Fi 'n' Andy (fiandyfic) wrote in 1973flashfic,
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All Hallows' Eve Challenge - Andromeda

TITLE: The Northwich Horror
AUTHOR: Andromeda
FANDOM: Life on Mars
SUMMARY: Life on Mars, as retold by H.P. Lovecraft.
SPOILERS: All episodes, small ones for Ashes to Ashes. AU.
RATING: Red Cortina for horror
WARNINGS Character deaths, purple prose and horror themes.
WORD COUNT: 2,050 words
EMAIL: fiandyfic@livejournal.com
AUTHOR'S NOTES: The plot of the cataclysm is based on the BBC Docudrama Threads, which scarred me for life when I watched it as a very nervous eight-year-old. With apologies to all concerned. This was written for the 1973flashfic All Hallows' Eve challenge. With many thanks to darthfi and cuvalwen who checked this over for me.
DISCLAIMER: Life on Mars is copyright Kudos and the BBC. Threads, copyright the BBC. All Rights Reserved. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.

The Northwich Horror

Author's Note: The following was found in a batch of papers a well-known journalist left to me in his will as a sort of humorous aside. He knew that I was, and still am, fascinated by the psychology of the bizarre and the strange and he always said that this was the most bizarre and strange tale he'd ever had the privilege to read. Whether or not the events are true, we shall never know. Certainly, from his handwriting, the author of the piece was terrified for his life and he, at least, believed the truth of it.

Yet history does not agree and we are left with the question, are these solely the ravings of a madman, or did history itself change in the aftermath of a global disaster? As a psychologist and a rational being, I would always err toward the former. However, the most interesting part of is that there are several inconsistencies. The documents in question had been in Mr. Morgan's possession for some thirty years and even he did not know where they came from, save that they originated from the correct part of the country. There is detail that no-one twenty-three years ago, according to the document, let alone thirty-three years ago could know.

So, we are left with the original question. Is the writer insane; was it just a very detailed and horrific dream; or is it really the echoes from some other parallel universe? Whatever the answer, the vision it inspired is not of this earth and I very much hope that, in any case, the writer did finally find his way back from the horrors he faced.

Dr. Alex Drake
London, 2007


27th May, 1984

As I put pen to paper for what I'm sure is the very last time, I am haunted by the simple fact that these events have arisen from myself alone; that this cataclysm has occurred solely because of me. And while, gentle reader, you may find that egocentric, nay, even arrogant, I am unable to state any different. For I know the truth and I alone turned away from it.

A red glow illuminates my page as I, Samuel Tyler; late of Hyde, Manchester; write. There has been no sun for thirty hours now, the only light cast from the rampaging fires on the horizon; the hazy smoke turning the baleful moon blood red. There is no electricity, no running water. I am alone in this half-destroyed building, the landlord and other surviving patrons having fled hours before.

But this is the end of the narration, or as near to the end as makes no difference. To tell the tale more clearly, I must start at the beginning.

The beginning of my tale is clearly to be found in 1973. Through a strange set of events, most likely recorded elsewhere, I found myself bewildered and alone, facing all sorts of challenges and conundrums, in a sepia-toned, old-fashioned Manchester. So different to where I had come from, so antiquated, so backwards. Mobile phones had not yet been invented; computers were still in the realm of the specialist. More importantly, those staples of my career I had relied on in my other world were now gone. DNA analysis, psychological profiling; words that mean little even now, but meant nothing at all back then. I had to rely on myself, and my team, to get my job done and that, at least at first, was difficult.

I am, or was, a detective in the Greater Manchester Police Force. A position that afforded me great pride. And great responsibility. My boss, an overweight, alcoholic bear of a man, was in truth a great man and one who bestowed on me his respect and friendship though many times I feared I did not deserve it. But together, at least for a while, we made Manchester our own, fighting the dark and making it safe for all its citizens.

But in all that time I remembered what I had been, missed the comforts of a more modern age, and so, with every step, I tried to get back to where I was before.

Yet finally, having achieved my goal, I looked around and realised I had missed a fundamental truth. Home was where the heart was and I had left my heart in a place no longer dominated by sterile living and information overload, but instead in the warm, comforting arms of camaraderie.

And so I took a leap of faith and went back to the new life I had formed back in the past, the new friends I had found.

The first cracks happened almost immediately, but I, at the time, was oblivious. There were little things, things that I had no reference to. Little differences that did not matter in the grand scheme of things. Except that, as they added up, they did make a difference.

I remember clearly the first one I noticed. Such a tiny little thing. 1977. Silver Jubilee year. The flags were out in abundance and Red Rum failed to win the Grand National. But of course, it wasn't a tiny thing. And it wasn't, by any stretch of the imagination, the first crack. I had been back in the past almost four years and reality was failing in large, perceptible chunks now. So many things were different. So many facts I knew that were now wrong, sidelined into the wrong pocket of history, fenced in by faulty recollection and hopeless wishes.

