Despite that spring is my favourite season, it seems that I’ve written few stories set during the three months between the end of March and June. It’s a period that defines new life, a new start, new beginnings and people tend to be blessed with a certain air of positivity and relaxation. Spring for me means bees and cider (amongst other things!) What sort of a new beginnings can we explore in our fiction?
What sort of a new beginning can there be for a post-apocalyptic community in the Scottish Highlands who have been trapped in the valleys and mountains for a thousand years or more? It is said that the outside world is parched, that those who go there will bring back a sickness that would threaten the entire network of fragile villages. But one sixteen year old girl feels the calling of the land beyond and she is determined to find out what really lies beyond the borders of the village.
It’s a coming of age tale but it also explores themes of control and the insatiable human desire to explore. A New Age Exodus is one of ten short stories in a volume that also features: Nazi Super Soldiers, a prison for souls on a distant Mars-like world and the final words of an American serial killer. What’s more, this collection is less than £2!
He suddenly looked sorrowful and she almost felt pity for the embarrassment he was about to feel. No, not now. I’ve told him four times in the last year that I cannot and will not marry him!
‘Kirsten,’ He pleaded, all signs of confidence in the rightness of his actions had vanished but he proceeded anyway, ‘Will you do me the honour of being my wife?’
She looked to the crowd and the encouraging gazes. They couldn’t see the doubt in her eyes. She looked back to Robert. A single tear welled in his left eye.
‘No! No I shall not!’ She screamed and leapt off the podium. Kirsten ran, not caring where she went. She raced back to her father and sister; the crowd parted as she approached but she ran through the gap, not daring to look at her them and risk seeing their disapproval. The crowd gasped as a sobbing Kirsten Jarvis disappeared back up the lane toward her home.
The fur drapes rustled as they were pushed aside. Daylight momentarily flooded the house before it disappeared again.
‘I have nothing to say to you Robert.’ The portrait of her mother showed a proud and strong woman, qualities Kirsten wished she had every day she woke up to that face.
‘He is not here,’ came the glum reply, ‘Shannon is keeping him occupied.’
With tears streaming down her face, Kirsten turned to face her father. Her arms were crossed across her chest in a defensive gesture, ready for any onslaught he might have been about to dish out. ‘Then say what you must father, I know I’ve acted shamefully.’
He brow creased in pity rather than anger, ‘No my dear daughter. When I look at you, I only feel pride.’
‘You must have known he was going to do that.’
He didn’t answer; instead his gaze drifted to the floor.
‘Father,’ she enquired with a hint of suspicion, ‘did you know?’
‘I knew. To the Goddess I beg forgiveness… but I knew. And I did nothing to talk him out of it. The boy was determined that you were going to accept once you saw how serious he was. But who was I to question his judgement? He loves you and felt that if only he could make you see how much, that you would forget your fairy tales.’
‘My fairy tales?’ Her tone was slightly accusatory. ‘I have told you again and again. I want to see the land beyond. I have done since I was a child yet nothing, not time or mother’s death, has ever changed that.’ She wiped her eyes.
‘Don’t be so harsh on Robert. His hopes were my hopes. Now I see the determination in your life and I feel sorry that I ever doubted your integrity. Of that ignorance, I am just as guilty as Robert… if not more so. When you get to my age, it’s easy to doubt the determination of the young.’
‘I’m leaving.’ She declared, ‘Today. Now.’
‘But where will you go?’
‘The land beyond. I shall take enough food for one day. After that, I shall live off what the Goddess will provide on my travels. If it is truly poisoned then so be it, I’ll die.’
‘If you survive, you will never be permitted back. It seems either way that you will die.’ He could no longer hold back his own tears.
‘Then I shall see you in the next life father. Pray to the Goddess for my safety.’ She knelt down beside his chair and kissed his forehead.
He closed his eyes; when he opened them again, she had gone.