It’s been quite the 2016, and despite the wider notes of resounding despair and impending apocalypse, it’s ended on something of a personal high. I did my first gig in about 25 years (solo, singing with guitar, rather than just playing as in the old Zookeepers of Deviancy days) and finally have managed to get Before the Flood into a print version in both the UK and the US, thanks to the amazing skills and effort of that peerless design doyen Thomas Shook.
It’s a bit of a bitch that Leo DiCaprio named his very worthy environmental film, with the exact same title – and despite my continued harassment on Twitter refuses to back down – but hey fucking ho, them’s the breaks.
So, you can now buy Before the Flood as an actual real printed book, a physical object of desire, which you can hold and stroke and everything. If you do end up buying one, track me down, and I promised inscribe a sexy personal message all of my own (or of your devising).
Don’t get me wrong, I still love a great ebook (and of course Before the Flood is available in Kindle and PDF form) but there’s nothing quite like holding a copy of your own work in your own hand.
But, this too is the age of try-before-you-buy and if you’d like to, I’ve made the first chapter available here, below, for your reading pleasure. You can get a FREE Kindle version which contains Chapters 1-2 by simply mailing jollybigpublishing at gmail dot com right now.
Hope you enjoy, and do leave me a comment below or Like my new Facebook Author page The Hooliverse and let me know how you get on.
Before the Flood
Chapter One: The Island
‘Pip … pip … piiiiiiip. It is 7 o’clock and this is the voice of the Free BBC, today, October 9th, 2034. Minor incursions continue, but no major engagements with the creatures have been reported in the last 48 hours.’
‘Unconfirmed reports of a newly surfaced island structure off the coast of Anglesey have been dismissed by Ruth Miller. The Internal Security Minister for the Provisional Government said ‘All kinds of wild rumours and gossip are swirling during the current conflict. I urge our brave defence forces to remain calm and treat such wild speculation with the healthy pinch of salt it deserves. The creatures…’
‘Turn that fucking thing off.’ I growled at Adams and, with surly reticence, he obeyed. ‘You can switch off the attitude too,’ I said. ‘I’m in command here and I don’t give two fucks whether you like it or not. Now, make yourself useful, raise HQ and get me an activity report for this sector. Something doesn’t feel right here, and I want to know why.’
Adams slapped his headphones on with a grunt and fiddled with the buttons on the ancient set. He was probably cursing under his breath, mouthing silent obscenities while he thought I couldn’t see him. Well fuck him. Fuck them all. I didn’t volunteer for this. Who in their right mind would?
I regarded my militia unit as it huddled dolefully in the ruins of a booth in the abandoned fun fair, where they were doing their best to shelter from the sheets of rain, which came down like stair rods. It was a bitter cold night, harsh and unforgiving as it gets on the Welsh coast in late autumn and the rags and tags which these ‘soldiers’, had scrounged together, provided scant protection against that kind of weather.
They weren’t much to look at at the best of times but now they resembled drowned rats rather than any kind of proper fighting force, the ragged Union Jack armbands, their only common insignia, made them look even more pathetic. What an ongoing joy it is to serve in the militia, such a privilege to command such people.
And I was supposed to lead them into battle? Some fucking hope, they’d fold like a paper house at the first Devil patrol we met. They were beaten, we all were, though some of us weren’t quite ready to admit it just yet.
I’m rambling, sir? Do you want me to tell the story or not? Okay, so let me get to it in my own way and then you can judge for yourself. We’ve got a little time now haven’t we? Time is not quite so much of an issue any more, that at least you’ll have to admit?
My name? Stokes, recent promotion notwithstanding … Sergeant Emma Stokes, 43rd Wessex Army Reserve or the TA in old money. Call me Stokesy if you must call me anything, sir.
Thanks, I will take a smoke.
How did we happen to be there at that particular place, at that particular time and meet that particular man? I’ve no idea, it wasn’t a conscious decision. Fate, circumstance, kismet, call it what you will.
What I can tell is my men weren’t keen. I’d had to kick, haul and bully them practically every step of the way. You can’t blame them I suppose, conscripts don’t make the best soldiers and besides, who’s ever keen to march towards their own death? Not that they had much choice. Everyone’s got to do their duty nowadays haven’t they, sir? Otherwise they’re just a walking waste of rations. It’s either march, starve or be hanged and sometimes you could toss a coin for which of the three is the worst.
Anyway, we’d been out for a couple of days by that stage and the Devils were busy, much busier than normal. They were out in force and we’d slipped past several patrols, before finally going to ground in an abandoned holiday home. I’d spotted another chain of them, lurking down by the shore, which meant they weren’t going to be so easy to evade, so, making sure my men were hunkered down, I crept closer for a shufti.
