Chapter 37


The Devil's Peak had always seemed to be a short distance away when I had looked at them from the mainland but, out here on the water, the jagged rocks didn't seem to be getting any closer. The light continued to improve and the temperature continued to rise. By half-past one it felt less like a winter night and more like a gentle summer morning.

Clare was asleep. With no other distractions I divided my attention between getting to the rocky outcrop and keeping a close watch on the skies overhead. There was still an incredible amount of activity taking place above the countryside that we had left behind. I wondered how many people were left alive there. An hour or so ago I had stood and watched thousands upon thousands of innocent lives being ended in seconds. It seemed possible - no, it seemed probable - to think that the land we were running from might now be devoid of all human life.

As if to reinforce their complete and unarguable domination of the planet, as I watched the heavens above me I saw countless new ships arrive. Different in shape and size to those I had seen before but somehow still familiar, I guessed that each one would have a specific part to play in the alien's work to change, modify and mutate the land which I had once called home.

Clare began to stir. She sat up and rubbed her eyes.

'Okay?' I asked. She shrugged her shoulders.

'Suppose,' she grunted.

I stopped rowing and sat and watched her.

'Sure you're okay?'

She nodded, looked at me, and then looked away again.

'I'm fine...' she began.

'But...?'

She took a deep breath and sighed.

'What are we doing, Tom?'

'Making the most of what's left,' I quickly replied.

'But why? What good is it going to do?'

I didn't answer. We both knew that we were just delaying the inevitable. 'Where are we going to shelter on these rocks?'

'Joe Porter said that...' I started to say.

'I know what Joe Porter said,' she interrupted, 'you've already told me. But what are we going to do long term? What are we going to do for food? Where are we going to sleep? There's nothing there.'

'We've got supplies in the rucksacks, that should be enough for a few days at least.'

'Okay so we can eat for a day or two. What next? What if we're still alive and all the food's used up? Then what are we going to do?'

'We could fish,' I said, instinctively and foolishly.

'You going to make yourself a bloody rod and sit on top of the rocks fishing are you?'

'If I have to, yes.'

'Oh, come on...'

'What's the matter with you?'

'What are you going to make this rod from?'

'What?'

'There's no fucking wood on the rocks. What are you going to make the rod from?'

'Don't know. I'll use this paddle if I have to.'

'And if you catch any, how are you going to cook the fish?'

'We've got matches, we could...'

'I know that,' she snapped, 'but what are you going to do? Burn the fucking boat?'

She was right but I couldn't bring myself to respond. I picked up the paddle and began to dig deep into the water again. We'd find a way to survive. We had managed so far.

Joe Porter had been right.

We eventually reached the rocks and, just as he'd told me, on the farthest side of the largest rock we found a small shingle shore, no more than fifteen feet square. I dragged the boat as far up the shore as I could and wedged the hull between two large boulders.

Clare and I found a little sheltered area where we could sit and wait together and watch.

After we had been sitting together for a short while I asked her how she was feeling. She shook her head but didn't answer.

By three o'clock that morning it was as light as day. I watched hundreds of alien ships crawling high through the perfect clear blue sky like ants. Hundreds more were working tirelessly close to the surface of the planet. I saw more ships like the one that had flown close to us while we had been in the boat. Even though it was light I could clearly see that they were each dragging behind them a brilliant curtain of energy. I saw several of them flying together in slow unison. Their purpose was clear. They were cleansing the face of the planet. Burning away the last traces of man. Sterilising the land.

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