The Long Dark Fanfic - Going Dark

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Hello all. I've been really excited by all the hints, intentional and otherwise, that I've been gleaning from trailers and past interviews with the Hinterland team. I've sort of picked up an idea of what I think the time-period is of the game, and a rough idea of the event that descends upon the world of The Long Dark. Owing to being really immersed in the world they've created, even at the limited sandbox level, I've been more and more daydreaming narratives around the game world. That, coupled with a recent first-time viewing of that wonderful film Broadcast News has somewhat inspired me to have a go at my own Long Dark fan fiction. (If any of you are in the broadcasting industry please forgive the doubtless grotesque inaccuracies. But then, this is a different history to our own, I guess...) This one starts a little before the event, so don't expect any Long Dark tropes or scenes yet. But I hope you'll enjoy the little pieces of foreboding I've scattered throughout this first chapter of the tale, and little future references to the main game.

I've got my own cast in my head for this one, personally I'm running with in order of appearance Melissa Leo, Ned Beatty, Patrick Fischler and William Hurt. But mileage may vary. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this introduction.


The Long Dark - Going Dark


Chapter One


She sat in the dark waiting impatiently – the faint glow of red reflected upon her face. Why did it always take so long? There was never enough time, even for the simple things. It was, she believed, a matter of life and death.

If she didn’t have the prints loaded in the rostrum camera and ready for the evening broadcast…

“C’mon already,” she said, through clenched teeth.

A figure dimly lit by the red bulb before her looked up at the clock. “It’ll be another five minutes. I told you the time. You think you can defy science?”

“I can defy nature. I can defy God. I’m a producer. I’m a producer with an award the size of your head.”

There was a sharp knock on the door behind her. “Lorraine? You in there?”

She jumped. “Crap, it’s Barry.”

“You were saying something about…” began the technician, reaching across to pull the curtain.

“Shut up!” she hissed. “I’m coming sir!” she added loudly in her best, deferential voice and slipped out the door. 

The station manager was smiling down at her with his big, ruddy face. She fought down the fight or flight response. “Yes, Barry?” she asked sweetly, prepping several likely counter-arguments inside her head.

“Are you free tonight?”

“Are you nuts? I’ve got a show to run.”

“You can let Graham run that one. He needs the experience. You, on the other hand, I need at Flynn’s for dinner and drinks.”

“This is the bluntest come-on I’ve ever heard, sir.”

“Be quiet, child. It’s a working lunch. We’ve got William Harris in from GBC, flown in from New York. He wants to discuss a project with you.”

“The William Harris? You’re kidding me right?”

He shook his head.

“He’s head-hunting, right? They want me because I’m hot-stuff, right? That piece on Tehran…?”

“Don’t get excited, little lady. It’s a one off, he’s branching off into these documentary specials. Since it’s a joint production with our chief affiliates, they want someone batting for our team… and you were chosen. God knows why.”

“Because I produce.”

“You produce ulcers in me. Now quit dancing like that.”

“Hey Scotty,” she snapped, punching him on the shoulder as she sailed into the weather bureau.

“Oh, it’s you.” Scott glanced up from his papers. “You look happy. Has Barry had another heart-attack?”

“No. It’s William Harris… he wants me.”

“Wants you?”

“It’s going to be torrid.”

 “I thought you hated that guy. You said he was one of that insidious new breed of slick, polystyrene anchors.”

“Yeah, but he’s got a hell of a brace of shoulders.”

“And what am I, chopped liver?”

"Relax, I'm just fooling with you. All that slick breed of leading anchors, they're over-bred and dumb as bricks. Definitely not my type. She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “And as for you... you’re the smartest guy in the room, Scotty. You know that. In the station. In the whole damn network. The business, even.”

“Thanks,” he smiled. “I needed that fillip. These papers are kicking my ass.”

“I thought there was nothing you didn’t understand about meteorology.”

“Sure, which this isn’t. Technically this is helioseismology, with some other stuff thrown in.”

She looked at him blankly.

“It relates to solar weather.”

“I think that’s a little out of our broadcast area.”

“Certainly out of my comfort zone.”

She picked up a sheet, glanced at it idly. “So you’re branching out too, huh?”

“Yeah, neat way of broaching your imminent documentary team up with Mr Chiselled.”

“You know about that?” She slapped the sheet back down. 

“I’m the smartest guy, remember. I know everything. Just keep your eyes open around him, okay? And your ears.”

“You know something I don’t…?”

“One word… merger.”

“Don’t be stupid. They’re American, we’re Canadian. We don’t merge. We man our forts and stare at each all steely-eyed other across a battlefield littered with the corpses of slain Nielsen households.”

Scotty rose from his chair, walked to the door and looked up and down the hallway. He gestured for Lorraine to sit in his chair and he looked at her frankly. “You know the nature of my feelings for you, right?”

She pushed back her hair. A loose curl of frizzy mouse-brown hair fell before her eye. She nodded. “And as an older woman I’ve always been more than a little flattered, Scotty,” she said seriously.

He waved his hand. “This could get me fired. Telling you this, I mean. What I’m about to say doesn’t leave the room.”

“You know you can trust me,” she said, setting her jaw. “Lay-offs? Big ones?”

He shook his head. “No, not yet anyway. You know how Barry doesn’t buy a piece of equipment without running it past me first?”


“Well, my reputation in the field of scientific know-how; specifically weather, broadcasting equipment and the like has grown, somewhat uncomfortably for me. In fact I’ve been having to take a lot of educated guesses lately for the network heads. I wouldn’t be grumbling if my bonuses matched the industry standard, but anyway... this station is on the verge of going dark.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“We’re close to losing satellite coverage. You know how we rent space for our news to carry, right? Did you know that the price is going up and up? That it’s forcing the smaller fish out of business?”

“Yeah, I knew the smaller stations had been going under lately, but we’re a big fish, Scotty.”

He shook his head. “Something’s happening to the sun and its knocking out the satellites, bit by bit. The weaker, older ones went first. So we’ve been putting up better, shielded versions. Now some of those too, they’re going dark.”


“It’s a long and tedious and complicated story. But it has to do with those papers on the desk. GBC wants to merge its fleet with ours and work out some sort of piggy-back scheme, so we’re both covered. CBN and GBC, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.”

“That makes sense.”

“It used to be a given, share-and-share-alike. If a network was having trouble it’d help a brother out. Enlightened self-interest. But the numbers up there are getting so low they’re become a pack of wolves, ravenous for signal. And a network alone is easy prey. We’re going to merge. That means we’re going to become a sideshow, and when we lose more satellites, they’ll take over.”

“I remember you talking now, about why the radio reception has been so bad… those bands of static on the screen…”

“Even my little ‘and finally’ bits on the Northern Lights. Even the unusually colder weather we’ve been having this so-called summer… and Christ, that’s a weird one alright! All connected. Solar storms.”

She sat quietly a moment, processing the implications. Then, slowly, “… this William Harris thing. They do want me… GBC.”

“You’re a virtuoso behind the desk, a close-in knife-fighter when it comes to getting stuff done. CBN had a good man in Jack Callahan, but he’s old, slipping. This is the nineties now, they’re waking up to the fact that women producers do more than fix the coffee. They’re going to make an offer you can’t refuse.”