At my side was Challis, my corporal and second in command, the only other real soldier in the patrol. Him, at least, I knew I could count on. Together we watched the Devils pass from the shelter of a dilapidated old seaside fun fair, its peeling posters and rotting rides providing us with decent cover as they sauntered by. Ten braves and one shaman, hopping and flopping in that disgusting way they have on land. I shouldered my weapon and led them a little through the red dot sight, imagining squeezing the trigger and opening up with a three-round burst that would have split that shaman’s fishy skull. A little bit of payback for London and everything we’ve suffered since – I was owed – we all were.
Engage them? Really? Are you taking the piss … sir? My orders were to recon the island, take as many photos as I could grab and report back, period. Nothing mentioned about engaging Devil patrols, or in fact, about signing my own death warrant.
Besides Challis and I had the only functioning weapons and they were old SA-80s, Civil Servants (you can’t make ’em work and you can’t fire ’em), practically obsolete to all intents and purposes. The rest? Well they had the odd shotgun, a pistol or two and some improvised clubs and pitchforks, whatever the hell they’d managed to rustle up. We might as well have engaged them with sticks and stones for all the good they’d have done, small arms like that would have just bounced off most Devils’ hides, never mind the payback from that shaman’s battle magic. Taking them on would have been like writing the shortest suicide note in modern military history.
I passed my weathered rifle to Challis, so he could take a look through its scope, pretty much the only decent optic we had. Challis was my corporal and best shot, a tough, weathered Antiguan, hard as nails with short dreads like an early period Bob Marley; a vet of Iraq and the ‘Stan, and a dozen of those other dirty, pointless oil wars we managed to drag ourselves into before the Flood.
‘What do you think?’ I asked.
‘Shit, well they’re all heading somewhere with a purpose and it don’t take too much working out.’ He inclined his locks toward the island. ‘Let these fuckers pass, it’ll be dusk soon and then we can have a stab at it.’ He handed me back the weapon and spat, the spittle hanging like foam off a nearby sideshow counter. Overhead a seagull shrieked.
‘Agreed.’ I said and watched the Devil patrol recede along the shoreline until it was out of sight.
How did I come to be commanding that patrol? By default, of course sir, how else? Anyone with even the vaguest hint of combat experience is at a premium nowadays, hell I heard they even gazetted the Royals’ goat up to major for surviving that siege at Swindon. Oh yes even NCOs from the Reserve are considered prime leadership material nowadays for that sort of mission, sir, though most of them would have trouble leading a latrine detail.
I sound bitter? Yeah well I’m glad that’s coming through. Anyway they don’t spare proper officers for that kind of recon work, I’m valuable enough, but not too valuable, expendable in an ‘acceptable risk’ kind of way. Put it this way, no-one would have been organising a state funeral with full military honours, if I hadn’t come back.
My motivation? I have my reasons sir, same as everyone else. Survival mainly, revenge partly. We really are all in it together now aren’t we, in this people’s war, or whatever the fuck you want to call it?
Before? I don’t really remember too much detail from before, this is all I seem to have known for ever and a day: futility, evasion, retreat.
But that’s changed hasn’t it now, after the outcome of this particular mission? I doubt the spooks from Military Intelligence (the shortest two-word paradox in the language) expected things to take quite the turn they have.
Before the Flood? Of course I remember … some of it at least, though it seems like a different world, one I haven’t lived in for a long, long time. Oh I remember the reports, remember as we watched the waves slowly rise, year on year, letting our stupid desire for cheap energy and stupider fripperies subsume everything else.
And for what? To watch some bullshit reality show on a giant flat screen TV, argue on Twitter about banalities or allow a succession of liars to sell us endless shit we didn’t want, and didn’t really need.
Oh in our pride, our arrogance, we thought we could hold the seas back, but when the waves slowly claimed most of East Anglia, we didn’t worry too much about it, just retreated to higher ground, told ourselves we still had plenty left and besides, the defences would hold. Year by year, yard by yard, the waves crept higher, slowly swallowing this septic isle inch by inch. And still we did nothing, or at least nothing meaningful. Ever heard of King Cnut? Swap a couple of letters, add an ‘s’ and put ‘blind’ in front of it – that was us – down to a tee.
So should we really have been surprised when it all finally came to pass? Oh, it was a shock alright: a mix of our complacency and their monstrous ambition no doubt. But with all our satellites and all our science and all our state surveillance schemes, how come we didn’t spot an entire alien civilisation lurking on the ocean floor?
Oh I forgot, we were too busy, fighting petty wars amongst ourselves, fucking each other for a cheap quid or a cheaper gallon, or maybe we were just looking in all the wrong places. We were so worried about the terror within, we completely missed the terror from the deep.
Some say the Devils have been at it for years, centuries maybe: plotting, scheming, making their unfathomable alien plans and just waiting for the moment to strike. The worst thing is, we actually helped them, actually helped them invade us, with our own blind, short term stupidity. When the waters crept high enough, they finally saw their chance and they struck and it’s us, the survivors, who’ve been drowning by inches ever since.