Why We Write – My First Post on Medium

I’ve recently joined the blogging site Medium. You can find my profile, and follow me here.

In my first post, I decided to write about…well, why people like me write. You see, writing isn’t my day job. I have a full time 9-5 office job, and write on the side. I write semi-regularly for a handful of websites, and mostly don’t get paid (when I do, the payment is pretty minimal). I know I’m not the only one who writes for little pay or recognition, but still I do it, because it’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do…

“You’ll find us if you look hard enough. In the early hours we’ll sit at dimly lit kitchen tables, desperately trying to make the most out of the time we can snatch before our morning commutes.”

Read the full article here, and don’t forget to share if you liked it and follow me on Medium for more.

Chelsea 4-0 Manchester United: Match Report & Tweets

“The performances on the pitch mirrored the managers on the touchline. Conte was a ball of constant energy and aggression and his team set about things in that way. Mourinho, meanwhile, stood statuesque and his team were similarly somnambulant.”

That’s from my match report on Chelsea’s 4-0 evisceration of Manchester United. It’s fair to say that Jose Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge did not go well.

You can read the report, and the game summarised in 11 Tweets, here.

Football Manager 2017: The Journeyman Challenge (Pre-Season and August, Part 1)

This is my first saved game on the Football Manger 17 Beta. I have started as an unemployed manager, a former Sunday league nobody with no coaching badges. I want to work my way up the ladder in England, either by taking a club up through the leagues or moving on myself, then maybe manage abroad. But probably not, I’m not very good.

The playable leagues I’m running are England (Vanarama North/South and above), Germany (Bundesliga only), Italy (Serie A only), Spain (La Liga only). I’m also running the following as View Only leagues: Brazil, China, France, Holland, Portugal, Scotland. The game is running on a medium database and I’m using the Football Manager Dark skin that comes with the game.

Let me know what you think in the comments, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook as I’m sure I’ll be talking all things #FM17 on there as I play.


“A jockey doesn’t have to be born a horse.” — Arrigo Sacchi

I breathed deeply, and chucked the three envelopes into the postbox. There. It was done. No going back now, even if I wanted to. And I didn’t want to. No. Not at all. My sweaty palms were just because of the summer heat. Honestly.

My CV hadn’t taken long to write. How much can you say about an amateur football career ended prematurely by injury at the age of 31 and a few voluntary coaching gigs in the local community? I had sent by CV off in the hope that one of three clubs would be foolish enough to give me the job as manager. Bishop’s Stortford and Weston-Super -Mare in the Vanarama South league, and most unlikely of all, League 1’s Shrewsbury Town.

Unemployment in FM17

Sports Interactive/Sega

Shrewsbury were the first to knock me back, with a standard form letter thanking me for my interest but stating they would be moving forward with other applicants. Then, much to my surprise, both Bishop’s Stortford and Weston invited me for an interview. Being a gentleman – and being desperate for a job – I visited both clubs to discuss things.

Inexplicably, both clubs were willing to offer me the gig. Were they desperate, stupid, or just cheap and knew I wouldn’t demand much money? Who knows. After a day of deliberation, I picked Weston-Super-Mare. They had a seagull on their badge, and who doesn’t want to live beside the seaside?

The squad I inherited…well, it wasn’t great. Thankfully, the board were realistic and only asked that I avoid relegation. There were a couple of decent-ish players in there for this level, but not much to work with.

FM17 Weston-super-Mare squad

Sega/Sports Interactive

What the players lacked in talent (and boy, did they lack talent) they made up for in hard work, according to my assistant. He felt 4-4-1-1 would be a good formation to use, so I decided to use that as a base for my tactics.

FM17 Weston-Super-Mare squad report

Sega/Sports Interactive

What I needed first was more players. Leaders, maybe. Players without the first touch of a brick wall, ideally. A transfer budget of big fat zero meant my hands were pretty much tide, but a few hundred quid to spare on the wage bill meant that potentially loans, free transfers and non-contract players could be sought.

My first signing was Danny Stevens. The 29-year-old ex-Spurs trainee had league experience with Luton Town and Torquay, and his versatility (comfortable on the left or right wing) gave us options.

Danny Stevens FM17 player profile

Sega/Sports Interactive

He was followed through the door by Belal Aite-Ouakrim. The 31-year-old Moroccan had spent most of his career at Hendon without, as far as I could tell, pulling up any trees. But he added a bit of flair and technique, and could fill any of the two attacking roles in my planned 4-4-1-1.

