✮ Book One Of The Hurst Chronicles ✮
Hurst Castle is the setting for a recently released dystopian thriller written by local author Robin Crumby.
The story focuses on a group of survivors living at Hurst, on the South Coast of England, following the outbreak of a pandemic virus.
In an all-too realistic vision of the near future, law and order on the mainland has collapsed. Those that survive scrape a living in remote outposts. Hiding behind high walls, far away from the smoking ruins of the cities, waiting and hoping. When the arrival of outsiders threatens to tip the balance of power, Hurst is faced with a desperate choice: set aside their differences and join an alliance that promises new hope or unite against the newcomers and their plans for reconstruction. Who can be trusted? Only time will tell. The battle for Hurst has begun.
Author Robin Crumby hopes that the book will generate "international interest in Hurst Castle and provide an additional boost for visitor numbers."
This was an ancient place, remote and desolate. Peaceful, yet witness to centuries of war mongering, standing ready to do its duty. A never-ending vigil set to the rhythmic rise and fall of the ocean.
It was only a matter of time before all this would be swept away. The castle’s resolute defences were imperceptibly weakened by every breaking wave, sweeping in from the channel, sent crashing against the groynes and stones.
A pale sun rose silently and unnoticed over Hurst Castle. Shadows stretching over the rippled tidal waters that all but surrounded it, bar a narrow finger of shingle linking the fortifications to the mainland. Hurst’s seventy-four occupants were slumbering in their quarters. The more recent arrivals camping out in the East Wing, tents pitched where grass and space allowed. In the dorm room in the main building, a shaft of sunlight pierced the makeshift curtains. Two grey blankets strung across the large stone window aperture prolonged the darkness. The shaft of light fell across the pillow of one of the iron-framed beds, bathing the unshaven face of a man in white light as he began to wake.
Zed stretched and yawned, looking around at his companions. Packed tightly together, a sleeping mass of washed-up humanity snored gently. There was a low snuffle of someone stirring in the corner, heavy breathing and the universal stench of unwashed bodies and morning breath. From outside came the low sound of waves breaking gently over the rocks and shingle spit, seagulls soaring above the castle that spoke of a new morning, bringing with it new hope. For many, the sounds reminded them of former lives, holidays by the seaside, long forgotten memories.
A base need to breathe fresh air and enjoy the peace of the castle in the early dawn compelled Zed to take his morning constitutional walk. He was fond of rising before anyone else was up and having the place to himself.
Stepping outside, he squinted, shading his eyes, taking a moment to bathe his face in the sunshine, inhaling deeply the sea air. His hair was unkempt and unwashed, long sideburns grew down his cheeks and a tuft of hair stuck upright. He wore a grubby t-shirt with ‘Weyland Corporation’ on the front. Chest high salt stains from wading in seawater to unload stores from a visiting fishing boat. He had the air of someone who looked after himself, a loner, a survivor with the scars to prove it. It wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy the company of others, he did. But when push came to shove, he had no time for the weak. Survive or die. Get in his way and face the consequences.
Leaving the castle keep and its cold grey stone walls, he meandered sleepily, still yawning, through the Tudor archway. Beyond the gate was a narrow strip of grass that stretched for one hundred meters or so to the western walls of the fort, extended in Victorian times. A large marquee dominated the interior. Half a dozen smaller tents were pitched haphazardly around it. Passing the canteen he took the stairs two at a time. Up on to the raised walkway and ramparts, he looked southwest across the narrow channel towards the Isle of Wight and the Needles rocks. There was still a faint haze that shrouded the rocks in a light mist, slowly evaporating as the shadows shortened on the water.
He unzipped his fly to pee over the battlements. Urine rained down on to some weeds that grew against the base of the crumbling brick wall, some thirty feet below. He scanned the horizon across the saltmarshes towards Keyhaven. A pair of swans glided gracefully against the incoming tide within the sheltered estuary that lay behind a narrow shingle spit. As he turned to look back up the finger of land and the raised roadway on top of the shingle, the movement of a dark shape in the distance interrupted his gaze.
The figure was limping awkwardly. A long heavy coat several sizes too big was draped around his shoulders. On the castle walls Zed reached for the pair of binoculars that lived in a large blue plastic Ikea storage box under the bench seat. He took a couple of seconds to find and focus on the figure in the distance. There was no question. What had first appeared as a limp was more severe in focus, the left leg dragging heavily on the shingle, scrapping at each step. His progress was laboured, but he showed no sign of discomfort or pain as he approached.
Zed lowered the binoculars and squinted back at the shape with his bare eyes. The hint of a smile appeared on his lips. He reached back into the blue container and brought up a hunting rifle. Loading a single bullet into the breach, he took careful aim at the figure in the distance. Adjusting his position a couple of times, he relaxed into a wide stance, the rifle resting on the edge of the brick wall. The cross hairs of the telescopic sight danced around the head of the approaching figure. It was still perhaps two hundred meters away now, making steady progress. He regulated his breathing before exhaling deeply.
The rifle shot rang out across Christchurch Bay, echoing around the battlements, shattering the silence of the early morning.
A flock of birds rose startled from the salt marshes. In the fenced off field next to the lighthouse, a herd of dairy cows started and bumped into each other wild eyed. The two horses bolted, one jumping over the low wire fence and charging away from the noise. Its hooves clattered on the pebbles as it galloped along the beach.
About the author
Robin Crumby is an author and writer living in London with his wife and two children. Since reading John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids as a child, he became fascinated by end of the world dystopian literature. More recently, re-reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven inspired him to start writing. Why? Because post-apocalyptic fiction fires the imagination like nothing else. Pondering what comes next, who would survive, what would life look like? Much of the best fiction in this popular genre focuses on brain-eating zombies or events unfolding in the USA so Robin determined to write a story set in the UK. His Eureka moment came wandering the shingle beach at Milford-on-sea, inspired by the beauty and rich history of the Solent. Where better to survive the end of the world than a medieval castle surrounded by water? Robin spent much of his childhood messing about in boats, exploring the many waterways, ports and military forts of the Isle of Wight, where The Hurst Chronicles are set.
Book series website: http://www.hurstchronicles.com/
Author bio: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Robin-Crumby/e/B01E5WGVXS/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0