‘Beneath the Amber Moon’ (Milk Chocolate with English Malt Whisky)
On a cold autumn night, one of Britain’s smallest villages will become the country’s most infamous, with the perplexing disappearance of all its inhabitants.
Police and news crews descended on Beckhampstead. There was no one to interview. A bouquet of pheasants had become the village’s only inhabitants.
DCI Davies shooed a pair away as they followed him into Georgina Haynes’ house. He felt uncomfortable using his old keys to get in, rather than battering down the door. Why hadn’t Georgie changed the locks when they split up? It didn’t matter, this wasn’t personal. This was work. As Parish Council Chairman, hers was the first house he needed to search for answers.
Entering her study, he shuddered at the Amber Moon prophecy in its heavy mahogany frame on the wall. The cause of their only arguments. How could someone as sensible as Georgie believe the words of a 16-century hermit raving on about an amber moon foretelling an apocalyptic asteroid strike?
The persistent pheasants craned their necks round the door frame and quietly watched Davies. They couldn’t have told anyone anything if they’d asked. No one spoke pheasant. But, if someone had got close enough to ask, then they might have seen and understood that those animatronic fowl knew everything that went on. And through their eyes, so could all 148 villagers from their underground bunkers in the surrounding countryside.
Watching from her bunker, Georgie’s heart raced. Just irrational fear of Davies discovering their plan, she told herself. Nothing more, certainly nothing personal. They’d left no clues. Only deliberate ghost “clues” in everyone’s houses – invoices and emails to show that they’d all coincidentally booked holidays or conferences or writing retreats for the very same week. A mass exodus. Not far off the truth.
Georgie slipped a piece of Beneath the Amber Moon into her mouth, letting the velvety chocolate and warm whisky melt over her tongue. So calming. Someone at Fortnum’s must have known about the prophecy too. Why else would they create this chocolate AND the End of the World hamper? It was perfect – wine, truffles, preserves, pickled vegetables, biscuits, fruitcake, tea, coffee, hot chocolate. Everything required to survive an apocalypse. This bunker alone had 50 hampers – wicker baskets stacked four high, the large F&Ms on the side cheering them on in their desire to survive.
Georgie broke off another piece of chocolate. No more today, she thought. A bar a week had seemed sensible during planning, but already she was doubting it would be sufficient. The end of the world was stressful and chocolate the best way to get through it. It would start soon. The amber moon was forecast for tonight.
The whisky’s lulling calm faded as Davies pulled out a handful of papers from her middle drawer. Through the pheasants’ eyes she saw him study the holiday email on top. He paused, looked up at the prophecy on the wall again and flipped the pile. Turning papers from the bottom, he lifted up the third one for a closer look.
A Fortnum invoice. For 25 hampers and 300 bars of chocolate. That wouldn’t raise anyone’s suspicions surely…