After The Flood

Entry by: percypop

11th December 2015

Sena squeezed out, past the tree trunk jamming the door. He looked up at the crushed roof with the great tree pressing down on it. A strange high sound like a voice came from the ruin and after some time he realized it was the house moaning under the weight of the tree. Slowly the walls buckled and at last, the structure collapsed. Only the brick chimney and the oven remained intact. The wind had lasted three days and he expected some damage, but not this. Bangladeshi knew how the great winds called The Brides of Kali visited these shores every year. He, like his father, prepared for winds that raged for days.
"Never build high" his father had said "be humble before the rage of Kali."
Two weeks before, the village elders decided to take the women and children away from the village. Carts and a bus rented from the company in Barisal, carried them off to the hills above the valley. Tents and shelters were set up for those who had no family to protect them. Jitna and the two children lodged with her uncle while Sena stayed down at the coast with all the men.

“Make sure you check the animals” she had said “or the stray dogs will get in. We’ll be back home soon.”
The children laughed and waved as they climbed into the bus.
The men set to, battening their roofs and tying down the cages which kept the animals and poultry. Jaffit, his neighbour had a goat.
"Sena, my brother, your house is brick and your yard is walled...."
"No!" shouted Sena "last year the goat smashed my gate and ran away. It will not happen again."
Jaffit turned away and spat into the dust. He said nothing.
The Head man had ruled the harm was natural and awarded no compensation but it rankled in Sena's heart and he did not forget.
For the next six days they fished as before, but with an eye towards the horizon where clouds bloomed high above the sea. They noticed the waves diminished and the swell did not rock their boats as usual. Yet the fish still jumped and twirled as they were drawn into the nets. Among the men, tempers frayed as the tension increased. When would the winds start? Had they sent the women away too early? Time in the deserted village seemed endless, with no good food or entertainment.
Then the winds struck.
Outside Sena's house the lanterns swayed in the branches of the great tree. A gust, strong and sudden, blasted in and tossed the lanterns out into the street. He scrambled to catch a table which flew away, sending the bottles and dishes spinning and rolling away down the yard. The dogs lurking under the table scuttled away whimpering like children.
He pulled down the shutters against the growing wind and went indoors. The familiar howl of the tempest rose as it gathered strength. There was nothing to be done but stay inside and check for breakages.
Then he heard the voice of the sea. Like a rumble at first, then growing louder and more menacing. He scanned the ocean from his upper window, peeping out through a chink in the shutter. From there he could see as far as the beach where his boat lay. Everything was still, but the roaring went on.
Anil, his neighbour shouted up to him: "Can you see the waves?"
Sena: "No big waves just the sound of the wind."
But what was happening? The sea crept away from the land and dragged sand and stones down the beach with a rumbling noise. His boat yanked at its moorings straining to join the ebbing water and escape to the sea. Sena pushed out of the shutters that covered the door to the house and raced to the shore.
Halfway there, the first wave returned. It rose like a green wall flecked with timbers and debris and stormed up the street with a hiss. There was no surf, just the barrier of water pushing and whirling through the houses and trees. It caught him and threw him down, then rushed past him to find another victim. Salt and grit filled his mouth and water filled his lungs, driving the air from his body. He flung himself into the shelter of a broken cabin, which stood half submerged like a wooden outpost. He gasped and coughed to gain his breath. Soon his protection crumpled feebly into the mass of water and was snatched away by the sea.
The old tree in the garden was fighting to stay upright in front of the house, as if daring the flood to take it. Then slowly, so slowly, the great trunk began to tip as the water pushed against it like a battering ram. It came to down on the roof of the house, piercing it like a giant knife.
Sena clambered back inside the ruined building and scurried to the kitchen space. He felt safer where the brick oven still stood among the floating wreckage of the house. He climbed on top and hugged himself to try to bring some warmth into his body. Outside, the noise of the sea and the wind dropped away. Every few minutes a thud shook the building as some large object shouldered its way past.
Within an hour, the sounds change. Instead of the clamour of the sea and the howl of the wind, he sensed a different, quieter murmuration. It was like a snake stretching its slimy body along the side of his house. It moved from the mountains towards the sea. Through the broken doors and battered walls, a stream of brown mud, viscous and smelling of rotting vegetation coiled through the debris. Sena jumped up and stood helpless on the oven. The dark mass spilled over the floor and climbed the walls, sometimes bubbling as it engulfed a chair or the table. He stood stock still and prayed to Kali to spare him. Then the evil slime stopped and while it settled, he was left perched on the brick oven. As it ceased to move a skin of dark matter formed on its surface with a sinister sheen.
Cautiously, he climbed down from his perch. His legs were engulfed in the thick earthy mixture up to his thighs so that he moved as if toiling against a fast running stream. Objects hidden by the mud checked his progress but he got to the doorway without injury. Beyond the fallen tree there was nothing to see in the yard. The cages and outbuildings had vanished. Outside in the road, a half-submerged bundle lay a few feet away. Sena approached it. It was a body of a man. He turned his face away, not wishing to add to the catastrophe pressing down on him. Jaffit’s house opposite had gone. Just the broken strands of a Palm tree showed where the yard had been, although the mud held shapes which might have been broken walls.
He called out several times but there was no answer. It was clear that his house with its wall and tree was the only structure to survive, even if a ruin.
Down by the shore were a few boats in a strange conjunction. Three fishing dhows crammed together as if seeking company to ward off the storm. When he got close he saw they were crushed against each other and wrecked.
Then his eyes scanned the foreshore. Could it be true? Was the shape at the end of the beach his own fishing boat? He raced towards it and fell on his knees when he realized it was his very own skiff. It sat upright in the sand, trim as usual but discoloured by mud and sand. He bowed his head and prayed to Kali the Cruel One. She had taken her sacrifices but spared him.
After a few minutes, he rose and began the tasks that he and his forefathers had done for centuries. The village had to be rebuilt; his family re-united; the dead buried. He knew man must carry on and defy of the Gods.