The Horsemen By Terri Brown
She took in a long breath of the fresh, clean air and cherished the peace she felt settle in her soul. The sun was gently climbing over the tops of the hazy mountains that surrounded her valley - her little bowl of paradise – so she calculated it was roughly 11 in the morning. A breeze whispered in the trees, too gentle to have the strength to push her windmill to action. No matter, the gush and gurgle of the fast flowing stream behind her cottage reassured her she would have enough water-generated power for a warm bath for her aching body and her solar panel store was still full from the day before, should she need any extra. She had already finished her morning chores. Goats herded and milked. Pigs fed. Chicken eggs gathered from the hiding places she knew of and could reach. Sweet honey collected. Her stomach grumbled – definitely breakfast time. She plodded back to the kitchen.
She had no idea what the date was, but by the length of the days and the light chill in the air, she guessed it was Autumn.
Autumn meant one thing. A bitter taste rose in her mouth as she thought about having to start up the laptop gathering dust in the cupboard. A necessary evil. The price she agreed to pay for living in her bubble away from the grey and hate and the violence out there in the world. A promise made to touch base once a year with her brother. She wondered if he would even remember if she didn’t bother – but she didn’t dare, plus, she had made a promise. This was her haven. She hadn’t seen another living person for nearly 7 years. Her books, her animals and her ghosts kept her company and that was just how she liked it.
“Morning Micky.” Her voice sounded odd and out of place. An intruder to the silence of the morning. Micky grinned back at her from behind his frozen glass prison on the kitchen table. She picked up the picture frame and kissed his smiling face. He would have loved this place. A thought process she went through every morning. A ritual of grief that she couldn’t bare to shake off. He would have been 14 now. He would have had so many ideas for this place. But then, if he hadn’t have been taken from her, she would never have come here. How different her life would be.
She ate homemade toast smothered in goats milk butter and honey, two hard boiled fresh chicken eggs and little nibble of the last of her stash of chocolate, as she waiting for the laptop to whir into life. She had noticed some wild garlic growing at the edge of the forest at Honey Field whilst she had been collecting the sweet nectar that morning and that her tomatoes were ripe – Bruschetta for lunch.
With a sigh she clicked open her email. This reminder of the outside world made her skin itch. Her inbox was full of crap. She ignored it all and began typing.
Another year. Not much to report. All is good with me. Last winter was pretty mild so stocks of food, water and electric are high ready for this year which I have the feeling will be harsher, but I’m not worried.
The backfield is cleared now so next spring I will start planting some of those other grains at last. Be nice to have some different bread!
Unfortunately, Daisy did not make it. Wolves found their way here last spring. I chased them off before they did too much damage but one got a good bite of Daisy’s leg. It became infected and I had to put her out of her misery. I miss the cow’s milk but I still have the goats and it has been nice to have a meat option for dinner for a while.
The mild winter and hot summer has got the mountain snows melting more than usual. Good thing because my little brook would be dried up without it I suspect. For now there’s enough of a flow to load up the generator regularly with a little help from Mr Wind.
A little worried about the bees. I only have 1 hive left as the others didn’t return this spring. But they still produce more than enough sweet honey to keep me happy. I am sure they’ll all come back next year.
Everything else is much like it was. How are you and the girls? Is Emily enjoying Uni still? Send Mum and Dave my love please.
Not much for a years’ worth of news. From experience, she knew he would reply within an hour and they would have a little pleasant conversation for a while before he started hinting to her that is was time to come home. She went to have a bath.
An hour later and still no reply. She wasn’t too worried. He had a busy life.
She felt it before she heard it. A thump, thump, thump that echoed in her ribcage before it echoed around her valley. The massive helicopter landed in the backfield scattering her animals in a wild panic. Four men – two suits, two army - were disgorged from the noisy machine before it had even stopped spinning its blades and they ran hunched over straight for her house.
Rage was all she felt. She grabbed the shotgun off the shelf and charged to meet them.
“Ma’am?” The two in front wore suits and black ties. Hands up in front of them, fingers splayed.
“Ma’am please put the gun down. We are not here to harm you.”
She kept the gun trained on the older man in the front, he seemed in charge. The tinniest flick of his hand and the two army men broke away and headed towards Honey field.
“Ma’am please put the gun down.”
“Who are you? What are they doing?” The two army men were heading straight for her beehives.
She saw they both carried cases and were quickly putting on hive suits as they ran.
“Ma’am, we work for the government. I am going to reach into my jacket slowly and get my badge. Okay?”
She nodded. He showed her his badge. FBI. She lowered her gun.
“What’s going on?” She started towards Honey Field.
