The Shaking

Seismic terror is about to strike...

Maverick geologist Brian McLean was ridiculed when he warned London and south east England were at imminent risk of suffering a major earthquake. But when the unthinkable happens buildings collapse, power grids crash, transport is gridlocked, and high-tech life grinds to a shuddering halt.

In the stunned aftermath courier Ryan Buckland journeys through a shattered city to be reunited with his family, Deputy Prime Minister Stuart Pullman sees the emergency as his chance to seize power, while nuclear engineer Alan Carter desperately tries to avert a far greater catastrophe. If he fails, destructive aftershocks will be the least of our problems...

A homage to penny dreadful natural disaster potboilers, The Shaking will rock you to your very core!

A 103,000 word novel. Rated PG 16.

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17. Chapter Seventeen

Sandbeach Caravan Park.

Having grown up here, Sam Bicknall knew the park intimately. Over the years he'd helped his father transform it from a derelict coastal salt marsh field to what it was today. As he drove the aged tractor flat out along the tarmac access road he racked his brains to think of a quicker way to reach the gently rising ground at the northern edge of the site and escape the tsunami that was gaining on him along with the Fennings cowering behind in the trailer. But no matter what alternative routes he considered they all ended up at one choke point; the sole narrow wooden bridge spanning the drainage ditch which bisected the park. If that was blocked, or another vehicle unaware of their peril was crossing in the other direction, they'd had it.

Sam cursed Laurie's decision taken years ago when planning the site to have the access roads meander through the park in a series of gentle curves redolent of branching seaweed; right now he wanted every little advantage he could get to distance the wave, but the languid drives were the only way through the closely packed ranks of pastel cream, dove grey, and mint green mobile homes.

Sam risked a backwards glance; the swell had rapidly transformed itself from a dark ripple on the horizon to a froth spumed breaker, rearing up as the water at its front was slowed by the friction exerted by the shallowing beach and pushed up by the powerful seismic pulse behind it. As the light caught the spray it sparkled a bright silver; incongruously Bicknall thought it was such a beautifully deadly sight but even as he did so the tsunami seemed to lunge forward onto the shore. Relentlessly the churning wall of water crashed onward; Sam glimpsed it obliterating the first beachside caravans before he looked back at the road.

Just in time he saw the car inconsiderately turning at speed from a side spur onto the central spine. Somehow Bicknall was able to swerve right onto the verge and just avoid being clipped by the reckless driver who roared away ahead of him.

Bloody typical! he thought. I don't recognise the car so it must be a short-term stayer; probably lent the keys by a friend who is a part-time resident, or it might be a member who only turned up now and then.

Sam knew the sort only too well: They didn't share the park's sense of community which people like George and Renie did; only coming for a few weekends a year, and only then to vigorously contest their site fees or service invoices, and you try to get them to actually spend money on a butane gas cylinder for their 'van... No, they wanted everything on credit, probably so they could defer paying for it as long as possible, the tight bastards!

They were the type who did well from their businesses, legitimate or otherwise, yet considered because they did so it gave them the right to treat the park staff like dirt. The sort of wankers who balked at paying the fee for me or any of the other onsite handymen to maintain their laminated chipboard wheeled shed in a field because they couldn't be arsed to. No doubt the  savings they made from this sort of chancing went towards another belated repayment on their all show and chrome but no go, bison bodied hulk of a faux-by-faux tearing out of sight around the corner...

Bicknall's bile fuelled train of invective was interrupted by a kid - probably no more than ten years old - dashing across his path. The boy was out of his way and vanished between the caravans before Sam had time to react: The child only one of a few people who had seen the onrushing danger and were now running for their lives.

Sam looked behind again; the wave was gaining on them, seemingly undiminished in power, now the same height as the park homes it effortlessly plucked from their concrete hard standings, brick surrounds, and tie down chains; rolling them over until they began to disintegrate under the hammering. God help anyone caught in that roiling, tumbling tumult; they wouldn't stand a chance!

Now closer to the central area of the park Bicknall saw more people who were aware of the tsunami's approach fleeing on foot or by bike. One woman snatched her baby out of its stroller and taking an older sibling in the other hand began running. With a gut wrenching understanding Sam knew she hadn't a hope of getting clear in time.