She smiled wanly. “Cute, but I will. I like it here in Vancouver. And Canadian Broadcasting Network is my family… as tragic and dysfunctional as that sounds.” She looked seriously at him. “You especially, Scotty. When dad went, well you were there for me. Like a brother. And I’m sorry that hurts sometimes. But really, with no one else left of the family… yours was the only shoulder I could cry on.”

He walked over and put his hand on her shoulder, squeezed. “Hey,” he said, simply. “I wish it were otherwise, but I don’t think you have an option. They’ll be buying us out… you’re part of that package. Besides, something tells me I’ll be getting an offer too, before long.”

"No," she said, shaking her head. The initial euphoria of the imminent and flattering brush with fame had worn off. "GBC have deep pockets but they're lousy reporters. Relax Scotty," she said, standing up and leaning into him to give him a hug, "I'm going nowhere."


The two of them walked down West Georgia Street, hands in pockets.

“We should have called a cab,” groused Barry. “Jesus, scarves in September. This lousy solar-cycle.”

Lorraine raised her eyebrows, said nothing.

They walked another block, then Barry said. “You’ll like Flynn’s. Upmarket gastro-bar. A cut above Dempsey’s… and why you all drink there I have no idea, they don’t clean their taps, you know.” 

“It has atmosphere,” she said.

“You sound a little off this evening. You were a firecracker when I broke the news earlier, what gives?”

She shrugged, hunched into the wind. “I don’t know. Maybe overworked.”

“You don’t know the meaning of the word. Shoddy researchers, technical problems, drunken anchors… you chew ‘em up and spit ‘em out, tiger.”


“Is it because of that drinking buddy of yours?”

“You mean Scott?” She glanced over at him as they walked, tried to read his expression. “What makes you think that?”

“Well you were nearly an item once. And he is going away for a while.”

She stopped suddenly. “He is?”

"Sure. You’re not the only one in demand. He’s off to a Scientific Conference – with capital letters – for both ourselves and our new best buddies at GBC. Sounds dry as toast for our viewership to me, but older and wiser heads want it to be done, so…”

“This conference. What’s it called?”

“They call it the S.O.S, Solar Occurrence Studies. The ‘occurrence’ is superfluous to make a better acronym. The bosses say it’s to help us find a way to fix our lousy reception. When I was young we did that by standing on the roof and fiddling with the antennae, but what do I know, that’s Scott’s province. We’re here…”

He turned and opened the door for her. The place was all cosy dark booths, polished gleaming brass and rich oaken tables. A young girl took their names, Lorraine tried to ignore the way Barry ran his eyes over her.

“This way,” the bright young thing said.

William Harris rose from the booth, isolated in the back of the restaurant, his teeth gleaming in the dim light. “Lorraine Harlow,” he said, reaching over to shake her by the hand. 

“Pleased to meet you, Mr Harris,” she said, effortlessly switching to her brisk, perky, professional networking mode.

“Please, call me Bill. Hello, Barry.”

“Heya Billy,” the station manager said. Lorraine privately winced at the over-familiarity.

Bill gestured for them to sit down. “They have a really good house IPA here I can recommend,” he said, tapping his glass.

Lorraine offered a smile and nodded. That was a point in his favour, a quality beer drinker was one of the minor good superstitious omens she had picked up through countless working lunches. “Sure,” she said and sat.

Bill turned to the waitress. “Two house IPA’s, please. Barry?”

“Scotch for me. No water.”

“And a double of the Laphroaig - thank you,” he said, with a little nod and a warm smile to the waitress. It was the same warm smile he signed off his broadcasts with, unless something truly appalling had happened. A million dollar smile. Then suddenly Lorraine gave a little start as she noticed his legs. There was nothing unusual about them, but she realised that in all the thousands of times she had seen the smile, she had never seen him below the elbow. He had ever been as one with the news-desk.

He sat down. "It's great to finally meet you, Lorraine. I've long been an admirer from afar."

"Thank you," she said simply, the praise barely registering now. 

"I'm glad you're north of the border, I'd hate for our stations to be sparring partners. You put out some real heavyweight stuff. The series on the aids epidemic, Tehran, the way you managed to get some people to give a damn about what's happening to the wilderness with all that oil drilling..."

"I have good researchers, good writers and good anchors."

"Sure, they're good. But we in the industry know that you raise them up, that often it's your words that are coming out of the anchor's mouth. Well, excepting the '84 Olympics... you made something of a pig's ear of that," he smiled and gave a little dismissive gesture, "but let's call that a little folly of inexperienced youth. Overall, I'm very impressed."

"You're well briefed."

"No," he said, wagging a finger. "Well read. I try and form my own opinions when I can." 

She split a wide grin, "In GBC, seriously?" 

"Hey," Barry cut in sharply, "Lorraine, please!"

"It's okay, Barry. I know our reputation. But we're trying of late, you've got to admit that. We've put out some quality product of late."

"That's one of our little differences; you call it product, I call it reporting."

He took a long sip of beer. She thought she saw a little amusement in his eyes. He set the glass down, wiped his mouth. "Well played," he said. "Nethertheless, you saw our think-piece on the Watts riots."

"Hmm. Yeah, okay. I'll give you that." 

"There'll be more to come. We're no longer content with vacuity." He leant forward, lowered his voice and looked searchingly into her eyes. "People are getting scared out there. Can you feel it? Things are shifting. The centre cannot hold and all of that jazz. They need a station they can trust. Bombast and big hair is no longer a guarentee." She had to give it to him, he had drama. "And that's where you come in."

"Barry said this is about a documentary you're making. Must be a hell of a big project."
He shook his head. "It's not, it's a little thing. Very personal and a very small team. But it'll be the first of many. It's a new experiment in garnering trust. The public follows a small news team on the ground; following leads, doing research, capturing the interview and putting it out there. No polish, just hard work and a lot of heart. And we figure for the biggest impact, we wheel me out from behind my desk and see if I can cut it out there in the real world, supported by my dedicated team."

"Very charismatic, and if you screw it up?"

"Oh, then we don't air it," he said blandly.

"So what's the story; are you going to track Bill Cosby down and get him to give you the low-down on good parenting? Again?"

He glanced down and tapped his menu. "Wait, we need to order first or we'll be drinking on empty. Snap decision, what do you go for?"

"Steak," Lorraine said, immediately. "Rare."

"It's all she eats," put in Barry, nursing his empty glass. "I throw her the raw cuts from the office door, otherwise she starts eating the interns."

"Cute. And you?"

"I see they do meatloaf. Must be a hell of a meatloaf."

"I bet it is." He made the slightest gesture and the waitress came up, placed his order and she departed, briskly returning with further drinks.

"So, the story," began Bill again. "You're a mountain girl, right?"

"Not quite, I grew up a little north of Calgary. I guess it was a little remote, but not really."

"You ever heard of Samuel Ardmore?"  

She thought a moment. "The wild man of Elk Island?" 

"He's alive."

She shook her head. "Impossible, he must have died years ago."

"God's truth. He wandered down out of the mountains a month ago, entered the Elkhorn Post Office with a postcard to mail. The postcard was from the 70's. He picked it up last time he was in town."

