Climate Change is Fake News
In a press conference this morning at the White House President Koil dismissed the recent reports by ‘doom-monger’ climate scientists, who claim the extreme weather events we have been witnessing across the States and around the world in the last year are the result of so-called ‘Climate Change’. President Koil made it very clear that he sees these reports as evidence of ‘Fake News’ and renewed his campaign commitment to ‘make war on fake news’. The President said ‘the climate changes every day’ and it is ‘nothing to write home about’. To say the extreme weather events – hurricanes, floods, wild fires – are the consequence of man’s actions, in particular the burning of fossil fuels, is, the President said, ‘a blatant lie’, and an ‘attack on democracy’. “These people want to shut down our oil industries, our coal industries, our car industries. They want us living in straw huts like Third World savages.” Afterwards, a Whitehouse spokesman said ‘Third World savages’ was just a ‘figure of speech’ and the President meant no racial slur by it. He had ‘a lot of Third World friends’. Many of them work at his chain of hotels around the globe.
Chapter 2: Terminal
‘So, what’s your story?’ Eddy asked, sipping a coffee and munching sceptically on a croissant.
They sat outside a service station café, just over the border into France on the outskirts of Strasbourg – which was overflowing with weary travellers. Some had a clearly spent at least one night there and the place had the air of a refugee camp. Folk sitting hunched exhausted, blankets over their shoulders, cradling a steaming cup or a half-eaten sandwich. Others recumbent in sleeping bags, on any spare floor. Eddy knew how he felt – four hundred and seventy seven miles since Pisa, another four hundred to go to Calais, but at least he was over the halfway point. A plasma screen blared out the latest news, watched avidly by the stranded – each latest revelation leading to more gasps, groans and curses. A spokeswoman from the Civil Aviation Authority was blathering on robotically: ‘There is no telling how long the eruption would last. The airspace above Europe will be closed for the foreseeable future, unless there was a dramatic change in wind direction.’ The studio cut to shots of airports and ferry terminals across the continent – aisles of awkwardly slumbering travellers like the dead waiting for resurrection, the ‘cancelled’ litanies of departure boards – showed the misery was shared with millions in the same plight.
‘My story?’ Fenja smiled. ‘You … people seem to like stories, don’t you?’
‘All the time.’ Eddy grinned. ‘Especially my people. My late grandfather Gunnar was always telling me stories.’ He looked wistful for a moment. ‘But … you distracted me. Answering a question with a question. Cunning! You could be a politician.’
‘Could I?’ Fenja considered the idea.
Eddy caught her eye. ‘Anyway…?’
‘Ah, yes. My story. A traveller, like you. In a place I don’t belong, like you. Trying to get … home. Like you. What more do you need to know?’
‘Your family, your job, what you love, what you hate…’
‘Mm, interesting. I’ll get back to you on those.’
Eddy gave her a puzzled look. ‘Ah, the mystery woman.’
‘Yes, that’s it. My story is … mystery.’
They enjoyed their breakfast in silence for a while.
‘Don’t you want to know my story?’ Eddy finally asked.
‘Why should I?’ Fenja lit up, despite the sign and the frosty stares.
Eddy considered this as he contemplated his coffee. ‘Because I’m giving you a lift. Because we’re sharing the road. Because we’re fellow human beings, caught up in this mess.’
‘Katla. The ash-cloud and all that shit. A bit of dust and this whole continent reverts to the Dark Ages. Doesn’t take much.’
‘For it all to come crashing down. You can’t even get on the travel websites to find out what’s going on. They’re all jammed. Tried to book tickets for Eurostar. Forget it. I figured my best shot was to haul my sorry ass to Calais, and take my chances at the ferry terminal. Get to Britain and ride up to Scotland – apparently a couple of their airports and still letting out flights. This trip has been a disaster – literally. I might as well head back.’
‘I was meant to be touring Europe with my lady … my ex-lady… but she dumped me in Italy. Wonder how she’s fairing?’ He looked out at the grey skies. ‘If she had any sense she would have got on the last flight out of Dodge. I had to carry on regardless – bison-headed, my other grandfather would say. Look where it’s got me…’
Eddy finished his coffee. Sighed.
‘So, where are you heading?’
‘To Ellen Vanin.’
‘The Isle of Man I think it’s called these days. There’s a big … meeting there. I’ve been … called.’ She looked into the middle distance.
‘The TT Races? Always wanted to go there. Isn’t that earlier in the year?’
‘No, not that.’
‘I’m meeting tribe.’
‘Ah, I see. Well, let’s hope we can get across. The English Channel – only twenty one miles but it might as well be the Pacific. How good at you at swimming?’
‘We’ll get across.’ She smiled that smile again. ‘Get me there. I’ll take care of it.’
Eddy looked at her as she got up to go to the bathroom. She walked past the long queue and went straight in, causing stunned silence, followed by a chorus of angry voices.
They were at some service station somewhere in Luxembourg around the six hundred mile mark. Time to fill up for the third time since he’d set off. Eddy squeezed the petrol pump, watching the euro counter whizz round alarmingly rapidly. ‘Jeez, the cost of gas over here. It’s amazing you guys drive anywhere.’
