Ousted: A thrilling debut novel of survival and humanity, страница 1
James M Hopkins
Copyright © James M Hopkins 2017
Chapter 18 - Day 1
Chapter 20 - Day 2
Chapter 22 - Day 3
Chapter 23 - Day 4
Chapter 26 - Day 5
Chapter 29 - Day 6
Chapter 30 - Day 7
Chapter 33 - Day 8
Chapter 36 - Day 9
Chapter 43 - Day 10
Chapter 45 - Day 11
Chapter 47 - Day 12
Chapter 50 – Day 13
Chapter 52 – Day 14
About James M Hopkins
Carrie’s Waffle House
As the war’s impact crossed the country’s own shore, the people suddenly had a lot more to say. With most of the population largely ignoring the ongoing conflict, it was only since it affected individuals directly that interest was sparked. A decisive downturn in the economy occurred since Britain made moves away from Europe with multinational corporations strongly tied to the European Union making it clear with job cuts that they were losing faith in the United Kingdom. If it hadn’t been for thousands affected by joblessness, the war could have continued unwatched and uncared for by the majority.
Leighton sat forward, hunched over a laptop on the coffee table and wishing he could have joined the protest like he did regularly in his early-twenties. The news he followed was on a series of concurrent marches that were being described as containing the largest crowds that had congregated on London since the Stop the War coalition marches against Tony Blair’s actions over a decade ago. Again, it was turning out to be a war in a foreign land that had the power to unite people across class and geography within the country.
Shannon sat alongside her husband, listening to music on the television that simply whiled away time in the background. She rested her head on his shoulder so she could casually read each update to The Vigilante news website as they came through. It was late into the summer evening and the room was dim with only the screen glow from the electronic devices and a nearby street light that shone in through the window. Neither had torn themselves away from their intense focus to shut the windows or pull the blinds down and were barely aware of the ease that someone could see in to the small rented house’s living room. However, the lack of privacy was worth the cool breeze that finally came to take the edge of the enduring heat that the rest of the day had provided.
They had it all planned out, as ready as anyone could be. In the cupboard under the stairs, Leighton had arranged two rucksacks, carefully prepared and packed with his most cunning and finesse. He referred to them as the 'Thrive-All-Kit' because in his own words, 'survival is for pussies; if it's hitting the fan, I want to own this shit!' Shannon regularly rolled her eyes whilst they were being prepared and she would often say, 'Leighton, we don't have the money for this,' or 'I am most certainly not carrying that in a hurry' to which he would more often say 'money won't mean that much if we actually need this' and 'you won't have to, I'm carrying that’. She did give her input over the months that the preparation went on, with the bags being packed and repacked. The fishing rod was her idea. The tomahawk and stiletto dagger were certainly not.
“We've got a three-month old baby!” Shannon was near screaming.
“I know that. That's the reason I've packed muslin squares and Terry nappies. We also have string so we can wash them in a river and make a washing line drawn out between some trees.”
“Wow! You've really thought in depth about your bullshit idea, haven't you?”
“Yes, I've just become a father, I don't want to be a not-a-father again and I definitely don't want to be dead, especially when we have been blessed with the foresight such as this,” Leighton replied zealously. “Viruses have hit Europe and tensions are stretched around the planet. With countries like Germany looking further east, Britain is going to be left grasping onto the tattered dreams of a lame, hungover superpower that hasn't realised it has fallen in a spiral of disgrace. We want to be at least one step ahead of the rest. That's what the Thrive-All-Kit gives us. Security. We can walk from here in the event of an attack on Britain, live off grid in the woods and hills and start building our own civilisation. We can be away from town lights and falling bombs at the drop of a hat.”
“We could just walk out with a quickly packed bag and get the same, don't need to buy all this crap!” Shannon gestures her arms over a small living room, scattered with neatly organised piles of items Leighton was wrapping together and placing into each rucksack.
“That's survival, Shannon. With this, we live, we thrive and give Zeke a chance. This gives Zeke a life!”
Shannon slumped down on the couch, narrowly avoiding catching her posterior on the sharp edge of an army-grade hand axe. She sighed. “You're right in some your ideas,” she said with shut eyes. “It's best to be safe and even just popping to the shops with Zeke requires hours of preparation.”
“That's the spirit, honey. With my preparedness and your African survival instincts, we'll be like the Adam and Eve of the Bear Grylls generation!”
Shannon laughed and Leighton sat down alongside her, picking up the axe in one hand and putting his fingers around the back of Shannon's neck with the other.
