At 9:05* am 103 years ago, the shoreline of Halifax Harbour changed forever. The lives lost and destroyed that day left a deep scare in those who lived in the communities along its shores. This included Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford, Tufts Cove, Woodside and several other small communities.
The Coldest December, a short story collection published in 2017 to mark the one hundred year anniversary, contains 11 original stories by Nova Scotia authors. Stories either take place during the explosion or shortly afterwards. One takes place in 1944 when the second Halifax Explosion, a much smaller explosion, took place.
Here’s a snippet from Lawren Snodgrass’ “Harbour in Time”, the story that takes place in 1944 with survivors from 1917.
Harboured in Time
Once again, the past invaded his senses, and the burnt oil licked at his lips. The flames engulfing the homes lining the Halifax street threatened to snatch him from the ground and hurl him into the ocean. He glanced up and saw a dark figure hanging from the electric lines. His heart beat faster, and he feared it would leap from his chest and race off without him. A feral dog ran past him, throwing off his balance. He stumbled, but the girl he had rescued from the rubble held him securely, and he regained his step.
“This way,” she cried, pulling him onto an unfamiliar street.
Unsure of her advice, he searched the area desperately, hunting for the way out of the war-torn downtown. He bulked and his feet grew heavy, eventually slowing to a stop. The heat lashed out at his face, and he feared any movement would make it unleash its fury.
“Come on! We have to go!”
The muffled sound of yelling reached his ears, but he hesitated to find the source. The fire watched him and if he moved, it would capture him. Its flame wrapped around his arm and tried to pull him closer, but he braced himself and stood firm.
“Run or we’ll die!”
The fire screamed, but he knew not to move. A scorching slap to his cheek shot pain to his head, and he looked down at the girl with the green eyes.
“We have to go this way.” She pulled his arm and beckoned him forward.
He allowed her to lead him through the thick clouds and onto the street that took them past the inferno. Minutes later, they emerged from the thickest of smoke, and he looked up to see the outline of the town clock in the distance. They struggled on, and dark figures turned to human form, all moving towards the Citadel. The weight of the girl from the rubble grew, and he watched her struggle to keep moving up hill. He gathered his strength and with a surge of energy, he scooped her into his arms and carried her. She clung to him, sobbing quietly against his neck. They reached the far side of the hill where exhaustion brought him to his knees. They stumbled to a rock wall and flopped onto the cold, hard ground.
… to continue reading, pick up a copy of The Coldest December.
Book Sale: The Coldest December
Pick up a copy today at the following online outlets.
eBook: 99 cents
(prices stated in either CAD – Canadian Dollars or USD – US Dollars)
- Amazon: Canada: $8.44 CAD
- Amazon: United States: $9.29 USD
- Amazon: United Kingdom: 6.23 sterling pound
- Lulu : $6.98 USD
To learn more about this book, including the authors who contributed, visit The Coldest December’s page at Quarter Castle Publishing.
*Some reports say 9:04 am and 9:05 am, but the majority found state 9:06 am. Regardless of the time and the clocks that stopped on the second it happened, it was a crisp, late fall Thursday in December 1917.