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Over a fallen hill is a short novella set in a near-future frozen Earth.
A Collective of nine towns work together to survive the death of the sun. One town, Fallen Hill, is responsible for creating light, in the form of wax candles, as technology has failed the human race. As a new winter begins, a fear grips Fallen Hill. Outsiders, known as the Phantoms, are rumoured to be looking for new victims...
The long, low whirring blast of the horn bellowed out across the town as the
familiar wrapping of torrents began to build up. In the darkness, people gathered
their tools and headed for the hollows. Huge wooden doors opened all along the
central thoroughfare. It was midday and the sky was black.
The gale powered through the town in spirals and rain poured sideways
from the northeast. Thick oak beams slid through heavy iron brackets on the frame
of the doors of Blue House. Bolts closed and were locked into place as the
whistling of the passing gusts of wind shook the threshold back and forth. The
people who had taken refuge there were used to these conditions. As resounding
crashes and cracks of timber echoed from beyond and above, they went about their
routine. It felt as though the stones beneath their feet would take off in the gale
and carry them all away into the sky. But, that was a familiar fear, subdued in its
omnipresence. The fifty bodies passed their fifty lanterns, one by one, to Alban,
who fitted their hooks carefully to the central, and then outer, rings of a huge castiron
chandelier in the centre of the bunker. The light concentrated on the centre of
the large underground hall and swayed gently with the vibrations of the weather
Fifty men, women and children waited. Thunder clapped from afar, but
nobody paid it any mind. Some of the men and women bantered about the work
they'd been doing. Children played about their feet, delighted to be indoors and
away from the melters and the moulds. A few lay down to take in some extra sleep,
while others busied themselves with peeling roots, scouring pots and fixing things.
Work was hard in the Winter. Not that Summer was much better... But at least the
winds of Summer didn't cut you like the ones at this time of year. They would push
you, topple you... But the ones that battered the roof of Blue House and the other
refuge hollows on this day, a time once known as November, would blind a man
who held his eyes open to watch where he stepped, or flay the skin from exposed
cheeks. The speeds were wild, erratic and furious, as if the Earth was making up
for lost time, having not cleansing itself of every last living thing that ever
inhabited its surface.
Fallen Hill had tunnels between the refuge hollows. Blue House connected
to Green House and Red House. Yellow was diagonally opposite, north-facing,
and linked by the others. The tunnel between Yellow and Red Houses had caved in
more than once in the past year, so it was now a narrow squeeze and generally not
trusted during storms. Passage between hollows was avoided as a rule, but would
sometimes be necessary if the storm had breached one of the Houses. Blue House
was the largest of the four, supporting the fifty that sheltered within it now. The
others held only thirty or thereabouts. Fallen Hill had been a town of nearly five hundred
at the start of the year. Some had migrated to Norrell, the nearest
neighbouring village. A scant few had gone to Shadenvale, further out. The rest of
the missing were just simply dead. Each year, the oldest members of the town got
older still. The youngest didn't stay young for long. Those who survived their first
weeks tended to be tough and resilient. They were the ones playing in the dark,
all-seeing despite the ration of light.
Fallen Hill was a wax myrtle plantation. Somehow, it managed to grow and
maintain its crop steadily, even as the days and nights blended further together into
a never-ending void. The town was the only producer of light in the Nine.
Saturday was the worst day for a full-on storm. Pick-up was on Sundays, every
week, and if production was down, that meant that light was down. Fallen Hill was
never in darkness, but it would mean a delay all the way along the trail. Last
Winter, the village of Mieville was left without reserve candlelight for nearly three
weeks. They managed, as the always had, but there was a grim desperation about
the place as hope began to fade that they would ever be granted light again. For all
they knew, Fallen Hill was no more. Without it, they would have only wild fire,
restricted to the last fingers of wood from long-dead trees.
Read more in the full novella, available now on Kindle.
about Over a fallen hill
Over a Fallen Hill was originally a short story that appeared in "Phantoms Doused in Night" in 2013.
The story received overwhelmingly positive reviews and was by far the most popular story in the collection. It was also a firm favourite of Brian's, who had intended to make an extended edition for some time.
In January 2016, a new version of Over a Fallen Hill was completed and published as a standalone novella, triple the size of the original but retaining its essence and message.