Extract: The Lost Shepherd
In honour of all the thunder storms this week, I thought I'd share an extract from The Lost Shepherd. This is the story of how Father Darcy first meets the Smith brothers, set in a blisteringly hot English summer.
A rumble of thunder started the crescendo of the impending storm. Thick heat had been swelling on the abandoned city for hours. It would give at any moment. Another rumble, a flicker of lightening, barely visible in the afternoon light. The dull concrete buildings blended into the heavy clouds; a symphony of grey in this urban desert. Then, abruptly, the oppressive desolation of the city was shattered by an aggressive downpour of rain. The percussion was deafening and victorious.
The priest wasted no time in unpacking his umbrella. His boots were water tight and, despite his arthritic knees, he skipped around the water-filled potholes with the confidence of an experienced traveller. He wasn’t troubled by the rain, or the dampness of his clothes. The shower wouldn't last long and once it was over the clouds would likely clear, exposing another oppressively hot September sun. He could have stopped and taken refuge in one of the empty buildings, but if he stopped every time the weather turned it would be Christmas by the time he reached London.
He was eager to leave the abandoned city too. It was the third he had passed through since he'd set off on his journey and there were hundreds of them throughout the country. The relics of suburban England, with their average sized homes and convenient high streets, were all that remained of a buckled civilisation. There were lots of reasons towns failed; economy, disease, conflict, but the relics all looked the same in the end. The absence of life seemed to drain the colour from the buildings, like an old photograph faded from exposure. Sometimes, to the priest, they felt like Godless places and walking through them played on his conscience and troubles.
When he reached the edge of the city the rain started to break. The road widened and for the briefest moment a glimmer of sunlight shone on the surrounding countryside. The break between the urban and the rural always seemed abrupt to the priest. It felt like stepping directly from one room to another, rather than the slow transition that used to happen before the world fell apart.
We're still being promised storms this way. And the country still feels like a bad dystopian movie. Life imitating art is getting a bit boring, don't you think? This week I'll be losing myself in a little Reacher writing, a bit of outdoor work and a lot of the new John Connolly book.