“Ma’am?” He stepped in her way. “Please wait here and we will explain everything.”
By the sudden tilt of his head she assumed the excited shout also came through his ear piece, but she could hear it clearly across the valley.
“Sir, it’s a beehive. Fully functioning, with a queen.”
Everything changed in an heartbeat. More army men jumped down from the helicopter with hive travel crates and ran towards Honey Field. The suits in front of her dropped the friendly act like a curtain.
“Ma’am, please gather your most essential items, you are coming with us.”
“What? I am not going anywhere. And what are you doing with my bees?” Before she could raise her gun again the old man had taken it from her in a blur of movement.
“Ma’am, we are taking your bees and you are coming with them. It is a matter of national security. Go and pack up your stuff. NOW”
The younger suit behind him ushered her into the house. She stood in her kitchen at a loss.
“Ma’am? Now.” This suit was less intimating but still as forceful.
Another rumbling noise. She felt it come up through the ground. Engines revving, vehicles traveling fast… heading here?
“Sir, we have incoming” The shout came as the familiar pop, pop, pop of gunfire she remembered from her army days filled the air.
“No time” Suit had her by the arm and began dragging her out of her cottage. She remembered some of her training and used the element of surprise to wrench out of his grasp. She grabbed Micky and the laptop. Before he picked her up bodily and ran towards the chopper.
“Cover me.” He demanded as he ran and she glanced up to see several army clad men setting up barricades and providing cover fire against three large tank like vehicles parked across the dirt road into her valley.
She was dumped unceremoniously into the chopper.
“Stay here, buckle up, when we leave it will be fast.” He grumbled at her and took off, sliding the door shut behind him.
Her heart was pounding. She had little tremors that ran through her body uncontrollably. She couldn’t seem to focus on one thought. She was clutching her photograph of Micky to her chest so tightly her fingers hurt. She could hear gunfire going off all around her beautiful valley. Her poor animals must be petrified.
“What the hell is going on?” She needed to escape. Her laptop. Internet still working. Alex.
Still no reply. But then she saw she had several messages from him, mixed up in all the junk. Quickly she did a search and pulled them up. 4 in total dated throughout the year. Why would he do that?
I know you probably won’t get this until next year when you decide to open your laptop again. Things have changed. I guess I should have told you when we spoke last but you hate the world so much already.
We are moving away. California is a desert. The rain hasn’t fallen here since you went into hiding. We cannot go on with this drought. The girls and I are heading inland to Chicago. Remember Daniel from school? He lives there and reckons he can set us up with a job. I will send you our new address when we are settled (not that you’ll ever need it). Keep safe.
The girls and I only stayed in Chicago for a few weeks. There are food shortages across the country. The government’s issued rationing and the riots in Chicago were too dangerous for us.
I am getting Mum and Dave to join us in Ohio. There were hardly any crops this year Angie. The government has this plan for genetically modified stuff but they fed it to the cattle and most of them got sick and died. The drought is all over the country, we’re only allowed one litre of water a day. Fires have taken out most of the west coast. Smoke and toxic gas clouds reach all the way to Utah and its spreading. People are coming East in droves. It’s chaos.
Angie its spring and there’s hardly any flowers. It’s illegal to pick flowers, can you imagine that?? Suzanne has had to close up her shop, the government is closing florists all over the country, probably all over the world. She is going to join us here. Angie, I am worried. I hope some sixth sense makes you open your laptop early. Please get in touch.
Please get in touch.
Mum, Dave and little Izzy are gone. Listeria of all things. Suzanne never made it to us. I have no idea what happened to her.
It is the end of days Angie, my heart is broken but I keep going for Emily. Wish I knew where you were.
Please get in touch x
I found Emily and I a place. A farm in a valley just outside Memphis. It was a lovely community, about 25 of us, it was like a big family. We built this big central cabin we all slept and ate in. They had a deep spring so we got fresh water. One of only three places left in the world – in the world Angie – to have bees and other pollinators. They had fields and crops, and flowers – it was so nice to see flowers again Angie. It was so amazing Angie. I wish we had found it in time for the others.
But then they came in the night. Guys with tanks. I was sleeping out under the stars – you remember Angie, like when we were kids – it was so hot. I should have been in there too. They burnt it all down, Angie. With everyone inside. Everyone except me. The government came, but they were too late and really outnumbered.
They stole the bees. They killed them all for the bees. Bees, of all things. There’s no bees left in the world and now there’s no food and no flowers and no rain. Who knew…bees would be the horsemen of the apocalypse.
I wish it would rain Angie. It’s too dry to cry.