Page 1

Through the thick curtain of falling snow they could all see the dim outline, the approaching throng moving en masse, giving the appearance of a single living organism. The Torterats were minutes away; four, five at most.

Darkness overwhelmed the light. The outline of trees could no longer be seen and as this happened, the transparency of the phantoms tinged with blue. Gaseous blue flames, they floated, tempting the hungry with food in outstretched hands.

Invasion of the Torterats

Four thousand years into the future the frozen Earth is a hostile place. The last remaining humans, a small band of sixty known as the Camarilla, face hunger and the harshness of a desolate land. Fleeing from Torterats, the clan must overcome the perils of Kaldor or die.

6001 IC EWO RLD

Tasha was screaming, “Trats, Trats.”

6001

Iceworld Invasion of the Torterats

W. R. Widerberg

Far in the frozen future the fate of the Camarilla, the last civilisation on earth, rests in one girl’s hands....

W. R. Widerberg


6001

ICEWORLD

Invasion of the Torterats


Published in Australia by South Head Press ABN 75823432905 P.O. Box 7135 Bondi Beach N.S.W. Australia 2026

Copyright Š 2010 W. R. Widerberg First published in 2010

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of South Head Press

The National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry: Author: Widerberg, W.R. Title: 6001 ice world: invasion of the torterats/W.R.Widerberg. Edition: 1st ed. ISBN: 9780980809602 (pbk.) Dewey Number: A823.4

Cover design by Alli Spoor Text typeset and designed by Mercier Typesetters Pty Ltd, Granville NSW Printed in Australia by Ligare Pty Ltd, Riverwood NSW


6001

ICEWORLD Invasion of the Torterats

Book 1 of The Camarilla Chronicle

W. R. Widerberg


To my granddaughters

Natasha and

Charlotte


The Author Bill Widerberg grew up in Clovelly in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, attending Sydney Boys’ High School and the University of Sydney. 6001 ICEWORLD Invasion of the Torterats is his second book. His first, The Big End of Town, is an adult thriller that was acclaimed in all media throughout Australia. Widerberg’s short story, Sunday Morning at the Bay, recently won first prize at the Stroud Writers Festival. Widerberg has researched extensively. Using his knowledge and his imagination, he has written an engaging, page turning novel. 6001 ICEWORLD Invasion of the Torterats is Book 1 of a trilogy that shows the reader what life on Earth could become.


Acknowledgements I am indebted to Cathy Symonds, Children’s and Young Adult Librarian at Waverley Library, for her guidance in writing a book to appeal to the young and not so young. To Alan Davidson I express my gratitude for his wise counsel over a number of years. I wish to thank Elizabeth Finniecome and Haylee McGlashan of Ligare for the work they have done in producing the book and for introducing me to Rod Mercier, whom I thank for his advice and assistance in the presentation of 6001 ICEWORLD Invasion of the Torterats. My sincere thanks also go to Alli Spoor for the cover design and to Julee Gould for correcting the errors I failed to see.


Chapter 1

M

angrove tugged at the cords of his hood to tighten them, pulling the fur closer to his face. He slipped the ring made of bone higher, the toggle clamping the cords to prevent their slipping. The hood now almost covered his face. That is what he wanted. The warmth of his body was better retained and there would be no telltale steaming from his breath to give his position away. He lay still again and scanned the snow, looking for movement. The day was unusually quiet, with little wind and broken cloud cover through which the sky was startlingly blue. Occasionally the parting of the cloud would let the sun flash and in those quick moments he felt the warmth that was so rare. Mangrove slowly moved his head through more than two hundred degrees of arc, examining the terrain. The bursts of sunlight gave sudden shadow to the hummocks of snow and ice that stretched into the distance, shattering the unending white into shards of dark that as quickly reformed into uniform white. Mangrove breathed deeply, blinking, widening his eyes so that he would miss nothing, but the clouds acted like shutters and the disrhythmic, jerking shadows were unsettling. He turned to take a quick glance down to the river. Snotty was still hacking at the ice, shielding the site as best he could with his body, trying to reduce the noise of his work. Mangrove held the hood away from one ear and grimaced as he heard the sound


