Chapter thirty five
On Broken Tree Hill
-‘I was turning into a powerful switched-on woman.’-
-‘Slow down Maxie, Maxie wait for me.’-
Freewheeling, bicycles clattering, skirting bumps and ruts. Me and Macker raced down the steep, narrow, twisting lane.
Totally awake. Zooming downhill between high hedges.
Dodging the bumble bees and flies, the briars that shot out thorns to snatch our faces.
Our faces sunburnt, radiant, flashing in the sun and shade, drinking the warm rushing air that flung out our hair.
Then slower, and then much slower, and now heaving, and blowing in lowest gear, and then to an uphill stop.
-‘Again! Macker I beat you again!’- I gasped, for I’d pedaled a few meters further up the hill.
-‘Ah but my bike’s much heavier.’ he spluttered.
And with some justice, his bike had the little tent, and a powerful new air rifle, in a bag, strapped to the crossbar.
A gang of big black crows wheeled over us cawing aggressively. There wasn’t a soul about. The road was closed, the area evacuated and the invasion still imminent.
I dropped my bike in the ditch, wading through the high weeds. And climbed up a little stone wall.
I was after some high sprays of luscious blackberries.
Reaching up for the plumpest and blackest, popping them in my mouth and closing my eyes, to savor the taste and texture.
And another, and just a dozen more..
-‘Hey give us down a few of them!’-
-‘Get your own, these are all mine!‘- says I. Clambering higher.
The stone I was perched on wobbled, and Macker grabbed my thighs, as I almost fell forward into a sea of thorns and nettles.
-‘Go on give us a gorgeous berry.’- He was grinning up at me. His gap toothed grin between my brown legs. I dropped one single berry in his mouth,
His warm hands kept sliding right up and up, and I giggled.
-‘I wonder could I find a ripe berry here..’- His fingers were inside my shorts and..
-‘Go way outa that.’- I squealed and wriggled. -‘Stoppit I love it!’-
-‘Blackberries! Blackberries please!’-
I reached up and gobbled a few more big ones. Fed him a few, and stretched up for the fattest and ripest ones of all, holding in my breath with pleasure.
-‘This berry feels delicious, oh oh oh!’-
I was twisting down, laughing, to rub them in his face.
Naturally I fell off the wall on top of him. But we rolled together without injury in the high weeds. Kissing blackberry juice and sweat from each other’s faces.
We had plenty of time to reach the border before dusk.
That trip with Macker started off idyllic. The threat of military attack was just a circumstance, which allowed us be alone together.
There were no people about, the area was prepared for an invasion that had never happened.
It was our first time out of town since my pregnancy was confirmed. I hardly even got morning sickness. But I could feel my hormones transforming me, minute by minute!
I saw things double clear that day. Every dandelion blowing was a miracle. Every touch was shivering magic spells. And for me I remember that as happiness. Tickling Macker in the lush green grass, I felt elated and fulfilled.
Like bursting out of my chrysalis. 0h yes! Turning into a powerful switched-on woman!
But next day I would remember that evening as the last happy moments in my horrible life.
We hid our bikes in the thick bushes, filled our water bottles from a trickle in the mossy bank, shouldered all our belongings and set out up the steep hill. Up there we would camp and keep an eye on various lanes which crossed the border.
It seemed so peaceful, hot and humid. So quiet I found myself whispering. How could we visualize tanks, roaring down these lanes? It all seemed absurd.
Would jet planes force us to spend money and work in McDonald’s?
Yet just a minute later we had our first sighting. A faint clatter and Macker was pointing to a fat black dot, hovering far to the north. A helicopter on patrol, searching for terrorists.
And pumping more planet-destroying gas in a few minutes than we would in our whole lives!
We had missed the good path, it was a hard climb, and prickly. Skirting a thicket, through a boggy patch and alongside a tiny gorge full of trees.
Then up steeply. A kestrel, hovering just above us, in the unreal deep blue sky.
Hovering higher, and always a little higher.
As if to mock our grunting sweaty climb.
Macker pressed on ahead, leaving me plodding steady, I saw him silhouetted, leaping across ledges, calling up at the hawk and then back down, pointing the easier way.
But I was in no hurry at all anymore, because now those sharp pains had started stabbing up under my ribs. Just climbing steadily on up, trying different positions to ease the suffering.
And now I did feel suddenly really sick and nauseous, and I was getting the shakes as well. Shivering in the heat, my vision was even blurring a bit, and then a lot..
Oh no please not a premonition..no no. Don’t let me be switched-on that way!
-‘Come on lazybones. This way through the cottage.’-
Macker’s arms were waving a moment against the sky, then vanishing. Macker the clown, the actor, Macker the director.
I was panting and dizzy, Kneeling down a moment by the abandoned hearth. A thistle in my face, the hawk screaming and wheeling right away.
And the helicopter suddenly louder, and louder again, buzzing like a bee, trapped in my head.
Then I saw you. Aunty Moiyra. Once known as the sunflower girl.
Left here and dying alone. Slowly in the corner, in your sodden bed by the dead fire.
Hands trapped in your beads. Eyes sunken, cheeks caved in.