Fenja looked agitated in the forecourt, pacing up and down. The legs had a hypnotic effect on some of the drivers. A long line of vehicles stretched back onto the road, into the distance. It had taken alot of nerve to ride straight in, but ‘it was every man for himself’, as Redcrow put it. ‘Survival of the fastest.’
‘Don’t these places always look the same?’ He called over. ‘Same plastic shit the world over. Bums me out.’
When Eddy had finished, tapping the last few drops out, Fenja walked back to his pump.
‘Well, looks like we’ve hit the jackpot again.’ He groaned, nodding at the final total displayed. He started to pull out his billfold.
His passenger leant nonchalantly against the pump, as though against a tree. She inspected her nails as Eddy’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. ‘Wha—!?’ Both counters spun around until they returned to zero.
‘How– how did you do that?’
‘That?’ She shrugged. ‘Me and electronic things never get on. They always seem to go haywire when I’m around. Don’t know why.’
Eddy watched as she straddled the bike, sliding up onto the passenger seat. ‘Coming?’
The petrol pump attendant was busy with a never-ending queue of customers. Shaking his head in disbelief, Eddy got on and fired her up. He set the tachometer back to zero. ‘I have to do it manually.’
‘I’m sure.’ She blew a kiss to the motorists as they accelerated off.
As they approached Calais they found the roads increasingly congested, until they saw a sign that flashed in French, German, Italian and finally English: ‘Ferry Terminal closed until further notice.’
‘How can it be closed!’ spluttered Eddy.
A truck-driver nearby, shaking his head. ‘A bloody farce, that’s what this is! So many people have tried to get there; they’ve had to shut it down. Evacuating Europe. Like flamin’ Dunkirk – my Pap was in it. He’d turn in his grave, God bless him. Doubt they’d send a fleet of fishing boats over.’ The trucker cast an ogling eye over the Nordic woman. ‘Hear they’re sending the Navy down to Santander – fat lot of good that’ll do us, stuck here. Your best bet is Rotterdam, mate. They’re still sailing from there, far as I know. Good luck to you and your bird.’
‘Your bird?’ Fenja queried.
Eddy grinned, checked the atlas. ‘Rotterdam, jeez. This really is turning into a non-stop funaround…’ He found it, and worked out a route. ‘Come on, before everyone and their dog has the same idea!’
They rode through the night until they arrived at the port in the small hours of the morning. It was as dismal as its name suggested – a squalid neon Purgatory, where the tourist dead awaited the Ferryman. The red tail-lights blurred in the rain into a continuous smear as traffic crawled towards the terminal – but Eddy managed to filter through without any prangs, more through luck than skill as the toll of the journey made him spaced out and lacking in the usual grace he felt on two wheels.
Nearly twenty hours on the road.
Mercifully, they were finally there.
The large crowd had gathered out of the ticket office, trawling luggage, barely kept in check by anxious-looking, exhausted security guards. It was clear many of the travellers had reached the end of their tether. Babies screamed. Adults snapped. Arguments were breaking out. There was a nervous desperation in the air. The barriers seemed very flimsy.
As Eddy stretched – stiff from the long ride – Fenja slinked over to the crowd and seemed to pour through them. This caused further uproar – but when an angry Brit harangued her, she turned to look at him and he fell silent. Like a cat sauntering along arrogantly she made her way to the front of the queue.
A little while later she returned with two tickets.
‘How did you get those?’
‘Never mind. Let’s go. The ferry is leaving soon.’
Eddy rode the bike with relief onto the roll-on, roll-off ferry, parked it and killed the engine. The doors started to swing closed behind them. A manic traveller tried to leap aboard at the last minute, plunging into the widening gap.
‘God! Man in the water!’ Redcrow shouted. He started to pull off his jacket to go in, but Fenja held him back.
There were what sounded like gunshots and screams, muffled as the doors clanged shut and the engines throbbed into life.
‘Jeez–us. All Hell is breaking loose out there!’ He started to shake with adrenalin. ‘I could have saved him. Why did you stop me?’
‘So you could get yourself killed? I saved your hide, mister! Don’t mention it!’ She turned on her heels and headed to the stairs.
Redcrow caught up with her as she reached the passenger lounge. ‘Let’s find a couple of chairs. I need to sit down.’
As they entered, they could see all were taken – and many were sprawled on the floor. The place was stuffy with a damp smell of wet and weary travellers, coughs and sneezes, murmurs of subdued conversation and a blaring TV.
Fen kept walking. ‘Up on deck.’
‘It’ll be freezing!’
‘We can keep each other warm.’
Eyebrows raising, Eddy followed.
Fenja found a spot, next to one of the funnels. It let out some warmth. They arranged their bags into a nest, zipped up their jackets.
She offered him her arms. ‘For survival purposes only.’
They huddled together, under the stars, the sea surging around them, the lights of Rotterdam fading into the distance. Fires were breaking out, sirens flashing. Then, a small explosion – a muffled boom in the distance.
‘Looks like we got out just in time! That could have been us.’
Eddy inhaled the scent of her hair, found himself nodding off. After the epic ride, he was exhausted. The slow undulation of the ferry as it ploughed its way through the waves rocked him. His eyelids grew heavy. Within minutes he was fast asleep, head resting on her shoulder.
Fenja stared up at the sky, wide awake, eyes filled with stars. ‘Allfather, I am coming.’
Extract from Thunder Road copyright (c) Kevan Manwaring 2020