.” said Jane, “But perhaps they don’t need to. They just mention freaks and Wetters and that’s all the explanation they need.”
“Better get a wriggle on then hey?”
“OK.” Jane spat a few times and got back in the van.
“Do you know where we’re going?” We asked.
“I mentioned Colcar. So I would expect them to look that way first. I guess we had better get over to the other side of the Pennines and see if we can head north that way.
We drove on. We pointed to the signpost that read Upperthong but said nothing.
Later we saw signs to Diggle, Dobcross, Delph and Denshaw before we fell asleep.
Set a few decades into the future, when sea levels have risen 200 metres and most of England is underwater. What is left of the UK is divided: Topland/Scotland and the North is ruled by Prince Andrew, Wales has been taken over by Scientologists, while monks control the North Yorkshire Moors. Still, there are those who survive on the few hilltops above seawater. Pressure is building on these to find safety, to be allowed into Topland, after all, they were UK citizens, once. Felix is sent north to try and find a way in. This is Chapter 7 of 28. nothing like a priest to scare. Readers so far: Ch1 - 26, Ch2 - 20, Ch3 - 14, Ch4 -9, Ch5 - 8, Ch6 - 11. Which is wonderful! (though how do you go from 8 to 11??) Virgin have cut me off so this is by phone. They swore it wasn't me, and then said an engineer would 5 days to get here (edinburgh?!), now they're saying that actually it is an area fault. Still offline though. and using phone to upload...