After The Flood
Danny sighed. His parents were glued to the viewscreen, like all the older generation. He didn’t get it. Why were they still so obsessed with what happened on Old Earth? They should move on, look to the future. That’s why they’d left, after all. So there was a future.
The tablet computer in his lap showed the same footage as the viewscreen on two thirds of its display, the remaining third showed thumbnails of related vids with more information. He clicked on the top one, turning up the volume so he could hear the narration over the noise of the room.
‘The PharmaCo Fleet left Old Earth on June 30th, 2045, transporting colonists from the polluted and dangerous conditions of their home world and out, to create a better world. While National and Global Government failed, the Corporations stepped in, funding the development of space craft and the colonisation of new planet-’
Danny rolled his eyes. Yes, he’d heard all that before. He glanced up and checked the room, making sure his Grandparents hadn’t heard the voice over. The last thing he needed was his Grandad going off on one about how the Corporations had them over a barrel, how they were all slaves now, bought and sold. His Dad would only get angry, shouting about how freedom didn’t mean a thing if you were dead.
Danny didn’t get why they all got so upset about Old Earth. He knew it had been a nice place once, he’d seen Vids of the animals and their habitats. He especially liked Tigers and Lions, and all the other big cats. The thing was though, Old Earth wasn’t like that any more. There wasn’t even much left of it now, the water levels were so high. Grandad had come from England, and now there was barely enough of that left for one man to live on. Danny tapped the screen to start the next Vid.
‘Who is Ronald Balcock, and why won’t he leave?’ a slick woman presenter said, as a picture of the old man who was the cause of all the fuss appeared on the screen. Danny thought he looked quite nice, not a stubborn old fool like his Mum always called him. The presenter was talking about how Balcock came from a family of farmers who had always lived in the same place. That he felt a tie to the land. Danny started to get bored and looked back up to the main screen, just in case anything had changed.
It hadn’t. The cameras still showed a derelict looking farm house on the top of a hill, surrounded on all sides by water. There were evac copters circling, waiting on the order to take the man from his property. Danny huffed, sending a strand of hair puffing away from his face. Boring.
On his personal screen, the presenter was talking over some of the reasons people had given in the past for staying on Old Earth. There were a few groups who had been given permission to stay. Lunatics, Dad called them. Grandad agreed with him for some, the ones who were staying because they thought it was God's will, but not for others. The ones who agreed with him that colony life was nothing but slavery.
Danny didn’t think it was slavery. They had a nice life here, a good home and plenty of food. He went to school, and he had a job all lined up for when he left too. He was contracted to work for the company, so were his kids if they didn’t pay off the debt the family owed for being brought here. What was wrong with that though? They wouldn’t have got here without the help from the Corporations!
The population of Old Earth was now just a few thousand people. Cranks and crazies, clinging on to the past in the high places, his Mum said. She always sounded sad about it, though.
A noise alerted Danny to a change on the main screen, and he tapped pause on his own device to give it his full attention. One of the evac copters had flown down and landed outside of Balcock’s house. The old man came out of his front door, waving his arm in a clear gesture that he wanted them to leave but the uniformed officers of Corporate Enforcement didn’t take the hint.
The screen cleared without warning, the camera view changed to a first person perspective; the camera of the officer approaching the house. The wind sounded fierce through his microphone, and Danny leaned forward on his seat as he got a close up view of the terrible conditions of Old Earth.
‘Get away! Leave me alone!’ Balcock was shouting.
‘Mr Balcock, The PharmaCo Court has instructed me to ask you a series of questions. Your answers will be live broadcast to the court and serve as your testimony where it will be used to determine whether you may remain on their property.’
‘It’s not their property!’ Balcock argued, ‘It’s mine, my families! Always has been.’
The officer ignored him and carried on, ‘Mr Balcock, do you believe that it is the plan of a higher power that you remain here?’
‘Mr Balcock, do you believe that humanity is a contagion that should be confined to earth?’
‘Mr Balcock, are you a member of any group which has been granted legal permission to remain on Old Earth?’
‘Mr Balcock, do you identify yourself with the group FirstEarth?’
Danny pricked up his ears at that question. FirstEarth were a group of terrorists, they carried out attacks in the colonies because they were so angry about the Corporations helping people get away.
‘No, you bloody idiot! Why don’t you stop asking questions and just…go away.’
‘Mr Balcock, do you have any comments for the court to support your decision to remain here in the light of the clear and present danger to your life by the rising water levels and atmospheric pollution?’
The old man switched in a moment from being angry and aggressive to a slump shouldered rag doll.
‘Fights gone out of him,’ Grandma said quietly.
The whole family fell silent, all other screens muted as they watched the drama unfolding on the main viewscreen.
‘This is my home,’ Balcock said, his voice breaking. ‘A man should have the right to remain in his home, to die there if he wants to. You don’t have a right to just take me away from the place I love. My heart’s here.’
‘Your heart?’ the officer asked, puzzled.