"You're seriously telling me that he's been up in the mountains, no contact with humanity, for over twenty years?"

"That's it. It's true. Really. Now you know the back-to-nature movement is big right now, self-sufficiency, reconnecting with oneself... all that bull-crap, it's big. So the audience is there for the story. But beyond that, I mean, this is real mythic stuff. Imagine the interview! And the old boss is eating it up. He's with child to get this made."

"The Lord of Darkness? Howard McCulloch? The big boss actually wants something other than blood sacrifice?"

"Sure. You wouldn't credit him with it, Lorraine, but he's got a real sentimental streak when it comes to the Jack London stuff. There was a tear, I swear, when he told me to go bring him a legend. He's not entirely evil you know, more of a semi-skimmed evil. So he wants me out there, his most trusted anchor, getting it straight from the Old Bear's mouth. At least, before he, y'know, goes down to the hot place."

"Oh God, and you want me to come with you, is that it?"

"Sure! A symbol of our burgeoning alliance. GBC's greatest anchor and CBN's greatest producer. I don't think you realise it Lorraine, but your name draws a lot of water in the industry. You get on board with this and folks in the industry as well as the well-informed viewer will know that we mean business, that this new direction isn't all hot air."

"But I'm not a reporter, I'm a producer. You don't need me out in the field, you need a researcher, a camera-man and a guide. Minimum. But no producer."

 "But you were a reporter once, right? You've been before the camera before, filling in. And you wrote the book on research in your early days. As for a guide, well, you know a little of the wilderness and I'm sure we can get some good maps.. a portable camera..."

"No. This is insane. You're talking about a two man expedition into the middle of nowhere on some quixotic quest cooked up by a decrepit old morally bankrupt doddering Australian who'd cheerily slit my throat rather than..."

"You're getting hysterical, settle down."

"You always talked about how you were getting claustrophobic, how you needed a vacation..." put in the station manager.

"Shut up Barry," she said through clenched teeth.

"Look, this is a knee-jerk reaction you're having. If you think it through I'm sure you'll see that it's a golden opportunity. A chance for you to refresh our batteries. To become inspired again. To be great explorers of new broadcasting frontiers! And to - you know - get to know each other, after all we'll be network partners soon and..." and here Lorraine saw the first glint of slyness entering his expression, "... who knows? Sure, Canadian wilderness now, but there'll be stories from New York, Paris... working close with Magnum, National Geographic... the biggest adventures... we're even thinking of bringing Scott along for a piece on the Indian Monsoons..."

She stared wide eyed. The words fell from her mouth, dry as dust. "You've really done your research, haven't you? You're pressing all the buttons."

"Besides," Barry cut in dryly, "Don't think of this so much as an opportunity..."

She turned to look at him.

"... but more of an... order."

Bill winced. "Subtle, Barry."

She shut her eyes. "How long will it take?"

"No more than a week. Our researchers have made a good start, we know the area he's in. Seven days to break a story, that's part of the pitch. C'mon, even if you hate it, the whole ordeal will be over before you know it. We'll be leaving in three days, by the way. That's enough time for you to get your booster shots, pick out a light camera, write your last will and testament.. "

"No way. I hate nature. That's why I moved to the city. That's why I'm not living out there in Dysentry, Alberta."

Barry gave a discrete cough. "And just as a little sweetener, a little offering from ourselves and our good friends at GBC..." he slid a rectangular piece of paper over to her, a silver mark and signature gleaming upon it.

"Jesus," she said. "That's half a year's salary."

"For a week's work," said Bill. “I said we're serious.”

She made one last desperate rally. "And just who's going to be manning the fort while I'm away?"

"Graham," said Barry.

"Graham? But he's not ready, I've said this."

"And he's never going to be ready if you don't cut the apron-strings. Sink or swim, it's how you learnt, isn't it?" 

She scowled.

Relax, will you? The station isn't going to burn down while you're away."


Three days later, the prop engines roared in her ears as she looked out of the window, down at the quivering shadow cast upon the cold waters rushing below. She leant back in her seat, looked across at Bill. His face was touched by a light shade of green and his mouth and eyes were clamped in a grimace as they hit a spot of turbulence. "This is why I stay behind a desk," he muttered.  

She turned away, looked out at the approaching headline. A dark belt of tall firs and there, below in distance, that stubby stretch of runway. "Hey, this was your idea," she said. And then she smiled and shook her head, "Great explorer!" she snorted. 


To be continued....

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 5/27/2016 at 0:26 PM, Nervous Pete said:



Three days later, the prop engines roared in her ears as she looked out of the window, down at the quivering shadow cast upon the cold waters rushing below. She leant back in her seat, looked across at Bill. His face was touched by a light shade of green and his mouth and eyes were clamped in a grimace as they hit a spot of turbulence. "This is why I stay behind a desk," he muttered.  

She turned away, looked out at the approaching headline. A dark belt of tall firs and there, below in distance, that stubby stretch of runway. "Hey, this was your idea," she said. And then she smiled and shook her head, "Great explorer!" she snorted. 


To be continued....

Finally had a chance to work through your piece. You've hooked me in! Looking forward to where you take these characters. 

Cheers :coffee:

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  • 2 months later...

Cheers dude, next part coming up now.  Been figuring out further things with the story, but now ready to roll forward with it. Initially this was going to launch pretty much immediately into the disaster, but then I decided I wanted a slower burn with more character work, and to explore ominous signs and warnings before the big disaster. So phew, the next part's quite the big one setting everything up, with disquieting warnings and angry people. If you can, spare a moment to let me know what you think. I'm trying to tie in all the hints Hinterland have given us with their trailers and in-game. I anticipate that I will be hilariously wrong, but that's the fun of it. Laters!

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It was little more than an airstrip; a few hangers and container units, plus a small prefabricated reception terminal and stubby control tower. Still, for somewhere so remote it was more than she had been expecting. There was a chill wind as they crossed the strip to the terminal, and the inside wasn’t much warmer, the place being on par with a down-at-heel bus station. A mural of an Elk dominated one wall.

There was a man waiting for them. He was tall, lean and with slick black hair and a weathered face fixed into a high intensity grin. He thrust out his hand and strode up to William, pumped it hard. “Welcome, welcome. Mayor Benjamin Freemont at your service. Welcome to our little home. I trust you had a safe flight?”   

“A little choppy, but a beautiful view,” returned Bill.  “Allow me to introduce my producer and co-adventurer, Lorraine. She’s the one of us that knows what they’re doing,” he added, with a laugh.

Lorraine nodded a smile, shook his hand. “Pleased to meet you.”

“Well we’re thrilled to have the both of you here. You got a lot of fans out here on Elk Island. One moment, please, I’ve just got to make a call.” And he trotted over to a payphone on the other side of reception.

“Lowest TV ownership on this seaboard,” said Lorraine, out the side of her mouth. “And the signal is lousy out here.”

 “Well, it was nice of him to say it anyway.”

“I still can’t believe I agreed to this hare-brained expedition. You’re old man is going senile. We’re not going to find him, this entire thing is going to a bust. Not that I mind, I get paid either way.”

“They say the scenery is gorgeous out here. We’re going to pick up some killer shots. Mountains, lakes, ravines, old rail lines… splice in some Appalachia Spring and some local characters… it’s going to be good. It’s going to be good.”