And the water leak spattering off your solid face.
They abandoned you, okay, for the sake of the children
And you turned into a slab of old grey meat,
like Macker, lying face down broken in rocks face down in a rocky hole like
Macker face down shot down from behind in the bushes, like
Macker like…..oh shit shit shit.
I didn’t want to see any of this stuff but it was now too late.
Then I was up. And out of that ruin in a panic, hands and head shaking in the air. Banishing what I had seen, beating back flashes of the flapping banshee, of an old woman trapped in dead meat, of myself, wailing and banging my head after Maggie’s death.
I ran away from that creepy cottage, in fact I climbed. It was too late not to see so I would just have to ignore it. Now I was pregnant I had no time for this crap.
Do you really wish to delete? Yes, yes please!. For me anyway that was a solution. My body was running with sweat and my face with tears. But this time I came through stronger.
No way would I mope for nightmares in the day. I pretended it hadn’t happened that was all!
The fat bug helicopter faded and faded and was gone, and I reached a flat white rock, and there was the broken tree. And indeed, a tiny bright green meadow, with buttercups and fresh grass, half taken over by the gorse and thorn, and daisies and cow parsley gone to seed. A bumblebee zoomed through the slumbering afternoon.
And Macker was singing merrily, as he pitched the tent already.
From that hill you could see the two lanes below, winding through the little steep sided valleys. And to the north a lot of little lakes, shimmering.
Like orange and silver fishes in the falling sun.
In the west, ridges and higher ridges, and a glimpse of big mountains, with high pink and white topped thunderclouds. Shafts of light between them, pointing to the wilderness of rocks and bogs.
And the gigantic wild ocean beyond.
And right below us an intricate mosaic of little fields and rocky outcrops, half swallowed up, by hedges and little thickets run wild.
-‘Oh Macker darling I’m not feeling very well.’- I explained. -‘Maybe I’m just gonna lie down for a bit if that’s okay.’-
A long and grumbling far off roll of thunder. It was a black dark night, and I woke up sweating in the little tent.
Another flickering flash and I saw Macker, wearing headphones and sitting cross legged in the door-flap, Macker with the rifle across his knees, and watching out, alert for enemies.
A wave of affection swept over me, and I scrambled up to hug him tightly from behind.
-‘I’m so sorry I must have slept for ages oh my dearest are you all right..’-
He went directly into doting father mode. -‘How was I feeling?’- and -‘I must rest more.’- and -‘What would I like?’-.. while I gave him a few hundred kisses.
-‘And how are your pains? Poor Maxie, are you feeling any better?’-
-‘Any sign of those shitty bastards then?‘- I thought I’d just change the subject, I mean, in case we both got drowned in lovers’ drivel!
-‘Well yes actually.’- He surprised me. -‘They say there’s a big raid down the east, and they’ve been landing troops from the sea.’-
-‘What! You must be joking!’-
-‘It may be another practice raid but really it’s much too big already, the media are going mad. And they’ve invented a terrorist atrocity and are accusing us of it.’-
-‘What, what happened?’-
-‘They claim the CLANs have been torturing kidnapped immigrant kids to death, like, for refusing to do slave labour, you know, with photoshop, interviews, shock and horror.’-
-‘That’s disgusting, what shitheads!’-
-‘And we got a phone message, we have to be ready to let off a mine to close the road, and leave here at a moment’s notice.’-
-‘A mine? How do we do that?’-
-‘It’s simple, a double bind random code, we just activate our bit, with the mobile, look here..’-
-‘We’re sitting on the front line, what the hell are we doing here!’-
There was a flash and a mighty crash, I yelped with fright.
But it was only the storm breaking over us.
It was more like a thunder shower than a storm, but it relieved the suffocating heat. The breeze blew a little bit chilly up there, and we cuddled together, watching the shimmer of lightning and talking to stay awake.
We talked most of the night, things we’d never explained, like the sordid details of my family, and his tragic one. Now Macker was presenting some kids shows, while I was still filming with Sol and helping with the Clanners Way soap, in one of the teams.
Me and Macker did different Free-Uni courses in the evenings, Macker did theater and filming, and was very pleased with himself.
Then we started talking about Moonie, if I would have enough time for her when Kazoo was born?
-‘We can’t even call this kid Kazoo anyway, you know that.’-
-‘Aww? why not?’-
-‘Everyone’s asking why and, well.. we should never have admitted she was conceived during a Kazoo playing competition. They want the erotic details and, and I can’t explain that in front of the kids who are always about, like. So now they’re all speculating and..’-
-‘Oh well, I see what you mean.. why don’t we give another name and then just call him or her Kazoo among ourselves?’-
-‘I thought of Scat.’-
-‘Scat!? Scat you smelly cat!’ Why Scat?-
-‘The Scat Sisters, Maggie’s ex band.’-
-‘Maggie had a band? Okay.. Or why don’t we just call her Margaret directly..’-
I’d never explained the whole story about Moonbeam and Maggie. And we talked about politics, and if the Free Unions in other countries could stop the invasion… about Lucia and Bernie, how great their kids were, and how amazing they’d brought seven thousand yunkers to help us…
Each time one of us was nodding off the other would ask a question. So finally the night was short.
