You may remember a few weeks ago I rose to the challenge to write a post including a camel, and even tried my hand at fiction into the bargain. Well, quite a few people liked it and wanted to know what happened next, especially my number one fan Brian. So last week while on my Arvon course I tried out my new writing and editing skills and wrote the next instalment. I also reworked the first part quite a bit, so here is the whole thing, from the beginning all over again. (It’s not long, I promise, my editing was harsh). Please let me know what you think – I can take brutal honesty – I had plenty of practice last week.
Amy lay on her back, covered by the shell of a car. Only the rise and fall of her chest marked her out from the other bodies. The sun moved slowly across the sky, as though scanning for some form of live. It shone through the broken car window onto her face, and she stirred.
Her eyes flickered open. “Well,” she thought, “that’s that then.”
They had seen it coming, it wasn’t a surprise, the only real unknown being what kind of survivor she would be. Would she battle on regardless, fighting fate at every corner, or would she just close her eyes again? As it happened, her instincts took over and, driven purely by thirst, she eased herself out from the wreckage.
She stood up. Her body felt twisted and foreign, yet more her own. In her previous life, it had become just another piece of technology, old joints and muscles traded for new, her nose replaced at 19 when it became unfashionable. In this reality, her body had new significance – both her reason for living and her means of survival. She had a red elastic band around her wrist from sorting the weekly post that morning. She used it now to tie her long black hair, slowly smoothing every last strand back out of her face.
The ground was still now, but the landscape was alien, unfamiliar silhouettes against the horizon. The line of yew trees that had guarded the edge of Victoria Park, where Amy had played French cricket as a child with her brother Dan, were now reformed as bridges between islands of churned earth. St David’s Education Centre – a two storey, blue brick building, less than five years old, now mountains of coloured rubble, interwoven with miles of thick, silver cabling.
Startled by a noise behind her, she spun round to find herself face to chest with a camel. She blinked, but didn’t move. For a moment she panicked, had she had a blow to the head? She didn’t have a lot of experience with camels. Could they break your arm? Or was that swans?
She was thirsty, and looking for water seemed as good a plan as any. She looked back at the camel, staring at her, eyes unblinking. In the absence of other people, she thought it might make a useful travelling companion, and the animal appeared to feel the same, standing, waiting. She made encouraging camel noises and set off, picking her way across the broken buildings and broken lives. The camel followed.
They walked in silence, pausing from time to time to listen for signs of life, but they heard none. After about ten minutes, Amy stopped and turned to the camel.
“This is probably a bit odd,” she began, kicking self-consciously at a piece of broken brick, “but perhaps we should get to know each other, you know, bond or something.”
The camel didn’t respond.
“Maybe I should give you a name.” She looked carefully at the camel, its long eyelashes and quietly capable air, decided she must be female. “How about Beatrice?” The camel continued to stare. “Raise one hoof if you don’t like Beatrice.”
“My name’s Amy.” She offered her hand for Beatrice to shake, but got no reaction.
They crossed what had once been the dual carriageway leading out towards Weston, littered now with the skeletons of cars, smouldering tyres, blood splattered windscreens. The almost whole cab of an HGV, roof missing, pointed skyward from a fracture in the road.
Not everything had been completely flattened. Amy saw a wall, taller than her, coloured a deep pink. A painted slogan said – ‘The Virtual Love Nest’.
Maybe if she’d listened to her mentor, Sylvie, and gone to those singles fencing nights at The Eldorado, she’d have been with a partner when it happened. Then she wouldn’t be stuck now on her own with Beatrice, who wasn’t proving to be terribly scintillating company. It was clearly her punishment for not going along with The Grand Plan.
Beatrice had stopped still, a concentrated look in her normally glassy, blank eyes. “What is it Beatrice? What are you looking at?” The camel’s ears twitched. Amy wished she’d found a more demonstrative animal – a yappy dog maybe, that barked and ran in small circles and snuffled its nose into interesting things. She’d never been a dog person, but she could see how that kind of bouncy enthusiasm might be comforting.
A few years ago, before pets were rationed, Amy had a cat called Amos. Amos was black all over except for white feet and a patch on one eye, like a pirate in white leather boots. He expressed his mutinous streak by disappearing for days on end, only to show up out of the blue, swaggering over to his basket next to the oven, as though he’d never left. Although Amy worried about him, she had admired his independence, envious of his confident flaunting of the rules.
Beatrice had set off purposefully and Amy ran now to catch her up. She heard what sounded like a child’s muffled crying. She ran faster, towards the source of the noise.