Excerpt | Sparks | Chapter 1, Part 1
A Novel By Daley Grace Sweeting
I wish I could say I felt numb as we walked amongst the herd to the platform. The hustle and bustle kept me moving with minimal effort from my own legs. It was like being gently pulled along by waves; almost therapeutic if you discounted the churning pit in my stomach and the tightly clutched grasp of my brothers hand on mine. The atmosphere was charged, not with the usually frantic busyness of Moorbury Station; but nervous and overstretched, as if at any moment the tension would crack like a champagne glass plunged into hot water. God, I hated the taste of champagne. I also hated the Docklands, yet here I was, lining up to board the North-Westerly Express to lead me straight to it.
A war was coming. That's what people were saying. A "revolution" is what they were calling it. Dad had begged us to come home where he thinks we'll be safe. I agreed to the trip only because of Jake. He was only 13 and a young 13 at that. At home with my dad was probably where he most needed to be at a time like this. You see, if war starts, there's no telling what will happen to people like my brother and me. There aren't many places that we can call home, but in the Docklands, there are loads of us so it stands to reason that we’d be better off there, where we’re less likely to be forced to pick a side. That said it did not seem right to be running away from something that hadn’t even happened yet. Something that may never happen.
In the distance, I could hear what sounded like chanting. As the sounds grew closer and louder, I was able to make out what was being said.
“Make our city great again, make our city great!” A group of men with shaven heads and tattoo cladded arms marched through the station shouting these words over and over.
“Make our city great again, make our city great!”
“Nationalists,” muttered a man standing next to us, “always finding a way to blame others for their problems.” He looked over at Jake and me, “I’m Nigel. Are you travelling north?” he asked.
I nodded. “Our dad lives up near the Docklands. He’s been begging us to make the journey for weeks. Get away from all the trouble.”
“I’m only going as far as Port West. Hopefully, that will be far enough.” Nigel said, glancing back at the chanting men who had taken to vandalising a billboard displaying a woman holding up a sign saying “Our Lives Matter”.
I was well aware that this kind of anger and resentment was common among Nationalists and had been for decades. They had been the ones with the most to lose when all men were made equal. And with the most recent recession causing record levels of unemployment and living costs continuing to rise, we were all struggling, and people were starting to lash out. In the capital there had been riots and hate crimes and police brutality – not that these things were new. But it seemed to be more prevalent, more frequent. Newspapers had begun to choose sides: some inciting fear, others calling for change. I had been in denial for some time, pushing it to the back of my mind, wishing it away. I had friends that thought I was foolish; that revolution was inevitable, and they were ready for it. I had dismissed them as reckless. Now, as I queued for the train, hearing the chants for the return of “greatness”, I wondered what I would do if the revolution came.
Before I had time to unpick this thought, I was ripped from my reverie by a sickening crack. The ground shook with such force that tremors rippled through me. I heard what sounded like shattering glass. I didn't even notice as my legs were swept out from underneath me. Somewhere in my mind I registered a sharp pain running up my leg and then I was on my face. Everything seemed to slow down. Screams and cries seemed to stretch out in endless monotones, so loud and yet drowned out by a high pitched ringing in my ears that was so piercing that it felt like it was radiating right through to my brain. I tried to push myself up but found that my arms wouldn’t work. I just about managed to roll onto my back. I tried to look around, blinking up at the station roof, unable move. My eyes traced the iron rafters; faded red, gold and green. It would’ve looked almost regal when it was new, I thought. I wondered when it was last painted. I supposed it would have to be repainted soon, or never painted again. Dark shadows crept in from the edges my vision, my sight receding with every blink until I was staring into blackness. Spinning as I was, I tried to reach around in the corners of my mind for some sort of foothold. Anything that would keep me in the here and now long enough to process what was happening around me. Jake! Where was Jake? I tried to call out to him, but my jaw throbbed and felt heavy as lead. I wondered how hard I had hit my head. My face felt wet, but my arms didn't seem long enough to be able to reach up and were much too heavy to lift. Just as I was about to give in to the abyss, I felt a hand on my arm.
“Mera? Oh god, Merakai! Ben, we’ve got another casualty over here. Head injury and a possible broken leg, bring the stretcher.”
“Jake?” I cried out. “Jake? Are you okay?”
“No, it’s me, Mera. Jake’s fine: he was with us, I sent him with the others to safety. He’s the one who told us to find you. There was a bomb, Mera.”
“Who? But Jake’s okay? Where is he?” My brain didn’t seem able to make sense of what was being said or who was talking to me. I blinked in an attempt to clear my vision, but all I could see were outlines, silhouettes and bright lights. I couldn’t quite place the voice, but it did sound familiar. The corners of my vision were becoming dark again, and I felt my stomach churn and vault.
“Mera, can you hear me? We need to get out of here. Can you sit up? We need to go. It’s starting!”
I tried sitting up but it was too late, I had already slipped too far from consciousness, and with my next blink, everything went black.
To be continued...
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