Belal Aite Ouakrim FM17 player profile

Sega/Sports Interactive

Still my Chief Scout bombarded me with reports of players who could add something to our (frankly awful) squad. Adam Pepper, a 24-year-old central midfielder-cum-winger joined, as did promising 20-year-old centreback Josue Antonio and 34-year-old winger Tony Taggart, who was pretty good with dead balls (and not much else).

My Assistant Manager Mark McKeever saw fit to organise four pre-season friendlies. We won the first, against non-league Yate Town, 3-0. Results went downhill from there though, with defeats against three bigger sides – Aldershot, Bolton and Plymouth Argyle. I was not worried about the defeats, friendlies are all about getting fitness up and tweaking tactics.

We faced Whitehawk at home in our opening game of the season. The local newspaper claimed only 350 of our fans would be rattling around the 3,500 capacity Woodspring Stadium, and Whitehawk weren’t going to be much help either – only 10 of their fans were expected to make the trip from Brighton. My managerial career was going to be begin in absolute obscurity. But then, what did I expect? We would have to make the people of this sleepy seaside town want to see us by giving them something worth watching. I wanted that to start against Whitehawk.

FM17 first game

Sega/Sports Interactive

Weston-Super-Mare vs. Whitehawk

The day was finally here. My first ever competitive game in the dugout. Sure, no-one cared, and the staff members and subs in each dugout almost equaled the number of fans, but everyone has to start somewhere. I’m not Ryan Giggs, I can’t just demand a Premier League job.

Team Selection FM17

Sega/Sports Interactive

I agonised over my team the night before the game, but decided to keep most of my raft of new signings out of the lineup to begin with. Adam Pepper was the only one to make the starting XI. Danny Stevens had a slight knock that kept him out, while Aite-Ouakrim and Taggart would both start from the bench.

Things started well. Our captain and best player – right winger Dayle Grubb – put us ahead in the first few minutes. To say it was lucky is an understatement. Grubb overhit a cross from the right hand edge of the box that sailed over the Whitehawk goalkeeper’s head and into the net.

We held a 1-0 lead until the break. With neither side creating much, but with Whitehawk presumably set to come at us in the second half, I changed to a counter attack strategy. Our lead didn’t last long. A simple corner found an unmarked Sergio Torres at the near post and he lashed the ball into the roof of the net. 1-1. The rest of the game was a ding-dong end-to-end battle of two not-very-good sides accidentally almost scoring. It was like two drunks scrapping in a pub car park. In the end, a 1-1 draw was fair.

Weston-Super-Mare 1-1 Whitehawk

Sega/Sports Interactive

Just three days later, we faced Bath City away. I tried to do what I could with the lads in training, but what I saw didn’t fill me with hope for the season ahead. They were a willing bunch, for sure, but effort only gets you so far. Thankfully the 4-4-1-1 formation did OK in the first game. We created chances, but we also gave some up at the other end.

Bath City vs. Weston-Super-Mare

I decided only to make one change ahead of this game. Jake Mawford came into central midfield for Danny Wring, who wasn’t fit enough to start. Other than that, I kept faith with the team that started last time out. Bath were a decent team. Playing an old school 4-4-2 with two out-and-out strikers up front, I knew they could cause us problems. But, still, I hoped we would cope and maybe nick a draw…

Bath vs. Weston-Super-Mare FM17

Sega/Sports Interactive

Cause us problems they did. If you look at the stats it was an even game. We dominated possession and even had more shots, but only 2 of ours went on target, and none in the net. Clinical Bath netted 4 of their on target efforts. And that was the difference.

Normally I wouldn’t be angry, even after a 4-0 defeat, if I felt the scoreline didn’t reflect the game. But I was angry after this one, and let rip at the players. It wasn’t so much the scoreline as the manner of the goals that angered me.

For the first, the defence went to sleep after half-clearing a corner. Bath picked up the loose ball and worked it back out the wing. The ball was fired in low and my sleeping defenders stood and watched as Stuart Wilkin slotted in at the far post. For the second my defence saw fit to leave striker Stuart Fleetwood unmarked at the near post at a corner. The third goal was a counter attack that saw my ‘keeper parry a daisy cutter out to Josh Hutchinson for a tap in, and the fourth was the crazy decision by my left back Syd Camper to bat away a lofted free kick with his hand. They scored the penalty, somehow Camper was spared a red card. Presumably the referee felt sorry for him and us.