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6001 ICEWORLD

of the stone axe smashing at the ice. Sound waves could advertise their presence, but there was no other way. He watched as Snotty knelt to place the warming pot inside the greased skin they had left on the last occasion they had fished. The skin stuffed into the hole was frozen, but it prevented the ice from totally closing, and once thawed a little it could be hauled out. In this way the ice hole could be used repeatedly. They were a long way from home and tempting fate, but they had reopened the hole many times, always with success. Mangrove turned again to face the north, searching the snow for movement, for any sign of Torterats among the moguls of ice that stuttered from light to shadow. Like the rats that brought the Black Death and the Great Plague of London in the distant past, the Torterats had multiplied, but food for the Torterats was no more abundant in the north than elsewhere. They were forced to move south and as they came they began to encroach on country that the Camarilla had always regarded as their own. The Camarilla, the small trusted band, numbered a mere sixty souls. In the year 6001, they were the last remnant of humanity on earth. They lived in a frozen world, striving to survive in the era of ice that had gripped the planet following the global warming and the wars of the twenty-first century. For the Camarilla, finding food had never been easy. With the arrival of the Torterats the crisis became severe, because they came in numbers, eating what they could find, attacking the humans and driving them further south. At the river, Snotty felt the tap-tap on the line as the fish tasted the bait. He jerked the line and smiled in satisfaction as it went taut, the hook home hard. The fish was big and fought, zigzagging below the ice, straining the line. Snotty pulled, leaning back from the ice-hole, the line slicing a groove into his gloves as he hauled the fish upward and finally lifted it from the hole. He dragged it clear and taking his flint knife from its scabbard slit the fish below the gills. The blood ran red on the snow. He let it run until it stopped and then gathered the bloodied snow and put it into the hole, watching it melt and swirl away.


INVASION OF THE TORTERATS

3

“Good,” he said. Blood in the water would attract more fish. He baited the hook and dropped the line into the ragged circle of water once more. Again he felt the tug and again he landed the fish. Mangrove looked back at the fish lying silver in the snow and experienced the mix of feelings that always came. The fish were welcome, they would feed the clan, but even though Snotty had got rid of the reddened snow, the Torterats had an excellent sense of smell. The blood could betray them. Mangrove returned to his task, scanning the lumpy outcrops, looking for danger in the appearing, disappearing shadows. He was edgy. So far the breeze had blown from the north. If Torterats were about, he and Snotty would be down-wind of them, but he could feel the wind fading. What had been a fairly safe situation might not be so for long. The cloud was thickening and that would help. It put an end to the coming, going shadows, but the increasing cloud cover indicated a change in the weather. Life is getting tougher, he thought. The challenge of overcoming hunger had always been difficult. Hunger and cold were bad, but now the thieving Torterats could leave them emptyhanded after hours of hard, risky work. Mangrove turned again. The expedition was progressing well. There were now four fish going solid as they froze in the snow. Perhaps they should go. As he looked, he felt the faint stirring of air as the fur on his hood brushed lightly at his cheeks. The new front was building from the south. If he and Snotty had to run, had to get out in a hurry, the fish would be a heavy burden. Worse, the wind would now be in their faces, slowing them even more. Mangrove slid the toggle on the cords of his hood, puckered his tongue and gave a short sharp whistle. Snotty looked up from the ice-hole and, as Mangrove gave the signal that they should head home, he raised his gloved hand and with a finger indicated just one more fish. Mangrove shook his head, but Snotty ignored the caution, once more concentrating on his line — five fish would be little enough for the Camarilla. Mangrove peered into the distance. The sky had darkened to a foggy blanket that hung low over the snow and in the diminished


4

6001 ICEWORLD

light there were no outlines visible. He could see no ice humps, no distinguishing features of any sort. As he had feared, the wind was picking up and the smell of the fish and their own presence would travel north. He glanced toward the river and had to search to find Snotty, the light had become so bad. Mangrove whistled again, two short, sharp blasts — get ready to go. He bent forward, straining to see movement, one last check that there was no enemy approaching. His head turned slowly, his eyes narrowed against the poor light, trying to find form in the white oblivion. “Nothing, nothing,” he murmured, continuing his search. “No, we’re sweet.” Even as he was mouthing the words, the lunge of a body and then another triggered fear that flooded him with urgency. Mangrove tried to sharpen focus on the opaque area, finding it difficult to estimate the distance to the movement, trying to tell whether it was a random foray, or whether the scent of the fish was attracting attention. Of one thing he was absolutely certain. What he had seen was the characteristic movement of Torterats. They always travelled close, touching each other, sometimes one running over the back of another, all the time communicating in their high-pitched squeaking, their voices out of keeping with the size of their bodies and the rough fur of their coats. “Yes,” he spoke aloud. He could make them out. A sizeable phalanx, each Torterat the size of a small dog, jostling in excitement to get to the source of the scent, overrunning one another, always a new front-runner immediately replaced by one more eager. Trats and they’re onto us. He turned away to shout toward the river. “Snotty, Trats coming. We gotta go.” As he spoke he was bending, forcing his leather boots hard on his skis, fixing the bindings. Still in a crouch, completing the ties, he shushed down the slope, the tracks of the skis streaming behind. He knew that the low-hanging cloud and the poor light would not be enough. The tracks of the skis would last until the wind or fresh snow wiped them away. He might as well leave arrows to point the way for the Trats. “How far off?” Snotty was moving quickly, shoving the frozen fish into the backpacks that lay on the ice.

6001 Ice World: Invasion of the Torterats - by W. R. Widerberg  

6001 ICEWORLD Invasion of the Torterats is his second book. His first, The Big End of Town, is an adult thriller that was acclaimed in all m...

6001 Ice World: Invasion of the Torterats - by W. R. Widerberg  

6001 ICEWORLD Invasion of the Torterats is his second book. His first, The Big End of Town, is an adult thriller that was acclaimed in all m...

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