Rounding the final curve before the bridge Sam's heart sank as he saw the 4x4 which had cut him up earlier leaning sideways part on and part way off the span. Obviously the driver's estimation of his competence and the vehicle's abilities weren't matched by the factory fitted low profile tyres, totally unsuited for tackling any terrain more challenging than a supermarket car park speed hump. When pushed to the limit by the high speed cornering they'd not been up to the job, allowing the SUV to slew far too wide and demolish the bridge's safety barrier, as well as blocking their only escape route.

What should Bicknall do now? If he braked he was likely condemning himself and the Fennings to death. If he callously rammed the stricken soft-roader and pushed it completely aside he'd be murdering the stunned family surrounded by pillows of deflating airbags behind the darkly tinted glass. There was certainly no time to stop and tow the vehicle out of the way.

His moral dilemma was solved by the car sliding completely off the the bridge and into the ditch before he reached it. Sam drove the tractor-trailer combination past it just as one of the passengers tried to push open one of the doors, but with the wave at his heels there was no way for him to stop and offer any help.

The tsunami had be all but upon them now. Bicknall checked behind, he needed to know. He saw the wave was closer now and certain to catch them. Though it had lost much of its impetus in coming ashore and smashing through the lower park the inundation remained a fearsome spectacle, still a metre or more high; a foaming slab of liquid energy which consumed everything it touched. In his split-second view of it a portion of Sam's mind noted the many objects caught in the tsunami's grip: Caravans and cars carried forward on the crest of the wave, along with broken wooden sheds; surf boards, plastic canoes, small sailing dinghies, as well as mountain bikes. He saw tall orange gas cylinders bobbing free, bumping into items of garden furniture and wheelie bins. People were trapped within it as well; flailing, trying desperately to tread water and avoid being beaten down by the flotsam. It resembled a landfill site in motion, and the tractor-trailer was about to become a part of it. The thundering of the wave's approach was now louder than the note of the machine's labouring motor.

The tsunami reached the drainage ditch, smothering it and the crashed SUV. Bicknall thought he spotted a child's fearfully pale face gazing imploringly through a window as the car began to roll over onto its roof, then the surge was upon him as well. Suddenly the tractor felt as if it was floating free, and the cab was ankle deep in water. The buoyant sensation lasted for a brief moment before Sam felt the tyres grip again. Keeping his foot firmly pressed on the accelerator he wrestled the vehicle back into line and prayed the water would stay out of the engine's electrical system. If they could only keep pace with the leading edge of the tide there was a chance of them driving clear of it as it began to ebb. Remarkably the motor kept running as he felt the machine strain against the site's gentle gradient and the detritus filled water engulfing it. Almost reluctantly the torrent, all but spent now, released the tractor as it reached its extent and began to subside.

Leaving a trail of streaming water behind Sam continued the last few hundred yards up the road to the top of the hill at full speed, drawing up outside the complex of site offices, workshop, social club, and small convenience store located there. Laurie Bicknall stood dumbstruck outside the park office, looking on at the ruination of years of his work and an unfolding human tragedy. Sam's clattering arrival awoke him from his catatonia.

Laurie saw the muddied tractor and still waterlogged trailer with the Fennings - now drenched and shivering with shock as well as hypothermia - clinging onto each other inside and knew they needed urgent help. Quickly Bicknall helped his son lift the couple out of the trailer and carry them into the social club. Babs, the hostess, would see they were looked after.

"You'd better dial 999!" said Sam to his father. "Get them to send everything they've got - we're going to need it!"

"Hey, where are you going!" demanded Laurie; Sam was already getting back into the tractor.

"I'm going back down to see what I can do!" his son replied, getting back into the driving seat. "You look after them!" he motioned to the knots of shocked, tearful people making their way up the slope toward them.

"But-!" Laurie's objection chased futilely after the departing tractor like a barking dog. Sam was a headstrong lad, just the sort to ignore the danger of follow-on waves. It was typical of him to determinedly do what he thought to be the right thing regardless of the consequences, and he was correct; there was going to be a great deal which needed to be done here. The Social Club would have to be turned into an aid station. Laurie pulled his scuffed old mobile phone out of its belt pouch and dialled the emergency number.

 

The Event had finished for the moment, although there would be plenty of strong aftershocks to follow. However there was still the aftermath to contend with.

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