They emailed Willow, the exchange was swift and the detail quickly passed through… their relay in China was no longer available, but a ‘bounce’ via Bombay was successful.
The changes in weather patterns and storms were worldwide and growing worse. The witches knew, the current turmoil was the earth’s (or rather Gaia’s, according to the coven) reply to the drain on her energy for the greater good. Where there were wiccans, and/or clans, and/or magically linked creatures that had called for clemency, healing and balance (and successfully removed at least some of the implants violating the same), the storms seemed a little less severe.
In areas where the Initiative (or their international equivalent), had wiped out the magically inclined, by chip or murder; or where their tortuous centers were based, the weather bordered on deadly. It seemed as though the earth was trying to send a not so subtle warning, at the same time regaining the energy from her atmosphere and core that had been drawn to answer the combined call for help.
Willow was upset for the humans caught in the cross fire… The coven was working on spells (and direct appeals to Mother Earth that included an attempt to localize the effects. They felt confident that they would eventually be heeded. Though for now the advice was to prepare for the storms…
The most welcome news was that Samuel was awake and taking liquids, and that Mikaela ‘sent her love and missed her Danny Boy’. Daniel blushed deeply as the entire family read the screen with him, but he was swiftly pulled into a four way hug with small people squealing their delight at the silly adults from the confines of an ancient play pen. The family turned to pay their patient little charges some long needed attention, only to notice that all three four and a half month olds were standing holding the bars… and that little Willow let go several times and stood independently.
Daniel snapped from his focus on his own relief that Mikaela was well, and moved to the practical task of ‘battens and hatches’. The mood of all adults shifted quickly.
“Have you been through storms on the farm before?”
Xander looked the most worried “Lots of heavy rain, bit of wind… I suspect nothing like this one… Can we maybe ask Samuel or at least ask one of the wiccans to see if this area floods?”
“No need.” Spike was at the computer, “Meteorology records for the area date back to the forties, and I’ll bet Robbie’s family would know from before that, even if it’s vague it might help… haven’t they been in the area for generations.”
Daniel brightened, “Right, well I’ll use the cell to call Robbie and Spike if you sort the Net…. Umm Jon maybe you can watch the little ones while Xan and Ed… would you mind doing the animals…. I reckon we need to get them at least to the protection of the trees, the ground’s a bit higher there… ”
Eddie answered in his typically quiet way, “We’ll bring ‘em in Daniel… this place is on the highest ground and we’ve got a bit of protection but if the rows cypress go… anyway those guys really aren’t used to the cold… well not sub zero with wind chill. We’ll lose the goats for sure if we don’t, and the two calves wouldn’t make it, that would be terrible. The milking shed’s good enough and it’s newer than the barn so maybe…” Eddie paused a little nervously, he didn’t feel at all comfortable offering a contradictory opinion to their carer’s, but also knew he was right, so continued. “Xan and I will fill their milking space with fresh hay and get them all in, it’ll be warmer if they’re in a smaller space. Then I thought we should perhaps pick as much of the vegetables and fruit we can before it gets dark… depending on how sub zero it gets… well we will just have to risk the rest. At least we might have food if it the cold continues for a bit.” Speech over, Eddie gave a weak smile then stood and wandered over to the play pen to squeaks of delight from his brood. Stepping in, he sat legs wide apart and gathered the children into a hug.
The other adults had barely considered the duration of the storm, merely its intensity. Daniel suddenly realized two things: one, they needed to check on fuel and water for the long haul scenario; and two, the chickens were also at risk. “OK as soon as I finish here, I’ll nail down the side flaps on the free range sheds. If we do that, they might be alright to ride it out the storm too… Guessing better collect eggs and leave feed too… and I figure we need water and fuel done and the yard cleared as much as possible… Spike, do you think, when you’re done here?”
“Consider it done mate … will get you all the latest asap. If ‘Huggie Eddie’ over there, comes in near dark, Jon and I can sort the rest of the lock down… by then we might know more of what we’re dealing with…” Eddie tried to look annoyed at Spike but failed dismally and grinned as one of the squirming little people patted his face in an attempt to gain another of his kisses. “Jon mate, can you sort the shelter and do an extra bed? Kiddies should be fine for a few minutes with their ol’ Uncle Spike.”
In truth Daniel was a little taken aback, the few days he had been with these individuals, he had seen them at their most vulnerable, injured and upset. He suddenly understood their survival. There was no selfishness in any of their actions. In a crisis it was apparent that critical risks were assessed and taken as though by one being - no conflict, just calculation and cooperation. They *had* to survive, Daniel just felt it … they just had to.
The tasks were completed quickly in the eerie quiet that fell over the farm. Robbie wasn’t home but was due to return within the hour. Daniel slipped the cell phone into his pocket and moved to ‘lock down’ the chickens.
Xander packed up his woodworking shed, quickly stacking and covering the wood with an old tarp, tying all the equipment into a bundle and lashing the whole lot to one of the sturdiest uprights in the corner of the shed. If the whole tree trunk holding up the corner went, the shed would be gone too. At least lashing things down might minimize damage from flying debris if it was less serious. There was only around two hours of light left by the time he’d finished.