After that crushing defeat, I did what any good manager does. I went back to the transfer market. After Camper’s moment of maddness, I signed Joe Heath, a left back to replace him.

Joe Heath profile FM17

Sega/Sports Interactive

He was followed by French utility man Ladjie Soukouna. The fans were skeptical – Soukouna had been out of football since a spell with Plymouth Argyle back in 2011/12 season, but even after four years away I felt he could cope at this level.

Ladjie Soukouna profile FM17

Sega/Sports Interactive

I wasn’t done there. On the recommendation of my scouts, Jack Maloney, a 21-year-old winger-cum-striker with pace joined us. As did Ben Harrison from Nantwich Town as a back-up defender, Jesse Kewley-Graham to add some attacking menace to central midfield, and the versatile ex-Maidenhead man Mark Nesbit.

Jack Maloney profile FM17

Sega/Sports Interactive

Jesse Kewley-Graham profile FM17

Sega/Sports Interactive

Mark Nisbet profile FM17

Sega/Sports Interactive

Finally, I felt like I had options everywhere. Maybe not good options, but options. Going into our third game of the season, another away fixture against Welling United, I decided to change from the 4-4-1-1. Would it give us our first win of the season?

Welling United vs. Weston-Super-Mare

With more depth in the defensive midfield position, I switched to a 4-3-2-1, with wingers and a shielding defensive midfielder.

Welling Utd vs Weston-Super-Mare

Sega/Sports Interactive

Would it bring us our first win? No. Much like the Bath game, we had more possession and more shots, but wasted our chances. Thankfully, we didn’t concede 4 this time, but one was enough to seal all three points for Welling. Once again it was from a set piece, a corner saw us beaten – yet again – to a header at the near post. 1-0 to Welling, and we huffed and puffed but could not blow their house down.

Welling Utd vs Weston-Super-Mare FM17

Sega/Sports Interactive

Two defeats in a row. New signings, none of whom were particularly impressing, and a formation change. Three games into the season and things already looked as though they could unravel. Tom Meechan – on loan from Newport County – had started up front in the first two games and had been largely anonymous. I started Elliot Richards in his stead against Welling, but he didn’t do much either. And according to my coaches, Richards was my best striker by far. I was not sure what to do. We needed goals, and soon.

After Welling, we returned to the Woodspring Stadium for the visit of Poole Town. They were going well, in 7th place, while we were second from bottom of the league. We needed a win.

Weston-Super-Mare vs. Poole Town

I decided to keep faith with the 4-3-2-1 and with Eliot Richards up front. It’s not as though I had any top clash finisher waiting in the wings anyway. In front of our home fans (well, a few hundred of them) I wanted a win.

Weston-Super-Mare vs. Poole Town

Sega/Sports Interactive

I wanted a win. We needed a win. And we bloody well got a win. Not only that, but Richards up front bagged a brace!

Things started off badly. Another corner. Another sloppy goal. This time Mark Nisbet misjudged a simple clearing header. The ball sailed over him into the path of onrushing midfielder James Granger, who was quickest to react to poke the ball home. 1-0.

I barely had enough time to get mad before we were level. About five minutes later centreback Josue Antonio channeled Leonardo Bonucci to bring the ball up the half way line and loft a through ball over the Poole defence. Richards rushed onto it and slotted it past the ‘keeper for 1-1.

We went in at the break level and in the second half we largely reverted to type. Nice play here and there with no end product. Eliot Richards went back to his anonymous self in the second half, before getting lucky with his second goal. Left back Heath swung a low cross in and Richards and Poole defender Jamie Whisken battled for it. Whisken stuck a leg out to clear but only diverted the ball into the leg of our falling striker. The ball bounced off him and in. He celebrated like it was the world’s greatest goal, and hell, so did I. It was 2-1. We closed out the game for a vital, memorable, much-needed three points.

Vanarama South 4 games

Sega/USports Interactive

After four games we were sitting 18th, just outside of the relegation zone. If we’re there come the end of the season, I keep my job. Dispiritingly, Bishop’s Stortford, the side I turned down, are comfortable in 6th place with two wins. The bastards.

