After The Flood

Entry by: jaguar

8th December 2015
The Defrost

Well you never thought, did you, that life could rear up in that way and then keep seeping, make everything look like repeating cheap coffee reflux? Floods of acid that stripped your everyday away to show you weren't as smart as you thought you were. How it even twisted the golden ones, who seemed to have it all, around their own browning cores.

It was the chaff that invited drowned you into their contemptible homes. It was the chaff that cooked comforting food you’d have refused a day before. Hardly good for the baby was it? Yet, right now, what your baby needed was you staying alive and these people were the only hope you had.

Not a rocket leaf in sight but their supermarket sausages in soft white buns were exactly what you wanted most. That’s the thing about a flood, nothing stays where it was before it happened. The speakers in the corner of the ghastly social club talked of cars on the top of buildings and gaping holes where there used to be bridges. It was too strange to deal with, like one of your teeth dropped out and all the others followed so you lost your smile. You had no sense of your old self at all.

Yet, didn’t that happen before the flood? Weren’t you already lost in your own life, no idea of forward or backward moves? Hadn't you remembered clubs like these so you turned away from the room and looked out of the bleak window. From up here the river looked like a severed artery, spilling in all directions, still spreading out.

The rain hammered down from the sky like reinforcements for a battle you’d certainly lost. You stared at it, oozing because it commanded your sight, made it hard to breathe, fragmented your very being into shredded fear. You had to stay calm, breathe for the baby, unearth your dampened hope. At least the flood wiped the dust from your mind.

It wasn’t the best time on earth to realise you’d always trusted the wrong people. These strange people in the patchy torchlight all around you were the surviving debris from the last few awful months. The park home residents the Delanciers used to refer to as water rats, almost all of whom were now congregated in the four big caravans and the social club at the top of the valley. Congealed together, white, sweating and sticky as they cooked, shared and ate the contents of all the defrosted freezers in the darkened homes below. They seemed to have survived en-masse.

‘You alright, babe?’ Sid nudged you with her elbow while she gulped some yellow liquid in a pint glass. You’d never met a woman called Sid before but if she hadn’t heard you call out, you’d have been sucked under the water by now. She smiled at you and her orange foundation crackled under the torch lights. ‘We'll all sleep here tonight. Safety in numbers and it's never made it up this far. They might even come looking for us tomorrow.'

'What if the baby comes?' Your neck creaked tension. Behind Sid the sewer rats were making a curry and chucking in the Delanciers' defrosting lobsters. You'd heard curry induces and you were close to your time.

Sid splayed your rigid fingers with hers and your heaving pulse slowed at her warm touch that melted your panic. 'A couple of us here have delivered babies. Boiling water's over-rated anyway but there's always the calor stoves. It helps to find things funny, babe. Can you tell me anything about tonight that might make us both laugh.’

The others shifted towards you and the panic flooded back in. They weren't water but sewer rats now. You were trapped with your dying to be born baby in a nest of sewer rats. You straightened your shoulders and the rats eased back physically but their breath came closer, you smelt it now. Sid put her arm around your shoulder almost as if she'd seen the Delanciers leaving you and your unborn baby to drown.

You looked down at your impossibly swollen stomach and thought it would go just the way the river did, there’s too much force to contain. You couldn’t have kept the posh pretence up anyway. There was a memory but it wasn't funny. ‘The Delanciers were my baby’s grandparents. You wouldn’t know Nick was theirs. He was sweet and kind but completely screwed. Died last month, don’t know what from. Went to them for help, didn't know what else to do. They swooped in, had to have the baby at their place. Paid for everything.’

Sid snorted. ‘Knowing those two they’d probably just shovel you out of the way afterwards. You're more our kind than theirs. I mean that as a compliment. You know that, don’t you?’

‘Well it isn't funny but it sort of is. They must have forgotten about saving the grandkid and took off down the river in that highbred two berth boat of theirs. I stood on the bank screaming and they waved at me. That bitch was waving when their boat went over the weir. Heard you, Sid, hollering when I thought it was all over for me too.’

The crowd shifted back, muttering, as one man shook his head. ‘Sorry dear,’ he said, ‘they most likely drowned.’

Sid clapped her hands, almost in his face. ‘Forget about them. You,’ she said, pointing at me, ‘need to learn to put yourself first, if only for the kid’s sake. People like you and me are much more likely to survive after the flood, because there will always be woodlice.’ She laughed like there was gas in the air – well we all did.

Something swam back into focus in my mind. I turned right away from the Delanciers’ submerging mansion and looked at Sid for the longest time I’ve ever held a gaze. I raised myself out of the surging feelings that could pull me under and on to a possible bridge, using her fat, white hands to lace myself into the other side.