Thin plumes of smoke rose almost vertically from the floor of the forest, the faint smell of wood smoke growing stronger as we fought our way through the thick shrubbery that covered the forest floor. Finally we broke through and found ourselves in a large grass covered glade. Small tents were dotted around. A tarpaulin was draped between a couple of trees covering what looked like a kitchen area. The haze of wood smoke hung in the air acting as a soft filter to the surroundings. Everything looked a little dingy. Intermingled in with smell of the wood smoke were faint traces of cooked food, touches of sweat and just in the background I caught a whiff of something more unpleasant. In the shadows and darker corners I could make out movement people sticking to the undergrowth. It was almost like we had been transported back to the Middle Ages and placed inside Robin Hood’s camp. This huge difference was in Robin Hood’s camp Marion was the only girl. Here it appeared I was the only male. There was a sense of darkness, of no light. Was this dank, unkempt place really the heart of the Movellian Movement?
The journey from the car had taken nearly all day. We were tired and a little spaced out by the whole experience. We’d had to abandon the car at a motorway services. Apparently according to the person who picked us up, the car would be too hot to the authorities. All that saving and scrimping to buy the car, all those wonderful days gliding along roads with Sinead at my side. It was heart-breaking to leave my pride and joy and step into a Land Rover that looked if it had seen its better days during the last century. If there ever had been padding in the seats then it was now long gone, making the journey really uncomfortable as the vehicle appeared to amplify every little bump to appear like a major pothole. I’ll gloss over the journey in case this document falls into the wrong hands and someone works out exactly where the heart of the resistance lies. Suffice to say from the point we left the Alfa and this spot were several hundred miles apart.
While Sinead dozed, how the hell she managed it in this boneshaker I don’t know, I tried to engage our driver in conversation. She was a strange looking woman. Wild hair, she was dressed in a green jacket with wellington boots looking every inch the farmer’s wife from years ago. The distinct feature of her, and one that my eyes were constantly drawn too was the rings on her fingers, every finger contained at least one ring, some had more than one. She gripped the wheel firmly during most of the journey staring intensely through her glasses at the road in front of us. It was like extracting hen’s teeth getting any sort of information from this strange character. She looked vaguely familiar to me, as if her face was one that I should know but try as I might I couldn’t put a name to her face. I found out later that she wasn’t really part of the movement but occasionally gave them aid by ferrying people around and bringing in supplies. She wouldn’t tell me our destination, just tapped the side of her nose and said something about careless talk. I settled down after that and even managed a little kip.
We’d parked the Land Rover and then trekked through about a mile of dense woodland to get to this place. The woman briefly explained that they didn’t want to have tyre tracks leading people in.
So here we were, the nerve centre of the Movellian resistance. As we walked across the glade I glanced at the people sat against trees or in the shadows. They were young people, I could feel their eyes on us as if they rarely saw new people. I felt a knot starting to appear in my stomach. These were people I knew, but didn’t know if you catch my drift. Most of us on the writing site went under writer tags, not real names. We didn’t even know what each of us looked like. The sense of anticipation that I might be finally about to meet some of my writing heroes was really intense. I wondered who each of them were. I’d lost contact with so many since the government had barred the site using the national firewall, a few I’d kept in touch with by email, but then they’d disappeared off the face of the earth or so it seemed. I knew many were in camps, many had given up writing, but I hoped a few of those I held dear would have made it here.
We followed the woman up to the fire where a girl stood stirring a pot which appeared to contain some sort of stew made with a non-descript type of meat. The girl looked up from her work. Her long black hair fell down the side of her face. She was tall, slim had dark brownish hair and a weary look to her face.
‘Hi Jacqueline, thanks for helping us out again’ she said smiling to the woman, ‘I think Ahlaam wants to talk to you about something’
My ears pricked up. On Movella’s I knew of only one called Ahlaam. I always thought of her as the glue that kept our little community together.
‘Ahlaam?’ I asked. ‘Ahlaam Nighshade?’
She pushed her hair away from her face and looked at me. Despite her tiredness I could see a grin appear on her face.
‘Yes that’s right and you must be Squonk? she answered.
‘Yes’ I answered wondering how she knew, but then realising at the same time that she must have known who was coming into the camp. I saw her glance across at Sinead quizzically.
‘We weren’t expecting two of you’, she said quite pointedly as if Sinead wasn’t altogether welcome.
‘Ah, sorry, this is Sinead’ I said, ‘we didn’t want to leave each other and it seemed better to come together’.
‘Oh, so you’re Sinead. I should have known. Squonk is always writing about you, I think that I know you so well.’
I flushed up a little, Sinead hadn’t seen some of the stuff I’d written. I poured my heart into my work and often wrote about Sinead. Although there was nothing I was ashamed of, I still felt uncomfortable about Sinead reading some of it.
‘Let’s go and find Ahlaam and introduce you. There’s a few more you’d probably like to meet as well.’
‘Who are you?’ I asked, ‘sorry don’t mean to sound rude’
‘Don’t you know? She asked smiling
I looked her, the problem with words on a screen is that they give no real indication as to the person behind them. I thought of all the people I knew on Movellas, the accent was strange, a kind of lilt. I racked my brains to try and place it, not south west, but kind of like it. Then I twigged, East Anglia.
‘Lily Anna?’ I said quietly looking at her.
‘You’re right’, she said, ‘come on let’s meet Ahlaam.’