I wanted to build on the momentum of our first win, but knew it would be tough. Up next, second place Dartford (home), mid-table Margate (away) and early leaders St. Albans City (home) would end the month.

Review: Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle

Sometimes I review albums. Not to be published, particularly, but just for fun. Here’s one of them, a review of Laura Marling’s then-new fourth album, Once I Was An Eagle. Since I’ve put this online, I’ll try and do a follow up of her fifth, Short Movie, soon.


Several years ago I spent several hours in a Greenwich Village bar arguing with a friend of mine over the merits of albums being listened to as a piece. His opinion was that albums these days are pointless, music is consumed in bitesize chunks on iPods and smartphones, songs are zoomed through on shuffle and no one takes the time to sit and digest an album anymore. Therefore, he argued, why even both with things like overarching lyrical themes and a carefully selected tracklisting? Just dump a bunch of songs online and let people listen to them however they like.

He had a point, I admit, but it offended me on a fundamental level. To me, the best albums are meant to be listened to as a whole as much as possible. I can’t bring myself to listen to Blonde On Blonde out of order on shuffle or cherry pick a song or two from OK Computer, and yet I seem to hear very few albums these days that demand a close listen all the way through.

And so we come to Laura Marling’s fourth album, Once I Was An Eagle, which is very much one of those albums.

Marling burst on the nu-folk scene with her debut Alas, I Cannot Swim back in 2008. Since then contemporaries Mumford & Sons and Noah & The Whale have gone on to score mainstream crossover hits and sell shedloads of albums while Marling has remained largely in the background, prolifically releasing difficult, literary and extremely rewarding albums that show her astonishing growth as an artist. Each album has felt like a stratospheric leap forward and Once I Was An Eagle – her fourth album in five years – is no different. Listening to it you get the distinct feeling that you’re listening to the early work of a young woman who will one day be regarded as once of the greatest artists of her generation.

It’s worth keeping in mind that this is still her early work. It’s her fourth album at the tender age of 23 and given the rate as which she’s producing them it’s not hard to imagine her ending up with Dylan-like numbers in terms of albums.

Dylan is, in many ways, an apt comparison. Stomping lead single Master Hunter has a Led Zep-like repeating acoustic riff but it’s a young Dylan that springs to mind here, not least because of the lyrical wink to It Ain’t Me, Babe and her wonderfully drawn out pronunciation of the word “bullet”. He’s an obvious influence and touchstone for folk artists but there aren’t many on the scene who can wear his influence so boldly – and playfully – as Marling does and not sound like a pale imitation.

There are other classic influences at work too. The opening four tracks work as a medley, the doom-laden strumming and open tuning of the piece(s) recall Leonard Cohen’s work on Songs Of Love And Hate and Ravi Shankar’s ragas, with nods to Roy Harper and early Van Morrison. Playing spot the influence with Marling is easy enough – a Joni Mitchell vocal flight here, some Tim Buckley guitar work there, a bit of Joanna Newsom medievalism all over the place – but it’s a testament to the strength of her maturity and songwriting that she never comes off like a tribute act.

On Once I Was An Eagle, she never stays in one place long enough to be pigeonholed as an imitator of anyone anyway. “Take the night off,” she coos seductively on the opening track, a late night serenade of the same name, “and be bad for me”; but it’s not long before she’s railing against a relationship that distracted her, a “freewheeling troubador/You took my mind off the scene” and almost pitying the same person when she trills “when we were in love/If we were/I was an eagle/And you were a dove”. By the time Master Hunter storms in after the first suite of songs she’s proudly proclaiming “I cured my skin/Now nothing gets in/Nothing as hard as it tries”. On that song she sounds so sure of herself, so predatory, that it comes as a surprise that on Undine – an alt-country/bluegrass number on the record’s lighter and brighter second half – she’s pleading with the titular folklore character to “make me more naive”. Cynicism soon returns though and on the beautiful, organ led Once she makes her position clear: “Once, once is enough to break you/Once is enough to make you think twice/About laying your love out on the line”.

Both Undine and Once are on the album’s second half – coming after an instrumental cello-led interlude – in which tablas, cello and manic strumming make way the lighter, sunnier sounds of gentle finger picking and hammond organ. If the first half sounded like something Marling came up with after a weekend in a dark room listening to Leonard Cohen’s Avalanche on a loop, the second half sees her emerging blinking into the sunlight. Lyrical themes remain constant, but hope shines through. Love Be Brave, a slight tune equal parts Here Comes The Sun and Joni Mitchell, sees Marling sing the words “I am brave/And love is sweet” without a hint of irony. Quite a change from the woman who was earlier steeling herself with the words “I will not be a victim of romance”.

