‘Covehithe’ by China Miéville


From The Guardian:

There were a few nights in Dunwich, where the owner of the B&B kept telling her guests they were lucky to have found a room. Walking Dunwich Beach, showing his daughter wintering geese through binoculars so heavy they made her laugh, the man was glad they were not in Southwold or Walberswick. They were not so hemmed in by visitors. Each evening they had fish and chips or pub grub. Each night after she had gone to bed he hacked into next door’s wifi to check his messages and monitor the forums.

On Thursday night he woke her. It was not long after midnight.

‘Come on lovey,’ he said. ‘Keep it down. Let’s not get anyone else up.’

‘I hate you,’ she said into her pillow.

‘I know,’ he said. ‘Come on. Don’t bring your phone.’

There was not much on the roads. Still, Dughan took them roundabout ways, through Blythborough, on the A145 towards Uggeshall, past still diggers where roads were being widened.

‘Where are we going?’ the girl asked, only once. She hunkered; she wouldn’t ask him to turn up the heating.

Wrentham was on the western rim of the security zone. It went north along the A12, south on the B1127 to Southwold. Within it, in daylight, fields were still worked, for animal feed, and roads mostly open, but those were, legally, indulgences not rights; the area was, in the absence of an official escort, no-go after dark. Exceptional laws applied in that little triangle, the coast a 6-mile hypotenuse, its midpoint Covehithe.

Dughan stopped by a pub garden south of Wrentham. He opened the door for his daughter with his finger to his lips.

‘Dad,’ she said.

‘Hush,’ he said.

It was overcast and windy, shadows taking them and releasing them as Dughan found a way through undergrowth to the boundary ditch. They were both quiet as they crossed it. Holding their breath. Beyond, they walked eastward on the edges of the fields. ‘Dad, seriously, you’re crazy.’ He had a torch but did not turn it on. When the moon came out enough he stopped and took bearings.

‘They’ve got guns,’ she said.

‘That’s why shhh.’

‘What’ll they do if they catch us?’

‘Feed us to wolves.’

‘Har har.’

They went still at the sound of a helicopter. The beam passed by half a field ahead, so bright it looked solid.

The air smelt. They could hear echoes. Dughan avoided the hamlet where until recently locals had lived, which had been requisitioned, with only minor scandal. They could see lit windows. They came instead at Covehithe from the north.

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