Castrillo Matajudios

This “vision” is one of the 30+ that we’ll publish here in the next months. Most of them will go into Life Plus 2 Meters, Volume 2 (expected publication: Dec 2017). We hope that you will comment on the message, suggest ways to sharpen the narrative, and tell us how the story affects your understanding of adapting to climate change.

Most importantly, we hope that you enjoy reading these stories and share them with your friends and family. —David Zetland (editor) and the authors

Last known recording of Argi Mikolas Munoz (and unknown male); Beit Jamal Salesian Monastery; Beit Shemesh, Israel. Translated from the Basque(Upper Navarrese) By Fr. Ibon Garcia.

UM: What have you done with the life I have given you?

AMM: I have served.

UM: No, you are serving now – and it is too late.

AMM: I have always kept the faith; I have fought and bled for my country.

UM: Stone and earth are ambivalent my son – what faith?

AMM: That the Lord is my saviour and that…

UM: Come now Argi. Even now you would try to lie – and I am here watching you. Can you see the softening of the walls and the opening of the ceiling?

AMM: God help me, I am afraid.

UM: That’s what Maria Dolores would have said – had she had time. You knew her too didn’t you Argi?

AMM: I knew her.

UM: Did you know her little child?

AMM: I never met the child, I am sorry, I never wanted any of it to happen, I…

UM: But you didn’t do anything to stop it, did you?

AMM: It was not my decision, I could do nothing.

UM: And if I was to say the same to you now my son; how would that be?

AMM: I will do anything, anything!

UM: Oh! They say I will, I would, I wish, I pray. They never say I have, I made, I tried, I hoped. They seek benevolence when all they have offered is ruthlessness; they plead for mercy though they have never bestowed it.

AMM: Surely it is never too late?

UM: Ah, surely it is never too early? You know that place your wife came from? Did you know that they’ve twinned it with Kfar Vradim? I had a chuckle at that one. It’s yet another example of irony. You were supposed to learn from irony Argi. All of you are supposed to learn from it. Still, it doesn’t matter much now.

AMM: Is there anything I can do?

UM: Once – there was a lot you could have done, but you played with fire didn’t you? You knew that you shouldn’t have – but you still did. What can I do when I’m faced with that?

AMM: I thought that if I did certain…things.. then my people would gain their freedom and…

UM: Those are the thought processes of a child; besides they are not your people – they are mine. Freedom does not exist. There is only responsibility: to yourself; to others; to me. Those duties are the essence of self-emancipation. Have you ever seen those dogs in the country? You know – the ones that chase your motor vehicles. They wait, and wait, in anticipation – and then they charge out like lions protecting the pride – for naught. It always amuses me, and it always makes me a little sad; but bravery and intelligence have seldom been bedfellows.

AMM: So it is over then?

UM: Well, it is – and it isn’t. Answers are never neat. Answers only beget further questions. So I ask you again – what have you done with the life I have given you?

AMM: I do not know what you want me to say.

UM: That is correct; but also incorrect. Do you know what these men do?

AMM: What men?

UM: These men here. The men who took you in, who fed you, gave you a bed, treated you with kindness through the worst of your illness. These men.

AMM: They are monks.

UM: They try to take care of children. They try to help the homeless ones – the little unfortunates.

AMM: And I have heard the horror stories.

UM: I’ll just bet you have. I’ll say this for you Argi – you’ve got balls. My point is that you are a little child, even though you must be seventy now. Your mind is infantile. These men looked after you like a child. And yet here you are Argi: an old man in the dark eh?

AMM: Why have you come?

UM: I have come to show compassion; to practice what I have preached. I have come before Fr. Kendrick returns. What do you see now?

AMM: The dawn, I think.

UM: Yes, well – that will suffice. I want you to walk out over this meadow. I want you to move towards the rising sun. But you must not falter, this light is not as forgiving as I. You must adapt to it.

AMM: But it is so very far – so very far. I see Castrillo on the plain and Miriam’s house. I loved her you know. We got wed in, oh – I can’t remember it now. They had that old dog, the one with the torn ear…

UM: Zirta.

AMM: Yes – that was him, Zirta. So long ago. So long. Wait, oh Lord – I can smell the what do you call ’ems…?

UM: The red carnations?

AMM: Yes, yes, oh yes….

UM: Do not weep. Keep walking. Nice and steady; that’s it.

AMM: I am so very sorry for all of it. I am so sorry. I put a frog in the milk pail and made Ines cry.

UM: Take my hand now Argi. Do not be afraid.

AMM: What is it all? What is it?

UM: Adaptation Argi; little more than that.

Nb. As per instructions, translation of final tape recording. Cassette withheld from authorities and in my possession. Pick-up at your convenience.

