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Response Transcript

by Iona Douglas

Interview Response Transcript: Gill, Hannah M. no. 25,579

Other documents enclosed:

1. Mia Hannah Gill.

2. 24th October 1993.

3. My whole life.

4. Deliveries. The Post Office. I know, not exactly doing so great on the career ladder, but I liked having half the day off and I think they liked that I came with my own moped.

5. I write stories. Wrote stories.

6. The end of the world. Dystopic sci-fi and fantasy, mainly. Yeah, I know. Talk about careful what you wish for. I would have pictured it amidst more dramatic scenery than Milton Keynes.

7. A few online magazines. Nothing mega.

8. John Joseph Gill and Hannah Gill.

9. Dead.

10. My sister Ellen and my niece Amelia. Oh, and of course my Uncle Ryan. In Glasgow.

11. She did something in finance. I don’t know exactly.

12. When I went to pick Amelia up from school, around half-past three. Ellen’s a single mum, so I used to help with childcare. Anyway, all of the leaves had fallen off the trees. They were crunchy. I’d been thinking about a cyberpunk story I was writing, I’d been having a bit of a problem with the middle, so I didn’t really notice anything was up until I looked down to see Amelia’s mouth covered in purple juice. She’d been picking blackberries from the bushes by the school.

13. I said they needed to be washed, but once we got home she forgot all about them. The road in front of our house was littered with conkers. Ellen called around six to say the roads were bad so she’d be late home and could I put Amelia to bed? But it had started snowing by then so, of course, she wanted to stay up to watch it for a bit. I said she could see it in the morning. She hadn’t noticed the ivy sprouting up the walls of the house yet and I didn’t really know how to explain it.

14. No, just thought it was mental weather. Climate change or something. The meteorologists were having a field day on the news, gabbling about how weird it was that it was only England that was affected. My father always said, ‘Never trust a meteorologist’.

15. My mother was a meteorologist. She’d have found the whole thing quite interesting, I expect.

16. The next day. The roads were fine aside from a few big puddles and clumps of soggy leaves, but I gotta leave my ’ped and walk up to the houses to deliver the post and, as I was doing it, plants were coming up out of the soil and flowering around me. Daffodils and a few spots of bluebells and garlic by the roadside.

Ellen had gone to work, although she’d seemed a bit worried. I took Amelia to the shopping centre to get some warmer clothes. She’d grown out of last year’s winter clothes, but the supermarkets had brought out all their seasonal stock. When we were on our way home, we heard a farmer on the radio being interviewed about potential food shortages due to the weather so we turned back and stocked up on bottled water, porridge, lots of tins, some ready meals. Oh, and I got a barbecue for good measure.

17. Autumn didn’t arrive until between half past three and four, and I got off work at twelve. That’s three hours of prime barbecue time.

18. I’m not sure if we were that clear about it that early on but, yeah, our vocabulary changed. Morning was Spring; lunchtime, Summer; afternoon, Autumn; and the evenings and nights, Winter pretty early on. The first week I think.

19. She’s pretty observant for a five-year-old, and she knew something was up, but I think she just found it funny. In the morning she would watch the flowers grow. She didn’t like when they wilted in Autumn — sorry, the afternoon — so we ate then.

20. This was the third day, I think. Ellen was home. The whole country came to a halt. I think everyone thought Armageddon was coming. They just didn’t go to work. I did, but there was no one there, so I came straight home. The streets were empty, too.

21. Nothing. There wasn’t anything on the telly for a whole day. We still had access to the internet then, so we saw everything you did. Ellen got annoyed, said I shouldn’t be watching it in front of Amelia.

22. Played Hungry Hippos.

23. By the next morning the telly was working again, but only one channel. The government had apparently opened hundreds of temperature-controlled warehouses all over the country and were ferrying, flying and driving seeds and farm animals to them now. Apparently, a few people had been persuaded to keep the grid going, so we still had electricity, but I don’t know what they were being paid. Money seemed a little trivial at that point.

24. By twelve. A story ran about people growing enough veg for a week in one day. So the whole warehouse thing seemed pointless. We found a few potatoes that had sprouted in the cupboard and washed the seeds from a few strawberries. Ellen rooted out a few spurious-looking packets of seeds from a drawer — leeks, onions. And we had cress, from Amelia’s school project. It was like a revolution happening in every garden in the country. Hardly anyone was going into work, remember, so pretty much everyone watched it happen. Mrs Farmouth next door said it was a miracle.

25. On Friday. That’s the first time we lost power. And there wasn’t any news about it for ages, we just assumed temperature changes.

