Whet your appetite for The Book of Air, a new post-apocalyptic fantasy, by Joe Treasure.
A virus is wiping out most of the human population. In this passage, Jason is describing his departure from London. He tells his story to his dead wife, Caroline, or Caro for short.
We hit a road block near Chiswick. Hard men in gas masks, playing at soldiers, keeping the neighbourhood clean. Waving their guns at microbes. The real soldiers had buggered off weeks before. Or keeled over. Same all over London, same everywhere. Containment was the word they used. Didn’t last long. You need police to run a police state.
But they kept us waiting as if they were the real thing. A couple of cars ahead of us, a van behind, all the engines turned off to save petrol. It was quiet enough to hear the hum of the wind. Across the street, a terrace of houses and a pub on the corner, the Green Dragon. You felt the eyes watching through lace curtains and window bars – whoever was left – or just the windows watching.
A woman appeared in a doorway – she was wearing a pale blue sari, some silvery detail along the edge of the fabric, and she was so elegant you’d think nothing could touch her. But the moment she let go of the door and stepped into the street you could see she had the staggers. Her bag hit the pavement and vegetables spilled out – a tight white cabbage, peppers the colour of sunlight, five onions shedding translucent skin, all rolling towards the gutter. See, I was paying attention. We all were. Jesus, Caro, there must have been acres of vegetables rotting all over Kent, all over the south of England, and we were craving the stuff. I wondered if she was buying or selling, but I wasn’t getting out of the car to ask. I was heading west, ready to take my chance on the road. I figured there’d be food enough if we didn’t get knifed picking it. Fresh meat too, walking around on four legs, hens starving in their sheds with no one to let them out.
The van driver wasn’t waiting though. I watched him in the mirror, a big man manoeuvring his belly from behind the steering wheel and out on to the road. He must have been mad or desperate – anyone could see those jokers were itching to use their guns.
Remember what cities used to sound like – sirens and diggers, music blaring from car windows, jet engines. All gone. There was nothing to cushion us from the sudden burst of gunfire and screaming.
Read a review of The Death of Air here.