BETHANY LEE – NOVEL EXTRACT
Spider! Spider! Slo duwn!
I was on the street, and everywhere was wet. Water ran down the road and splashed up the backs of wheels. The coloured lights on the front of the concert hall made the huge puddles on the pavement unreal, man-made, electric. I was still running because I didn’t have a reason not to and felt I could go for miles, and Ben was behind me, splashing around, lifting his big legs high. I knew I’d easily lose him, but I wanted him to keep up because I had no idea where I was going. I was just following the brightest lights. But then the lights dwindled away and I was somewhere residential.
Spider! Watch tha rooad!
I knew where the road was. I wasn’t that drunk.
I was heading for some bike racks at speed so I stopped and turned around. What do ye want?
Nothin. Jus for you ta be safe. Ye don jus run off like tha.
Y’ tried ta kiss me.
No A din.
Yeah yu ded.
He had got a lot closer. He looked really high up. He held his palms up to me and bent his knees as if I was holding a gun and he was telling me to drop it. He didn’t say anything.
Yu were goen ta kiss me, I said.
Our song wis playin. A wis in the moment. A realise e war a bad idea noe.
Ye, it wis a bad idea.
When yu said yud still come wi me ta the concert I thour it could be our second chance.
Well I thour we were frens again. I thour it wud be tha thin tha made it no awkward tween us.
I realised the reason he looked so tall was because he was stood on a bench.
Why’re yu stood on a bench?
Have ye sen where ya standin! It’s a fuckin river!
I looked down and my feet were all blurry.
Come ere, git on. He held his arm out.
I took a step forwards. It took effort and sloshed. Es no tha bad es e?
It’s run yer ankles. An ye soaked.
My clothes clung to me. I put my hand on my head and my beanie was a sponge.
Why din ya tell me?
Yu were runnin away!
Where es everyone?
Probably all in ther ouses, stayin oot o tha weather. Now take ma han.
Wha good’s it gonna du bein up ther?
Jus get ya feet oot tha water.
I took his hand and got onto the bench. I looked around and everything was dark and slimy. The water wasn’t too high, but ran down the hill. Reflections made it look like if I jumped I’d fall a long way.
Where’s it comin from? I asked. It’s fuckin apocalyptic.
Es been rainin, hard like, while we wis in there. Maybe thes bin a problem wi the drains. A don no.
Where are we?
Near the gardens.
We wen the wrong way.
Yu wen tha wrong way, he said. Then, Sorry.
Yu say sorry too ofen.
I meant it.
A know. Bu yu should ave more confidence en yaself.
He looked at me under his eyebrows like his low self-worth was my fault. I’d crushed him. I should have been better to him. There was a second where we stared in each other’s eyes and I didn’t know what to say.
A man was running down the pavement. His steps squelched. His arms were moving up and down at his elbows like he was a puppet. He jumped onto our bench. He had light on his forehead and a grimace on his lips; a dark water fish on land.
We’ve got tae warn them! he said. He jumped off the bench and knocked on the nearest door. I’ve come ta save yu! Get oot! Get oot! Et’s the end o daays!
He was at the next door. Only it was not a door, it was the back of a bus stop, but he knocked just the same. You’ve got t’ get oot!
He jumped back up onto the bench and spoke incoherently, his torch is dazzling me. His red eyes flickered around my face, pupils like flies trapped in veiny orbs. Are ye jus gonnae stan there? They need oer hulp.
He grabbed my wrists and pulled me into the inky water. His hands were so boney they felt like molars clamping. He took me onto the road. Ben was shouting but I didn’t know what.
The man stumbled and fell. His head hit the ground; his torch briefly illuminated the underwater world. The road markings look like flashes of fish. I turned to walk away, but a hand was on my ankle. His contorted face looked up at me. I could only see the bottom of his brow, the tip of his nose, the peak of his pushed-up cheeks in his wicked, wild sneer. His torch failed. His hand weaved to find a better grip on my leg, then he pulled himself up. I could smell cheap cider on his breath. Ya cannae go. Tha end o days! Tha end o days! They need t’ be saved.
Ben was suddenly between us, telling the man to leave. Ya proper off yer nuts man.
I was scared, a bit. A lot. I was shaking.
The end is nigh!
Thee world’s not gonnae fuckin end pal.
Wis on the news! Biggest storm. Tear us apart.
Through the middle of the clear and cavernous black sky ripped a shudder of lightning. Afterwards came a boom. I grabbed onto Ben’s arm.
It’s comin! the man shouted.
Ben whispered, Es jus a bit of lightnin. Don worry Spider.
A knew this day was soon! Mankine es over!
Yer freakin us oot alright? Ben said. Stop wi tha noansense.
Let’s get back, I said. Put oan tha TV an see for ourselves.
Stop lisnin to him. Es jus a wee storm. Everythin will be fine in tha mornin.
Bu wha if it es the end? I started trembling. Everything looked made of water. I was going to be sick.
The man was skipping down the hill, shouting, Tha end o days! Tha end o days, like a town crier.
I had to sit.
Get up, Wet Bum! Ben said. He pulled my up by my elbows. We’ll go ta mine, we’ll eat some cheps, and we’ll wait for this ta end, okay?
Thunder again. It sounded close. He held all my body weight. I couldn’t focus. There was the sky. There was the water.
Look at me. Es okay.
Where was I looking? It was all dark blue.
He lifted me over his shoulder. It put pressure on my stomach and I wriggled.
We’ll be back soon.
I was suddenly in Ben’s flat, laid on his settee. He was pacing and staring out of the window. It was dark. Rain hammered.
Thank you, I said, but it was weak and he didn’t notice.
There was a box of chips next to me. I opened it with one hand and took one out. It was cold.
In a minute he turned and saw me. You’re awake! He was so happy.
I tried to push myself up but I couldn’t. We’re at yours?
How’s thee apocalypse comin?
Et’s still rainin. No zombies yet.
Don joke. Wha if that guy wis correct? Have you put they news oan?
Ther we go! Light flashed behind him and it reminded me of the strobes.
Please stop panicking Spider. You’re jus drunk. You’re not reasoning properly.
Es only lowgical! I’ve never seen a storm like this.
Es no tha bad.
He sat next to me. We stared out of the distant window together.
Do ya know how thee others are? I asked.
Canny git hold of em.
I felt calm. Acceptant of my fate. Or maybe I was just too drunk for it to sink in. There were worse people to spend the apocalypse with.
You’re no bad ya know, I said. It felt a relief to say it.
I was hasty before. Wi us. I go scared.
Yu’d give me a secon chance?
Yu know A wud.
No promisin anythin.
Can we dance?
He stood up and started doing little finger jabs. It was cute. I went to him and hugged him and we danced in a circle as if the rain was our slow music.
Bethany is from Lincolnshire and is studying Fine Art and Creative Writing at Lancaster University.