Eddie had busied himself with the milking shed and put enough grain in to last for several days, filled the old bath that now made a fine water trough, and piled the straw high. Xander was heading for his next task in the produce garden when he saw Eddie teetering precariously on the shed roof, tub of silicon filler in hand.
“What the hell are you doing?!!”
“Plugging the holes! There’s at least three up here… no good if we leave them in here and it lets in water! We can probably lash the roof down with fencing wire too if we try.”
“I figure we’d better get the animals in it first… we can do that if we’ve got time …”
Eddie pouted a little, swiped silicon over the last plug hole then jumped elegantly from the lowest edge of the roof to the ground.
Animals were quickly herded into their new abode … the cows wandering in willingly as milking time was not too far off, the mother and twin calves following the rest. The goats were not so easy, but were eventually settled. They found the cat under Xander’s work shed though no amount of coaxing could get her out, in the end they decided to leave her there as she seemed to have created her own little nest. The ducks, geese and two turkeys were herded into the shed with the chickens and seemed to settle quite happily, then Eddie and Xander set to the task of quickly collecting as much of their vegetable garden as they could.
It had been strangely still for most of the afternoon, though clouds had slowly been building. Everything was lit with an eerie pinkish light pre-sunset. Xander and Eddie kept to their task and were joined by Daniel as dusk fell. He had collected around five dozen eggs and put out enough feed for three or so days… hoping that it would be enough. It was a bit of a walk to the shed, certainly a challenge in a blizzard.
Eddie stood and stretched as a grinning Jonothon joined them, kissed his partner and whispered ‘tag you’re it… they all need a change’. Jon and Daniel quickly collected the boxes of vegetables already collected and finished two rows of rather small broccoli, pulled a row of parsnips, more rocket, onions and garlic and then cut an armful of herbs. There would be enough for some time even if it meant drying them.
They stacked the boxes under the house and noted that Spike had already cleaned up around the house and collected anything ‘loose’ from around the yard and the house and had lashed the window shutters together. All the blankets available were now in the shelter. It was right under the house in a ‘bunker’ type cellar arrangement, separate enough to be unaffected if the house ‘blew away’ but close enough to be accessible if all went well
The cloud cover prevented the moon from penetrating, and the temperature began to fall as the wind picked up and changed direction. Jon and Spike did a final sweep. The others had bathed the little ones and cooked dinner, then disconnected the gas and would wait until the last moment to do the electricity and water, though were able to do that from the shelter itself. They hoped not to have to use the generator or reserve water tank, but there was no telling at this point.
The wind-chimes suddenly began ringing out at a furious pace and the wind vane atop the milking shed spun wildly, eventually fixing on the southerly direction as the source of agitation. Spike grabbed the chimes from their hanging point and put them inside on the kitchen table. He tugged all the electrical equipment free of their sockets and double checked that all the doors in the house were shut and all the shutters locked closed. He then grabbed the three bottles of good scotch from Samuel’s ‘stash’, checked all the doors one more time he retreated to their, hopefully temporary, abode.
The shelter was warm, and blankets and covers many. The beds had all been pushed together in a sort of compromise, as there really was no other space for a narrow foldout but with everyone in together they would doubtless be warmer. The bottom corner of the little shelter had always been devoted to cooking and heating, while a tiny alcove held both shower and camp toilet. All the current occupants had been fed and were exhausted from the past few days.
As the wind began to truly howl and the rain began, the five adults in the shelter spoke quietly so as not to wake the three sleeping babies.
Daniel began, “Robbie was still away, but I eventually got his cell phone. He’s on standby at the hospital ‘cause they reckon a whole bunch of humans will suffer in the cold snap…. Anyway he is fairly certain that this area has never had a flood, they’ve had tornados but never a flood. He was kind of odd on the phone too… Asked if we had spoken to Samuel and said something about the other night was an invitation not an anecdote. Anyway… I brought the cell with me so if we need it…”
Spike jumped in with his information... “There is nothing too drastic in the records back to 1940, other than it can get cold here ‘on occasion’. Just not sure how cold that means… Town records from the front page claim inches of snow in fifty seven and seventy two but mostly it’s just cold.” They all listened to the storm raging above and snuggled down despite it being an extremely ‘early night’.
The next five days were rather surreal. They could hear the howl of the wind through trees and the creak of buildings above the sound of the tempest thrashing their shelter’s secure doors. In the low light from a lamp, the three little children thought it wonderful. They happily played and crawled around on the enormous bed that constituted more of a nest, as the adults vacated the centre for their benefit. With aught else to do but focus on the small beings, hours seemed to pass with much joy and little effort. When the children slept, card games were played, and in the low light Spike and Jonothon took turns reading aloud to the group… The books were not to everyone’s taste but it was of little consequence under the circumstances as Spike’s apparent talent for characterization, and Jon’s lisping soft baritone, provided quiet entertainment.