“Keep telling yourself that. There’s our luggage.”


They moved over to the trolley and grabbed their rucksacks. Fremont returned to usher them over to his car. He kept up a running commentary as they took the drive from the airstrip into town. “I’m a hands-on kind of guy. Only way to get things done out here. We don’t have the budget for any of your big city bureaucracy, but it’s good. I get out, meet the people. They know me.”

Lorraine turned from the misted window. “How much of Elk Island do you own, Mr Fremont?”

Fremont gave a short laugh. “Yeah, you’re a journalist alright. I’ve a number of going concerns about the place. The hotel you’re staying in for one. The old coal mine, some sawmills, a few trawlers. This and that. Keeps me busy. Do you want to stop for a beer in town or anything or move right on?”

She wiped a hole on the window, looked out at the log houses passing by; saw the city sign whip by.  

“I guess we’re kind of beat from the flight. The hotel will be fine thank you.”

“Should be an hour’s drive up coast. Hope you don’t mind.”

“It doesn’t bother us.”


She saw the cabins shift into tract housing – then the modest downtown of small tourist city, structures a hodgepodge of redbrick, timber and tin. Churches, the town hall and a library passed by. Bait and tackle shops, an arcade and restaurants.

“Shaping up to be another Ketchikan,” said Bill.

“We have our aspirations,” replied Fremont, with a touch of pride. “We’re growing fast. Five thousand three hundred and twenty two, according to the last census,” he chuckled.

“Does it get plenty cold out here?” asked Lorraine.

“Not in September, so never you fear. Though you might want for a scarf some days. October it begins to turn, that’s when you really begin to see some snowfall.”

“I don’t know, it felt plenty chilly at the airport.”

“Just a passing fluke. We’ve had barbecue days this time of year too. Trust me, this early in September you’ll get your good weather. Mists, cloud inversions, scudding clouds across azure skies. Real picture-postcard stuff.”  

The drive lapsed into silence. Lorraine slipped on a thick beanie and laid her head against the window, looking out away inland. Despite her settled mood of intransigence, she felt herself warming to the place. The view consisted mostly of woodland, with the odd break for logging clearances and mysterious roadside tracks winding into the inky dark beneath the trees. Three or four times she saw the scene suddenly open up to reveal a tucked away valley and the odd distant farmstead, before just as quickly closing up again. It had a quiet, rugged beauty, she had to admit. And beyond the trees those distant peaks, shrouded in cloud. Yes, she could picture the postcards in her mind now.

“We’re nearing Beaver Run. It don’t look much but it has one of the finest hotels this side of the state, owned by yours truly. I figure you can get settled, grab yourself a nap and then we can go get some lunch. Cody, the local sheriff will be joining us. You’ll like him.” The car climbed up from the rocky shore, rising away from an inlet with a jetty and rendering plant to pass around a cliff-side curve and then, once around the bend, a little bay harbour stood proud below – a shaft of light spearing through the cloud to illuminate the rustic hotel on the shore. “Really wish you’d been set up for a shot like that,” laughed Fremont. “It’d make for a great promotional. But such views are dime-a-dozen round here.”

They pulled up outside the hotel, which consisted of a two story building with steps and a double door, a carved bear in the courtyard. It had a touch of the gingerbread about it, with fancy cornices and carvings, the walls made of stone of and polished red timber. Across from the hotel lay a few shops, a cosy looking bar called The Coho, an outdoor gear store and a storage facility made of tin. A scattering of roads flanked by cheap housing wound upwards from varying points of the main street into the encroaching woodland.  On a small rise overlooking the hotel sat a small schoolhouse built along a Methodist chapel design.

“Just forty or so souls around here, not including staff, but I’ve big dreams for this bay. What do you think?” Fremont asked, proudly, stepping out from the car and opening the door for Lorraine.

“Very charming,” said Bill. He looked around himself, frowned and rubbed his hands, blew on them. “I’ve got that too-much aftershave feeling,” he laughed. “Getting a mite colder, isn’t it Fremont?”

The mayor frowned and waved his hand in dismissive gesture. “Just a passing cold front,” he said, walking up the steps at a jog to open the doors. Immediately a young man in a crisp white shirt stepped out, moved out to the car and began to unload.

“What does that even mean?” hissed Lorraine as she passed Bill, pulling her beanie down lower over her ears.

 “It means we’re going to have to pack hip-flasks of brandy.”


Her room was quite to her taste. American primitive patchwork quilt, large mirror on the wall and a four poster bed. Most importantly, a phone. She slung her rucksack against a wall and flopped down on the bed, exhausted. In their tour of the place Fremont had found it strangely important to describe in thorough fashion the sweat and toil expended in constructing the hotel, and also to introduce every member of the twenty or so staff to her, whom he called ‘his family’. The view from her bedroom through the balcony windows proudly displayed a long jetty reaching out – spearing towards a not-too-distant island - and a series of yachts and small boats moored at anchor. The place was a little quiet as a whole, with only a couple of dozen guests, though Fremont ascribed that to the place being new. He confidently expected triple that number next season. Lorraine began to doze. The patchy sky gave way to a heavy blanket. A light snow began to fall. She rolled over atop her head, and began to gently snore.  The snow passed. The phone rang.  

She started. Frowned, tilted her head at her wrist, slick with drool. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a paper hankie, wiped it. The phone kept ringing. She stood up a little groggily and walked over, picked up the receiver. "Hullo?" 

"Call for Miss Harlow," said a voice, and then a click.



"Hi Lorraine. I'm at the convention."

"The science thing?" 

"Yeah. You sound rough, just woken up?"

"Mm-hm. How did you find me?"

"I called Barry at the station and bullied him into giving me your whereabouts. What's it like where you are?"
Lorraine rubbed an eye with her knuckles. "It's nice. Very scenic."

"You in a town or something... or someplace more remote?"

"A village. A village on the shore. There's a harbour and a couple of shops and it looks like there's a bar, so I'll be okay, you know me. You know Bill's been pretty amusing this trip, he's quite the witty gentleman and..."

"So where you are seems well stocked, huh?"

"What do you mean?"

"Listen, I've been hearing some strange stuff at this convention. A lot of the people around here have this look about them."
She picked up the handset and walked over to the bed, sat down. "What kind of look?" 

"Excited. Scared. A kind of mix of both." There was a short laugh over the phone. Lorraine frowned.

"You okay, Scott?" 

"Sure, sure. Listen, I can't talk long. There's a queue for the landlines. Lot of reporters desperate to reach their desks, I had to bribe my time on this one. Now I want you to listen carefully. This might be very important. You listening?"

"Sure, Scott," Lorraine leaned forward, gripped the phone tightly, her stomach fluttering a little. She was listening to his voice, listening close. That mixture of taut tension, cracked humour and confusion, she could feel his energy over the thousand kilometres of landline. 

"Is it snowing where you are?"

"No, not that I can see. Oh wait, oh... there's a very light dusting. Wow, must have happened whilst I was asleep. It did seem a little nippy earlier."
"Okay, now we're not sure why but these last twenty four hours we've been reading some very strange solar activity and the net result appears to be an average global temperature drop of around one point two Celsius."