“Shannon,” he said.
“I love you. I just want you to be safe.” Leighton gestured the axe towards the play mat on the floor, “And him of course. Perhaps with a little brother or sister, eh?”
Shannon pushed him away. “Get your hands off me, I want a cup of tea. At least while we have an electric kettle to hand.”
The night settled in. The sound of electronic nursery rhymes and static jingled through the air via the baby monitor, and the television news reader spoke on the verge of being drowned out.
“-And in today’s headlines, Muharid have taken majority control of three separate cities during coordinated attacks last night, Mosul and Erbil in the north of Iraq and Tabriz on the border of Iran. The Russian president immediately made an official statement, purporting that this could only have been made possible by the American armament of the rebel group in the region and that sources he has with the Iranian government have verified this. This is yet to be confirmed nor denied by
“The newly appointed president of the United States opened an emergency press conference where he vowed to end the war in the Middle East by any means necessary. He specifically delivered a message to the Iranian supreme leader to stand down and allow the people a true democratic choice. The conservative Republican president has not been shy to speak openly to other leaders in his short time in office.
“The prime minister has announced support for the end of conflict, stating that the U.N. needs to enforce an immediate ceasefire in the region. This display of backing comes at a time when the U.K. is close to securing a ten-year trade deal with the U.S. that will also provide a strengthened military alliance between the two countries.
“Later in the show, Desmond Hodgson will be giving us an in-depth opinion on how this could affect the United Kingdom’s relationship with the rest of Europe, a relationship now strained by the leftist swing in ideals across the E.U. and the differences in opinion on how to best deal with the Middle East crisis. A deal being worked out by the prime minister directly is looking ever more tenuous.”
The news continued to drone on, Leighton and Shannon sat back, taking in what they had just heard. “Why are Britain hanging on to America? We should be at the door of Europe, hat in our hands. Instead our government continues to be scared and overwhelmed by these warmongering assholes. We’re just as bad, this government need to be ousted. Shall we start a revolution? You can be the Angela Davis to my Che Guevara.”
Shannon stared blankly at the screen, breaking her gaze with a small laugh that came a little too late. “You can't let it affect you, you know? You must keep your head down and focus on keeping little Zeke clothed and fed. We can't really change the whole world; we can only make our little world, Zeke's little world, as good as that can be.”
“I know,” Leighton resided.
The venetian blinds were folded aside and light flooded into the bedroom, dissipating the thin lines that were previously decorating the back wall. The sun had only just reached the position above the surrounding valley edge to light the room enough to wake Mina in the usual subtle way that she enjoyed so much about living far outside the city. The fresh air blew in as she opened the single glazed windows wide and hooked the latch on the window sill. It carried with it an almost overpowering aroma, mixed with lavender, compost and dewy grass all at once. Mina breathed deeply and noticed that the memories of London mornings, with the smell of exhausts, pollution and human sweat that clung to the humid air, were fading rapidly. The memories replaced with the fragrances of her new life.
The thin dressing robe that Mina wore was open at the front and she revelled in her station, leaning out of the first-floor window with the cool pungent breeze leaving prickles on her chest. She turned reluctantly and hung her dressing gown carefully on the hook on the back of her bedroom door, pulling out the creases before turning to her wardrobe. She pulled out a heavy pair of jeans and a chequered shirt that she tucked in neatly. Sitting down at her dressing table, she put on a necklace with a large, red-stoned pendant set in gold.
She looked at her angular features in the mirror, contemplating the make-up she would wear. After those few moments had passed she picked up just her eye-liner, mascara and a red lipstick that was worn down almost to the plastic. As she drew along the bottom lids of her eyes, she thought about how futile this part of her morning routine was. She lived alone, around three miles from the nearest village, but was still stuck in the routine she once had. She had had to look good at all times then. What good would it do her ex-husband’s reputation if she turned up at the school gates in dirty clothes or unmade-up face? She had always dressed well though, that was just how she had been, even as a young girl. Her ex-husband’s needs had taken the fun out of it in the last few years. It was better now the actions returned to being for herself.
As she finished delicately applying lipstick to her slender lips, she smiled to herself. This was for her alone. She stood and turned to the full-length mirror and admired herself for a moment before leaning in closer and noting that she still needed more bleach for her hair when she found the right product.
