Alternate One: 19/20 May 2128
The blur began to resolve itself into individual trees and jungle-ruined buildings as the horses slowed. The ground below their feet still slipped behind them at a rate well in excess of normality. At least it was no longer painful on the eyes to attempt to look at what they were passing.
"Where are we?" Long asked, not for the first time. The open countryside had gone. On either side of them they passed buildings that, years ago, had been homes, shops and work places. Any differences were now almost completely hidden under vegetation that assaulted walls, windows and roofs with equal determination. Only the road along which they sped was mostly clear of plant life.
"Coming into Hertford," Ray Hargreaves replied. "Not really my neck of the woods. My farm is back in Duxford," he pointed randomly backwards over his shoulder, "and I'll be glad to get back there to make sure things are okay when the sky falls."
"Sky falls?" Jenny asked.
"Well, whatever. They've not told us exactly what will happen when everything joins back together."
"I think that means they've already figured out what AI suspected," Long said to Jenny.
Hargreaves continued, "I just want to be back there when it does, to look after the family and the animals. They reckon we're going to lose most of the abilities when it happens – so, I certainly don't want to have to walk back. Still, at least it will put a stop to the way the jungle grows. That'll make the farming a bit easier, especially if we can get the tractors working properly again."
"So, why are we stopping here?" Jenny asked.
"Well, don't know about you two, but I'm hungry," Hargreaves said, rubbing his already ample stomach. "Also, it makes me travel sick to keep up that pace for more than a couple of hours. Anyway, will be dark soon enough so we might as well make camp here as anywhere else."
"Which bit of London was this?" Long asked, the following morning as the countryside was fully left behind.
"Enfield, I think. We're going to bear westwards soon and hop over to Hampstead Heath to drop that DTM thing off."
"Really? That's where I first found it."
"Well, you'll feel right at home then. Ha ha!"
The wagon, still going quite fast, swung onto a new road. "North Circular," Ray explained, which didn't mean a thing to Long. He presumed it was one of those that had been outside their Wall.
After a short while they left the main road to enter an overgrown area, the horses and wagon slowed considerably to tunnel their way through virgin jungle. Long watched as Ray and his two sons stared ahead of the wagon intensely. Somehow, their combined concentration was willing the undergrowth to get out of the way.
He wished he understood how it was done.
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