"That's not terribly dramatic, Scott."

"That's the average. Certain regions it's as much as four degrees. Add that to the already below average summer we've been having and that's... well, that's probably why it's snowing in September where you are."

"You woke me for this?"

A note of impatience touched his voice. "What we're looking at is a massive rise in sunspot activity, far greater than usual, combined with a diminishing of the sun's energy output. If I put it to you as a percentage of the total output... well, that wouldn't impress you much either. So try this for size, there's a projected temperature drop of a further four degrees over the next few weeks. In fact, you better break out the egg-nog because winter is coming early to the Northern hemisphere this year."

A pause, and then..."You're really serious, aren't you?"

"That part of Canada can get up to two metres of snow. Barry tells me you're on some sort of hiking expedition... my advice, call it off. Stay at the hotel. Stock up on some supplies from the store if you can. With these fluctuating temperature gradients you can expect the trade winds to start moving real fast. Look to the jet stream, right now you'll see it really scudding along. That's going to pass down to the lower altitudes. There may be storms." 

She ran her fingers through her hair and pulled tight, gritted her teeth. "Great. Just great. What you're saying is that I'm going to be staying at the Overlook Hotel. Indefinitely."

"I don't get that reference. Listen. Do you have a pen and paper?"

"Hold on, there's one on the bedside table. Shoot."

"Right, I need you to keep a record of the temperature up there, on the hour if you can. Estimated windspeeds, precipitation, that too. You know your beaufort scale, right? I remember teaching you that weather primer..."

"Sort of."

"Just record calm through breeze through gale through storm - light, gentle, moderate, fresh and strong. Don't worry too much about specifics. Write it down. I'm going to call in the morning."

"Don't you have weather stations up here?"

"Sure, but they're unmanned and we only get the data every six months or so. Besides, I may need to justify my time on the landline tomorrow, so congratulations, you're now a field weather researcher."

"Do I pick up an extra paycheck for this?"

"Hell no."

"Things really are that crazy up there?" 

"I'm nodding emphatically.  Tomorrow I might have some more important stuff to tell you. Do not stray far from the hotel. I'm serious."
"Why do I get the feeling that you're not telling me everything?"

"Because I'm not telling you everything. And we simply don't know enough yet. You know, I don't think any of us will be sleeping tonight. There's too much data to sift through. There's been nothing quite like this in recorded history. Look, I gotta go. Fujita's after the line and he's about to start biting my ankles. Stay safe, okay. And try not to freak, go grab a beer or something. Just be ready for my call tomorrow."

"I promise I'll be here to pick up. And try to get some sleep tonight, it's not the ending of the world. Hugs coming at you down the line."

"Right back at you. All my love. Bye."

She heard the clamour in the background, the click on the receiver. She sat a while on the bed, holding the phone on her lap, staring at the mirror. Then she slowly rose, replaced the phone on the table and left her room. 



She found Bill down in the lounge, sipping a coffee and reading a paper.  It was a light, airy place furnished with autumnal colours, with large windows overlooking the bay. He looked up from the sports page. "Hey you, have a nice nap? I knocked but you didn't answer."

She nodded. "Can you get me a coffee? I've just got to check something at reception."


She walked across the lounge, passing a man fiddling with the television set, the picture rolling and fuzzing with random snow. A turn down a short corridor, and she was in reception with its long polished cedar desk and benches. A middle aged woman with curly hair stood pen in hand, toying with a word puzzle.

"Excuse me, ma'am. But do you have thermometer?"

The woman frowned and turned to gesture at the wall. Besides a calendar showing a bear with a fish in its mouth hung a small thermometer housed in plastic. 

"Do you mind if I borrow this? Place it outside?"

"But then how do I know what temperatue it is inside?"

"Please, I'd be very much obliged."


When Lorraine returned from outside she found Bill chatting with Fremont and another man, a pot of coffee stood waiting for her on the coffee table.  "Room to your satisfaction, Lorraine?" asked Fremont, twisting around on the sofa as she approached. The man next to her, in his late fifties in flannel shirt with a grey collar length hair and a handbar moustache, nodded genially. 

"Very nice, thank you."

"Please allow me to introduce the local sherrif, Cody Greenwood."

The man rose from his seat and flicked a little salute before settling back down. "Charmed, missy."

"I saw you outside, Lorraine. Through the French windows. You looked to be searching for something."
"Just a good place to mount a thermometer."

Fremont frowned. "Still finding it a little on the cold side, eh? Well that's why we have log fires and hot coffee. Come sit a while."
She dropped down on to the sofa facing them, next to Bill. 

"We were just discussing a little preliminary exploration tomorrow. Get you city slickers used to the great outdoors again. There's a charming little trail that weaves up to a ravine. I think I can safely guarentee a deer or two."

Lorraine glanced about at the three men.  They sat politely waiting for her to speak. She reached over and poured herself a coffee, held it between her hands. "I've been on the phone to Scott, our resident station meteorologist. He's concerned that we might be in for some very bad weather tomorrow."

"First I heard about it," said Cody, gruffly. 

"Granted there was a dusting of snow earlier, but it looks clear outside now," said Bill. "How big a walk is this, Ben?" 

"A couple of miles on foot. No big deal."

"He really, really strongly recommended we stay near the hotel."

Fremont offered a thin smile. "I think you under-rate how weather-wise we are out here. And I'm sure we can find a thick parker that's a good fit for you, in case it turns bad. At the worst we could always walk back down the trail, it's well marked."

"I heard the forecast yesterday. No storm systems or anything on its way. Just a little cool and dry is all, with good visibility," said Cody, doggedly.

Nick Weiss, it was. Local boy with the radio station up top of Sharpe Ridge. Nick Weiss is always on the money." 

"Scott hinted at some fast changing systems forming..." began Lorraine, a little lamely.

"Yeah, Nick Weiss. Remember how he worked that trawler, to pay his way to university, Ben? A good kid. Knows his weather. Mercury in his blood."

"I was talking with the hunting group earlier," Bill said. "They're off deep into the woodland tomorrow. The last word they had was that it was looking pretty good."

"Listen, all I can tell you is what Scott said. Now I can't speak for this Nick Weiss, but what Scott says is usually bankable."

"Well, how bad did he say it'd get? We're not talking blizzards here are we?" Fremont laughed.

A pause, and then; "Well, he wasn't very specific. But he mentioned the possibility of storms and..."

Cody cut in, "Oh, there's always possibility of a storm out here. Weather can change on you fast, and if you don't take precautions then you can find yourself in a hell of a fix alone out there. But Ben here know these trails, and knows when to turn back."

"That's right." Fremont said, sipping his coffee.

Bill tapped her on the arm and wagged his finger at her. "Look Lorraine, a bit of adverse weather is all part of the adventure. A few days from now we're going to be setting out with our guide, lugging our portable camera gear up some pretty steep terrain and setting out on the most epic wilderness adventure. We need to get a few miles under our belts beforehand, set ourselves some challenges. Frankly I'd welcome a few hair-raising storms, it'd help make a hell of a story."

"A storm is never to be treated lightly..." began Cody.

