A short story inspired by the recent flooding in countries around the world.
The skies had been overcast for almost a week now, and I had yet to see the sun reveal itself from behind its cover for six days. Scattered downpours were raising the water levels of the river that ran through this idle town.
"The river's quite full today, isn't it?" Transient strangers would comment after each meal at the Waterway Restaurant, overlooking the rushing waters from their tables.
"Yeah, we've had a lot of rain recently." I would simply reply while taking away their empty plates. The restaurant was perched beside an exhausted stone bridge built in the 1400s leading to a once medieval township. People only stayed long enough to appreciate the feudal history of this conservative settlement, any longer, and they would soon realise how boring the place really was. It was the same conversation each day, a natter repeated at each service.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about this town was the occasional flood. There had been times where the waters would burst their banks and gradually saturate the streets for a few hours before receding once more. We had become accustomed to the few inches of water that licked at our ankles from time to time, but it had yet to show itself as a threat. So far, the rain had been passive, washing the country roads of the muddy debris left by tractors and vigorously watering the surrounding woodlands. Although, on the final day of the week, it seemed as though the waters were struggling to subside from the bridge's arches as the river surged heavily against the 15th-century masonry.
I stood against the bridge's wall outside the restaurant, waiting for my parents to pick me up from my Sunday lunch shift. While absent-mindedly watching the mirky water swell beneath me, I heard a low grumble echo in the clouds. In response, I pulled out my umbrella just as the rain began to fall once more. Starting out as a gentle shower before quickly turning into a familiar downpour. Heavy beads of rain pelted my sheltering nylon canopy with rapid succession. I waited for a half-hour for my parents, but unlike most people, I did not mind waiting in the rain. I enjoyed the rainfall; it soothed my weary brain of all the tediously mundane small talk I had to endure during service.
But as the thunder rumbled louder, the rain poured more violently until my surroundings became blurred by a static curtain. Lightning flashed from above, illuminating the river's mesmerising surge of waves. Entranced by a phenomenon I had yet to experience in my life until now, the sudden beep of my father's car horn startled me. I turned around to see my parents sat cosily inside their old 4x4. The wipers vigorously swishing back and forth in a desperate attempt to improve what little visibility there was from behind the windshield. I hurriedly shut my umbrella and climbed into the back seat. Our cocker spaniel sat in the back and greeted me in an onslaught of ecstatic licks.
"Hello, Barney!" I greeted him back. My father quickly pulled away from the side of the road and began to drive through the torrents. The thunder clapped once more, and Barney gave a short whimper and curled into my arm. I tried to reassure him that everything was fine, giving him a kiss on top of his head.
"How was it?" my mother asked from the passenger side.
"Yeah, it was alright. Nothing exciting." As always. What else was there to say? Nothing exciting ever happened in this town.
We came to a stop in front of the traffic lights that stood before the bridge, waiting for the reds to turn green.
"Yikes, look at that river!" My father exclaimed. It had risen to the bridges' edges, lapping over the top and onto the road. As the lights changed colour, we slowly drove across the watery bridge, careful not to lose control. But when we passed over its central arch, a sudden rush of water washed against the side of the car, lifting us from the tarmac for a moment. I felt my heart jump into my throat as the water threw the vehicle against the bridge's wall. Its metal body scraping against the stone made my mother scream. My eyes were wide in silent fear as the river's waves crashed against the windows. A slump in the water's fury released the car back onto the road, and my father quickly accelerated, skidding across the bridge to the other side and out from the body of the deluge.
"Bloody hell, that was scary!" my mother let out with a heaving breath. We sped up the steady incline that rose from the end of Sudford Bridge and descended towards town on the other side. Barney lay whimpering on the seat beside me while my father took a series of deep breaths with his white-knuckled hands grasping the steering wheel. He glanced at me through the rear-view mirror.
"All alright?" he asked; all I could do was nod. I remembered to breathe and tried to get a hold of myself. Looking through the back window, I watched the river swallow the bridge in an even bigger current than the one we just managed to escape. Why was the river rising so fast? We curved over the peak of the hill and realised that the bridge was just the beginning. The river's outflow had flushed through the town. People were watching the river pull broken trees and rubbish along in its tide from their apartment windows; I even saw a man drifting through the trends hooked around a wooden plank. He was desperately trying to keep afloat. Suddenly, I realised that we were beginning to decline towards the bottom of the hill.
"What are you doing?" I blurted out to my father in a panic.
"I can't stop! The water's buggered the brakes!" he cried. The old 4x4 started to pick up speed. He quickly swerved the car towards the curb and pulled the handbrake up, grinding the vehicle against the shop front of a pharmacy, coming to a jarring halt against its entrance. The impact had shattered the display window and left our windshield intricately fractured; it was impossible to see out of it. A woman rushed out from the pharmacy and asked if we were okay. Barney shook terribly on the seat beside me as I tried to comfort the poor boy.
"Come inside!" the woman yelled at us over the thunder's growl. We did as we were told. I clipped Barney's lead to his collar and tried to bring him out of the car, but he was reluctant to move. He was scared stiff by the storm. I could not blame him. My father quickly realised that Barney was not willingly coming along, he took the lead from my hands and reached into the car to carry the dog into the pharmacy with my mother and me behind him. The woman led us into the back, where other employees had gathered to shelter from the storm. They all appeared to be as shocked as we were. We sat down around the table, my father placing Barney on the floor beside him, and we sat. Like nothing had just happened. It was all so surreal.
I could hardly believe what we had just witnessed. Sat in my cold, hard seat, not knowing what to do with myself, I pulled out my phone to look for an explanation. I googled severe floods. There were pictures of houses sat in calm water, but this was different. I edited my google search to river floods, to which it showed me towns and villages submerged in water. Telling me that rivers are most likely to flood after a heavy bout of rain during a storm. It felt unreal. There had been so much devastation in so little time, just from a sudden downpour. Had I really underestimated the power of such a common natural disaster? But it had never been this bad. I remembered watching the news and seeing such heavy damage caused by flash floods in other countries, but I never stopped to think that the soothing sound of rain I loved so much could be the very thing that kills me.
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Quirky articles on various subjects to pass the time! Don't stay quiet people, Just say something!
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