July Runner Up

Our second place choice for this month goes to Bryan Thomas – well done!

Sabra’s Story – by Bryan Thomas

It is the first day of Avril in what would have been Annon Domini 2030 – now the year of the Little Deer – and the Sun is rising.

‘Hey, Sabra. Time to get up, lazy bones,’ calls my Granma from below. 

I lift the woollen blanket and climb out of my bed on its splayed wooden frame with the stretched hide cover. I say a short prayer to the Sun God, don my long woollen robe, and brush the dark hair hanging to my waist.

In Bretagne, it is a busy time on the land. It has been dry enough for the horses to have completed ploughing. Later today, we will all be broadcasting corn and barley seeds in the brown corrugated fields. 

The buds are just beginning to develop on the rows of twisted and blackened vines growing on the slopes nearby.

Tomorrow I will be sixteen. I am so happy that I will be marrying my lovely cousin Dominic on the day of the next full moon. The extra room he has built onto the old farmhouse is nearly ready. His dad, another Dominic, is a genuine ‘Green.’ One of his specialities is Fungi, and the small wood on the other side of the lane is ideal. He has vigorous crops of half a dozen varieties on the go, including Truffles.

Oops, you caught me dreaming. 

Thrusting my feet into the woven rope sandals, I hurry out into the yard, where my first job is to milk Matilda. Others will be doing the same at this time of the morning, and soon, as I squeeze her udder and teats, the creamy milk is spattering into the leather bucket between my knees. There will be the two horses and the new foal called Filly to feed, and the chickens and their eggs to be dealt with when the milking is done.

‘Porridge ready when you are,’ says gGrandma, (she’s really my ‘great’), looking out of the kitchen window. 

As I sip my dandelion tea, adding a naughty squeeze of precious lemon juice, my mind drifts back over the last few worrisome years. No tea from India or coffee from Brazil. They might as well be on a different Planet. And, pondering that, I vividly recall our emigration. That was in my great-grandfather’s old fishing boat, across stormy seas and landing in France, with rickety relief, many days later. I was eight.

#

Back to the diary. (My quill has split, and I need to tweak a suitable feather from one of the ducks. The blueberry ink needs a top-up while I am about it).

I was born in the year of the Moon God. In those days, it would still have been 2014. To fill in the memory gaps, I read the history notebooks, gGrandpa began in 2019. My extended family were farmers and fishermen eking out what was a modest living in the eastern end of the small island of Mersea, off the Essex coast. My great-grandfather, Bryan, still had an old east coast fishing smack built in 1900 and comprehensibly repaired with funding from a National Lottery Grant at a shipyard in nearby Brightlingsea.

A few years earlier, on retirement, he had invested in a small, stone farmhouse in southern Brittany. Included were a couple of acres of mainly unused arable land. 

It was a holiday house for all the family. After essential repairs and improvements, he and gGrandma Wendy developed the proximate land as an English garden for fruit trees and vegetables. The herb potager was a delightful fount of scents and colour. The climate and the acreage were ideal

When my mother was young, she had some delightful holiday breaks there, helping to open up a stream from a spring across the fields and uncovering what had been a village washing place. This, when cleared still worked, and grew some lovely lilies in those heady days of washing machines. It is now back to its original use.

In Mersea, I went to a Playgroup and enjoyed learning to read. However, the other lessons, and later those in primary school, were pretty boring – the three ‘Rs’ and all that. The real lessons were on the farm and the fishing. 

Then, first the deadly Virus hit the world in 2020.

The second cataclysm came, only three years later

#

That was ten years ago. Now, we sit around the fire of an evening and talk. The ‘we’ often includes the occasional wandering Gypsy storyteller and gGrandma, although she has her own Guru since the missionary arrived).

Haven’t I mentioned him before? Grandma keeps quoting him

‘Life is a circle. We are born and circle back to the soil. The Moon, the Sun and the Earth are round, and the Sun circles the earth every day. Nature is a circle.’ 

He came to us from the old United States of America, somehow crossing the vast Atlantic without the aid of navigational instruments. (I must ask him about that adventure.) 

His ancestors were the native Indians in that land, and his Arika tribe bent to the Sun God’s wrath. The settlers, who had taken over and dominated their land for more than two centuries, failed to cope.

The medicine man’s learning and his herbal and spiritual remedies have done wonders for us.  I look after a unique garden. We grow Aloe vera (for burns), Ti (for fever) and many other exotics used for medicinal pastes and potions. The Yucca is now ten feet tall, and snips from its roots and bark will soon add to the available menu. 

This evening after sunset, a number of us sat with him, around the fire, to hear his version of the tales about the Sun’s revenge in America.

What is that? I haven’t said why we emigrated? Oh, dear, I am a bit near the end for the climax. Not a bad thing? Well, here goes.

My great Grandpa and the medicine man were uncannily right predicting our future for the Sun God threw a fiery shaft of light towards the earth. It was on the first day of Gormânudur, the slaughtering month, in 2022. The flare cut through the ozone layer and the Planet’s other natural barriers. gGrandpa’s Notebook described it thus.

All wave bound communications ceased, and the peoples in so-called civilised countries, with no communications, no power and no heat died in their millions. A few hardy souls gathered what food and equipment they could and headed for the countryside, realising that self-sufficiency was their only chance of survival.

Life in our small farming community in East Mersea was soon impossible – no electricity or gas or petrol.  Food? Only what we could scrounge from local shops and warehouses which had already been looted. Little farm produce remained, and that had to be guarded against marauding gangs with the few cartridges left from shooting rabbits. 

We had a conference and decided to move to Brittany. The extended family included a nurse (my mother) and a boat builder (Finn, who had trained in Norway.) Crispin did a late furniture-making Degree and worked part-time as a builders’ mate and Michael, my grandfather, (who collected all the right books about everything.) So, we were well qualified for the undertaking. 

Bryan, then a still sprightly ninety-four, had been in Brittany when the solar flare had occurred, and he recorded the events as they had happened. The local population had there dwindled to almost nothing. So, he sailed his fishing smack back to Essex, and our embarkation began.

#

You may think this a grim tale of death and disgrace, but not so. It was nature’s gift of a second chance for the human race, and at sixteen years of age, I bless the day that I was born. I am getting married tomorrow.

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