Merely a Madness

Merely a Madness by SW Fairbrother Page B

Book: Merely a Madness by SW Fairbrother Read Free Book Online
Authors: SW Fairbrother
drives with the confidence of someone who has travelled the route a thousand times, and can do it another thousand blindfolded. Shacks line the edges of the road. Bitter-faced locals turn their heads to watch the truck as it passes.
    For the most part, Hannah is silent, although every now and then she points something else out to him with an overarching enthusiasm, as if trying to compel him to love the place as much as she does. She always was an Earth fanatic, even when they were children. Especially when they were children. She would spend hours skimming through pictures of what it had once been, mouthing the words to old movies. Mullen would mouth them along with her: not an Earth fanatic, but a Hannah fanatic, only knowing the words because he'd watched her lips sound them out a thousand times over.
    The sky darkens further as they drive, turning from grey to deep black, blotting out the smoke from the mines. Watery flecks begin appearing on the windows through the mesh. Muller stares at them for a full minute before he realises it’s raining.
    The flecks come faster and faster, until the noise that had at first been soft and almost soothing on the roof of the truck turns to hammering. As if the raindrops are slamming down, trying to get in.
    When he turns his attention back to the window, he can no longer distinguish between the drops; they have turned to an endless, shimmering sheet of water sliding down the glass.
    The littlest Kozlow begins to cry. The older Europan brother says, “Um, is this normal?”
    Mullen already had him marked down in the shuttle as Boy Most Likely To Ask Stupid Questions, and this cements his opinion.
    It’s John Arnou who answers, and he has to shout to make himself heard over the noise of the rain. “It's just a storm. Should wear itself out by tomorrow.”
    It's the first time Mullen has heard the Earthling speak. His voice is unexpectedly deep with an Earthian accent so thick it sounds like a parody. If it weren't for Hannah's obsession with the place, Mullen wouldn't have been able to understand it at all.
    The boy exchanges a confused look with his brother. The younger Europan shrugs, rolls his eyes again. Mullen can't remember the younger brother's name either. He has him privately marked down in his head as Mr Enthusiastic. The elder leans forward in his seat. “What?”
    Fisher repeats Arnou's words.
    “Oh. OK.”
    And then the sky breaks in half. At least, that is Mullen's first thought. Either that, or something explodes. The only sound he has ever heard that comes close was when he'd witnessed a controlled blast at one of the mines on Deimos. His eyes flicker to where Hannah pointed out the mine. There's nothing visible in the dark sky. Not even the smoke. A flash of white light illuminates the truck. It's nothing more than lightning.
    “ Jesus ,” he mutters.
    Hannah squeezes his hand. “I know,” she whispers, breath warm on his ear. “It's something, isn't it? Can you smell it?”
    He can. It's like nothing he has ever experienced. Somehow, despite the stink and the dirt, the Earth's scent has turned fresh and clean, and almost cold . And for all his misgivings and determination to just get through this, he has to admit, if only to himself, that he kind of likes it.
    The truck slows, finally stops, then turns and reverses a couple of metres.
    Fisher undoes his seat belt, then twists to face the group. “OK, people, we're here.”
    Mullen peers out of the window, but the rain is coming down too hard. He can just about make out some sort of one-storey building through the downpour, but that's about it. Whatever it is, it has to be an improvement on the truck.
    The boards go down again, onto the mud. They wait in the truck while Arnou sets everything out and unlocks the doors, ready for them to run into the building across the way.
    He hadn’t expected the rain to be like this. He'd thought it would be something like a cold shower, but the droplets are too warm, too

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