Brighter Than the Sun

A Viking statue is unveiled to the residents of Gimli Manitoba by the President of Iceland. Gimli has the largest...

Announcement by WOTAN (broadcast on all channels, in all media formats)

We declare our resolution to bring an end to the crisis which has threatened the very survival of our species these last few months. By working together the members of WOTAN have put into place emergency protocols that prioritise humanitarian aid, the sharing of resources and information across borders, and collaboration between our armed forces. The well-being of our citizens and the care of the vulnerable is our top priority. It is expected that major flooding will occur across coastal areas as the ice melts, so co-ordinated evacuation is taking place wherever possible. We acknowledge that this is an unprecedented situation – and we must accept our culpability in bringing about this Climate Chaos through the thoughtless use of fossil fuels. This must change – we have the technology to solve these problems and draft plans are being formulated – but for now, we must salvage what we can and rebuild our lives. We ask every citizen to help their neighbour and their community. Humanity has been tested. We must learn the lessons of this crisis, and build a wiser, more compassionate world.

Chapter 34: Brighter Than the Sun

Eddy sat by the statue of Leif Ericsson, strumming his guitar, looking out over Lake Manitoba. It was definitely getting milder, the ice starting to break up on the water, patches of green emerging from the melting snow.  It was like the first inklings of spring, though it was midsummer. He ran through the chords of one of the Runestone Cowboys standards, but his heart wasn’t in it. He was looking forward to playing with the band again – they had been booked to play at the reopening of the Lighthouse, repurposed as a community hub. There had been a couple of rehearsals, and a lot of beer drunk, as he had caught up with the band and shared some of his wild exploits. He didn’t like talking about it too much, as it all sounded like some low budget B-movie, the magic bled away in the neon glare of a bar-room or strip-lit garage-cum-practise-room. He stopped strumming and flexed his fingers. Still stiff after all that riding – his death-grip crossing the ice, day after day, pulled something and his hands throbbed, especially at night. He circled the scar in his palm fondly, then sighed, looking at the bleak, familiar vista. Nothing could go back to the way it was. Absent-mindedly he played a chord, pushing it around the fretboard. A promising pattern fell into place and he played it again, building upon it. He began to hum along a harmony and for a while he was just lost in his music. Forging a new song for a new age.

‘Hey, brother!’

Eddy looked up. It was Siggy, wearing a thick colourful coat, hat, gloves and ear-warmers.

‘I thought I recognised that caterwauling. Shove over. I’ve got coffee.’

Eddy smiled and made room for his sister.

She gave him a peck on the cheek, and then poured them both some coffee.

He breathed it in. ‘Ah, I’ve missed your industrial grade joe, sizzers,’ smiled Eddy, grimacing as he took a sip.

‘Some cookies too,’ she offered from a bag.

Eddy gave her a curious look. She had been overly attentive since he’d made it back, fussing around him like a mother hen. Half the available women in Gimli had as well, but his sister had kept them at bay – couldn’t they see he was broken-hearted and needing some healing time? Not only had he gone to Hell and back saving them all – where exactly she still couldn’t quite get her head around – but he had lost the love of his life too boot. ‘Give the man some space!’ she warned, while smothering him with her sisterly love.

As they sipped their coffee and munched on the cookies, they gazed over Gimli. The place was slowly being sorted out – the roads being cleared of snow, buildings being repaired, power restored, services coming back on line. It was going to take a while for ‘normal service to be resumed’, but there was a semblance of order being restored. The worst job was dealing with the bodies – not only the victims of the raiders, whose own corpses had dissolved away staining the snow like an oil spill, but those found frozen in their cars, in their powerless homes. The sports centre had become a temporary morgue, as folk returned to their own dwellings. Identifying the dead had been a grim task.

‘I miss him,’ said Eddy, finally.

Siggy snuggled close, leaning her head on his shoulder. ‘Me too.’

‘So many dead to mourn, it’s … overwhelming. But losing him has hit me more than anything, well … almost.’

‘I know.’

They scanned the lake, hoping to see some meaning in the runes of black cracks.

‘Everyone is looking forward to the gig tonight. Folk need a good dance, let their hair down, shake some feathers, after … all of this.’

Eddy grimaced. ‘I hope we’re going to be warmed up enough. Hardly had time to practise. We’re rusty as fuck.’

‘Oh, a few beers, and the cheers of the crowd should warm you up.’

‘Let’s hope so. I don’t know if I’m really in the party spirit, to be honest.’

‘That’s completely understandable. Just be real. People will dig that. It’ll give your music real grit.’

At the word, Eddy found his ears prickling with tears.

‘What’s up?’ she asked.

‘Oh, nothing… Just something grandfather once said to me…’

Siggy put her arm around him and he leaned his head on her shoulder as they gazed across the bay. ‘He’d be so proud of you,’ she whispered.

Eddy shook his head. ‘I’d rather have him back.’

‘I don’t he’ll ever go away… He’s probably looking down on us right now, laughing.’

They scanned the threadbare blanket of cloud cover.

‘He’s gone. And he’s not coming back. It hurts, it hurts real bad. But … I’m ready to deal with it.’

Siggy nodded. ‘We’ve all survived something … mad … it has stripped away a lot of bullshit. Folk don’t want fake anything anymore.’

‘Let’s hope so.’ Eddy finished his coffee, and flicked the grouts into the snow.

‘I don’t think folk will be so quick to vote in a shuckster like Koil again,’ she assessed, packing away the Thermos and Tupperware. ‘No more wizards of Oz! But we need checks and balances so it doesn’t ever get out of hand like it did. No single leader should wield so much power.’

‘Well, sounds like the new NATO will see to that.’

‘WOTAN,’ she corrected. ‘Yes, since they formed the emergency council of countries dealing with the crisis things have started to be sorted out. It is amazing what we can achieve when we work together.’

A flash of light caught their eye. They turned to the lighthouse.

‘Looks like they’re fixing those new solar panels in place,’ said Eddy. ‘Optimistic!’

‘That there cloud is finally starting to break up. The experts on the radio say the nuclear winter is coming to an end. The volcanic ash and dust in the jet-stream is finally dispersing.’

‘Well, don’t get out your bikini yet, sis. It’s going to take a while before things warm up.’

‘I don’t know. I think there is already a little thaw,’ she held his hand, and smiled. ‘I think I can even feel a pulse.’


Extract from Thunder Road by Kevan Manwaring

Copyright (c) Kevan Manwaring 2020

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