Print Length: 195 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1542006082
Publisher: 47North (February 18, 2020)
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
Praise for BRIDGE 108
“Readers who enjoy coming-of-age stories with hopeful messages will be gratified by this topical tale of human resourcefulness in the face of climate disaster.” —Publishers Weekly
A dystopian novel set in the climate-ravaged Europe of A Calculated Life. Told through multiple voices against the backdrop of a haunting and frighteningly believable future, Bridge 108 charts the passage of a young boy into adulthood amid oppressive circumstances that are increasingly relevant to our present day.
From the Arthur C. Clarke Award–winning author, a dystopian novel of oppression set in the climate-ravaged Europe of A Calculated Life, a finalist for the Kitschies award and Philip K. Dick Award.
Late in the twenty-first century, drought and wildfires prompt an exodus from southern Europe. When twelve-year-old Caleb is separated from his mother during their trek north, he soon falls prey to traffickers. Enslaved in an enclave outside Manchester, the resourceful and determined Caleb never loses hope of bettering himself.
After Caleb is befriended by a fellow victim of trafficking, another road opens. Hiding in the woodlands by day, guided by the stars at night, he begins a new journey—to escape to a better life, to meet someone he can trust, and to find his family. For Caleb, only one thing is certain: making his way in the world will be far more difficult than his mother imagined.
Told through multiple voices and set against the backdrop of a haunting and frighteningly believable future, Bridge 108 charts the passage of a young boy into adulthood amid oppressive circumstances that are increasingly relevant to our present day.
BRIDGE 108 BY ANNE CHARNOCK EXCERPT
After the first attack, Mother told me: “Those wicked people, they don’t know anything about us. They attack the fear that lives deep inside, rotting them.” In the middle of the night, they had rampaged through our camp, slitting open many of the tents. Mother and I woke when we heard screams, and we ran off. The young men and women in our group—those without children to defend—they ran at our attackers and fought in the mud. Afterwards, when we came out of hiding, we found that many of our companions were injured, and we did our best to help them.
The injuries were bad. Our camp cook was bleeding from a deep wound on his upper arm. Someone had stopped the blood ow with a belt fastened tight above the cut. But the wound needed stitching, and we had no medic. At the start of the journey we had a midwife, but she left us for another group heading east.
My mother took control. She lit a re and boiled water because, she said, everyone knows that’s the first job in an emergency. She took out her sewing kit and held a needle in the hottest part of the flame. “The middle of the fame isn’t the right place,” she told me. “If you put the needle there, it will come out covered in soot.” I couldn’t believe my eyes. My mother, totally focused, so brave.
She said, “Find some spirits, Caleb. Vodka. Someone will have a bottle.”
And that’s when I started my first ever job—doctor’s assistant. I watched her pour vodka over the wound, scissors and needle. She boiled the black thread. She examined the cook’s torn flesh as I’d seen her in the past examining a ripped dress. She took her scissors and trimmed the ragged edges of his skin, saying, “Don’t look away, Caleb. You should learn how to do this. Look here! I need a neat edge so I can close the wound properly.”
Mother’s sewing kit lies at the bottom of my backpack in a biscuit tin. A tin of chocolate fingers.
Mother became important in our group after that night. She began making rules. e young children had not to wander around barefoot when we camped. Otherwise, they had stupid accidents. When we made camp each night, she told everyone where to pile our waste, so that sharp tins and bottles were out of harm’s way.
The second attack came in daylight. We’d walked for days on quiet country roads surrounded by gentle rolling fields, which were muddied by early spring rainstorms. We could see for miles because the fields had no hedges. And we slept in small woods where we felt safer. We always cleared up after ourselves; we didn’t want to annoy the farmers. But we couldn’t avoid walking through one village, and looking back, we should have expected trouble. We rested in the village square while we took turns to fall our water bottles from a small fountain. No one shouted at us, but they all stared. Four men—looked like builders, muscular and tanned, one with paint splatters on his forearms—they stood close, legs wide apart, arms folded. Scowling.
We left as soon as we could. On the outskirts, a small van pulled up in front of us. Someone threw out a bin bag and sped off. My mother’s friend poked the bag, looked inside and found a pile of stale bread and pastries, probably intended for a pigsty. But I thought it was kind, like someone cared. We shared them out.
A second parting gift came an hour later at a crossroads. A farm building hid our attackers from view. Seven of them came out holding knives, and I recognised the guy with paint splatters. Housepainter turned hard man. His arms weren’t folded now—he held an old shotgun, the barrel hinged open. Snapped it shut and shot above our heads. We scattered. I ran off the road, pulling Mother across the muddy field. They ran through us, pushed Mother to the ground. When they ran off, I saw my leg was bleeding.
I sometimes think that if I hadn’t been injured, I’d still be with Mother. She couldn’t handle it. She cleaned mud out of my wound and stitched it—twelve stitches in all—her hand trembling. She didn’t say anything, but under the surface I think she freaked out. Me, being injured, losing blood. e skin didn’t even need trimming, but the stitches were the worst ever. Other injured people needed help, but I saw she was struggling to keep a grip. We swapped jobs. I took the needle from her hand. She poured salty water on the wound—she’d learned that salty water worked better than vodka—and held the needle in the flame, while I stitched the wounds.
I made a bad job of the first one. Mother mumbled, as though she didn’t care, that I’d trimmed too much skin away. We moved on to a man with a nasty slash across his back. He was hairy and the light was poor. I found it di cult to see exactly what I was doing as I pushed the needle through his skin, through his hair.
I couldn’t help thinking of him yesterday when I stitched the fur collar—when I pushed my needle through the pelt.
Copyright © 2020 by Anne Charnock
Anne Charnock‘s latest novel, DREAMS BEFORE THE START OF TIME, is the winner of the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke Award, and was shortlisted for the BSFA 2017 Best Novel Award. Her novella THE ENCLAVE has won the BSFA 2017 Best Short Fiction Award. This novella is written in the same world as her debut novel, A CALCULATED LIFE, which was a finalist for the 2013 Philip K. Dick and The Kitschies Golden Tentacle Awards.
SLEEPING EMBERS OF AN ORDINARY MIND, her second novel, was named by The Guardian as one of the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2015
Anne Charnock’s journalism has appeared in New Scientist, The Guardian, Financial Times, International Herald Tribune and Geographical. She was educated at the University of East Anglia, where she studied Environmental Sciences, and at The Manchester School of Art, England where she gained a Masters in Fine Art.
As a foreign correspondent, she travelled widely in Africa, the Middle East and India and spent a year overlanding through Egypt, Sudan and Kenya.