Children still needed to be fed and changed, and the tiny camp stove provided them all with hot sustenance when they felt the need, though without physical activity, food and drink was more a way to break up the day than sating the ravages of hunger. For the four who had suffered similar inaction courtesy of their incarceration, being locked up was familiar, but this time was extraordinarily pleasant.
The reports on the radio were dire. Flash floods, mud slides, pile ups on freeways, loss of services and temperatures plummeting to well below zero as predicted. Three government facilities were reported as wiped out by what appeared to be ‘extremely localized low pressure systems’. Yet the meteorologists were baffled. Where some regions were hit so badly that it was impossible to get reports out, others seemed to have had a far better time, still subject to storms but surprisingly less severe. It was as though the storm simply ‘skirted around certain areas’. There was ‘no explanation’ apparently. The incumbents in Sammy’s shelter smiled as the little radio reported that.
Spike and Jon had volunteered to tend the animals and poultry each day. Apart from anything else, the cold had less effect on them; they did not need to breathe so inhaling chilled air was unnecessary; and the semi darkness caused by huge storm clouds was of little consequence. Jon’s veterinary skills would also be invaluable if a problem did arise with their stock.
The old farm buildings were faring pretty well, with a bit of water leaking into the milking shed, though luckily most seemed to be falling directly into the water trough. The trough was full to overflowing but that suited the animals fine. The little calf was healthy and when one of the goats finally dropped her kid on the fourth day, Jon was pleased with the health of both kid and nanny.
They milked the cows and took a little blood from a different one each day. Alternating the source and taking the bare minimum, Jon siphoned it off as one might a human blood donation, resulting in little to no effect on the bovine donor. Meanwhile Spike replenished their food and straw as needed.
Chickens and other birds seemed fine, to the point that Spike and Jon usually collected between four to six dozen eggs, before feeding and watering the birds. The shed was fairly cold but dry, and the free range nature allowed the birds to spend the majority of their time on their nests. The other birds had established themselves at the end of the shed amongst the spare straw. None seemed to be suffering.
The first day of their tending the stock was the first time Jon and Spike had had a chance for a private talk since Xander’s prospect of pregnancy had been confirmed. As they replenished the chicken food, Jon looked shyly sideways at Spike. “Sire…?”
“You have done so much for Eddie and I…. We were so happy when Daniel confirmed what I could not…. You and Xander would make such fine parents… If there’s anything… When we’re through this… When things settle… Sire… please… you are family, and we… well we would like to help if we can.”
Spike turned and smiled, pulled the other vampire into a hug, whispering, “Thank you Childe.” then bared his neck. He fell into game face and scratched a wound with razor sharp nails, “Drink. It’s easier in private.” Jon also fell into game face and this time Spike felt the very start of tiny fangs pricking into his flesh. The rest of the teeth were still coming but the fangs were definitely on their way at last. They repeated the pattern every day.
On the sixth day, the rain and hail and sleet stopped, the chill wind did not, but the whole family emerged and entered the house again. There was still no electricity but oil lamps and candles were lit before they started a roaring fire in the lounge room fireplace, and another the tiny pot belly stove in the kitchen. They were all pleased to ‘stretch their legs’ after so long cooped up. Reports were that more storms were on their way.
Xander and Daniel busied themselves cleaning up the shelter, and replenished all the supplies while others busied themselves dating eggs, separating milk, churning butter and tending animals. Eddie inspected his vegetable patch, observing sadly that many plants were waterlogged, but also hopeful as it seemed there had been little attrition.
All the while the radio crackled away with ‘weather crisis’ reports. They had almost a day above ground before the rain began again and the wind-speed picked up. It was the pattern they would live with for the next six weeks.
They emerged on the forty third day to a still night and clear, moonlit sky. The family now had three toddlers at age only six months, and Jonothon had fangs and teeth that were more than half way grown. Forced rest and feeding seemed to have given him the boost he needed.
Daniel was the quiet one, becoming more and more worried as their only contact with the coven was once in the whole six weeks, and that had been an obscure SMS message from Willow. “M sends luv to D All OK here CU soon.” They had all tried to cheer him along but now the storms had ceased, perhaps for good, they could see that he really needed to be reunited with his Mikaela urgently, if only for his own peace of mind.
A week later, stale milk and eggs had been disposed of, and animals and garden tended and back to almost normal as temperatures rose a little more. And finally the phone-lines were restored as an intermittent electricity provision stabilized.
The first Email from Willow had been sent almost three weeks prior and confirmed Samuel’s return to health, and Mikaela’s undying love for ‘her Danny’. The second mail contained the news that Willow intended to return with Samuel ‘as soon as was practical’; and the third encrypted twice, gave a list of Email addresses of resistance members in their area.
The magical community had always had a resistance, but the final push to kill them all had united demon, human sympathizers and wiccan ranks more profoundly than anyone could have predicted. The Email contacts were from those who had answered the call.
Listed first on of the members in their area was Samuel’s Email address, second was R_ambo@yahoo.com. Daniel stared at it for a while then remembered, the ambulance, the sympathies, the hints and said, “That has to be Robbie.”
After The Fall: 19