"Of course you're right," cut in Bill, "And at the first warning from our guide we'll come scurrying back down fast as you like. But I came out here to challenge myself in the face of some of the most glorious wilderness Canada has to offer, to be worthy of tracking down the greatest mountain man in the nation's history, and I'll be damned if I'm going to hole up in a hotel - no matter how cosy, Ben - at the first sign of a few snowflakes."

"Hear him, hear him," chuckled Fremont.

"We're on company time here, Lorraine. This isn't a holiday," added Bill. "Now I'm sorry if I'm sounding brutal, but that's the truth. We're on the clock."

Lorraine looked down at her coffee, then flicked her eyes up to stare at Fremont and Cody. "You say we can get back into town, first sign of trouble Mr Fremont?"

"Scout's honour," said Fremont.

"Don't you go worrying none, little lady," added Cody.

 Bill stretched out an arm, put it around her and gave her a light comradely squeeze. "Don't take it too hard. We're both of us a little stressed. You'll feel better after dinner and a little wine. Why don't you go and enjoy a nice soak, and meet us down here in... say two hours?" 

"That's right," said Fremont. "You got to try the local steelhead. It's to die for."

She nodded and detached Bill's arm, stood and faced the three of them. "Maybe you're right. Maybe Scott's just a little overwhelmed right now. Our station manager had probably filled his head with visions of my scaling the local Everest."

"We'll leave that for the second season," laughed Bill. "We find our mountain man and make a hell of a show, who knows what they'll have us doing next."


An hour later and she was in the bath. She luxuriated in the soak. A book by her side, steaming hot water up to her neck. She couldn't have known of all the little things she'd be experiencing for the last time, one by one ticked off a list fate kept hidden. Soaking in scented bubble bath, listening to Abba play on the transistor radio - never to be experienced again. 

Dressed again, her hair wrapped in a towel she walked down the corridor back to her room. As she took the corner she bumped into a figure, who stumbled back a few steps, reaching out to steady himself against the wall. 

"Oh! Please excuse me," cried Lorraine.

An elderly but well-preserved man, with a long neat white beard and a mane of glossy hair reached out waved his hand. "No, no. Quite alright. Never you mind yourself." He looked at her more closely. "Are you a friend of Ben's?"

"Mr Fremont? Oh no, I'm just working with him on something. I'm from out of town. Why, do you know him?"

He gave a little chuckle. "A little. So you flew in huh? Where you from?"


"Myself, I've been living in Seattle these past few years. But I grew up around here. It can be a cold, wild place, but beautiful. Seattle has better coffee though."

"What brought you back?"

"Memories. And work, really. I'm on a job here too."

"Oh really, what do you do?" 

The old man straightened up, looked down and fiddled with a cuff button. "Oh a little this, a little that. Writing and lectures, some acting..." He grinned, cracking his face into a mass of wrinkles, "... whatever pays the bills and keeps me in whiskey. Don't tell the boss though, I should have checked out yesterday. I've been sticking to my room in case he swings by." He leaned forward and whispered conspiratorily, "Right now I'm supposed to be hiking up into the foothills. I've an acting job up there."

Her eyes widened and he laughed. "Oh, I'm quite fit, I assure you. Don't let the age fool you. And like I said, I know this island like the back of my hand."

She smiled and reached out a hand, laid it on his arm. "I'm sure you do. All the same though... I wouldn't set off tomorrow."

"Oh? Why not?" 

"They say a storm might be moving in."

"That's half the fun," and he smiled again.

She took back her hand, looked him hard in the eyes. "It might be a big one. I heard it from my friend in the weather service. I'd really leave it another day."

He rubbed his jaw, frowning. "I'm already supposed to be miles from here. Perhaps I'll think it over in the morning over breakfast, before checking out. Come and knock on my door if you don't find me in the dining room. It's number thirty-nine. If you hear from your friend again I would be much obliged by an update."

"Room thirty-nine. Sure," she said. "What's you name?" 

He paused a moment and then smiled. "Jack Livingstone."

"Lorraine Harlow."

"Delightful to meet you."

"I'm about to have dinner with some associates. Maybe I'll see you down in the lounge, later?" 

He laughed. "Oh no, at my age I need my beauty sleep. You go and enjoy your dinner."


It was a fine spread laid out over crips white linen. Half of the tables in the dining room were empty, but still the place had a convivial, easy atmosphere. Dusty Springfield was on the sound system and she felt a plesant buzz from the wine. She had to admit that Fremont knew his hospitality business. 

She rubbed the shoulder of her cardigan, absently. “I don’t think I’m dressed suitably for a drink as good as this,” she said and smiled.

“Hell, you look fine to my eyes, missy,” Cody said, and blushed.

 She flashed Cody a grin, pleased at the clumsy compliment. She’d always wished she looked a little less gauche – a stronger chin and more refined jawline maybe, a narrower brow. She knew that she could never make lead-anchor with her looks, though she figured she could fall into the cute bracket at a push.

 “You’re deserving of even better, I assure you,” said Fremont and called over the waiter with a gesture. “A Sauvignon Blanc, perhaps.” And he looked over at the list, ran his finger down. “Ah, yes. Quite the thing, thank you,” he said, nodding a dismissal to the waiter.

 “I hope you’re not going to insist on early start,” she laughed.

 “Perhaps we could go for coffee, opposite,” mulled Bill. “A pick me up before we head out.”

 “Silas LaRoque, yes, you could definitely do worse than his coffee,” said Fremont.

 “Really?” asked Bill, chuckling. “That’s his real name.”

 “His wife goes by the name of Roxanne. Roxy for short,” added Fremont, raising an eyebrow for effect.

 And then the third bottle arrived.


She awoke and her head was ringing. She licked her dry lips and reached out for the glass of water. Rubbed her eyes and rolled over in bed. Her eyes fell upon the clock. It read a quarter to eleven.

 Lorraine groaned, threw off the blankets, and went to the bathroom, stripped, climbed into the shower cubicle and dialled the temperature up to boil-a-lobster. Somewhat more alive to the world, she dried herself off and walked back into the bedroom. Her eye fell upon the table. There was the notepad, with Scott’s instructions written in incriminating shorthand. The red message light was flashing on the phone.
“Hell,” she muttered. She sat down and scribbled down some faked readings from last night, figuring on correcting them to more plausible figures based on the morning’s temperature and a look at the forecasts in yesterday’s papers. "It's not like they're important or anything..." she added to herself, chewing on the end of the pencil. But were they? She had an uncomfortable gnawing sensation at the pit of her stomach when she thought about Scott's phone call. That news instinct - trying to get a fix on the big picture from just a few pieces of the puzzle. The agitation in the background, the tautness of Scott's voice... then, slowly into the hungover fog of her mind, the memory of Scott’s warnings and of the old man took hold. She slowly rose, dressed, and made for the door.

Downstairs she met the same receptionist as before, all crisp curls and brain-dead. “Good morning,” the woman chirruped, as far as Lorraine could tell still impossibly seemingly stuck on the same word puzzle.

 “Sure, hi,” said Lorraine. “Say, has a Mr Livingston checked out?”

 The woman shrugged. “No idea. Check the book.”

 “The book?”

 “The guest book,” she said and pointed a pen to the end of the reception desk.

