Whirlybirds

Danny woke up sweating, tossing and turning. He thought he’d left this feeling behind but here it was again.

He’d come to this village for peace and quiet; to be away from the City; away from its noises, stresses, and crimes. Originally he’d had no problems living in the inner city. It was rundown for sure, but it was a happening area, earmarked for redevelopment. It was only a matter of time. But life was not the same after he was mugged there. Every dark corner held fears; car horns made him jump; groups of guys caused him to cross the road; most of all the police helicopters, whirring and shining strong beams at night, made sleep impossible. He’d left the City and come to Lucerne, the beautiful “village beneath the white mountain”.

Danny slipped out of bed and looked through the window. He saw bright waves in the distant sky, mainly blue, shooting and dancing; was it the Northern Lights, this far south? Maybe a seasonal variation had enhanced their visibility. He looked for the source of the mindless whirring; a sign of something going wrong here, a criminal incident turned into a nightmare for every citizen sleeping; saying you are not safe in your homes. Slim dark shapes moved through the sky; yes, it was helicopters, and here on the edge of the bush, their uproar was magnified.

They woke Danny the next night, and the one after that, every night for a week. Sometimes he saw them in the daytime too; just after dawn, or just before dusk. A few minutes either side would have tripped day into night.

The helicopters were landing near the Lucerne Valley Medical Centre, and Danny went there to ask about them. “We deal with occasional emergencies,” said the unfamiliar poker-faced receptionist.

“But why fly them to such a small village?” asked Danny. “Surely facilities in the City are better? And Strattus isn’t so far away.”

“In such cases every minute is precious, Sir. Now if you’ll excuse me…”

“Okay, thank you,” said Danny but he left unsatisfied. It didn’t make sense to fly patients to Lucerne’s little medical centre. He passed men in air force uniforms as he left the building. There were many scattered around the building and grounds – specks of blue among medical whites.

The number of helicopters increased, and also the number of air force personnel. He even saw some in the coffee shop near the highway, and overheard one saying, “The enemy was surprised and took a big hit, but we paid a heavy price for our advance. We lost a quarter of Strike Force Twelve…”

Danny edged closer to hear better, but someone said, “Let’s continue this discussion at base.”

He awoke one night sweating more than ever, and ran to the window. The noise was louder. The Northern Lights were brighter, their blue waves now transformed into fierce orange streams. He saw bigger darker shapes, larger helicopters, flying in and out. Danny couldn’t bear the noise any longer and needed to get out of the house. He went for a late night walk heading towards the medical centre.

As he strolled by, a rear door opened and a patient ran out. He ran up to Danny and grabbed him by the shoulders. “This space war is horrible!” he raved with eyes blazing. “They say they are peaceful – why won’t we believe them? They’ve taken out our blue lazers and are hitting back with orange beams. We’ve got no defence against them! They’re coming south! We have to get out of here!”

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