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Authors: Alex Scarrow

Afterlight

BOOK: Afterlight
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Table of Contents
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Afterlight
 
 
ALEX SCARROW
 
 
Orion
 
An Orion Books ebook
 
 
First published in Great Britain in 2010 by Orion Books
 
This ebook first published in 2010 by Orion Books
 
© Alex Scarrow 2010
 
The right of Alex Scarrow to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
 
 
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor to be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published without a similar condition, including this condition, being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
 
 
All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
 
 
A CIP catalogue record for this book
is available from the British Library.
 
eISBN : 978 1 4091 0817 7
 
 
This ebook produced by Jouve
 
 
The Orion Publishing Group Ltd
Orion House
5 Upper Saint Martin’s Lane
London, WC2H 9EA
 
 
An Hachette UK Company
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
To Jacob, Leona and Nathan. I started out using you guys as inspiration for the characters and about halfway through this book realised I wished I hadn’t. You’ll see why. This book is dedicated to the three of you.
Also by Alex Scarrow
A Thousand Suns
Last Light
October Skies
Acknowledgements
This book required a lot more research than I expected it to. The person to whom I’m most indebted is Chris Gilmour, a man with a lot of experience in the North Sea and knowledge of the oil and gas rigs out there. Without his help this would have had to be a very different book.
I also owe a big thanks to my hardcore team of beta readers; John Prigent, Robin and Jane Carter, and Mike Poole, who waded through my first draft and returned copious notes of feedback.
Finally, as always, Frances, for the many thorough read-throughs and attendant margin notes that help me turn my unintelligible ramblings into ‘books’.
Prologue
There are many names for what happened in 2010: The Big Die Off, The Crash, The Long Darkness, The End of the Oil Age. It was the week that crude oil was stopped from flowing and the world catastrophically failed.
My head still spins when I recall how quickly it all happened. A complete systemic collapse of the modern, oil-dependent world within the space of a fortnight. Events chased each other around the globe like a row of dominoes falling. It started with a series of bombs in the Middle East. Bombs deployed in the holiest of places that set the whole of the Middle East on fire with a religious civil war; Shi’as fighting Sunnis fighting Wahhabis. Then, later on that first day, I remember there were other explosions; an oil tanker scuttled in the busiest shipping channel in the world, a gigantic South American refinery, an oil processing hub in Kazakhstan . . . and a dozen more. By that evening, something like ninety per cent of the world’s oil production capacity had been disabled.
What we were spoon-fed by the news on the first day was that oil prices were going to skyrocket, and that . . . yes, we’d be in for a sharp and protracted recession.
It was on the second day, or maybe the third, that everyone began to wake up and realise that billions of people were very quickly going to starve . . . and that was in the western world, not the Third World.
The moment people collectively understood what ‘no oil’ actually meant, that was the tipping point; the point of no return. Panic and rioting swept like wildfire through every city and town in every country. No nation was immune. At the end of the first week of anarchy, as cities smouldered and streets lay quiet, littered with shattered glass and looted goods, broken and spoiled things, most of the tinned, preservable
food was gone. Around the world, ready-to-harvest crops that might have been speedily gathered, processed, tinned and shipped to provide emergency supplies to feed us as the dust settled and we picked ourselves up . . . well, all of those crops rotted in the fields because tractors were sitting with empty fuel tanks . . . the Big Die Off began.
For a long time after the crash, the world really was dark. With no generated power, there were no lights at night except for the flickering of campfires, candles and oil lamps; the pinprick signs of life of small communities dotted here and there that had found a way to keep going. The UK resembled some collapsed east African state; a twilight world. Empty towns, burned-out farms with gone-to-seed fields, empty roads, abandoned cars.
And I must admit, I’d completely lost hope. I was ready to face the fact that where I was, I was going to slowly starve until my weakened immune system finally succumbed to a minor cut or a cold or tainted water.
Then I met her. Ten years after the crash, I met her.
She lived in a community of the weak and the vulnerable, living in isolation aboard a cluster of rusting gas platforms in the North Sea. There were four hundred and fifty of them living there and, I realise this only now, back then that was quite probably the largest self-sustaining community left in Great Britain.
She was to become the driving force for recovery. It was this remarkable woman who kept things together as we rebuilt our country from the abandoned ruins of the Oil Age.
I’m an old man now, too bloody old. If we still used the pre-crash calendar it would be the year 2061 as I write this.
Today, the world has lights again, computers, even trams and trains, technology that was once taken for granted before the crash. It’s a very different world. There are far fewer people, owning far fewer things. The skyline no longer bristles with telecoms pylons sprouting satellite dishes and mobile phone antennae. There are no longer garish advertising billboards or phallic mine’s-bigger-than-yours high-rise office towers. Instead, our horizons are broken by a sea of wind turbines, big and small.
I think of it as her world.
She helped make it. She helped define it. I see her stubbornness, her determination, her common sense, her sense of fair play and her maternal wisdom in everything around me.
But sadly she’s a footnote in history. The e-books being written on the Oil Crash by academics today tend to focus on the things that went
wrong in the first weeks and months of the crisis. Not on the rebuilding that began ten years later.
So her name is a small footnote. Just a surname in fact.
Sutherland.
But I met her. I actually knew her.
 
Adam Brooks
21 December, 51 AC [
A
fter the
C
rash]
Chapter 1
2010 - Eight days after the Oil Crash
North London
 
 
 

I
’m really, really thirsty, Mummy.’ A quiet voice - her son.
‘Yeah,’ whispered her daughter, ‘me too.’
Jenny Sutherland realised they’d not stopped since the first light of dawn had made it possible to pick their way through the rubbish strewn streets without the help of a torch.
Her mouth was dry and tacky too. She looked up and down the deserted high street; every shop window a jagged frame of threatening glass shards, every metal-shutter-protected shopfront was crumpled and stove in. Several cars, skewed across both sides of the road, smouldered in the pale morning light, sending up acrid wisps of burning-rubber smoke into the grey sky. She glanced at the stores either side of them, all dark caves within, but all promising goods inside that had yet to be looted.
BOOK: Afterlight
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