It was a slim green book. Lorraine flicked it open, turned to the latest page. Her eye fell upon the entry for Room 29. And there it was, the feeling of being punched in the gut.

 “Bastards,” she spat.

The name, in fine bold old cursive, read Samuel Ardmore.

"Why good morning - a little late to rise, eh missy?" began Cody but she barged past him, through the corridor and out into the dining room. Fremont and Bill were there, rising as she approached. She reached out and grabbed a tumbler of water from the table, tossed it in Bill's face as he made to greet her.

"You lied to me."

 Fremont looked on appalled. Bill stared at her a moment, the shock passed, then he reached down for a napkin and calmly began to dab away at his eyes and brow.

"This mysterious, grand old mountain man. This... this mythical figure... he's right here, in this hotel."

 "Oh Jesus," said Fremont, and ran his palm across his pale face, rubbed his jaw. "I told that idiot to leave day before yesterday, I swear I did Bill."

"You, you think I'm stupid, huh? Tehran? Remember? Communist bloc? Those awards... they're not for sitting pretty behind a news-desk! Seriously, you thought I wouldn't catch on? How long was it until we were supposed to find him?"

 "A couple of weeks, in screen time the fourth episode," said Bill, looking at his fingernails. "The suits figured it'd have to be then, any longer people would lose interest. That left us with two."

 She turned to stare at Fremont. "So what was the deal? Free publicity for your oh-so-amazing resort, huh? All these grand plans you've been talking about don't come cheap. I guess his old man is bankrolling your operation, you're just the local figurehead."

 Fremont blanched.

 "I told you she was good," said Bill wryly. "I told the old man that too," he added, louder. "I told him it wouldn't work, not with you. But he was oddly smitten with you. That bit about our wanting to work with you. That wasn't a lie."

 "So you thought the best start to our journalistic relationship should be built on a lie."

 "Samuel Ardmore really lived out there. Up in the hills. When he came down from them Fremont soon got to hear about it. Of course he wasn't going to let a prime bit of tourist bait like him disappear again. He put the call in to the old man, and the rest is..."

"Bullshit. I talked to him, you know. He's been living in Seattle the last ten years. Oh sure, he might have been your fabled grizzly pioneer once but to look at him now..."

 Fremont cut in, "He's still got it, Lorraine. Put him in that costume and..."

 "Costume! Listen to yourselves!"

 "You're not helping Fremont," Bill said warningly.

 "It's not in my job description to peddle lies. I'm a journalist," she said, stabbing Bill in the chest with her finger. "You get someone else to spoon-feed your crap, mister."

 "Not in your job description, no," chipped in Fremont, reaching in to push away her hand. "But in your contract, yes, yes it is."

 "Then I breach the contract."

 "That would be the consequence, yes. With penalty clauses to your station. "

 "You don't understand. It's not a threat. It's what I'm doing - right now."

 "Well, we'll see how your manager feels. My friend Mr McCulloch could make it pretty uncomfortable for you."

 Bill turned on Fremont. "You can't make her do anything. We've lost this one, we'll be lucky she doesn't make a laughing stock out of us. I told you it wouldn't work." He turned back to Lorraine, tried to reach out to put a hand on her shoulder. "Lorraine, the respect that I feel for you... that wasn't a lie..."

 She knocked it aside. "Go to hell."

 And she turned her back on them and walked very with as much dignity as she could muster back to her room, trying not to cry from the insult of it all.


The phone was ringing. Insistently.

 She rubbed her eyes, sniffed and walked over to the phone, stared down at it. It continued to ring. She reached out with a sharp, sudden movement and snatched it to her ear.


 “Lorraine, finally, the hell were you doing away from the phone?”

 “My job, Scott – no scratch that. You told me to keep my eyes open and Jesus, were you right. You wouldn’t believe what those bastards tried to do to me. They were lying from day…”

 “Lorraine I need…”

 “… all just some retarded scheme to lend credibility to their…”

 “Lorraine, listen…”

 “… the worst of it was I was beginning to like him…”

 “Lorraine just shut up and listen!” His voice snapped in, taut and frightened.

 She paused, swallowed, “… go ahead.”  

 “I need you to treat everything I’m about to tell you as seriously as if… as if we received breaking on a presidential assassination. Hell, that’s underselling it.” He paused, then said a little more calmly, “Pen. Paper.”

 “Major unprecedented coronal ejection – solar storm headed our way. First wave effects imminent, major effects begin in four hours. Current analysis projects high probability of repeat storms with gaps.”

 “Uh-huh,” her pencil scribbling short-hand. “Can you speak up, Scott? This line isn’t too good. I’m getting a lot of hiss.”
 “I know. Listen. Solar storm effects as follows. Severe to total magnetic field disruption. High current in all copper wiring – including telephone lines leading to fire risks.  Magnetic tools malfunction. Danger of long-distance gas pipeline explosions.  Widespread long term power-grid failure – possibly in the order of months. Banking systems shut down. Possible pace-maker failure, possible random strokes. Widespread radio and television disruption. Total satellite loss. Effect on society cataclysmic.”

 “Jesus…” she whispered, clutching the receiver until her knuckles bled white.

 “You'll be able to see the main event when it hits around midnight. The whole sky will be lit up. The storm replacement cycles – I’m hoping it’s just wild conjecture, half the guys don’t hold with it… but there are troubling… hey man I’m talking here! No, give me three minutes. Three minutes, three!”


 “I don’t have long. I can’t explain everything - everyone wants to make calls. You have your sister in Ontario, right? Call her when I’m done. Tell her to stock up what she can in the next four hours and to avoid overhead lines and disconnect the phone before the event. There will be serious power surges. If she’s still living in the country she might be alright out there, but tell her to keep away from the cities. There may be riots. Two minutes – that’s two minutes, okay? Now, long term stuff – the most important.” He spoke faster now, impulsively. “When the wave hits things are going to go Amish. The power grids are going to go down. They’re going to try and save as many of the transformers as they can before then, but they’re not optimistic. It will be months before anything approaching normality is restored. But that’s only half the problem…” He paused a moment.

 “Go on,” Lorraine whispered.

 “Ordinarily you get one of these events and that’s it. Well quite a few of us are becoming convinced that after this one there will be another, and another… think Hurricane Season with a string of tropical storms powering up and headed landwards, for how long I don’t know. We’re losing our satellites too, probably lost some already thanks to the leading X class flare. So forget about advance warning. For this reason I think things are going to be dark for a while. And it’s not just the solar storms that have us frightened… but more than a few of the experts around here think the recent temperature drops are connected somehow with this increased activity. I know I’m going to sound alarmist here… but from what I’m hearing I think we’re on the verge of another mini-ice age. Just a small one as far as geo-history goes, but probably enough to freeze everything down to Maryland. I don’t know how long it’ll last… a few years… maybe longer. Maybe it won’t happen at all. But we do know that this is severe enough that there will be a special announcement this afternoon. Their President first, probably, then ours.”  

 “I need to get back to the station. They’re going to need me.”

 “I advise very strongly against that. Both air and sea transport links are going to be very risky, these storms knock GPS systems out of whack. If you can’t be sure of getting back before midnight I’d hate to say what difficulties your plane may experience. In the wake of the flare I’d take a boat, but… listen… I don’t know how big this temperature drop is. We may be looking at some heavy storms whilst the climate readjusts…”

 “At the station, Scott. Do you have any notes they should be reading on this? You need to contact Gary.”

