Extract / Preview – End of the World Survivors Club by Adrian Walker

[Extract kindly provided by Del Rey, from around the middle of chapter one. See below for links to Adrian’s first book The End of the World Survivor’s club, his musical influences for it and more…] 

I know I wasn’t really alone. I had a husband. I had Ed.

I should have been happy when he turned up at the boat. He’d made it after all. Christ knows how and he looked like hell, but he’d actually bloody made it. He’d plumbed the depths of his spirit, broken through his barriers and by God he’d found us.

Good man. Well done.

But what did that change?

This was how it had always been with Ed and me: he’d done his thing while I’d done mine, and in this case it just so happened that his thing was dragging his arse the length of the United Kingdom while mine was looking after our children in that hell of an evacuation camp. Changing nappies. Nappies I didn’t have. Scavenging for clean water and food in a field of twenty thousand other hungry families, fighting the daily battle of hygiene so we didn’t contract dysentery, and comforting my daughter through those freezing, wretched nights, trying to explain for the ten thousandth time why we were there, and why we’d had to leave her daddy behind, and why no, please don’t say that, please don’t say that about Mummy, go to sleep, I know it’s cold and that man won’t stop screaming, but please, please, just go to sleep.

So you’ll forgive me if I wasn’t aglow with pride when he stumbled to the rail.

It’s not that I wasn’t pleased to see him. I was, and I meant it when I said I’d go with him, I really did. I would have scooped up our kids and left that boat for whatever life he had planned for us on those battered shores that had once been our home. Because that’s what you do, isn’t it? That’s what you do when you’re a team.

But that’s just it. Ed and I – we were nothing like a team.

Perhaps we had been once, in the early days. I still remember those moments of bliss – like finding each other’s hand after our first night together, or kissing him in a flurry of snow and Salvation Army carols at Dundee station, or sitting in the bath of our Marchmont flat with our fingers interlocked, grinning over those two blue lines.

Hands. We were always holding hands. But somewhere along the way we lost our grip.

And that man who had once leaped, beaming from the train had instead trudged in from work and sunk into our milk-stained sofa without a word.

Oh, my poor hero, I would think. Did you have to spend another day pushing buttons and drinking coffee and being with other adults? Did you get to make an uninterrupted trip to the bathroom, eat an entire lunch and hear human words – actual ones, not squawks – that make sense? There, there, my brave lion. What, my day? Oh, just another storm of excrement and vomit. I’m starving, sick of the smell of my own clothes, and I feel like someone’s been ironing my tits for the last nine hours. So, you know, nothing unusual.

I wanted to scream at him: Look at what you have. You get to go out every day with a chance to do something, create something, be something. But all you do is mope. Was it really that bad, whatever it was you were doing out there?

No. Never a team.

Nevertheless, my tears at Falmouth Harbour were real, and when he kissed me and said that he would come for me instead, my heart broke in two.

Of course it did.

But heartbreak wasn’t all I felt. I felt relief as well. Relief that I wouldn’t have to return to that life with him, full of its frustrations and disappointments. Relief that I only had to carry two children, not three. The foghorn blared, the crowd released their cheers and wails like gulls into the frigid air, and, as Ed fell from my grasp, all that distance he had somehow covered opened up again at twice the speed.

And my distance opened up too.

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The End of the World Survivors Club by Adrian J. Walker is published by Del Rey (5th September), £8.99.

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MORE:

Adrian’s first book THE END OF THE WORLD RUNNING CLUB is on our June 2016 highlights page… And he was good enough to share his musical influences for EofWRC for us as well!

You can also check out more previews on Carabas here…

And see more title information on this and other great September 2019 titles on our highlights page here…
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