The album comes full circle with the final track Saved These Words which returns to the repeating riffs that anchored the opening four songs, as Marling remarks “love is not easy/Not always fun/Words are sleazy/My love is better done” and ends on a playfully self-referential note, perhaps aimed at the “freewheeling troubador” from before: “You weren’t my curse/But thank you naivety/For failing me again/He was my next verse!”.

It’s a light, maybe even hopeful ending to a lengthy, intense album full of brooding introspection. This album won’t spawn radio friendly hits and make her into a stadium filling star but you sense she’s not interested in that. Long after the popular mainstream nu-folk scene has been and gone, Marling will be making albums that demand attention, that are painstakingly crafted, and prove that the there’s life in the album as an art form yet.

Once I Was An Eagle is another astonishing leap forward for the artist in a career that has been full of them. I’m excited to see where she goes from here, and the good thing is we probably won’t have to wait too long to find out.

Nation’s Children Unprepared for Dystopian Future

A few years back I started writing articles to submit to a fake news website. Only one got published. This is not one of them, so I’m putting it here. I’ve changed it to reflect that human chipmunk Michael Gove is no longer the education secretary.


Nation’s Children Unprepared for Dystopian Future

In a stark warning to parents and children around the country, Education Secretary Justine Greening warned that the nation’s children are “woefully unprepared” for the dystopian future to come.

In a broad-ranging speech, Greening opined that while teaching at least basic English and Maths was “broadly desirable”, there would be “no need to do long-division when the entire monetary system, and by extension society as a whole, has collapsed”.

She suggested that there was too much “red tape and waste” the current curriculum, adding that schools should prepare children for the coming horrors via repeating viewings of the Mad Max trilogy in Media lessons and class readings of Cormac McCarthy’s bleak post-apocalyptic novel The Road during English Literature.

She also added that Technology classes should focus less on out-dated skills such as woodwork and more on teaching students about robots, given that many of the young generation will be entrusted in the cleaning and maintenance of the robots that will be populous in the future. PE lessons, she said, should be mainly concerned with weight-lifting, running and hiding, as what passes for society in the future will doubtless be a murderous free-for-all where only the strongest or quickest will survive.

Greening ended her speech by commenting that he felt the time was right for the Conservative government to point out how unprepared we as a country were for the coming horrors of tomorrow.

“We have always positioned ourselves as the party of the future, and we need to address what kind of future that will be – we have a duty to make sure our children are as prepared as they can be for the living hell they will have to endure. Thankfully, we intend to put measures in place to allow the nation’s children to eke out a flimsy, terrified existence as society crumbles around them”.

3 To See (The weekend of 16/10/16)

Every week I pick out 3 games to watch for the coming weekend, on Just Football.

This weekend I picked out three huge games. A Basque derby in Spain – Athletic Club vs. Real Sociedad; a Canada-off in the MLS between Montreal Impact and Toronto FC, and of course the big Monday night game in the Premier League: Liverpool vs. Manchester United.

You can check out my preview of the three games in Just Football’s “3 To See” here.

 

Emmeline

This is a short story I wrote to submit to a Climate Fiction Short Story Contest. I didn’t win. I wasn’t shortlisted, I didn’t come close. But it was the first time I had ever plucked up the courage to enter a contest. The story I submitted is called “Emmeline” and you can read it in full below.


Emmeline

Emmeline is most alive in the dead of night. Each night, she skulks around the pristine, serene houses of the rich side of town. They are untouched by the dingy floodwaters that lap at the front porch of Emmeline’s family home. As she sneaks from house to house, her eyes, accustomed to the gloom, are searching: an open window, a loose hinge, any sort of opening she can squeeze through. She is rail thin and pale as bleached bone – a small gap is enough of an invite.

Once inside, she has only one destination: the water room. Usually at the back of the house, or in the basement; the houses of the wealthy host huge, gleaming white boxes. Water filtration systems. Emmeline’s backpack is filled with plastic bottles and canteens, as many as she can carry. Empty as her pockets, she hopes to fill them with gleaming, clean water to take back home.

