Mike Scantlebury - Science Fiction
 
   

"THE BEAT OF THE WOLF'S DYING HEART"

by
Mike Hamer

SYNOPSIS

It is a short time in the future, but the world is greatly changed: all stages of manufacturing have been automated, from the very beginnings of prospecting for new resources to the final distribution of finished goods. And every citizen is provided with a Ration Card. Provided it is up-to-date, they will have access to all that they need.

Everybody, therefore, can expect to live well. Also, they live in peace, since there are no more wars, no disputes, no borders and no visible governments. However, it soon emerges that there IS a government, of sorts, and it can control an army, but their actions are usually covert. Even its reasons for existence are far from clear.....

As soon as we meet our hero, we find that he is a man of action; he is making his way across country on an undefined 'mission', but pauses to save an old man from the attack of a lone wolf. The animal is real and dangerous, but also some sort of symbol to the protagonist, and we see that he feels considerable empathy with the wolf, even as he kills it.

The two men have to avoid other wild animals in their efforts to flee, for we learn that there has been another fundamental change in this new world: even the most temperate and hospitable countryside is home to feral carnivores, from lions to wild dogs and snakes. There is suggestion that the animals may have been introduced deliberately, to make life more exciting for the bored and apathetic population. Unfortunately, they have had negative consequences too, for vast acres of open country are 'no go' areas for the majority of people, who now live in isolated and well-defended settlements or in walled towns. Also, the animals may be one reason why human numbers have shrunk dramatically.

It is to one of these settlements that our hero is drawn after losing one particular encounter with the animals. Thinking himself safe, he is staggered to find himself fighting for his life that night, against enemies both animal and human. He survives, but is left in the morning with two bodies, the dregs of an unsolved murder and his own wounds, which take some time to heal. He stays for a few days, and when he leaves, he has to say a sad goodbye, especially to the young man of the household of whom he has grown especially fond. He quickly travels to the nearest communication station to report developments to his immediate superior.

While there, he is given a new assignment - to find a certain man in the nearby city. The mission teams him up an old colleague, someone he trained with but doesn't trust, and the numerous setbacks their work receives, only serves to reinforce his suspicions. However, he is still completely surprised at the end of the day, and stunned at the flawed result of their efforts. It is the only 'failure' he has ever known, and depression begins to set in. He loses heart.

A year later, he is still not recovered. It is a year spent on routine tasks in the north of the country, but it happens that he is forced to return to the same city for another mission. He is a changed man: bitter and depressed, angry and frustrated. He says that a major cause of his angst is the continuing and fruitless search he is making to locate his sister, and when he unexpectedly encounters her in the town, things, it may be guessed, will improve. But as he becomes involved in the work that SHE is doing, he is rapidly disorientated again, as he learns a succession of unpleasant things about his boss, the work that he has done in the past, and the true nature of the society he lives in. It is revealed how things are guided and planned, and the small part he plays in the scenario is revealed, and it brings him closer to despair. The final battle, as animals invade the city and threaten its destruction, find him questioning his most deeply held beliefs. For an awful moment, he has to consider the shattering conclusion that he may be on the wrong side!

As he struggles to save himself and complete his task, without losing the only woman he has ever really loved, he resorts to the worst of his old methods to create an opportunity and hope for the future.

In the end, it is not the tired old structures that can survive, but the ideas that come from the youngest members of society, such as the eager young man he met at the settlement earlier. It is to there that he has to journey to find the secret that will set him free and liberate mankind.


"You have been warned! Global Warming may bring wild animals to the shores of Britain. Or worse, it could happen as Mike predicts - "

 

Read the first chapter of the novel

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