Oh, that I had noticed earlier. But would it have made a difference? I refuse to believe that my 21st century-informed choices could affect such things as global politics and the minds of men I had never met and never would meet. But what then is the explanation? The world with me in it is vastly changed from a world without me. I alone can testify to this, but who would listen to the ravings of a madman?

It is suffice to say that as time went on, I noticed more and more changes. I was bewildered, scared. Life in a world I knew had become easy. The known became unknown and I became paranoid, obsessed, almost delusional as I tried to reconstruct the changing reality around my perceptions and failed. Relations with Detective Chief Inspector Hunt became strained. Finally, almost four years ago, he left, taking both Detective Sergeant Skelton and Detective Inspector Carling with him. Up until two days ago I know they were in London and although I have not heard anything since the first befalling of the catastrophe, I am certain they are now dead. How could London survive when Manchester could not?

And my wife. Dear, gentle Annie, I fear she is also gone. And with her, our unborn child. The last was so close to where she was that there would be nothing left. At least, I hope so. To be a human being obliterated must be a terrible thing, but I now know of things more terrible. To face the scorching wind, to be blinded by the light, to only just survive, to be left behind. These things truly are the stuff of nightmare.

This much I know is true. Three months ago the Soviets marched into the Middle-Eastern country of Iran after orchestrating a political coup. The first time I witnessed this history, I had been a schoolboy and still blissfully unaware of international politics. My main worries had, at that time, been getting into the Police Force and courting Anna Thwaites. Unaware of the consequences this time round, I persuaded Annie and others that we were fine, that nothing could happen.

I had believed so strongly that we would get through this, that the terror and fear of the early eighties would finally give way and we would step out into a Brave New World. One where the Wall had fallen, just as it had done originally in 1989, that the Soviets had embraced the West and there had been two decades of prosperity, of a sort. We could ignore the Public Information Films, increasingly played out on the television, and the alarm tests, broadcast around the city, their sirens wail enough to freeze the blood.

I told my dearest Annie that the world would continue to turn, and that life could only get more rosy and joyous. Our baby was on its way, and it would be born in a world where it would know no fear. The times were changing and we only had to face this crisis and win. That the Soviets and the Americans would not, could not, do that most extreme act we feared and declare war on one other.

But it was not to be. Yesterday morning, the world ended.

The first I knew were the cessation of almost all electrical equipment. We later found out that an explosion just off the east coast of England had caused an electro-magnetic pulse across the country. It had been breakfast time at the small inn I found myself in, having arrived very late the night before on the investigation of a murder. Even in these dark and hopeless times mundane crime carried on. The landlord, having built a crystal set radio for this eventuality, soon tuned into what was left of the radio broadcast.

Then the unthinkable happened. The dread cloud arose in the east, a symbol of hopelessness and terror, a harbinger of death and destruction. From the direction, it seemed to have detonated near Sheffield and I frantically started to work out what could survive at that distance.

We were then surrounded by the pillars of smoke as more and more bombs fell, the sky growing dark with the fall-out until, finally, the last one, the one that cut me off from everything, Manchester was hit. Barely seven miles from here, or so I calculate based on schoolboy knowledge that is both of its time and twenty years out of date.

And that seven miles is both a miracle and a curse. For seven miles has been enough to ensure my survival through the first hours. But I am scorched, my skin peeling and I am so terribly afraid because I know what that means.

And what of the human race? Certainly I can conjecture that it is not just Britain that has undergone this destruction, that America and other countries have suffered as badly. Will we survive? Can we survive this?

That is a question for any future generation to answer fully, although I deeply suspect that it will be impossible. Certainly, with the dubious benefit of twenty more years' knowledge of such things, I know it is inevitable that radiation sickness and the long nuclear winter will claim the weakest, the young and old. That the scrambling of our genetic code into something barely resembling humanity, something very much less so, will take care of the most of the rest of the species. But that is many years in the future, and there are much more immediate dangers now. Starvation will take many, as will injuries sustained in the initial attack and since. After all, the human race being what it is, survival of the fittest means grabbing any weapon you can and being certain of your own safety at the expense of any other.

And of myself? I have nothing to live for now. My family and friends are dead. My left leg, crushed in the last blast, the one that burned my city, is useless. The looters, the very demons themselves, are getting ever closer. The screams of the dying and the frightened still echo through my head in a litany of blame. Blame for the man who fractured this reality completely when he leapt onto its rare and fragile surface. Like ever-expanding cracks in the ice, it has just taken time to plunge each and every one of us into an icy hell.

And perhaps, just perhaps, with my departure I will be able to stop distorting the timeline from true. Perhaps in my dying I will be able to save the world. Or perhaps that is only the conceit of one who chose unwisely and in haste.

It only remains therefore for me to secrete this missive away for future seekers of truth to find, if they may, and to pick up my revolver. No-one now will be brought to justice for Maria Hewitt's untimely death, but justice must be done for everyone else's.

fin
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