On We Go (Extract)

On We Go (Extract)

I wake up early.

It doesn’t even surprise me any more, but still I’m annoyed at the lack of a needed lie-in. It just doesn’t seem fair. If I was anywhere else in the world then I could have pulled the softened duvet up around my neck and delved straight back into my dreams. That doesn’t happen here though. For a start I have no bed – nothing but the granite flag-stones beneath my bruised body. Secondly, I’ll just have to keep dreaming of that duvet, as the only blanket I could find was a ragged, plaster-covered sheet that is way past needing washing.

I look over towards Clarence and laugh at his dreaming smile. How I wish I was him. For him this is still a holiday. Somehow he still sees the beauty of our fallen county, even when there’s barely any of it left. If I take him to the beach he still seems to find it stunning, even when all I see is a war-torn pile of sand and razor wire. This is nothing like the Cornwall I grew up in, and I had already grown tired of the slow-pace of the old, worn-out thing anyway. ‘Cornwall,’ I used to joke, ‘the place which is only good for sleeping and growing old.’

I laugh at the irony of it. I mean, there is really no time for sleep nor growing old in this crumpled old place anymore.

As I watch him I listen out for sounds, searching for anything that could identify any other people nearby. People are now our biggest nightmares. We have way too much food with us for them to just walk on by. Since the bridge fell, food has been such a scarcity that my own teachers would probably kill me for just a small cup of soup. We’ve got plenty more than that. In some ways it makes it easier, but in other way it’s another reason why we can trust nobody. It’s an extra reason why we have to keep running. A night in Paul, before a night in Gulval, before a night in the scattered ashes of Goldsithney. Last night we found refuge in a cabin where I had once stayed a week at a Christian summer camp. Survive Alive it was called. Again, seems pretty laughable that I would end up here. It had been this very room here where I had first found God. Now there is no sight of him.

I look across at Clarence again, trying to decide whether I should wake him. On one hand we need to start moving before the sun properly comes up, but on the other he looks so happy just lying there asleep. He may love the beaches and the forests of Cornwall, but he really isn’t a born walker. We’ve been on the run for a while now, and it’s really starting to tear his feet to shreds. It’s his birthday soon, so I may try and make a dash for it into Truro. He needs some new shoes, and I think we can afford to spare a dozen apples for a pair that at least keep the water and thorns out.

As I’m looking at him trying to decide whether to allow him to rest, he suddenly opens his eyes. I dart mine across to the other side of the room. How many days had started exactly the same now? How many times had I stared at him from afar as he slept? It must be starting to get a bit weird now, so it’s probably just better if he never knows.

I hear him stretching from behind me, as I again survey the surrounding area. He walks towards me, dragging our heavy bags behind him.

‘Time to go?’ he asks in a falsely enthusiastic manner.

‘Yes, time to go.’ I replied in a similar way. Just as we go to walk out of the door, I shoot back into the room.

‘Stop’ I whisper as loudly as I can. ‘They’re out there.’

Clarence looked across at me with a worried look on his face. When I said that people were our worst nightmares, I was talking about the general people like me and him. To cross Mebyon Kernow troops was more than a nightmare – it was practically death.

The one thing I always counted on was that I would be safe. No matter how bored, how lonely, how emotionally tired I was, I always thought that I would be physically okay.  I mean, this is Cornwall we’re talking about, nothing ever happens here. For example, last year the front pages just spoke of planning permission requests and people complaining about local youths. Surprising how much can happen in a year. Now we don’t even have newspapers anymore, but if we did they would have far more important things to speak about than Mrs Harris’s dislike of her next door neighbours. As I was saying, nothing ever really happened here before. We’d grown complacent and lazy, trusting everybody around us. They were our neighbours, our bosses, our friends. I guess that’s really why it’s all hitting so hard – it was those exact people we had trusted before who have brought our county down upon us.

Before I even start I reckon I should explain a little bit about myself. I don’t really know why, but for some reason I feel it will just seem more proper that way. I mean, as far as you know I could just be sitting in some office somewhere in Scotland or something just pretending to know it all. Unless you know exactly who I am, how can you trust that I’m actually me? How can you trust that what I say is actually real? Let me tell you now that every word I say is true. I’ve been right in the centre since it began. Nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. No silver linings. My name is Martha Tremayne, and this is my life now.

 

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