Title: The Cottage at the End of the World
Author: Jenny Twist
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
The end of civilization is fast approaching, and the family in the remote cottage in the woods is ready. They are prepared for anything that may happen -- except for the one thing that nobody predicted.
Against the background of the Coronavirus pandemic another, more sinister threat is slowly gripping the world. Will the family find out before it's too late?
When Gary was twelve his parents were killed.
They died simultaneously and (he hoped) instantaneously when an articulated lorry, out of control on the M25, suddenly jack-knifed, its back end slewing into the left hand lane and sweeping into the line of slow traffic, resulting in the mangling of half a dozen cars before it finally ground to a stop.
Many years later he found a photograph of the crash in library microfilm archives under the headline Horror Crash on M25. Eleven dead, five seriously injured. Underneath was a photograph depicting a tangle of crushed vehicles. Impossible to identify his parents’ BMW in that unholy mess. Hard to imagine anyone had survived that carnage. Probably better not to.
He was at boarding school at the time and Mr Dale, the English master, called him into the Headmaster’s study. Fortunately, the Headmaster himself was not present. The Headmaster was a tall, thin, cadaverous creature with a distressing resemblance to Nosferatu, one of Gary’s childhood horrors. (That moment when Nosferatu was climbing the stairs and all you could see was his shadow, the long-fingered hands stretched out before him, waiting to grasp his unsuspecting victim). He always wore his academic gown, like a black vampire cloak. In fact, his nickname amongst the boys was Dracula. Gary never saw him smile but. if he did, he was sure it would reveal elongated upper canines, stained with blood.
Mr Dale was different. He was big and friendly and somehow comfortable, like a friendly bear. He pulled out two chairs and, instead of sitting behind the desk with Gary in front, like a penitent, he waved him to one of the chairs and sat down on the other himself.
“Bad news, I’m afraid, old chap,” he said, leaning forward and patting Gary on the shoulder. And Gary stared at him in disbelief as he imparted the news. How could his parents be dead? He had only seen them the previous weekend.
The funny thing was that now he had very little memory of his parents. His mother seemed to be always on her way out to somewhere important, immaculately-dressed and made-up, more like a princess than a mother somehow. His memories of his father were even more vague. A large, dark presence, who came in and filled the house with a vague foreboding. If Gary hadn’t seen photographs of him, he didn’t think he would have any idea of what his father had looked like.
But he remembered Mr Dale, who was his favourite master. To be fair, he was everyone’s favourite master. Not only was he a hundred times more entertaining than any of the others, telling jokes and acting out the parts in the books and plays, instead of just reading out pages of dull text or, worse still, making some unfortunate boy stand and read out his homework essay in order to have it dissected and mocked by the rest of the class.
Mr Dale used to quite often join a group of his students in the break and chat about all sorts of other stuff – not English. Stuff like football – he supported Manchester City – and the latest pop groups.
Gary had the impression Mr Dale was not as popular with the other masters as he was with the boys. For a start, a proper gentleman (and the whole point of the school was to produce gentlemen) would follow rugby, not soccer. That was a man’s game. Soccer was for the plebs. Looking back, he thought Mr Dale had been the major influence in his life so far.
He had imagined that once he had graduated, his real life would start. His legacy from his parents, from their savings and the sale of the (rather pretentious) house in Dorchester, had paid for the rest of his schooling and seen him through university without benefit of a student loan, leaving enough over for a hefty deposit on the tiny but horrendously expensive shoe-box of an apartment in central London.
London in those days was a bustling city, full of traffic and people in a hurry, coming and going to jobs that were mostly unproductive and unnecessary but paid well. Estate agents, bankers, stockbrokers, accountants, lawyers, members of Parliament – people who thought they were important but were really just a drain on resources.
Gary himself was doing an entirely unnecessary job as a freelance journalist, writing articles on culture. He wasn’t even doing meaningful work as an investigative journalist, working in a war zone or uncovering spy networks, just writing a load of mildly entertaining drivel about plays and novels and once, disastrously, on a fashion show. He couldn’t find anything mildly entertaining to say about the skeletal girls parading the catwalk in clothes that cost thousands of pounds and couldn’t possibly be worn in public except to a fancy dress party.
But his present job was just a stop gap – a way of earning enough money to support himself whilst he embarked on the illustrious career he had planned. Between reports on the latest happenings in the London theatre scene and art galleries he was writing his first novel – a cutting edge exposure of everything that was wrong with society. Mr Dale would be proud.
So it was with a light heart that he threaded his way through the evening crowds of office workers hurrying home and tourists making their way back to their hotels. He was heading towards a small art gallery near Trafalgar Square which was presently exhibiting a variety of obscure young artists. This evening it was hosting a small welcoming party for a few elite clients and, of course, the press.
And so it was without a thought other than a vague hope that he might find something truly original to write about, that he found himself suddenly catapulted into his real life. And it was not the one he was expecting at all.
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Jenny Twist was born in York and brought up in the West Yorkshire mill town of Heckmondwike, the eldest grandchild of a huge extended family.
She left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and escapologist’s assistant (she was The Lovely Tanya), she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history, at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford.
She stayed in Oxford working as a recruitment consultant for many years and it was there that she met and married her husband, Vic.
In 2001 they retired and moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dogs and cat. Besides writing, she enjoys reading, knitting and attempting to do fiendishly difficult logic puzzles.
Since moving to Spain she has written four novels and numerous short stories.
In July 2018 she was awarded the coveted TOP FEMALE AUTHOR award in Fantasy/Horror/Paranormal/Science Fiction by The Authors Show.
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