20: Empty Worlds (part 4)

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20.4 Rabbit Stew And Wine

Cambridge: 18 May 2128

Northwards, in the more open land behind a final line of ruined homes, was an area of grassland with older trees dotted around the extremes. Long thought he might be seeing evidence that a river flowed in the distance. To the west the tower windows glinted orange and yellow in the slowly rising sun. Maybe Jenny was up there right now looking in his direction. He tried to imagine what could be seen from its height.

The sound of wildlife moving in the undergrowth was everywhere. He sought out a regularly used track and positioned a trap where it narrowed to re-enter a back garden, baiting it with the sliced up beetroot.

Arriving back he found Ellie opening the bottles with the corkscrew. Rick sat on the machine's base with a cup in his good hand. "That one was revolting," he said pointing at a broken bottle a few yards away, its contents still dribbling out. "But this one isn't."

"You sure you should be drinking that?" Long asked.

Rick pulled the cup to his chest, "Don't care. You're all talking colours anyway. Maybe this'll take 'em away. I'm hungry."

Ellie poured out some clear liquid into a cup and gave it to Long who sniffed it cautiously before putting it to his lips. The taste was slightly bitter, though far from unpleasant and nothing like the one he'd tried back in their home world a few days ago. Maybe it was because none of them had eaten or drunk anything for a day that made this one taste better. He took a larger mouthful and swallowed. Ellie poured some more into Long's cup.

"Whoa," Long said, "not too much – remember what I said about that girl who died."

"Didn't you say she fell out a window?" Ellie asked.


"Well, okay, we'd better not go near any windows then."

A few minutes later Jenny returned, frowning. She was given a cup of the drink, which removed a little of her expression.

"So?" Long asked.

"Yes, it's wine all right. Similar to what we found before. That stuff you tried the other day was gin. Quite different."

"No, I meant the tower – see anything?"

"Oh, right. Well, this version is far more intact but that was obvious as soon we arrived. I can see the main city centre, the colleges and out past where the Wall is in our world. Not far away to the west I spotted a herd of deer, about twenty, in an open space between some trees. But most of the land is overgrown, untouched – no sign of people at all."

"Damn. Maybe there'll be some in London."

"Dunno. It wouldn't be as bad to travel here as in the jungle world but London's still a long way away."

"No people on 'five'," Rick reminded them.

"Yes," Long agreed, "but that was because no one could survive there."

"At least I didn't see any ghosts here," Jenny added. "But any sign would have been good."

"Maybe we should go back tonight and look for lights or fires," Long suggested.

"Good idea," Jenny agreed.

"Yerp," Ellie said, pouring herself more wine. "Damn, this is good. Almost makes me forget I'm so hungry."

"Woo, my head's disa-, um, disagreeing with that wine stuff," Ellie slurred, about an hour later. "Putting my tongue to sleep."

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