Regards, I. Garcia.

Peter Lynch (in his words): “I’m from Co.Derry, but I’ve lived in Newcastle-upon-Tyne for over twenty years. My trade is demolition. I’m 46 , married with four children. I enjoy the outdoors, natural history, swimming and boxing. I read anything and everything, and have done for as long as I can remember. Music, writing, and drawing have always been my favourite ways to express myself.”

Last man in England

Sarah Dixon writes of a man’s desire for home.

‘Confirmation from the PharmaCo Court today, that judges have not yet made a determination in the case of Mr Ronald Balcock, the so called ‘last man in England’. A decision is expected before close of business today as to whether Mr Balcock will be forcibly evacuated, or allowed to remain to face the incoming tide.’

Ty sighed. His parents were glued to the viewscreen, like all the older generation. He didn’t get it. Why were they still so obsessed with what happened on Old Earth? They should move on, look to the future. That’s why they’d left, after all: So there was a future.

The tablet computer in his lap showed the same footage as the viewscreen on two thirds of its display, the remaining third showed thumbnails of related vids with more information. He clicked on the top one, turning up the volume so he could hear the narration over the noise of the room.

‘The PharmaCo Fleet left Old Earth on June 30th, 2045, transporting colonists from the polluted and dangerous conditions of their home world and out, to create a better life. When National and Global Government failed, the Corporations stepped in, funding the development of space craft and the colonisation of new planet-’

Ty rolled his eyes. Yes, he’d heard all that before. He glanced up and checked the room, making sure his Grandparents hadn’t heard the voice over. The last thing he needed was his Grandad going off on one about how the Corporations had them over a barrel; how they were all slaves now, bought and sold. His Dad would only get angry, shouting about how freedom didn’t mean a thing if you were dead.

Ty didn’t get why they all got so upset about Old Earth. He knew it had been a nice place once, he’d seen Vids of the animals and their habitats. He especially liked Tigers and Lions, and all the other big cats. The thing was though, Old Earth wasn’t like that anymore. There wasn’t even much left of it now, the water levels were so high. Grandad had come from England, and now there was barely enough of that left for one man to live on. Ty tapped the screen to start the next Vid.

‘Who is Ronald Balcock, and why won’t he leave?’ a slick woman presenter said, as a picture of the old man who was the cause of all the fuss appeared on the screen.

Ty thought he looked quite nice, not a stubborn old fool like his Mum always called him. The presenter was talking about how Balcock came from a family of farmers who had always lived in the same place. That he felt a tie to the land. Fidgeting, Ty looked back up to the main screen, just in case anything had changed.

It hadn’t. The cameras still showed a derelict looking farm house on the top of a hill, surrounded on all sides by water. There were evac copters circling, waiting on the order to take the man from his property. Ty huffed, sending a strand of hair puffing away from his face. Boring.

On his personal screen, the presenter was talking over some of the reasons people had given in the past for staying on Old Earth. There were a few groups who had been given permission to stay. Lunatics, Dad called them. Grandad agreed with him for some, the ones who were staying because they thought it was God’s will, but not for others. The ones who agreed with him that colony life was nothing but slavery.

Ty didn’t think it was slavery. They had a nice life here, a good home and plenty of food. He went to school, and he had a job all lined up for when he left too. He was contracted to work for the company, so were his kids if they didn’t pay off the debt the family owed for being brought here. What was wrong with that though? They wouldn’t have got here without the help from the Corporations!

The population of Old Earth was now just a few thousand people. Cranks and crazies, clinging on to the past in the high places, his Mum said. She always sounded sad about it, though.

A noise alerted Ty to a change on the main screen, and he tapped pause on his own device to give it his full attention. One of the evac copters had flown down and landed outside of Balcock’s house. The old man came out of his front door, waving his arm in a clear gesture that he wanted them to leave but the uniformed officers of Corporate Enforcement didn’t take the hint.

The screen cleared without warning, the camera view changed to a first person perspective; the camera of the officer approaching the house. The wind sounded fierce through his microphone, and Ty leaned forward on his seat as he got a close up view of the terrible conditions of Old Earth.

‘Get away! Leave me alone!’ Balcock was shouting.

‘Mr Balcock, The PharmaCo Court has instructed me to ask you a series of questions. Your answers will be live broadcast to the court and serve as your testimony where it will be used to determine whether you may remain on their property.’

‘It’s not their property!’ Balcock argued. ‘It’s mine, my families! Always has been.’

The officer ignored him and carried on, ‘Mr Balcock, do you believe that it is the plan of a higher power that you remain here?’


‘Mr Balcock, do you believe that humanity is a contagion that should be confined to earth?’


