Hawkins Bay is the latest effort from James Porteous.
A work in progress, the novel takes us to a post-apocalyptic world where the 1% are safely tucked away in “Freedom Bunkers” while the 99% -who discover they have all the tools to survive in this new world- wonder if there really is a need to ‘preserve democracy’ after all.
Hawkins Bay – a work in progress
The sky is almost blue today. That is nice. Yesterday it was blurry. She kept wiping her eyes as though that might help to clear things up but it did not help. So today she is going to enjoy the blue in the sky and try not to worry or think about the other things she needs to be thinking or worrying about.
She has no idea what is going on, really. She asked her father to explain it to her and he said that there were going through a ‘rough patch’ and that it was going to get worse and then maybe worse again and then maybe things would get a bit better.
She believes the first two things but not so much the last one. She is too young to understand but she does not think things will ever really get better again. Well, at least not for her and the other men and women and children living in the camp. It is too dark and cold and exposed. They could be living in the mountains and fighting off polar bears or tigers for all she knows. That would not be much different from what they are doing now.
But it is not her father’s fault. He is a good man. Not a great man, but a good one. He has always tried to take care of her and he is still trying to do this thing but maybe sometimes you keep trying and it simply does not work. It is not that you care less, just that you can only do the best you can and then maybe you have to try and do something else.
So that is fine. She does miss her friends, though. She never liked school very much when they had school and now that they don’t have it she wakes up every day looking forward to going and then realizing that she is not going because there is no such thing any more. She tries not to think about what might have happened to the other kids in her class and all the other classes but how can she not think about it! They could all be dead. Even if only some of them were dead that would be bad enough but she sort of thinks that if some of them are dead then maybe all of them are dead and maybe it does not matter if it is some or all because death is death and she does not want to think about it any longer.
Her father told her to try and remember some of the good things she used to enjoy and to just think about those things and she tried that and it did work for a very short time but not really long enough to make her feel any better.
Maybe there is no way to feel any better. It was nice of her father to try but maybe he knows and now she knows that it is just going to be the way it is until it becomes something else and then she will deal with that, whenever it happens.
Today she is going to go to the woods and try and find something. Something new. She has no idea what that might be, but she really feels like she needs something new in her life. It does not have to be something exciting and she is quite sure it will not be but it would be nice to have something. In the back of her mind she is thinking that maybe she might find an old doll or a toy that is not too damaged and that she could take that back to the Church and it could become friends with her Teddy Bear who is still stuck in the pews. And then she could leave it there and not feel quite so bad about leaving Teddy alone all the time.
There is no one in the woods at this hour so that is good. Sometimes the old men come out hang out together with the old women and Barley May is not quite sure what they are doing but she knows it is probably not anything very good!
She tries to ignore them or just go back to the camp when this happens because it is really none of her business and so long as they do not bother her she does not care very much.
In her search right away she finds a box that used to contain a toy of some sort but there is no toy inside the box. She thinks the sight of the box with no toy in the box might make her feel sad and so she leaves it be.
Next she finds a newspaper that is not very interesting but it is all crinkled and bumpy from the rain and who knows what else and it is fun to feel it for a few seconds but then she lets it drop to the ground again, too.
Deeper into the woods she finds a house that used to be a home and without thinking about it she marches right in what used to be the front door and discovers that it is an actual house but mostly just the frame and some garbage here and there and she realizes too late that there is a man sleeping on a rug in the corner. She turns to leave before he can see her but she is too late and he jumps up right away just like he is a younger man and he runs over and grabs her by the arm and tells her right away to be calm, don’t worry, I am not going to hurt you but she knows without really knowing it that he is is probably not telling the truth and all at once she is about as afraid as she has ever been in her life.
There is no turning back now. There is no turning back.
He makes her sit on the corner of a broken chair and then he sits down, too, and tells her to sit on his lap. She does this thing because she has no other choice but she is not a stupid girl and already she is thinking in her head that there must be a way to get out of here and back to her father and the camp before anything happens that cannot be changed.
“What do you want?” she says.
“Oh my. Such anger,” the man says. He is old. His face is covered in scars. She can barely stand to look at him but she is angry and she wants to appear bold and brave to him and so she does look at his face. It does not work the way she wanted it to. “You afraid?”
“Of you?” she barks.
“None of your business,” she says.
“You are feisty,” he says. “Your parents know where you are?”
“What do you think?”
“You know what I think. Yes? You know?”
“What do you want?”
“Just some company. Talk a bit. Be friends for a while.”
“I’m not your friend,” Barley May says.
“Not yet. We’ll see.”
“We won’t see any such thing.”
“Well,” he says but he does not finish the sentence and he knows that Barley May knows that he does not have to finish the sentence.
There is a long silence now as the old man pretends to look about the room but she can see that he is really looking at her out of the corner of his eye and he is trying not to smile about what he sees.
She is thinking: Should I punch him in the face; kick him in the head; poke him in the eye; run from the room; scream for help?
They are all good ideas and she has no doubt that when the time comes she will pick one of them and then things will be okay. She has to think this is true because that is the only thing that is going to save her now and she really and truly does want to be saved in the worst possible way.
The old man shifts his hand just so and she knows that he is anxious and afraid of how she might react if he reaches too far and now she knows that he is really and truly a not-so-bad man trying to act like he is a bad man and that makes her feel a little bit better but it also scares her a bit more because she often thinks that sometimes, especially now, that good men are so afraid of what has happened to them that they react as really bad men because they know now that they have nothing to lose.
So she takes a chance and moves his hand away and at first he does not react at all and that is good, she thinks. She then decides to take another chance and moves off of the chair and stands in front of him.
“Did you lose your family?” she says to the old man.
“Yes,” he says sadly.
“Well, that is sad, isn’t it,” she says. “It is very sad that such things happen. She is dead and I am alive.”
“That is true,” he says.
“I am sorry for your loss,” Barley May says and she thinks that maybe she sees a bit of a spark in his eyes, like maybe that has connected with him in some way but she is not sure. He could certainly just be a mad man who has sparks every now and again.
“She was a good girl. My son, too, really. We had our moments.”
“But they were good. They loved me and their mother. I know that now. Too late, but I know that now.”
“It is never too late,” she says. “Never too late to know such things.”