Sunday, 10 October 2010


The clouds pile over each other, climbing across the sky. Shadow and light backlit by the column of explosion beyond the edge of the distant horizon. The breeze catches, stiffening the air.
Zero sighs. Another attack. He runs, his feet cracking the hard surface of tundra, aiming for the hole in the ground a few hundred yards from his home. His breath catches, his muscles feel their age, but he is in good shape and the flow of the run soon overtakes him, carrying him along without thought.
In the distance he sees Five and his young wife heading for the hole. They will reach it before him. This annoys him. The last time they got into a fight because Five did not want to let Zero in and so he had pulled rank. Five had never quite forgiven him, accusing Zero of abusing his power as the local detective. Zero had been late, Five had simply followed the rules. Zero had never understood Five's emnity. Not just to Zero but to all the others in the community. There will be a time, soon, when Zero would have to deal with that problem.
Zero slips, his ankle twisting slightly on a piece of frosted grass. He curses, hopping in short, breathless steps, trying to take control of the pain and keep moving. He sees Thirty and Twenty Two slow as they notice his discomfort. He waves his hands to tell them to keep running. Stamping his feet Zero tries to find his stride again but it is not the same.
Nearly there, he turns to look back at the cloud. Larger now. Ripples of heated air, of twisting, burning sedge and scrub, are closer. He reaches the hole and jumps down, landing badly on his damaged ankle. Behind him the heavy door is slammed shut. In darkness they wait for the howling to end.

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