|The Old Road when it was new. Looking North.|
Another section of post-apocalyptica. I don't think this is going to turn into a project just yet, I have too much on, and I've got side-tracked (as I do) by language and how it would have changed since my imagined apocalypse without making it too difficult to follow and understand. Also, trying to remember slang from places of my youth actually proved more difficult than I thought it would be. If ever I do something with these sections then I suspect I may need to revisit the setting and maybe change the Old Road to a route that crosses the Pennines and ends up somewhere in Yorkshire.
Anyway, I tried to write a proper discussion and I'm reasonably pleased with how the rhythm works even if the exact wording is a bit clunky, it is a first draft with little in the way of revision written solely to keep my hand in whilst I wait to be allowed to continue marking. Oh, and it may even help to pass the Bechdel test while not being overtly 'breaking the mould' in a way that would put people off.
|The Old Road heading south when new, from the air.|
As ever, analysis supplied by the brilliant www.750words.com
Rating: PG (violence[?])
Feeling mostly Affectionate, and concerned mostly about Eating and drinking - well, obviously.
Mindset: Extrovert - Positive - Uncertain - Thinking
Time: The Past; Primary Sense: Touch; Us and Them: Them
29 minutes at 38 words per minute
Crackling flames licked the metal pot, water slowly came to the boil and the sounds of the forest were masked for a moment. Above, light drizzle fell and was turned aside by the leave strewn shelter erected at the side of an older tree. Even in this young forest there were still trees over a hundred years in age.
I took the proffered leg of the rabbit, letting the savoury sweet smell of roasted and smoky meat fill my nostrils. Eating it slowly I let the taste linger, the fat flow over my teeth for a moment, and looked at Elizabeth sleeping on the ground nearby, her eyes closed and a contented look on her face.
She stiffened slightly, cast a quick look to check that Elizabeth was firmly asleep, and then nodded slowly. "Aye, callem 'Bandit' cud. Fooken vandals callem wud." Her words were harsh, but the tone pleasant and the overall rhythm quite unlike anything I'd heard further south. All her vowels were shorter, the consonants enunciated. "Nae farm nu ferm naw hav. Hed suth, bar mak." She smiled, "Still yung, see, am."
Northerners tended to have an odd relationship with grammar, but a little thought would usually make their meanings clear, this was very much the least understandable patter that I had so far come across. "But you are alone? No family?"
A snort. "Futher dead, muther staid en staid, stuck. En yu? Alls on yersen?"
"Apart from Elizabeth," still blissfully sleeping despite the smell from the cooking and the humidity of the water vapour wending around the shelter, "Yes." Perhaps neither of us wanted to talk about our situations very much. "These hills, are they safe to travel through? Back in Ken Carrow they said that they were crawling with bandits and dangerous folk."
At this her eyes narrowed, "Ken Carrow." It wasn't spoken with malice or with friendliness, in fact, there was nothing really attached to her repetition of the place, just the fact that she'd repeated it with her eyes narrowed and her meal interrupted. Slowly, she lay the meat down on the plate in front of her and cleared the small cups out of the way before kneeling up on her haunches and sniffing the air.
Wet foliage, damp earth, the spice of wood smoke and the faintest hint of heather from the higher hills but nothing else. I wondered what she was looking for, she closed her eyes, cocked her head as if listing to something far off, I heard only silence, and then hummed under her breath. It was strange, up until that moment I had found her to be almost a reassuring encounter, something to calm my nerves and confirm the pleasant tales of life on the Old Road this far north rather than the fears that I had. Now, with the humming, her rough clothing and tanned limbs, far too sinewy and thin, I felt the first stirrings of a more rational fear of the other. She was very different, almost savage, and this response to my question was almost primal and not the sort of primal that seemed safe and happy. No 'mother Earth' feeling here, like what had been said around the campfires on the pilgrimage from the coast; no sign of the tribal ideal as preached by the men in the centre of the University. This was dangerous and it was wild and it was entirely unfamiliar. I could feel myself steeling for fight or flight.
As suddenly as she had started her strange ritual, she stopped. Her eyes snapped back open and, though she remained kneeling, she visibly relaxed her stance and fixed me with a careful and considering gaze. "No." A single word delivered with the faintest hint of a smile, as though she had noticed my fear and discomfort, "No, no bandit heard. Safe hills and safe land and safe journey. Paths clear. Eat." And she returned to her meal.
Studying her more closely, I noticed that her hands were rough with work, callouses on her fingers and rough nails, her face was clear but far from clean. Dust from travel overlaid the basic dirt and grime of one who is obliged to wash infrequently and her hair was mottled and straggly in a way that suggested that it had rarely been introduced to a brush or any kind of water. I wondered at my own appearance to her, what I must look like having bathed in Ken Carrow only a day or so previously and having my hair carefully tied back and covered as it was. How my relics from a bygone era, carefully maintained and patched with the plastic materials that did not decay, must seem to eyes that were more used to creating her own clothes. My shoes, wrapped in leather over-shoes and galoshes, giving way to the smell of someone who carried her own scents and soaps. How must this compare to her own odour, the one of someone who worked the land and rarely had need to disguise their own smell. Or perhaps that was unfair, she smelt faintly of mutton, perhaps a way to aid her own life.
"Have you come far already?"
"You head south, how long- how many days?"
"Not far. Not long. Not mine hills, not mine path. Not yoarz neither nu?"
"No," I agreed with a sigh, "Very much not mine either." I felt safe enough again to eat more of the rabbit. It really was well cooked and I marveled at her ability shown in catching it so quickly and without using methods that diminished the flavour. "This is really good."
Another smile crossed her face, a primal expression that almost showed her teeth in the light of the fire, setting her eyes that were just a little too open against the darkness of the night. Rain clouds hid the moon and the stars, leaving us only with the pitch blackness of the wilderness and her eyes were too wide. She didn't seem to blink right and there was something about the way she ripped the flesh from the bone of the rabbit that spoke of a fervour and mania. If anything, her smile was far from comforting.
"Thanks," the smile did not diminish and her mouth continued to chew the meat around her words, "Favourite cooking, gud rabbit. Gift of hills is, like us to give rabbit." And she blinked.
I took more time looking round the shelter this time, both to give myself time to pick my words and also to work out a safe method of exit should the need arise. One of the rules of travel was to approach always as friends but to suspect treachery. As a fellow traveller I imagined she was doing the same.