“I am just about fed up,” said someone I work with as moisture dripped from his nose, “of being either cold, wet or miserable. When’s it going to end?”
“Uh-huh,” I half-replied and swivelled my chair back to face one of the hundreds of computer terminals that never seemed to get switched off, inside a building heated to the point of dehydration. “How and when, indeed.”
Natalie and Jon had seen floods before, but this time it was different. Every year the river had swollen and burst as though it were too old for the banks. Natalie remembered the first big one of oh-seven when it had seemed like an adventure to her young eyes – days off school, wading around waist deep in muck - but it got worse and worse year after year. People would have moved away, but there was nowhere to go.
This time it felt like the tipping point. She’d been able to tell from the moment the first drops fell that they weren’t going to stop for a long, long time. Now, as she looked out of the first floor window at the water lapping against the brickwork, she could see the current snaking its way across the roof of a neighbour’s car. It had already squeezed its way past the sandbags that piled up behind the front door and now it licked at the blackened carpets halfway up the stairs.
“We should have left with the others,” Jon said, fruitlessly lifting boxes of history up high.
Natalie rested her forehead against the cold glass pane. Everything felt wet. The rain was soaking into the structure of their home, into the fabric of their hearts.
It was dissolving them from the inside out.
“There’ll be another rescue boat,” she said, the words catching on her teeth.
Jon stopped halfway up a ladder and looked at her. She had to say it, even though neither of them believed it.
Alison cradled the unnamed child in her arms and stepped through the broken windows. If she’d felt that there was any point, she’d have named her son three months ago when he was born in what had once been a wheat field, but now was just barren soil.
The land of plenty had emptied in mere months. One or two bad crops and then it had all been gone. The land burned with hunger, but there was nothing left.
The floor was a shiver of water. Alison’s timid steps caused ripples that tumbled down the Tesco’s aisles.
The shelves were bare and broken. At the back Alison slipped between the plastic drapes and into the gloom of the stores. The ache in her gut grew ever more desperate. From under her arm, he burbled slightly and his eyes rolled around their sockets. Not even the strength left to cry.
In-between steps her foot brushed against something. She crouched down, letting her free hand feel amongst the shadows. Eventually, her fingers connected with the damp packet. She held it up to the light that cracked through the damaged ceiling.
A packet of custard creams. Sodden in stale water, but full none the less.
She let the first glimmer of a half smile creep across her face and then a fist connected with the side of her head. The blow sent her sprawling into the murk.
She lost grip of her son, but not her biscuits. A boot slammed into her thigh and the face of the boy’s father appeared in the broken light, wearing a sneer.
“I can’t believe it,” Tony’s voice cracked into a million souls, “India and Pakistan just aren’t there anymore.”
The two boys scrambled underneath the link chain fence and darted across the open tarmac. The sun scratched at their skin through what remained of their clothes.
They ended their sprint under the cooler shadows and burst into uncontrollable fits of giggles. Adrenaline made them light-headed, but once their breathing came in less than heaved mouthfuls the younger of the two ran his fingers over the tyre that stood twice his height.
“They’re so big,” he murmured. “How did they get up in the air?”
“I don’t know,” said the older, “but they did. I remember watching them come in over the gardens when I was small. Younger than you, even.” He shielded his eyes from the sun and looked at the Boeing 747. Its windows had been systematically smashed, cables hung down from the undercarriage, seats and furnishings had been torn out and strewn across the wings like the guts of prey. “You could go anywhere in the world.”
“Anywhere? Even across the sea?”
The older boy didn’t answer, but walked towards the back of the plane and along the runway, towards what had once been terminals. He inhaled sharply. There, strewn across the landscape as far as he could see, were the bodies of hundreds of planes, torn apart, split open, just waiting for someone to bury them.
“Why don’t we fly anymore, Louis?” the younger persisted.
“Dad says oil ran out before we were ready.”
The firelight whispered memories as Jackson peered into it. He screwed the paper face into a ball and tossed it into the flames, watching it curl, pause and then disappear.
He repeated the action - a moustached gentleman this time - again it shrivelled and died in an instant and all his thoughts were of her and times never to be had again. He remembered the city as he had discovered it, a land of glass and impossible romance, but now the world was dark and cold.
The next sheaf was all fifties. He paused for a moment before reminding himself, “even if there was something left to buy, there’d not be enough money in the world to afford it.”
Last summer as I tended bar on a dead Tuesday evening, the rain pelted down. Drops fell like stones, hitting the concrete and then rebounding back up into the air. The gutters that ran along the back of the pub overflowed and a waterfall cascaded down the windows. The thick black shirt I had to wear clung to my sweaty back.
The guy leaning at the bar, stealing sips of Abbot Ale, was semi-regular and he liked to chat. I was happy to talk that evening – there was nothing else to do.
As outside some God seemed to turn the taps up higher and the rain fell even more strongly he said: “With the summer we’ve had, you can’t tell me global warming is really happening.”
I wanted to slap him and yell that he’d totally missed the point, but instead I nodded at his empty glass and asked “same again?”
Fade to black.