26. Still didn’t have any power by the next Monday so we couldn’t even get access to foreign news updates. I don’t know if it was just Milton Keynes or the rest of the country, too, but by then that wasn’t even the worst part.

27. Well, no one was cleaning the streets. So all the leaves that fell the day before would collect, be buried by snow, and then the next day there’d be this mulchy sludge. And the bin men had stopped coming, so there were these piles and piles of bins just lying around and some of them were torn and there were soggy cartons in the street in the morning and frozen packages in the evening. It wasn’t great. Mrs Farmouth said it was Armageddon, and that we should expect the Four Horsemen any moment. We played Hungry Hippos a lot then.

28. Around the second weekend, I think. A bus crowded with forty people came to our street. They said they were headed to Scotland and would it be all right if they made an igloo in our front garden to sleep in that night?

29. It wasn’t your classic English winter. You’ve seen the pictures. It was postcard stuff, three feet of snow. Anyway, we invited them in, but they said they could do with the practice.

30. We helped. Amelia enjoyed it.

31. London, they said. They said it was bad there. There’d been looting, and Parliament was empty. Said we were lucky here, even though the streets smelled. At least we had a garden and our rubbish was outside instead of crowding tower block stairwells.

32. I think they’d tried but, by that time, there weren’t any running. Said they stole the bus but didn’t think it was likely they’d get caught. I made sure to cover my bike and kept the garage door keys with me when they said that.

33. I brought it up that night for the first time, I think, but Ellen said I was mad. Said she didn’t want to sleep in an igloo every night until we crossed the border and that it couldn’t possibly go on for much longer and anyway — like they’d said — at least we had a house. At least we could grow our own food and weren’t cooped up in a tower block. And what if we changed our mind and came back and someone was squatting in our home?

34. As soon as the snow melted. Traffic was hell in the Spring, but the roads were untraversable in Winter. Their igloo was gone by Summer, but me and Amelia practised building them every Winter, night after night.

People were still passing through every day on their way to Wales or Scotland. Rumours about flooding in reservoirs and hydroelectric power stations because of the temperature fluctuations. I don’t know. It didn’t really matter why it had stopped by that point, only that it had.

35. Another couple of days, I think. We were melting snow for water and using the barbecues for heat. I was sick of chips and veg. Farmouth had had the good sense to move her chickens indoors early on, so we had the occasional fresh egg. We’d had a bird’s nest on the porch roof. They’d obviously all frozen the first night, but then gone through the whole process of being thawed again every morning, so one lunchtime I came outside to find a bit of a mess outside the door.

36. She said no.

37. I was going to take her.

38. I packed a bag for her, but I think Ellen suspected me, so she slept with Amelia that night.

39. It was now or never in my mind.

40. To be honest, I think I’d left it a bit late. People were saying you only got across the border if you had family there, so I didn’t think I’d get into Wales.

41. Took the canal route. Most people were taking the roads in Spring. You can carry more in a car than you can on your back, so the only people on the canals were a few boats and the occasional person carrying their life. Didn’t fancy being in a boat. Can you imagine the cold during Winter? At least I knew I was going the right way. Had to learn how to read a map! Can you believe?

43. I had the backpack — now in your possession — and some stuff in the scooter. I also had a tent, but I abandoned that by Berwick when I knew I was close to the border. It had lost most of its structural integrity by that point anyway.

44. It only took a week to get to Berwick, but I had to cycle the last leg of the journey. Old scooter wouldn’t start so I swapped it for a mountain bike and a night in a bed from a guy called Colin near... Lindisfarne, I think? I’d figured out the coast was better than inland pretty early on. The salt — the snow didn’t lie there, so the roads were clearer and I could drive a lot further. I’d heard on the grapevine that it was easier to sneak into Scotland by boat, so wanted to keep my options open.

45. I’d been syphoning it. Stole some canisters from a few garages. What? You ever tried starting a fire in Winter?

46. I don’t know what you want me to tell you. It wasn’t like it was in the stories I wrote. Yeah, some places it was bad, and the people were worse; but, in smaller villages, they seemed to be dealing with it all right. Organising their own rubbish, growing their own veg, trying to build generators. You know, helping each other.

47. I don’t think anyone knows. Do you? Maybe it was all the crap we were putting into the atmosphere, or maybe Mrs Farmouth was right, and we’re all sinners. Neither theory seems likely.

48. Get to my Uncle’s. I left a note for Ellen explaining my plan in case she changed her mind and wanted to follow me.

49. So, can I go?

End of transcript

Copyright © 2017 by Iona Douglas

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