‘My whole life, my memories…’ tears formed in the old mans eyes, his voice breaking, ‘my wife. My wife is buried in the back garden. Please…please don’t make me leave her. I just want to stay here. I’m not bothering anyone.’
Danny watched, frozen, as the old man fell to his knees and sobbed. He’d never seen a grown up cry like that before. It made him feel uneasy. He looked around the room for comfort from his family, and saw tears were rolling down all their cheeks too.
‘I think that concludes Mr Balcock’s testimony,’ the officer said, and the camera cut back to the long view. The old man appeared tiny, knelt before the large man in his bulky uniform.
‘And now we wait for the Courts decision,’ the news presenter said smoothly. ‘Balcock has received invitations from all of the groups legally allowed to remain on Old Earth but he has refused them all. He has made no statement as to why, but we presume it is because of this mans extraordinary attachment to his native land.’
Silence fell then, only the whirring noise of the evac copters as they continued to circle the building. Danny wriggled over on the sofa to sit closer to his Mum who wrapped an arm around him and pulled him in tight.
‘And the Court’s decision is in! Mr Balcock will be forcibly evacuated from his property for his own safety.’
His Grandparents exploded into angry words, his Father immediately arguing with them. They all spoke at once so Danny couldn’t make out what was being said, but in any case his attention was focused on the screen.
The Corporate Enforcement Officer seemed to be speaking to Mr Balcock, but the old man was still knelt down and shaking his head. The Officer pulled a weapon from its holster at his waist, checked a setting and then leveled it at the old man. He said something else, and Danny wondered why they weren’t playing the audio this time. Then there was a dull, popping noise and the old man slumped to the ground.
Immediately the officer moved towards him, checking his pulse and then signalling to the copter. More officers came out with a stretcher, loading Balcock onto it and carrying him back towards their craft.
‘Well, that’s it then,’ said Grandpa. His voice was cracked, his cheeks damp with tears. ‘Last man in England, and he’s gone.’
‘God bless him,’ muttered Grandma.
Danny rested his head against his mother and watched, hearing her let out her own sad sigh. She kissed him on the top of the head and gave him a squeeze as she whispered, ‘Last man in England…’
My defences were breached and in an instant
I was swept away.
Mooring ropes trailing in your stream
Out of control, surging with your tide,
My roads and fields and dwellings,
A landscape of familiar contours submerged, unrecognisable.
All resistance pointless, my strength sapped
By your mysterious energy, powered by the moon
Dragging and pushing and blowing me
Into uncharted waters.
My heart heaving in my mouth
Dazed by your indifference to your terrible power
I abandoned myself to the ecstasy of movement
Borne along effortlessly by the floodwater that was you
My limbs cooled and saturated by your caress.
We drifted passed an ancient tree
Its branches filled with angels
Who guided us to a secret place, previously forbidden
And there we came to rest
And recognise a truth shown only to us
Shared only by us.
But all tides have only one highest point
And all beauty is transient.
I should have known you would recede
Abandoning me, a ravaged Jetsam.
Here now in a Tesco car park
Like a stranded Whale after a Great Flood
My heart a block of stone
Suffocating in an alien land
Fading memories of a song sung
In a vast ocean, timeless for an instant,
Now no more than an illusion.
Other shoppers keep their distance,
Within their white-washed lines, filling their boots
With Christmas bargains
Casting puzzled glances at my tears.
How could they know that
Last night you came back.
I heard you fussing around as you always did
And then undressing in the darkness
Putting on your red satin pyjamas
You came to bed and curled against my back.
The electric touch of your instep on my calf
Your soft body settling into the warm mattress.
I held my breath, my heart pounding,
Willing myself to stillness.
But when your sweet breath fell on my neck
And I smelled the perfume of your skin, and
Felt the touch of your arm draping lightly on my chest
I spun around and shattered the spell
And faced again the torment of that empty space
And the fragmented remnants of a dream.
(A southern city in India ravaged by floods that killed hundreds and left millions homeless in Nov-Dec 2015)
The floods plotted resistance against all things good.
They took the grieving clouds and filled up floors, rooms, ceilings, streets... Lungs.
Made wooden logs out of human bodies
Sent them afloat to random addresses without breath.
News channels witnessed the sights.
Grey, murky coffins of dreams
ashen, waxed wastes of lives un lived
the heaviness of loss still damp in the sky.
Someone please dry the vapors. Man is unlearning his past here:
All possessions are gone. Not a brick left to build a future.
The dripping mache of his insurance papers
can only sculpt walls of despair.
How he suffers in nature's crime...
This flood is dateless, endless.
His tears swim in its spate
like soft moss swimming in a sea of sadness.
Seasons have reasons hidden in their folds
But what mysterious reason this
that a retreating monsoon caused havoc with floods?
Devastated thousands, brought them to the edge of everlasting darkness.
After the floods, a strange quiet pervades the trees.
The yellowed fears in children's eyes seeks dry warmth.
Amidst all the swirling waters, mothers cry out for something clean to drink
With withered fingers, the men await a new dawn in the falling twilight.
Thank god, Hope never dries up. It never turns into a thing.