After is available as an Ebook! Download to your computer or ereader for just $1.99. You get a neatly formatted copy of the story to read at your leisure, and help to support the author. Click here to buy a copy.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


A row of pastel-coloured houses front the marina. The door of the furthest one stands ajar and I push my way inside. Ignoring the smell of rot that hangs heavily on the air I flit through the rooms, searching. I find a holdall lying on the floor in the kitchen, and into it I stuff towels and sheets from the airing cupboard, tinned fruit from the larder. A dead body lies fossilised on one of the upstairs beds, and I recoil in disgust from that room, searching the others for the things I need instead. Scissors and disinfectant from the bathroom. A ball of string from a desk drawer. I rack my brains, trying to gather all the scattered information I've read about how to deliver a baby, but I'm so anxious that I'm sure I must have missed something.

I head back towards the marina, nervously checking the sky as I go. It's getting uncomfortably dark, and with the night the old fears are returning full force. Doubts creeping out of the woodwork. I've brought Lisa all this way on the word of a man who I have no reason whatsoever to trust. What guarantee do I have that I'm not taking Lisa and the baby into a trap just at a time when they're at their most vulnerable?

Options sprint through my head, and I picture each one with terrible clarity. We stay put until the baby comes, in the middle of the night, and its crying draws the Creatures right to us... We try to reach Holme, but darkness falls before we're halfway there and we become lost, run into rocks in the dark, sink, drowning together in the cold depths of the sea... Or we make it to Holme and are met on the beach by ragged men with guns and knives... Or else we reach the island in time and I go running up to the town in search of help only to find a monstrous crater pulsing with life...

But I brush these fears aside. I know what I've got to do.

I arrive back at the boat where I left Lisa and climb down into it. She's in the cabin still, now on all fours, breathing heavily, her face set against the pain. I drop the bag and kneel down beside her.

"Lisa," I say. "I'm back."

She glances at me, and then shuts her eyes again. "David..."

"I've got everything we need," I say. "We're going to be okay whatever happens. How do you feel?"

"Hurts," she mutters.

I squeeze her arm. "I'm going to cast off now. Get us away from the coast. Okay? We'll be safer out on the water where they can't reach us."

"Holme?" she says, her voice strained.

"I'm going to try," I say. "It'll be dark soon, but it doesn't look like far. I think we can make it."

I try not to let her groans and grunts and noises of pain distract me as I untie the boat and start the engine. The deck beneath my feet throbs with the power of the motor. The controls are simple enough, a lever that seems to act like a throttle and a small metal wheel with which to steer. There's a whole array of buttons as well, but I leave them alone, unsure of their purpose. Easing the throttle up I see the jetty start to slide out of view on my left. We're moving. We're on our way.

The little launch ploughs its way cleanly through the junk that floats on the water all around the marina. I can't make out much of what's down there in the dark, but I hear things bounce dully of the hull. Then we're clear and the rolling motion of the sea becomes more pronounced. I turn the wheel, aiming the boat towards the distant, dark line that is our destination. It's barely discernible now against the lowering sky, and I know that within half an hour or so it will be lost. I can only hope the journey will be a quick one.

1 comment:

Fiona said...

Well, OK. That didn't take long and now they're off. Well done, David.

Although you know, it occurs to me, if Creatures can hurtle through space, I expect they can cross a body of water if they want to....