the dimming of the light (Part 19)
Day 20 continued cloudy and slightly warmer
after our success with the sheep we were faced with another bout of depression. The woolly animals would not be there forever probably diminishing long before our supply of the heating oil with which to operate the Range Rover ran out
We tried to cheer ourselves up by thinking; in a few weeks time we would see the beginning of Spring brightening evenings, earlier dawns and hopefully - warmer weather
then Summer things growing, a more varied diet
The whole of the countryside would blossom - only the lack of people and the primitive living conditions would be different - both of which, in some strange fashion
we were becoming used to
it was as if somehow the planet was forcing us to adjust
No doubt several others were also harvesting the flock up on the high downs and they would also be determined, capable survivors similar to us. We could of course drive further afield to the downland to the south of us, which had been used extensively for sheep
it was not suitable for much else
but it would now possibly be hostile territory to strangers such as us - and as well as using up our fuel - going there could cause us to encounter folk with proprietary claims to the animals and therefore bring us into undesirable conflict
not a good idea unless we were particularly desperate
Half and hour before - Chris and the Colonel had returned in the Range Rover from a short trip to the downs - to an old chalk pit where they were hoping to locate some good flints to ignite the bark tinder we had collected. The fat sparks from the flints were very efficient at starting the tinder, which we then used to ignite the candles made from mutton fat
later, we planned some home-made lamps filled with the domestic heating oil we already used as car fuel - once we had worked out our probable consumption for the infrequent use of the Range Rover
but they returned without anything perturbed and a little frightened by what they had discovered
' On an oak tree by Jasper's Wood'
I imagined the familiar wood - its leaf-less oaks and beeches stark and dark against the background, low winter sky
' hung the body of a man - already decomposing his hollow eye sockets presumably pecked out by crows or ravens a sightless symbol of apparent retribution
in fact there was even a raven perched above the body that could have been feeding on it
His right hand was also missing crudely hacked off
a warning perhaps?' speculated the Colonel, 'to others I imagine he was a thief or a looter it would seem others still exist and are prepared to use violence'.
In my imagination I saw, all to clearly, the big shimmy black corvid irritated that its meal had been disturbed
'If it is like that here in the country' offered Chris, 'then what might it be like in the towns and cities London?'
We again pondered about what was happening again what had caused the power to suddenly cease and why? There seemed nothing that might explain it - no rational or indeed, irrational reason. How could everything switch off at apparently the same moment?
Why why why?
and so it was a very thoughtful and depressing evening as the five of us sat feeding again on roast mutton
in the guttering yellow light of a sheep's fat candle
(To be continued)
Peter Hunter 2012
these stories are part of the forthcoming sequel to - Time Of The Eagle - still available on Kindle