Mina sat down on a wooden bench that faced out on to her garden turned allotment. The bench had two seats either side of a small square table that joined them together. She placed down her coffee that emitted swirling tendrils of steam into the morning air and righted the overturned ashtray that ran condensation off the underside as she did. The garden stretched on a gentle slope below her. It had been a meadow when she had purchased the house nine months ago, but now it was home to several pristine earthen rows that ran away from the house.
She smoked half of her cigarette, slowly enough that most burnt away of its own accord and she sipped her coffee leaving just a touch of her lipstick on the edge of the mug. She wondered how she had ever managed to smoke as much as she did before the divorce. She also wondered if it was a sign of that inevitable end to her relationship that she managed to cut down to the two-a-day habit that remained, so quickly after it happened. She had tried to go cold turkey, but something about her morning and bedtime routine meant that she could never quite shift those last two from her daily pattern.
Her bare toes curled around the grass as she stepped off the patio. A thin grass path led between each of the rows of bare earth and she followed the path across the top to a small tool shed. The door rocked on the hinges a little as she had yet to prioritise fixing it high enough up her list. She picked up a small gardening fork and trowel and carefully walked down to the bottom end of the garden.
She worked her way up each of the planting beds and took out individual weeds that had used her hard-worked earth as a new place to grow. She wanted growth, but she wanted lettuces and carrots rather than dandelions and more grass. Kneeling on the neat, soft grass, she dug around the weeds and placed them into a bucket nearby for composting later.
The sun had risen to full height and had started to fall again before Mina had finished her work, but the earth was completely bare by the time she was done. Tomorrow was the day she could start planting her first crops. She left the cleared garden for the shade of the kitchen, took off her rings and washed her hands in the large ceramic basin of her kitchen. Splashing her face, she could tell she would likely have caught the sun. The skin on her forehead felt tight already. She thought to herself that she was used to seeing better heat in spring than in summer, she had gotten more sunburns in April than in August. Perhaps she was just more careful with her pale skin in August while the April sun just caught her unaware.
Tariq turned a corner and the small, cramped alley that he departed opened into a wide street. A steady flow of people swept him into their midst and he immediately took to keeping a brisk step with those others. The feeling was calm as stretched out groups of people trudged along each pavement. Some jogged in the road to get ahead or catch up with groups of friends further on. Others carried banners and placards above their heads, with messages of anger and peace alike bobbing gently with the throb of the crowd. For the number of people on the street, it was quiet, only a light hum, barely drowning the sound of idle engines in the jammed road separating the pedestrians that all moved in the same direction past the multi-story buildings that lined the road.
Tariq walked alone amongst the masses, the crowd thickened and slowed as it got closer and closer to the London Eye. Police cars to his left slowly followed the last of the traffic and stationed a road block on the other side of the road to stop any more coming into the area. The void between the double red lines quickly filled up with protesters and reporters with heavy cameras, picking up their pace in the additional space. They all desperately wanted to get forward to get the best views of the speakers. The sound of megaphones and rhythmical shouting flared up ahead, still just out of range to be heard clearly. A police riot van moved its way slowly forward bumping and being bumped by people as it carved its slow path through
The black gates of Downing Street finally came into view as Tariq weaved his way in and out of the tightly packed crowd. Tariq himself was below average height and a lean build. The elbows and bodies throwing themselves against him tried to put him off balance and came close to succeeding several times. He kept his recorder on the whole time and noted some of the banners he saw criticising the government’s latest decisions. He wasn’t even sure if his voice would be determinable when he returned to listen to the recording later, but he certainly wanted to get as much as he could. One note for himself was to perfect his shorthand and bring an old-fashioned notepad and pen. A path opened its way to his right and he caught sight of a building’s steps. He broke through the gap at a fast walk. He climbed up the busy steps and lifted himself onto a low wall to one side that gave him a sight out over most of the streets around the famous black gates, lined with a plentiful police presence.
A man roughly Tariq’s own age joined him on his vantage point, wielding a large black camera towards the noisy crowd ahead. Tariq ignored the man at first, continuing to dictate onto his recorder the chants that were coming from the front of the crowd. Cries of “no more war”, “drop the sanctions” and “give us back our democracy” came ringing out, shouted out first by a megaphone and followed by the angry group of people that had forced their way to the front of the gates.
Tariq’s unintended partner atop the wall shouted over the hubbub, “Hey, I suppose you are a blogger too?”
It took a moment for Tariq to realise it was aimed at him and stopped the recorder before answering, “Yea, I suppose so. I am at a placement at The Vigilante newspaper. I am studying journalism. Who are you with?”