A Short Story: ‘Being Followed’
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English Coursework A Short Story: 'Being Followed' It had been two years and 4 months since it had happened, the bomb dropped on the 11th June 1999. The Murdoch family had retreated to their shelter on the same day. Jonathon Murdoch, the father, had prepared the shelter many years in advance, being of the apprehensive type. He had worked for a large computer engineering company before it happened, he and his family were happy and had enough money to live comfortably in Somerset, where they resided in an ancient farmhouse, snuggled in a beautiful valley miles away from anywhere. Matilda Murdoch, his wife, was a successful illustrator, and the mother of the three bright children. Lily the eldest, fifteen, excelled at school and was an avid music fanatic. Thomas the youngest was, as seven year olds often are, a rogue and would disappear for hours into the woods that formed part of the Murdoch's land. Chloe, who was twelve, appeared very quiet, and to some almost stupid, however she was the brightest spark among them, as we will find out. The shelter they were in was surprisingly spacious and comfortable, it had running water and electricity - a luxury in a shelter. The shelter was almost entirely computer controlled (due to Jonathon's profession), and each member of the family had his or her own room. It was tunnelled deep into the valley wall behind their house, a laborious job. The shelter stores held enough food to last up to five years. Until now, no one has left the shelter - due to the risk of contamination - the need to leave the shelter was increasing for a long time, as food had not lasted as long as they had presumed before the bomb. After much debate, it was decided that Jonathon would leave the safety of the shelter and explore the outside for food - but the risks were enormous: Suppose the fallout was still radioactive? Suppose he was to catch some disease?
Suppose he was to catch some disease? Suppose he was killed by marauders, or worse - was tracked by marauders back to the shelter and his family. So Jonathon set out into the wide-open countryside to get to the nearest town, a mile or so away. There was life outside, many trees looked withered, or were mottled with grey patches - but life was still there. As he approached the town Jonathon saw the desolation - not caused by the bomb, but by looters. The town was a mess, there were few people - and they were obviously poor and ill. After a thorough search through the town he discovered he was to find no food or anything else - everybody must have left to the nearest city or died of some tragic outbreak of disease. Disappointed and worried, Jonathon began to make his way back to the shelter, preparing himself to break the bad news to the family he had left behind him. As he left the town he made up his mind to go the following day to the nearest city to find food, and news of the state of the world. Jonathon had not gone more than 300 metres when an instinct within him told him he was being watched. He swept around and looked back towards the shattered church, which was silhouetted against the setting sun like a dirty, dying demon. He was sure he saw someone, something, but the light behind the church made it difficult to see. He continued on his way, cursing himself for being so nervous. But again, when he crossed the stile between one overgrown field and the next, he was sure he had heard footsteps, possibly a twig snapping. He swung around once again - but saw nothing. Again he continued, he was quite sure - someone was following him. He thought to himself, "I shall have to lead him into a decoy".
So Jonathon walked straight past the track leading to his house, right around to a place where he knew he could hide - pretending to be inside a hidden shelter. It was about a quarter mile away so he walked quickly. About 20 minutes later he found where he had been thinking of and made it appear, to whoever was watching that he was going into a shelter, there he stayed as silent as a mouse. About an hour later Jonathon woke with a start, wondering briefly where he was then realising. He carefully checked the surrounding spinny; there was definitely nobody there - so he made his way back to the shelter. As he made his way back he still felt that he was being followed, but told himself he was just nervous. There was probably never anybody there at all. Once he had got back to the shelter and told his anxiously waiting family the news, he did not tell them about his feeling of being followed. The next day, as planned, Jonathon left for the city; he had a long way to go and so would be gone for the day. Jonathon spent the day in the city, and was successful in his search for food, and felt comfortable all day - now quite sure he hadn't been followed the day before. He made his way almost leisurely back to the shelter, thinking how silly it was to be paranoid about being followed. Although somewhere, there was an uneasy feeling within him - he just couldn't work it out. As Jonathon approached the door of the shelter, he noticed it hung open in an awkward manner - one of the hinges seemed broken. A feeling of dread welled up inside Jonathon, his lungs froze. Eventually, after what seemed to him to be a lifetime, he called out to his family, "Matilda!" he yelled, "Lily! Thomas! Chloe!" He paused, Every inch of his now cold body urging his family to reply. They did not. He knew what had happened, scared, sick he froze... Joe Herbert - Saturday, 27 October 2001
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