by Lexi Revellian
It's 2018 and Tori's managing. Okay, so London is under twenty metres of snow, almost everybody has died in a pandemic or been airlifted south, and the only animals around are rats. Plus her boyfriend never returned from going to find his parents a year ago when the snow began - but she's doing fine. Really.
She lives in an apartment that's luxurious, if short on amenities, in a block which used to be home to rich City bankers. A handful of fellow survivors are her friends, and together they forage for food and firewood, have parties once a month and even run a book club. The problem is they have no long-term future; eventually provisions will run out. Tori needs to find transport to make the two-thousand-mile journey south to a warm climate and start again.
Enter Morgan, a disturbingly hot cage fighter from a tougher, meaner world where it's a mistake to trust people. He's on the run from the leader of the gang he used to work with. And he has a snowmobile.
As soon as Claire got pregnant, Paul brought home all the books he could find in the Barbican library on pregnancy and childbirth, and has been reading up on the subject. I’m not sure this has helped. He now knows in great detail every possible thing that can go wrong. Armed only with a St John’s Ambulance course he took six years ago, he’s not equipped to cope if they do. Now I was there to sit with Claire he went off to make a cup of tea.
An elderly stove made the bedroom smell of paraffin. Claire was sitting up in bed, pale, her hair clinging damply to her forehead. She wore a thick sweater over a nightdress, socks and legwarmers. For a moment she looked pleased to see me, then she shut her eyes, her face scrunched up and a moan escaped her gritted teeth. She inhaled deeply and breathed out through her mouth. I sat by the bed, trying to look relaxed and confident. A positive attitude was all I had to offer. I know nothing about childbirth. I had chicken pox when my school showed the mother-giving-birth video; afterwards my friends told me about it in gruesome detail and I was quite relieved to have missed it. The sum total of my knowledge picked up elsewhere was:
● You have to push but only when you get the urge
● In African tribes they put charcoal on the child’s navel as it’s a natural antiseptic
● If you can’t get to hospital in time, you should sit up with your back against something and your legs apart
● You tie the umbilical cord in two places and cut between the threads with sterilized scissors (I suppose you should boil the thread too)
● It’s important to get all the afterbirth out
And I know there are breathing techniques which allegedly lessen the pain. Claire has been doing breathing exercises religiously for months with the help of a book Paul gave her. I’m sceptical about this except as a distraction, because if it worked then they’d tell you to breathe to combat the pain of a headache or a broken bone, and they don’t. If you have a headache or broken bone, you take aspirin, paracetamol or morphine because unlike breathing, they actually work. But I kept this opinion to myself.
“How are you feeling?”
She grasped my hand, her eyes wide. “Don’t ever have a child, Tori, it’s terrible.”
“Chance would be a fine thing. Fond though I am of Greg, he’s not quite –”
Understandably in the circumstances, Claire interrupted my comment about the desert that is my love life. “I didn’t realize, last time they gave me an epidural. What was I thinking? I must have been crazy. I thought a brother or sister would be nice for Gemma…”
I patted her hand. “So it will. It’ll be over in a few hours, then you’ll have a new baby and you’ll forget all about it. Probably decide to have six more.”
“Paul wanted to get Nina here. Can you imagine? I told him over my dead body.”
“Oh my God. Well, that’s something to be cheerful about.”
Nina is okay I suppose, but she has a view on every topic and expects you to agree. If you don’t, she assumes you haven’t understood her, and explains all over again, more slowly and in greater detail. Sometimes I want to brain her with a brick. I was really pleased when a bad back stopped her coming on our group forages, because without her, dividing the spoil takes no time at all, and it used to take the best part of an hour with Nina present being nitpicky. She’s the last person in the world you’d want to split a restaurant bill with – if there still were any restaurants. Me and the guys, Paul, Greg and Archie, have a swings and roundabouts approach to share-outs. So do Charlie and Sam.
Claire began another contraction. I glanced at my watch and wondered if I should time them – was it a good sign when they got more frequent? The pain must have been worse because she yelled. Afterwards I wiped her face with a flannel from the bedside table, feeling inadequate.
“Tori…supposing I can’t get the baby out?”
There were tears in her eyes. A stab of fear went through me – what an appalling way to die, and poor little Gemma would have to manage in this hostile new world without her mother. Women often died in childbirth before the invention of modern obstetrics; Mary Wollstonecraft died of septicaemia, slowly and agonizingly over days…I spoke robustly.
“You’ll be fine. Loads of women do this every day – well, not the same women, obviously, different ones. But it can’t be that difficult. Anyway, they say it’s easier the second time, and you’ve been practising the breathing, and you’re healthy. Plus you’ve got me here, and I won’t let anything bad happen. Hey, I’m really good at boiling water…”
Claire smiled a scared smile and gripped my hand.
By L K Jay
I came across this book from the Indie Book Bargains site and I'm really glad I did. I like anything post-apocalyptic and this just fit the bill. It was a clear read and easily engaging and the characters were really interesting.
The story revolves around two catastrophic events, a pandemic and London is under several meters of snow. We join a small group of people who live and scavenge what is left of London and life continues in their little community as best it can, until a strange appears in the snow.
I really liked the two main characters, they were very human and contemporary, I felt that they were people I might know. I liked that there was a mix of personalities and that they weren't that different to what people are like now. The familiar landmarks were fun and the tension in the story was gripping.
Sequel please, I hope there's more to come!
From the Author
For years, I resisted writing because I knew I'd never be as good as Jane Austen. Finally I realized no one is as good as Jane Austen - I started writing and couldn't stop. I've sold over 60,000 ebooks.
My first two novels are fantasy (Torbrek and the Dragon Variation and Trav Zander). The third, Remix, is contemporary fiction with elements of crime, investigation and romance, and tells what happens when Caz Tallis finds a strange man asleep on her roof terrace. He turns out to be - no, I'm not telling you, you'll have to read it to find out... My fourth, Replica, is a thriller. Beth Chandler is unknowingly replicated in a flawed experiment, and falls for the man who is hunting her double. The latest is Ice Diaries, a post-apocalyptic story with romance and humor.
My day job is designing and making jewelry and silver under my real name, Lexi Dick. I've made pieces for Margaret Thatcher, 10 Downing Street, and Her Majesty the Queen.