 “Second drawer down, blue folder. They have… thirteen hours to become experts, then it won’t matter.”

 “… you really think it’s going to be that bad, huh?”  

 “Let’s just say I think our news-team back in Vancouver is going to have to deliver the news by town-crier for a while. Yeah, it’s going to be bad. And be prepared for surprises, this isn’t an exact science... not even with the arrival time I gave you. We still don’t fully understand these things, on this big a scale. Lorraine… how many people live on Elk Island, roughly?”

 She told him.

 “If you can get hold of the mayor, advise him to ration. Food shipments may be delayed.”

 “I hear you.”

 “Take care out there… there’s something… listen, al8l this just feels wrong you know? It’s like we’re sharing a nightmare out here in the convention centre, one we can’t define. I’ve bad vibes, very bad vibes. I just want to say… I’ve always respected and admired you Lorraine and… let’s just say that I feel more than that, deeper feelings for you too. A kind of love, I guess. So I want you to take care out there. Stay sharp. I have to go now. Stay safe… I guess I’ll see you… when I see you. Love you..”

 “Oh… Scott…”

She heard the click of the receiver. She stood holding the phone, staring into space.

Once again, her manager did nothing to raise her opinion of him. “He’s exaggerating,”sounded the tinny voice over the line, a petulant distant hissy fit swaddled in static hiss.

“I don’t think he is, Barry.”

“And so are you. You just want an excuse to come home, but you hear me now lady, you are going to fulfil the terms of your contract. You’re going to be a professional and…”

“Barry, that boat has sailed. The chances of me doing that are the same as the Harlem Globetrotters losing a game, zero.  This thing has Scott running scared. How are your satellite up-links?”

“… well, we are suffering from a partial loss of signal at the moment but…”

“That’s only the beginning. This thing flared thirty minutes ago and it’s knocking our satellites out one by one.  If the President’s going to make an address he’s going to have to be sharp about it if he wants it on TV. Anything from our government?” She paced back and forth in the room, carrying the phone in her hand. A light snow began to fall again.

“No, and you’re being hysterical.”

“Barry, I want you to go and get the blue folder from Scott’s desk – middle drawer – and have a read. Then get back to me and tell me what you think. If you can’t be bothered then get Martin to do it. He may be our sports anchor but he’s the third sharpest brain in this organisation.”

“As soon as there’s a press release or some sort of communication from NASA or the government, I’ll get to work on this. But you know we’re all in on this Oslo Accord, the Soviet Union breakup…”

“You’re making excuses. This is our lead item now. Jesus, I should never have left the station. It’s clear that you’re all incapable of…”
“Now watch your mouth, missy.”

“I’m going to get Bill to call his contacts. He may be a heel but he might be useful right now. Read the blue folder Barry, right now, and keep an eye on the wire. You’ve got a few hours to prepare for our last show in a good long while. I’m hanging up now.”


She found Bill looking out the French windows, watching the snow fall. She clenched her hands, feeling the bite of fingernails on her palms. Then she stepped forward, cleared her throat. “We need to talk.”

He turned. She was surprised at how weary he looked. He nodded slowly. “My room or yours?”

“Yours. You might be getting a phone call shortly.”

“Not your lawyer, I hope?” he replied. There wasn’t any humour in his voice. She shook her head and gestured to the hallway.


He sat down heavily on the bed and rested his hands upon his knees. She stood by the door, looking down at him. “First of all I want to say…”

“Skip it,” she said. “I’m not interested in that right now. I want to know if you have anyone at the Solar Observational Summit out in Boulder.”

“Hell if I know.”

Her lips drew tight, a slightly cruel expression caught her face. “Nice to see a real professional at work. Think harder. You have a science correspondent, has he ever talked to you about solar storms?”

“I know a little…” he said slowly. “Coronal mass ejections right? Makes for pretty lights in the sky and gives the communications industry a real headache.” He was relieved to see her face relax a little. She was barely five foot five, but right now it seemed that she towered right over him.
“We’ve got a problem. My colleague Scott is there. I trust him one hundred percent. He says we’re about…” she glanced at her watch “…ten hours from the dark ages. A major solar storm is on its way to Earth, in fact, way I figure it it’s screwing with our satellites already. The main shock hits at midnight. Have you had any contact with your studio this morning?”


“Would you call them and find out what you can?”

He nodded and reached over for the phone, punched the buttons. He cradled the receiver in the crook of his neck, looked up at her as he spoke. “Sandy, Bill here. Yeah, good thanks. Yes, she’s a real peach. Listen, honey… no… listen, has there been anything on the wire about a solar storm? Uh huh, uh huh. Sure, I can wait.” He put his hand over the mouthpiece. “She’s gone to talk to the producer. One moment.”

Lorraine nodded. Bill was uncomfortably reminded of a disappointed Latin teacher he once had.

“Hello? Sandy... speak up, I can barely hear you. There’s a lot of hiss. Me too? Okay, how’s this? Good. Really? When did this come in? Jesus… what time is it airing? An hour from now? All channels? That’s… wow… that’s unprecedented. Man, I’d kill to be back at the studio right now. I bet Colin’s having kittens, right? Listen, I have Lorraine with me here and she thinks that this should be given priority. Get what experts you can. If you can’t find any at short notice, make some. You have to go, huh? No, I understand. If you get a moment keep me updated. Thanks, no you too. Kiss kiss. Bye.”  

“Presidential address?”

“Yeah…” He looked a little stunned. “I guess that’s why you win the awards. You got that feeling?”

She nodded.

“I don’t have brains, but I have my gut. That at least can be said. I think we should stake out the TV set.”

Lorraine took the phone off him and put it back on the side-table. “I’m going to go and get some supplies. I’ve got a hundred bucks on me. What you got?”

“Supplies, what… well… I’ve got American Express.”

“That might not be working for us right now. Credit card systems rely on satellite uplink.”

“Come to think of it, I doubt the place opposite even takes card. I’ve got two hundred. What are you looking to buy?”

“I’m not sure. Flashlight, lots of batteries, a knife, some candles, an axe…”

He grimaced. “I keep forgetting. It seems like an exciting abstract news exercise. You grow to feel invincible behind a desk, reporting on a story. It never occurs to you that you might become part of the story.”

"Where's your wallet?"

"You're not kidding are you?"

"C'mon, you can take the hit. You have that yacht, remember?"

"Which is a floating money sink, which I can barely... oh, in the top drawer. Write me a receipt."

She took the money, stuffed it into her pocket and walked to the door. 

“I suggest you make some calls while the phones still work. I’ve already called my sister. Tell them to lay the supplies in, as if a hurricane were on its way. If they can get out of a city in the next few hours, that’s a good idea too. Sooner the better.” She swung upon the door. As she stepped through, Bill called after her.


She stopped and turned. "Yes?"

"Can you forgive me?"

She looked down at her watch. "I'm not interested in forgiveness. If you want that go find a priest when this is over, or better yet start treating journalism with some respect. Then we'll talk. If we get through this. I'll see you in half an hour."

And she closed the door on him.


To be continued... 


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