Too short, because we had to talk about the CLANs and the De-schools and all the controversies of for free-shops and if it was okay to have a nursery in a bar… and so on and on.
We talked about Money-Free and how brilliant that it was catching on. In fact neither of us had got even to square one in the money system, so we had no compunction at all about being the first generation to stop using it. The virtual market takes into account the cost to the Planet and works better anyway, . I mean, money is fine for rich bastards coz everything is cheap for them, finally it’s obvious to everyone, at last I learned to value things in wurts.. ref.16. Glossary, wurts
The idea was to arrange things so we could have as much choice and free time and quality of life as possible. Making it really tricky, and shameful, for any person or agency to impose on or exploit us.
The flicker of lightning had long gone, but we still heard distant thunder.
Neither one said anything but little by little it became clear..
That it wasn’t, that it couldn’t be thunder.
And little by little we knew.. that what we were hearing was bombs or artillery shelling, far far away!
-‘Let’s get our clothes on and everything packed up ready to go then.’- says I suddenly.
-‘There’s nothing more to pack.’-
-‘Come on I’m taking down the tent.’-
And it was soon after that Macker suddenly grabbed the mobile.
It was ringing in his headphones.
A moment later we were reading a de-coded message.
-‘FIRE ALL AND LEAVE NOW.’-
-‘Oh shit oh where’s the code?’- Macker was rummaging for his little book.
I couldn’t see anything on the road. But yes! I could hear heavy engines.
And now the clatter of a helicopter as well!
-‘Okay I got it’- said Macker and I saw the code. -‘But where’s the ALL button’-
-‘No, no, type ALL it’s two once pause five three times pause five three times again and send.’-
-‘It’s buzzing again, how do I.. yes.’- said Macker frantically, as a new message appeared.
-‘WAIT CLANNERS JUST FIRE NUMBER THREE.’-
-‘What. What. ..How do I? ..’- He was getting really jittery.
So I took the mobile, re-entered our half of the code, and pressed three.
Peered as hard as I could to check the third bridge was clear.
And then pressed enter.
At that same exact moment there was a tremendous explosion. We fell to our knees, cowering needlessly from the faraway flames and bits of flying bridge. It was like, 200 meters away from us.
Macker had the little video camera already going, though it was half dark. I was just kneeling there shaking, in the muddy meadow.
-‘Oh god maybe I just killed someone!’- I said.
But I didn’t have another moment to worry about that.
Immediately one two three four little rockets were shooting up.
Bursting into intense white phosphorous flares floating slowly down.
Lighting up the whole countryside, like a football stadium at night.
I gasped and scuttled under the broken tree.
Shouldering my rucksack and dragging in the air-gun and the packed tent.
I was feeling like an insect on a white dinner-plate.
And sure enough we could now see two helicopters. First I thought they were hovering.
But then I saw they were coming directly for us!.
And I could make out headlights of vehicles, stopping beyond the smoking bridge.
We really had blocked a military convoy.
Then I saw them. The Clanners! Two white ammonia pick-ups careering towards us up the winding lane. A green army vehicle roaring behind them. With young fellas and girls in the back, trying to just hold on. And shoot and throw things at the pursuing jeep.
-‘Hide Macker hide let’s go.’-
But Macker was zooming in on the scene.
The armoured car spurting flashes. A yunker flinging an axe.
The troop carrying helicopter whirling in towards us.
A beep beep beep and a message in my hands.
-‘FIRE ONE SAVE KIDS RUN-‘
So I re-entered the code and pressed one in a second flat.
One of the air-vans was burning a back tyre but got across the nearest bridge.
As I pressed that button again. Yes, I did it deliberately, twice.
I didn’t see anything after that, but Macker filmed it all brilliantly. And I think that explosion has permanently damaged my hearing. The local Clanners escaped, waving their fists defiantly and firing a crossbow at the armoured jeep. That film clip was widely shown on our media, as an example of heroic, if somewhat lunatic, resistance.
But now the troop carrier was clattering in to land right on top of our little hill.
I heard a zinging noise and guessed that bullets were flying.
I was off, panting with terror.
-‘Let’s go let’s go now Macker, run run run.’-
I was running for the edge, just twenty meters away.
Clumsy with the tent and the gun.
I was thrown or fell on the ground but clambered to my feet and kept running.
Reaching the bushes and boulders.
Glancing sideways I saw Macker running behind.
Saw him fall, face down. His arms bent back.
Face down in the rocks .The camera flying in the furze.
I saw Macker for the last time. Vanishing into the rocks.
Because at the same exact moment a shell or a rocket went off behind us with a life shattering ‘wham’. Maybe from the smaller attack helicopter.
I was flung forward over the edge, straight through a sapling. Smashing a rotten branch like brittle candy. Turning in the air. And landing with a terrific ‘whock’ on my back. Down in the deep leaf litter.
Then I was rolling to my feet again, like a headless chicken. And scrambling frantically down another fifty meters.
Before collapsing, safe in the thick and tangled coppice.
- Serial of The Free Ch 34. Up the Cable Railway (thefreeonline.wordpress.com)