‘Mr Balcock, are you a member of any group which has been granted legal permission to remain on Old Earth?’


‘Mr Balcock, do you identify yourself with the group FirstEarth?’

Ty pricked up his ears at that question. FirstEarth were a group of terrorists, they carried out attacks in the colonies because they were so angry about the Corporations helping people get away.

‘No, you bloody idiot! Why don’t you stop asking questions and just…go away?’

‘Mr Balcock, do you have any comments for the court to support your decision to remain here in the light of the clear and present danger to your life by the rising water levels and atmospheric pollution?’

The old man switched in a moment from being angry and aggressive to a slump shouldered rag doll.

‘Fights gone out of him,’ Grandma said quietly.

The whole family fell silent, all other screens muted as they watched the drama unfolding on the main viewscreen.

‘This is my home,’ Balcock said, his voice breaking. ‘A man should have the right to remain in his home, to die there if he wants to. You don’t have a right to just take me away from the place I love. My heart’s here.’

‘Your heart?’ the officer asked, puzzled.

‘My whole life, my memories…’ tears formed in the old man’s eyes, his voice breaking. ‘My wife. My wife is buried in the back garden. Please…please don’t make me leave her. I just want to stay here. I’m not bothering anyone.’

Ty watched, frozen, as the old man fell to his knees and sobbed. He’d never seen a grown up cry like that before. It made him feel uneasy. He looked around the room for comfort from his family, and saw tears were rolling down all their cheeks too.

‘I think that concludes Mr Balcock’s testimony,’ the officer snapped, and the camera cut back to the long view. The old man appeared tiny, knelt before the large man in his bulky uniform.

‘And now we wait for the Court’s decision,’ the news presenter said smoothly. ‘Balcock has received invitations from all of the groups legally allowed to remain on Old Earth but he has refused them all. He has made no statement as to why, but we presume it is because of this man’s extraordinary attachment to his native land.’

Silence fell then, only the whirring noise of the evac copters as they continued to circle the building. Ty wriggled over on the sofa to sit closer to his Mum who wrapped an arm around him and pulled him in tight.

‘And the Court’s decision is in! Mr Balcock will be forcibly evacuated from his property for his own safety.’

His Grandparents exploded into angry words, his Father immediately arguing with them. They all spoke at once so Ty couldn’t make out what was being said, but in any case, his attention was focused on the screen.

The Corporate Enforcement Officer seemed to be speaking to Mr Balcock, but the old man was still knelt down and shaking his head. The Officer pulled a weapon from its holster at his waist, checked a setting and then leveled it at the old man. He said something else, and Ty wondered why they weren’t playing the audio this time. Then there was a dull, popping noise and the old man slumped to the ground.

Immediately the officer moved towards him, checking his pulse and then signalling to the copter. More officers came out with a stretcher, loading Balcock onto it and carrying him back towards their craft.

‘Well, that’s it then,’ said Grandpa. His voice was cracked; his cheeks damp with tears. ‘Last man in England, and he’s gone.’

‘God bless him,’ muttered Grandma.

Ty rested his head against his mother and watched, hearing her let out her own sad sigh. She kissed him on the top of the head and gave him a squeeze as she whispered, ‘Last man in England…’

DixonSarah Dixon is a prolific writer of short stories, usually Science Fiction or Fantasy but always with a hint of wonder. After spending her life wanting to write, but never reaching her own lofty standards she read the advice ‘Finish first, edit later’ and finally made it to the end of a chapter. She hasn’t stopped since. A wife and mother of two, it was the desire to write stories that challenged the lure of video games that led her to write her first children’s novel. Alfie Slider vs the Shape Shifter is an action adventure for 9-12-year-olds, coming late 2016 from SilverWood books. When not writing, Sarah enjoys working with schools to engage children with creative writing including delivering her workshop about social commentary in Sci-Fi titled ‘How Aliens Changed the World.’

The bore is coming

Sometimes one’s retirement does not go as planned, writes Sarah Dixon in this story*

The bore is coming.

It comes, as it always has, to its peak near the autumn equinox. Experts predict that, after a summer of incessant rainfall on top of already record water levels, it will be catastrophic. Catastrophic. This is not a word that has ever been applied to the Severn Bore in all the thousands of times man has watched water surge and roll along the river’s course.

In years gone by it was a popular tourist attraction; people walked the banks and viewed the bore as it hissed and crashed its way upstream. It’s been years since anyone dared stand on the banks; not that the banks are where they were before the water rose, or we sank, depending on your perspective.

My perspective is a hillside, across the valley from my retirement home. The house was once a pleasant rural retreat; In the sticks, as my wife used to say. In the arse end of nowhere, I would counter. We bought it to retire to. In our late 50’s, good luck and good decisions left us still young enough to have our health, to be in love, and wealthy enough to enjoy our retirement.

