The Big Dig

It was day three of The Big Dig. Most of us hadn’t a clue what we dug up. Old Drew helped us name stuff. “That’s a cigarette lighter,” he’d say. Or “That’s a lecky fire.” Not that he made us any the wiser when he did. We knew ‘lecky’ meant magic. Old Drew tried to tell us what lecky things did. It made no sense, though. A fire’s a fire. You still need to feed it with wood or straw whether it’s ‘lecky’ or not. Don’t you?

There weren’t many olduns. Old Drew had to stretch hisself or the whole county. Used to be hundreds. In the times before the Big Dig. Sometimes Old Drew tells us stories about them times. Everyone lived three or four times what they live to today. Everything got buried, Old Drew said. Then the first olduns passed down the secret. Of the yunguns they taught, some became olduns. Most died. Old Drew could read. Old Drew had ‘The Bible’. He was teaching me. I couldn’t read much. But I liked to look at the pictures. Strange old gizmos. I got so that I could compare something we dug up with a picture in the Bible. It took a while, turning the pages. But I didn’t mind that. Then I’d show the picture to Old Drew. He’d read out what it said. “Television” or “Washing machine”. Still non the wiser, like I said. But I memorised the words so I’d know the next time. There were a lot of secret signs as well, jumbles of letters and numbers. Even Old Drew didn’t know what they meant. The Bible wasn’t called the Bible. The title was, ‘Argos Catalogue’. Old Drew said that meant ‘Bible’ in an old holy language called ‘Latin’. The old people sure knew how to mix things up. But then, they were magic, weren’t they? That’s why God punished them.

Sometimes, we found things that still worked. I found a thing called a clock that had a thing like a key sticking out of it. If you turned that, it would tell the time better than a candle or a sun dial or a can with a hole in it. Another time I found a thing called a ‘typewriter’. Old Drew explained how you used it to write real fast by pressing the keys. Only there weren’t any keys, just little levers you pressed with your fingers. Anyway, it needed a ‘ribbon’, Old Drew said. Unless we found one it wouldn’t work.

Old Drew said might be possible to get some of the old stuff working. If it wasn’t too rusted up. But some of it would never work. “The power’s gone,” he said. But while it might be possible to get the power back in a little way, some of the stuff God had cursed so bad it would never work again.

There was this place called Lun Dun. People who’d snuck up close came back saying they’d got the power going. There were lights all aglow, lights without fire. It was a magic place. The lights lit up in patterns and spelled out words. There were even horseless carts, moving by magic. Some even flew through the air, so they said. It was like the old times. Not quite as magic, but near enough for wonder.

Anyway, they only snuck up close enough to see a little. The Lun Dun people guns fired at them. There were soldiers all around the city. Most of it was just rubble, of course. But they’d built up the rubble like a wall to keep us out. The soldiers kept guard on the ‘ram parts’, as the old uns called those walls of rubble. Old Drew told us that they had lots of Bibles in Lun Dun. But still, none of the old magic things worked. The ‘compyterz’ and ‘Teevy sets’ and other things folk whispered about after lights out. God had touched all those and fried their innards. All right, we managed to get ‘General Later’s gizmo’ to work. So yes, we could have a few lecky lights. But the beautiful, silver thing I found this morning, the typewriter thing with no moving parts. That would never work again. Once more I traced my finger along the strange, meaningless words printed on the shiny, silver frame. ‘MacBook Air’. It wasn’t a book, and it wasn’t air. And no one, nowadays knows what a Mac was.

A strange thing flew over us today, I thing Old Drew called a ‘hairy plane’. Old Drew said we would have to up sticks and move on. He knew of a village nearby where a hairy plane flew over. And the next day, every soul in that village fell down dead.

Seems those Lun Dun folk still have the power.

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About Zoe Nightingale

I am a writer of short stories, novels, poetry and non fiction.
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