Monday 22 April 2013

Seven Point Eight: The Second Chronicle Excerpt by Marie Harbon

Seven Point Eight: The Second Chronicle

Excerpt 1

Like the other snipers, he watched the scene below the ridge unfold. A picturesque cottage nestled between two barns and surveyed an expanse of fields, many already harvested. Its courtyard entertained a host of chickens pecking at random, while a goat chewed nonchalantly, tethered to a gate post. Adjacent to the house, rows of proud runner beans entwined around canes, cabbages sat stoutly and carrots soaked up the rays of impending autumn. A woman tended to these vegetables, appearing relaxed in her surroundings while a little girl exited the cottage, carrying a basket of apples. She had blonde, curly hair and wore a corduroy pinafore, with a roll neck knit underneath and tights to cover her legs. The sight of his rifle homed in on the girl.

Outside the cottage, the woman watered her vegetable plot, admiring their progress and inspecting for pests. A chocolate brown Labrador ran through the open door and joined the little girl, wagging his tail, she responded by stroking his head. Her mother acknowledged the sweetness of the scene with a smile. The radio blared out from the kitchen, playing T-Rex’s ‘Get It On’ and the mother moved her body in a surreptitious dance, singing along under her breath.

“I’m going to feed the horsies,” the little girl said.

“That’s okay, sweetheart, don’t forget to approach them carefully from the front.”

She eyed her daughter discreetly as the little girl opened the gate to the first field. The horses were grazing in the far corner and as she made her way over to them, the dog followed behind her at her heels. She considered her mother’s instructions as she approached, cautious of startling them, as she didn’t want to receive a hefty kick. When she reached them, she stroked their noses and they each received an apple, taking them greedily. All the time, her mother remained aware of her daughter’s movements as she picked runner beans, while the dog ran around her in circles. Then unexpectedly, it barked, causing the mother to pause.

Something upset the horses and the little girl touched the top of her arm, finding a dart stuck in her skin. She screamed. Whatever it was, it made her disorientated; everything started to spin and a moment later, she collapsed to the ground. The dog became frantic, barking and jumping around at the invisible enemy.

Hearing the scream, her mother froze. A wave of nausea gripped her stomach as she became confronted with every parent’s worst nightmare…a nightmare from the past that had returned to haunt her. Instinctively, she vaulted the gate and spurred by panic, she ran towards her daughter, hoping to find her breathing. As she sprinted across the damp grass, she became aware of a sharp pain in her neck, as if a mosquito had just bitten her. However, she ignored it and knelt by her daughter, her priority.

“Come on, come on,” she whispered in desperation, “wake up!”

This couldn’t be happening. The stalkers had quit, tired of the relentless chase, that cat and mouse where the rodent had always been left unscathed, while the predator had cursed his luck and licked his wounds again and again. Her family had just become settled, laid new plans, looked to a future free from fear, but that was just a mere fantasy now.

“Please wake up!”

She laid her head on her daughter’s chest, relieved to discover she was still breathing, but her little girl didn’t regain consciousness. Another sting, this time in her upper arm, reminded her of the danger that lurked.

Not again, please, no more running, no more fighting…

Closing her eyes, she understood what she needed to do, but nothing happened. This couldn’t be. She sensed an adjustment in her awareness, like someone had changed the channel on TV without asking her. Her grasp of the everyday world began to blur around the edges, it felt distant, a mere projection on an antique screen. Something was wrong, the game had changed.

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Genre - Science Fiction (PG13)

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