Admin note – from now on, I’ll be posting about music on Mondays, under the tag #musicmonday. I cn’t guarantee it will be every week, but I’ll try. Fiction posts will be on Fridays under the tag of, yes, #fictionfriday. Other posts will be as and when around those fixed points.
For some time, I have been writing a novel set in the years just before World War 1. Like much of my other writing, this is an Alternate History. The initial idea was to set it on Tyneside in the severe winter of 1946/47 under Nazi occupation. For that to happen the World War 2 had to be very different, so I set the Point of Divergence – the point at which this world became different from our own back before WW1.
Tony Maxwell drives down the track from his farm house to the public road, then turns right. Today he is off to London for a big business meeting that if successful will make him a very rich man. At home, he leaves his wife of 25 years, still fast asleep in the marital bed. His daughter, Francine is 150 miles away at University, also fast asleep, although not in circumstances her father is likely to approve of, lying as she is between her boyfriend Alan and her roommate Alice after a boisterous night of sexual activity.
Tony drives along the road, musing on the day ahead. Ahead of him the sky is showing the first signs of dawn, glowing pink in front of him. At least this is his first thought, then he realises that he is driving not East, but due South. He drives on, the air taking on a pinkish glow. Even the headlights on his car seemed to be casting a pink tinged beam. Then, just before the crest of a hill the engine splutters, stops and the radio cuts out. He swears to himself then pulls out his phone to call his wife for a lift. She won’t like being woken but if she comes to collect him he still has time to make the train. The phone however is dead. No display, nothing. He swears again.
There is a farm just over the hill. It is the farmer’s daughter who at this moment lies spooned against the back of his own daughter in their University flat in Newcastle. The farmer, Phil, will be be up for milking, so perhaps he can borrow a car or get a lift from them. He tries to open the car door. It is jammed. He rams his shoulder to it and forces it open. Out of the car the air is still and warm, much warmer than it should be at this hour, even in July. There is a faint fragrance coming from somewhere. His eyes prickle, as if with hay fever. The road surface seems to be glittering like ground frost, although it cannot be frost when it is so warm. He starts to walk up the hill but his vision blurs. Rubbing his eyes he staggers slightly, as if drunk. The road surface still glitters, now taking on a pronounced pink tinge. He staggers again then looking up finds himself in the middle of a swirling mass of dancing pink lights. They move faster and faster, circling him. He drops to his knees then pitches forward and passes out.
5.37 am, 25th September 1915. Loos, France.
Frank Edwards is terrified. The big push begins today, and he knows his chances of survival are remote. He looks along the trench at the rest of his unit. Some are clearly as frightened as he is, some obsessively check every item of their equipment as if this will make them invisible to the machine gun bullet. Some have heads bowed, whether in prayer or exhaustion he has no way of knowing. Belief in a benevolent God has however worn thin these past weeks.
The whistle blows. It is time. He stands up, calling to the rest of his men. “On your feet!” He rests a foot on the firing platform, waiting for the second whistle. There it is. “Now” he shouts and without waiting for a response clambers over the parapet and starts to move forward. He can sense rather than see the men on either side of him. The artillery barrage begins, shells falling to the right and left of him, but he keeps walking forward. Men fall, but he keeps on walking. “Please let me survive this day.” Ahead of him, he can see what looks like a cloud of pink. He is used to the livid green of Chlorine gas, so assumes this is some new nastiness and pulls on his gas mask. The noise is so intense, there is no point in telling the others to do likewise.
The pink cloud is nearer now. It seems to be glittering, He walks on into the cloud. The very air seems pink now. He can see little points of pink light inside his mask. It must have failed. He says a silent prayer, despite his lack of faith, and pitches forward into unconsciousness.
27th segment of the Adamantine in the time of Lirin, Eastern Continent of Margross.
Second Sister of the First Rank of the Alevera stretches luxuriantly. Her mating time had been as ever energetic but she still enjoys the quieter pleasures of life in the Alevera with her sisters all around. She scans the room, her glance landing on Third Sister of the Fourth Rank. She tilts her head to the left, her right hand between her breasts. Third Sister blushes with pleasure at being so singled out by one of her status. Second Sister stands and walks across the room.
“Come Sister. I want to refresh myself after mating. Shall we adjourn to the Chamber of Pleasures?”
Third Sister blushes prettily, the spines on her back rustling.
“I would be honoured Sister. I will bathe and join you.”
Second Sister ponders whether to bid her come unbathed but decides she has no wish for such familiarity yet, so merely bows and walks from the Chamber of Concord into the Garden. The Chamber of Pleasures lies at the centre of the Garden, surrounded by plants selected for their aphrodisiacal perfumes. She inhales deeply, the complex of fragrances sending a strange tingle through her entire body. She pauses briefly, trying to identify a new fragrance on the air, something rich that makes her breasts shake with anticipation of what is to come. The very air seems different in some way. She bends to examine the nearest plants, to inhale another burst of fragrance, but instead she finds herself falling to her knees, her legs unable to support her. Around her head she sees a quick flurry of glittering lights, like burning insects. It is the last memory she retains of the Garden and of her World.
First light, 17.450.37. Weather satellite orbiting the planet of Panix.
Crew fail to respond to calls from base.
Second watch, 11~23~**/12 Battle cruiser ‘Demon of the North’
Officer of the First Watch vanishes after handing over her duties.
2.15am 11th January 2037 ‘The Blue Whale’ restaurant, Tokyo
Restaurant manager vanishes after locking up for the night.
…and so it continues.