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The Fall
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-385-7
Genre: Science Fiction/Fiction/Adventure
eBook Length: 115 Pages
Published: October 2017

From inside the flap

This is the story of what happens in the wake of the fall of an asteroid on the south-west of England. It is about the thin veil that separates our western life from anarchy, about the way that people cope with collapse and the need for self-preservation. And this is a story too about governments - about what we are told and know and, more importantly, about what must be kept from us, what we must never find out.

Kenneth Steven is from Scotland. He's a widely published author with some 40 titles in print. He writes and presents many programmes for BBC Radio. He has long been fascinated by post apocalyptic literature and has written a number of his own, including 'The Fall'. Another is '2020', a political thriller, published both in North America and the U.K., and available for download.

The Fall (Excerpt)

Chapter One

It was the last day in the caves. We were on our way up again after two weeks spent living like moles, taking rock samples and chipping at the faces of walls. I had lost all sense of day and night; we had watches with us and knew the time, yet gradually it had come to mean less and less. Trevor was ahead of me now, the light from his headlamp fixed on bits of water and shale at random, danced about like a firefly twenty feet or more away. We had already climbed at least three hundred feet, and had begun to get into that automatic way of walking you do when you know it's just a slog ahead, a question of putting one foot in front of the other.

"I could murder a decent shower," Trevor said. "Everything I brought down here stinks to high heaven. I tell you, I'll stay under that water for an hour and more! What d'you miss most, Gav?"

I thought about it and was tempted to say peace and quiet. Two weeks underground with Trevor was quite an endurance test on its own, quite apart from all the difficulties with the geology tests.

"A bed, I suspect," I answered at last.

"And someone to warm it no doubt!" He laughed considerably at his own humour.

"Yeah, well.I miss the light too, the end of the summer, the colours. After a while you get to believe there never were any other colours but black and white."

"The colour of a cool pint of beer..."

There was a rush of stones as Trevor's foot slipped on a bit of scree. He swore and as I caught him up I helped push him upwards till he'd regained his balance. I looked up at the dome of the great cavern.

"Not far now." I remarked. "That's the sky above there."

He looked up towards the roof of our underworld.

"Yeah, and people and decent food and a good sleep. D'you ever notice, Gav, how quickly we get used to something, whether it's bad or not? I mean, I remember once I was in a hellish job somewhere and I literally counted the days to the end of it, I had a sheet of them up on the wall and scored them off one by one. But I remember when I finished and went home I'd forgotten how bad it all was after a couple of days. I bet you it'll be the same now."

"Don't tell Russell you think that or he'll have us down here every month from now on!" Russell was our manager, a bald geologist who had spent too long in the field, who lived his work completely. His wife had left him years before and his house was like a cave itself, strewn with rock crystals and agates, sacks of grey samples from safaris in Africa and the odd unwashed dinner plate. I don't think the floor had been hoovered since his wife left.

"If Russell came down here, he wouldn't bother going back up again." Trevor retorted. "He'd run out of food and just go deeper and deeper into the caves and never come back."

"Your personal idea of heaven." I smiled. "Come on, let's get going, stop wittering and climb!"

But it was harder going than we had expected. We were coming out at a completely different point from where we had entered the system, and it was several years since Trevor had navigated this wall. I was impatient, and none too kind about his wrong turnings and dead ends. The heavy pack on my back was hurting and I would have loved to throw it, crystals and slabs and all, into the deep chasm beneath me. I was dog tired of the dark and I wanted out. I don't suffer from claustrophobia normally, but I think just then I began to experience something of the fear of claustrophobia and no longer liked the oppressive dark of those rock walls.

I was thinking about a favourite place of mine called Sillin Acre, where there was a waterfall and a meadow and an abandoned mill. It was September now and I reckoned that if we were to get a real Indian summer I would go there. I would persuade Russell to give me some days off (I'd pretty much earned it that year anyway) and take off with the tent and forget geology had ever been invented.

Trevor stopped abruptly in front of me and I almost collided with him. "D'you notice the cold?" he asked. "It's bizarre - I'm freezing and we've been climbing for a couple of hours without a break."

I hadn't been conscious of it before but now I realised Trevor was right. It was really cold; my hands felt raw against my face and a fierce draught tingled around my ribs. We had brought plenty of warm clothing into the caves for they were damp and the stone floors cold as graves.

But outside it should have been warm; it was still September and when we'd gone down into the caves the weather was brassy yet, the leaves hadn't even begun to turn and the rivers were silent after a long dry summer. Yet the closer we got to the outside world the worse this cold got. We were still twenty or thirty feet from the cave's ceiling when Trevor said, "I've got a last jumper in my pack, I'm going to have to get it."

I wasn't so fortunate; I'd dragged on every layer I could to make room for Russell's stone samples and I was wearing all the jumpers I'd brought. But I did have gloves and I scrabbled about with claw-like hands in my own pack till I found them.

"Look at those rocks," Trevor said sharply. I followed the line of his pointing finger, up another five or ten feet to a dark ledge. "That's frost," he said with certainty. "Bloody thick frost at that."

"Come on," I said, staring up in disbelief, "surely it can't be. Aren't they quartz crystals?"

He didn't argue but levered himself carefully up till he was on a level with the rocks. He chipped some away with the hammer he kept in his belt, and fingered them carefully.

"Sorry, Gavin, but you're wrong. This is frost all right, and - I don't believe it!"