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Monday 23 July 2012

Roverson Crusoe by David A. Stimpson

      The days since the evacuation were long and lonely, the nights unbearably so.
How I had been left behind in the panic and chaos is a matter for which I suppose I have only myself to blame. So here I find myself, marooned and all alone in the village, its streets and paths, once so busy with numerous pedestrians and cyclists now lies deserted and quiet.
Abandoned taxis left either on the rank or down on the lawn by the sea wall, in a nearby field or up to it’s axles in sand on the beach.
    Gone are the citizens who would parade around the piazza, twirling their colourful umbrellas and parasols, the brass band would play and all would be the impression of a holiday camp atmosphere.
The speakers of the public address system remain silent, and yet somehow the ghostly voice of the cheery female announcer still lingers on the breeze.
       ‘Good morning, it’s another lovely day so rise and shine life’s for living………’
    At first I explored the village and the encompassing area as best I could, this to try and find others of my kind who like me had been left behind, who maybe were surviving in the woods or any place in the village. But if there were others like me, they failed to make themselves known. So now my only company were the ever screeching seagulls and ugly black Rooks, who constantly fight against themselves.
    So here I am the last remaining citizen of the village, constantly watching, waiting for those who I know must surely one day come………
    I had to run you see, like everybody else I was simply trying to get away, that was the order which boomed out over the entire village…… Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate.
There we were all of us going about our daily lives and business all unaware of what was developing in a cavern somewhere beneath the village and then suddenly this order to evacuate. Well panic and chaos ensued, citizens were running everywhere, this way and that and of course I soon became part of that panic, wanting to get away like everyone else.
    Taxis tore along the streets, their sirens blaring out loudly on their way to god knows where.
Then there were the luck ones the elite and privileged citizens amongst us, those who were evacuated by helicopter, never seen so many at one time I hadn’t, lifting off from all parts they were for some destination new.
And then there were the not so lucky ones, the unfortunates such as I whose only chance to get away was to run along the beach and there were many of us I can tell you, we were not the elite of the village but prisoners and warders who ran side by side to escape…..escape what though?
Then it came, a low rumbling roar as the ground began to shake under our feet as though the beginning of an earthquake. I stopped running and turning back towards the village I watched a rocket rise slowly into the pale blue sky above, the roar and blast of the powerful rocket motors was deafening, orange and red flame blistering hot, and it was then that I threw myself down, burying my face in the sand against the blinding light and covering my ears against the noise as though my final day had come.
    So the days passed and the days slowly turned into weeks and it was a question of my survival, I had no food or water and the only clothes I had were the piped blazer, stripped jersey, flannel trousers and deck shoes which I stood up in. So having no other place to go I returned to the village, well where else could I go and in which direction should I go if there was? 
    It’s not so bad really being the only remaining citizen of the village, the village which supported me before continues to do so now.
To beat the loneliness and to aid my survival I set myself a daily routine of tasks. But first came the selection of my habitation, for this I chose ‘8 private’. Close to the general stores, not too many steps to climb as I came and went and then there was the nearness of the bell tower to consider, it being the highest point of the village.
    Food I gathered provisions from the general stores, fresh food while it lasted and tinned ‘Village Food’ which was plentiful and if not in the general stores then in the kitchens of surrounding cottages. Candles were also a necessity as there was no electricity, the power having been turned off.
Clean clothes I scavenged from other cottages, those that were roughly of my size.
Water had to be collected in a drum from a stream in the woods on a daily basis, as indeed wood is chopped to feed the fire in my cottage, this for warmth and so able to cook food, if only stew and potatoes which I am keenly fond of, surprisingly.
    Daily I climbed the bell tower in order to keep look out for a plane or boat, anything that might prove to be my rescue.
    Daily I walked the cliffs to keep look out, not only for signs from the outside world, but still in the hope of other survivors like myself.
    Daily I walked the Village exploring as I went, Number 2’ residence for example, where I almost fell through an open hole in the floor. The café and ice cream parlour, no flavour of the day, as all the ice cream had melted with no refrigeration.
    The Town Hall with its council chamber, it’s democratically elected council long departed. The hospital I kept my distance from, as once being a patient receiving their therapy treatment.
    Daily I worked out in the gymn, having always liked to keep myself fit.
    Daily I swim four or six lengths of the outdoor swimming pool, icy cold but invigorating.
Upon the round outlook atop of the cliffs, I made a huge beacon from nearby tees and bushes, with a can of petrol at hand siphoned out of one of the taxis. The beacon I would light at the first sign of a boat or plane. But it has been weeks now and never a sign of anything.
