Glenn, a regular guy addicted to watching YouTube videos, Catarina, a Brazilian on vacation in the UK, and Princess, a disabled stray dog chance upon each other after a nuclear attack and travel west to Land’s End, in an attempt to get as far away as possible from the site of the nuclear explosion. With no national infrastructure left, it’s every man and woman for themselves. Vehicles have been disabled by an electro-magnetic pulse as a result of the explosion, so their only choice is to make their journey on foot.
With a journey of almost three hundred miles ahead of them, a journey that’s fraught with danger – not only from brutal invaders but also from other citizens who, in their desperation to survive, resort to theft and murder. The odds of survival are stacked against them.
In this excerpt from Twilight At Noon we find Glenn looking for a place to shelter from the radioactive fallout from a nuclear attack. He knows from watching YouTube videos that he has fifteen minutes to find a concrete building to hide in. An entertainment complex that was constructed in the 1960s and is now scheduled for demolition is in front of him…
Glenn sprints towards the building.
Something he sees out of the corner of his eye stops him in his tracks. A young woman is walking around in a circle, muttering to herself, her face devoid of expression.
For a split second he feels an urge to ignore her and get himself to safety but he isn’t the type of guy to leave a fellow human being in danger – especially if he can do something about it. He knows he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he leaves her outside to die.
He races towards her, calling out as he runs.
“Hey. Are you alright? We need to get undercover.”
The woman doesn’t see him, although her eyes look straight at him.
Maybe she’s deaf. Perhaps the explosion’s damaged her hearing.
He points to the building. He accentuates the movement of his lips, in case she can lip-read.
“We have to go in there. To be safe.”
The girl’s empty eyes blink.
“Pelo amor de Deus. O que é isso? Me salva Senhor.”
At least now he knows she isn’t deaf. He doesn’t recognise the language but maybe she knows a few words of English. Many foreigners do.
The girl stops asking God to save her and looks at Glenn. He smiles, hoping that she might feel more at ease.
“Do you speak English?”
She shakes her head.
“Não. Nada. Brasileira. Falo português.”
He only knows four words of Portuguese. That had been all he’d needed when he spent a week in The Algarve. Por favor, cerveja, obrigado, and banheiro. Those four words – please, beer, thank you, and bathroom encapsulate his entire Portuguese repertoire. They were the only words he’d needed at the time. He’d muddled through all other situations with a few gestures and Google Translate on his phone.
He goes to take her hand. She snatches hers away. He points at the drab building before them.
“Come with me.”
The young woman shakes her head.
“Tenho que voltar pra hôtel.”
A word Glenn recognises, hotel.
He points at the complex again.
“No. Not hotel. We have to go there.”
“Minha amiga. Tá me esperando.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t understand a word you’re saying. But we need to get inside that building.”
He’s desperate to make her understand.
“Now! Please! Otherwise we’ll both die.”
The girl looks at the building, and then at Glenn. She can see that he seems genuinely worried for her.
The couple hurry to the entrance of their sanctuary.
Lady Luck is looking down on them favourably – the door’s unlocked. Glenn pushes the door open and ducks inside, pulling his new friend behind him, not worrying whether she wants to follow or not.
The darkness inside the building is a complete contrast to the brilliance of the light outside. Glenn turns on the torch app on his phone, which was in his pocket when the electro-magnetic pulse hit and fried anything connected to the national electric grid. The light from the phone casts a shadowy light over what had once been the foyer of a multiplex cinema. He gestures towards a wide central staircase.
“We need to go downstairs. There used to be a nightclub downstairs. We’ll be safe down there.”
The young woman looks at the staircase.
“Yes. Descer. Go downstairs.”
Normally, the young woman wouldn’t have trusted a total stranger so easily but he seems to know what he’s doing. She’s a stranger in a strange land, a proverbial fish out of water. She has no choice but to trust Glenn, who seems intent on saving her life. That can only be a good thing. Teaming up with him is probably her best chance of survival.
As they make their way downstairs, Glenn stops suddenly and points to a sign above a blue double door. The Armitage Theatre. He pulls open the doors.
A Bite Of… Greg Krojac
Do you believe in your characters? And is such a belief necessary to make readers believe in them too?
I think the author needs to believe in their characters. We know they’re not real people but they do need to have authenticity. If we don’t create authentic characters then – unless they’re extraordinarily bizarre and fantastical – how can we expect readers to identify with them and care about them? If the reader doesn’t care about what happens to characters, even if it’s an unlikable villain and their caring is demonstrated by wanting to witness the downfall of the antagonist, why should the reader continue reading?
If you could ask your literary hero one question, what would it be?
If we’re talking about an author, I would ask Bernard Cornwell if he has always had a passion for historical novels and what are his favourite novels and recommendations in that genre.
If we’re talking about a character, I would ask Richard Sharpe (from Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series of books) what drives him when he is going into battle – is it the desire to beat the enemy, the will to survive, a sense of honour, or the responsibility to his men?
Favourite snack? And do you eat it often?
Before I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, the answer would definitely have been chocolate. But now, I like to indulge myself in a bowl of acaí at least twice a week, Acaí bowls are essentially thick smoothies made of pulped and flash-frozen acaí berries that are pureed with other frozen fruit and then served in a bowl with various toppings. I eat mine with sliced banana and powdered milk sprinkled on top. Plus, it’s a healthy snack too.
A late starter to creative writing, Greg Krojac published his first novel in 2016, at the age of 59. Now, just five years later, he’s written and published several novels, novellas and short stories.
He likes to move between the sub-genres of science fiction, writing stories about dystopic worlds, post-apocalyptic survival, comedy-horror, YA fantasy, time travel, space exploration, and others.
An English teacher, born and bred in England, he’s lived in Brazil since 2007 and shares his life with Eliene (a successful amateur distance runner), their cat, Tabitha, and their dogs Sophie and Simba (soon to be joined by Patch, their son).
You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and his own website.