Her side of town has four houses where people remain. Everyone else fled when the floodwaters became a near-permanent fixture. Others died in the riots, more still from sickness and dehydration. Emmeline’s father was the first of her family to die. It happened during one of the first riots, when the people realised there was to be no government aid or evacuation.

By that time her mother was already far gone, losing a battle with an illness no one ever named. In the end, it might have been dehydration that dealt the final blow. It left Emmeline, aged fourteen, as the head of a household that consisted of her and her four year old brother, George. Two years later and they were still surviving. Most days, George didn’t move. Emmeline could not remember a time when he was not as silent as stone. He stayed indoors like a snail in its shell.

Emmeline would venture outside for provisions and grab whatever she could get her hands on. Drinkable water was her main goal. Too many of her town’s inhabitants had been seduced, in a momentary desperate fever, into drinking the turgid floodwaters the seeped under their doors. Too many had gotten sick, and died.

At the third house she investigates, Emmeline spies an opening. A ground floor window, cracked open as a defence against the summer heat. She prises it open still further with her fingertips, and tumbles in. It takes a moment for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. She pads to the back of the house, into the kitchen. A door to the left, ajar, reveals another small room. There’s a squat, square box that Emmeline dimly remembers is a machine for cleaning clothes. Then, at the back of the room, she sees what she’s looking for. The outline of a huge, rectangular box. She scurries over and opens a valve using as much strength as she can muster from her needle-thin arms. There’s a creak, a rumble, and clear water gushes out. She smiles and, resisting the urge to drink directly from it, fills as many of her containers as she can.

From upstairs there are noises. A low murmur of a male voice. Footsteps. She can hear them coming down the stairs. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Emmeline freezes. To get back to the window she came in from would mean going past the stairs.

“I’m going to call the Police,” says a voice in the darkness.

Suddenly a light flicks on. When her eyes readjust she could make out the shape of a tall, grey haired man in the doorway. He holds a shotgun, pointed, shakily, at her head. She notices a change in his expression. Initially defiant and fearsome, his face set in hard lines, it softens as he looks the emaciated girl up and down.

“W-What are you doing?” he asks.

Emmeline can’t find the words. She points at the still gushing valve, which was now pooling water on the floor. She points to one of her canteens.

“Oh. You’re from—“

She nods.

“But you…I mean, we donate. I see the ads on TV, we donate to the government programme, you get fresh water…”

Emmeline shakes her head and shrugs. The man looks her up and down again, a pained look on his face as he spies her protruding ribs. He sighs.

“Go,” he says hurriedly. “Go quickly, take what you have. If my wife finds you she’ll call the Police.”

Emmeline nods and shuts off the valve. She packs what containers she was able to fill into her rucksack. As she walks past the man, he stops her. He fumbles in the pocket of his dressing gown, and produces a bronze metal object. A key.

“Take this,” he whispers. “Come back. Come back when you need more.”

“Th-Thanks,” Emmeline hisses, surprised at the harsh rasp of her own voice. She could not remember how long it had been since she had spoken to someone.

Back home, the flood water is receding, though still high enough to require a raft. In the house there are small puddles pooling on the floor. The warped floorboards creak even under Emmeline’s small frame. She calls George’s name as she unpacks the containers from her rucksack, setting them on the soaking, fraying old sofa that served as their only piece of furniture in the sparse front room. No response from George. The only sound was the autumnal sighing of the rusting pipes behind the walls.

She bounds upstairs and into the bedroom. There’s George, on the bare, grubby mattress on the floor that passed for his bed. Lying still as a calm river, and immediately Emmeline knew that he was too still. She had seen it with her father and mother. She did not need to go in to check. Blinking back tears, she heads back down the stairs, grabs one of the water bottles, and walks out onto the porch. The filthy water is rising up again, slowly, lapping at her ankles. She gazes out at the flood that had, one way or another, claimed all those that she loved. The thin corpses of trees stick out of the water, grey and lifeless.

She steps aboard the rickety old raft she built herself and using a branch as a makeshift oar, sails out into the flood. Fishing in her pocket, she comes across the old man’s key. She tosses the bronze key from hand to hand, feeling the heft and weight of it. The only sound is that of the hot summer rainfall as the droplets slap into the standing water. Emmeline closes her eyes, and tosses the key as far as she can. She watches it arc and drop into the stagnant water. She lies down on the raft as it floats gently away.