    Transport is not a problem, there are several abandoned taxis and so I had the pick of these. And so when petrol ran out of one, I simply took another. And with a Red Cross trailer hooked up I was able to utilise the vehicle in the fetching and carrying of chopped wood and water from the woods.
    The idea of escape did present itself to me, at first I had the idea of simply driving out of the village, follow the road and keep on going. This it did but joining a well worn track leading off into the open countryside. However the track ended somewhat sharply and at a sheer drop, the mountains rising high in the distance and with no sign of any pass through them, they formed a formidable barrier between the village and the outside world.
The sea also presented itself as a barrier, even if there had been a boat it would have been sheer folly for me to have tried to escape by sea, my being no kind of seaman or navigator of any kind.
    To help keep me occupied and in order to keep the ever growing sense of loneliness at bay, I took on the problem of utilising the searchlight in the bell tower, this when activated would shine its shaft of light high up into the night sky far over the estuary and alerting any passing night plane or boat to his presence. However the question of electrical power had to be overcome.
    Then it dawned upon me that if I removed the batteries from the remaining village taxis and linked them all together with heavy duty wire, they might be enough to power the searchlight once connected up.
To borrow on of Number 2’s sayings “Necessity is the mother of invention.”
    Tools and electrical wire were taken from an electrics truck parked at the cross roads, this with a screwdriver, pliers and spanners.
I worked all that day and into early evening removing the batteries from the taxis, placing them into the Red Cross trailer then driving up into the square, from where I hauled them one at a time out of the trailer and up the steps of the bell tower. It was hot heavy work, but it aided my fitness and saved my having to work out in the gymn at the Recreation Hall!
     Once placed in position I checked the distilled water levels of the batteries and the roughly linked them all together with heavy duty wire and then to the control panel of the searchlight itself. More of a bodged up job I could not have done and no one could have been more surprised than I when at a flick of a switch it actually worked, the searchlight projecting a huge beam of light high up across the estuary and into the night sky, powerful enough to attract any passing boat or plane and from a great distance.  
    However successful the jerry rigging of the searchlight may have been, the power of the batteries did not hold out. The only way I had of recharging them, to connect them back up to the taxis and that would mean disconnecting them, hauling them back down the bell tower to recharge them to haul them back up the bell tower and reconnect them…… oh that was far too much like hard work for so little gain, I just couldn’t be bothered.
Truth is, over the past few days I hadn’t been bothered in doing anything much at all. In fact on a recent reconnoitre of the Town Hall, I sat in the council chamber and as head of the Town Council I proposed the resolution that tomorrow would be a holiday, like ‘Appreciation Day’, that was once every year, or a village festival, anyway the one was as good as the other. The resolution was carried unanimously by the Town Council, and there was no further business at this time.
    All the daily tasks I set myself went for a burton, the wood I chopped in the woods gave way to breaking up chairs scavenged from the cottage next door. However I did still have to fetch and carry from the stream up in the woods, but not every day. After all why do something everyday, when I could bring enough in one trip for the best part of the week.
Thus I left the chore of washing until I had my daily afternoon swim in the outdoor pool, thus saving water. Shaving somehow became unnecessary, besides I hated shaving with a wet razor, I cut myself too often!
Food I began to eat uncooked straight from the tins of village food, baked beans and corned beef mostly, with tinned pears or peaches for afters.
No longer did I walk the cliffs or climb the bell tower daily, I had seen the views all before, and besides there was never anyone to lookout for!     
    And then not doing my daily chores, boredom began to take hold of me. So much so
one morning I climbed aboard my taxi in order to drive up into the woods to collect water from the stream. On the way back I imagined myself to be in a race, or rally.
I imagined myself the best driver in the world, a champion.
Driving along the track through the woods was a challenge, especially at speed and without a co driver.
As soon as I was clear of the woods and onto tarmac road I put my foot down, racing along the road towards the village. It didn’t matter in which direction I drove as I always arrived back here in the end, well the taxis are only the local service!
    But at least I could drive at speed, the wind in my hair the exhilaration of speed as through the first of two archways I the taxi sped, sounding its two tone horn as I went. Through the second arch, past the cobbled square and general store down along the road to the corner at the bottom, a corner which came up rather quickly. I braked and turned the wheel. There was a squeal of tyres, as the back end slewed round and I was thrown clear of the over turning taxi.
    I lay in the archway set in the wall at the top of stone steps, lucky to be a live I was. No broken bones only cuts and bruises, and feeling rather foolish. Death would have been a release, but to lay there with possible broken bones…….
I slowly picked myself up, looked at the taxi lying on its side and then slowly walked back along the road towards my cottage.

To be continued……………………..
© David A. Stimpson

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