At that time the ramshackle property, nestled in woodland several metres from the river bank, seemed an ideal place to spend our days. My wife wanted to set up a small business, growing Bonsai trees, and I was going to write the novel I’d been promising myself all these years. The kids were grown and on their own way. We had been good, responsible citizens for decades and now was the time to reap the rewards.

Then the water rose; not slowly as we’d thought but with alarming quickness. Remote sounding scientists were portending ‘tipping point’, the latest in a long line of terrifying prophecies that had failed to come true; AIDS, the Millennium Bug, Bird Flu, Zika… They shouted loud enough but the media had been using the tactics of hysteria to sell news for years. We were immune.

The Totten Iceberg in East Antarctica had never read the news, and it was indifferent to the reception its inevitable melting would receive; it didn’t do it for attention, it did it because it was ice, and when ice gets warm enough, it melts.

Within weeks the water that had run, benignly brown along the floor of the valley below us swelled with the melt water from a broad strip to a swollen, hungry torrent. A vicious snake that had swallowed something large; distended, struggling, angry.

We sat on the balcony, where we had envisaged enjoying afternoon tea, or pre-dinner drinks in the summer evenings, and watched the water become a steady stream of bloated animal corpses; not all the farmers had higher ground to take their beasts too. The turgid, turbulent water snatched up anything in its path, the weight of it enough to pull trees from the earth or gather up buildings and send them, flotsam and jetsam, on their way. It was as if the Gods were playing poo sticks, my wife noted on the day before she left.

Don’t worry, it isn’t the end of our marriage. It was just the end of our time here; We had the official warning and knew that our house would likely be swept away with the next bore. Our insurance company stated their refusal to pay; we are at fault for not having the prescience to sell before we knew there would be a disaster, it seems. I don’t know if we would have done that, even if we had known. This was our dream. If it is to sink without a trace, then we should watch it do so; the captain and his ship and all that. We couldn’t have slept at night, if we’d sold on inevitable disaster in place of a dream.

We live with my son and his wife now, it’s a squeeze but we get along. There’s no space for Bonsai trees, no quiet for writing, but there is the joy of Grandchildren. You have to make the best of what you’ve got.

My wife didn’t understand why I wanted to come and watch, she called it morbid. Her eyes brimmed with tears that only abated when I made the poor joke, ‘Don’t add to the water level, old girl.’ She’s at home.

I’ve found myself a spot, high and dry, sitting on a tree stump. I have a flask; the bitterly aromatic tea is clouding the air before me. The cup warms the chill in my hands but it doesn’t touch the ice in my guts, or overwhelm the musky dampness of falling leaves and rotting timbers. They seem appropriate for today, not the day of the dead, but the day of dying dreams.

Somewhere, out in the wide ocean, a wave has formed; larger than they ever were, swollen with melt from good old Totten and not just the tip; the whole nine yards. The wave crashes angrily to shore, the force of it loosening cliffs, stealing shale. But there is a weak point, the estuary; here the water finds a place to run.

Imagine a funnel, loyally taking the water you pour in and directing it to a single point. Now imagine throwing a bucket full of water into the funnel; imagine the force that it sprays from the end.

The water throws itself, unknowing, unfeeling, into the Severn. The estuary roils. Near Avonmouth the swell is terrifying but it is just the beginning. The bore itself forms past Sharpness when the weight of the water hits the rocks at Hock Cliff. Now the Bore has its head, and it races towards the narrowing at Langney Sands where even with the risen water level the channel is just a few hundred yards across. Crashing, hissing, vicious and unstoppable, this is nature’s lesson. We are not masters here; we are not even students. We are expendable.

It is catastrophic.

The bore is coming.

DixonSarah Dixon is a prolific writer of short stories, usually Science Fiction or Fantasy but always with a hint of wonder. After spending her life wanting to write, but never reaching her own lofty standards she read the advice ‘Finish first, edit later’ and finally made it to the end of a chapter. She hasn’t stopped since. A wife and mother of two, it was the desire to write stories that challenged the lure of video games that led her to write her first children’s novel. Alfie Slider vs the Shape Shifter is an action adventure for 9-12-year-olds, coming late 2016 from SilverWood books. When not writing, Sarah enjoys working with schools to engage children with creative writing including delivering her workshop about social commentary in Sci-Fi titled ‘How Aliens Changed the World.’

Addendum: Sarah’s backstory on her motivation and process of writing this vision.

hourofwrites* This vision was the winning entry in the “Life plus 2m” prompt at Hour of Writes, which carries out weekly, peer-reviewed writing competitions.