Have you ever lived through a blisteringly hot summer? A summer so long that you feel as though winter will never come. So hot the very ground crackles and hisses as the earth sends up a haze of throbbing heat to meet that from the sky. If you have, then you will know the huge sense of relief when the first rain of Autumn hits, and the land drinks in the precious moisture. We were all so grateful for that rain. We ran outside, dancing and skipping in the growing puddles, relishing the refreshing shower of crystal droplets on our skin. Our clothes soddened and heavy, hair lank around our heads, we played and frolicked in the rain. That night we went to bed exhausted, refreshed and happy, the pounding of the rain on our roof playing the melody to a bedtime lullaby. We slept deeply and dreamt of winter coming. Christmas. Log fires and twinkling lights.
That was the last night I went to sleep in that bed. My last night as an innocent child living with her siblings and parents. I look back on it now with both fondness and an overwhelming sense of upset. Still now I do not know what happened to my parents. Perhaps I never will.
The rain we had played in just hours earlier grew heavier and heavier, eventually becoming an unyielding torrent. By the time I woke at around 4am things were already looking pretty dire. The puddles had joined together to form a large lake, creeping ominously towards our front door. The wind was howling, its sinewy fingers tearing at the slates on the roof. Picking them off like petals from a flower. My parents were in the corner, frantically whispering to each other. I picked up a few words. “There isn’t time”. They didn’t yet know I was awake, and so hadn’t taken the time to hide the fear from their voices. Looking to my sister sleeping soundly in her bed I said a silent prayer.
Please God. Please keep my family safe.
Within the hour the water had risen past the front door. Our little house was slowly being engulfed by mother natures wrath. My sister and I were both up and dressed in the warmest clothes we had, our parents dashing around trying to grab anything they could. We had no choice, we had to head out into the storm. We lived at the foot of a huge mountain, the stream had been a perfect source of water but now that very lifeline was exactly what we were running from. Clasping onto the hand of my mother I took a deep breath and braced myself for the wind.
Nothing could have prepared me for the ferocity of the storm that night. My breath caught in my chest as the cold air slammed me with twigs, stones and water. We had hoped to head for higher ground, but the mountainside was slick with mud. Completely impassable. Where would we go? Suddenly my dad pointed and yelled. The tree!! My mother tugged my arm and propelled me forwards, face first into the wind. At the end of our land stood an oak tree, it marked the border of our lot and the start of the national park. Before it had simply been a source of joy and magic for me and my sister. We had a swing attached to one of the low slung branches, and had made a den of the hollow that sat midway up its trunk. I had always wondered how that hollow had got there? But of course it didn’t matter now. Our tree was to become our only salvation. Or so we hoped.
My sister was first up with me following close behind. She slipped and scrambled up the slippery bark. Our fingers were cold, and gripping onto the handholds we’d used hundreds of times was an immense challenge. As I followed her I shook with fear. The water was still rising and I could hear the roar of a huge flood exploding down the mountain. I was terrified I would slip and fall. I’d never been a fan of swimming, I didn’t want to learn tonight. Tears stung my eyes as I eventually reached the safety of our den. My parents threw up a bag with some food and a radio before they attempted to join us. But it was too late. Mum saw my eyes widen and new what was coming. The water hit her and dad like a steamroller, knocking their legs from under them. I clung to my sister, shielding her eyes, as I watched my parents get taken away by the monstrous flood. I watched because I needed to see where they went. I watched so I could find them. I watched because I couldn’t tear my eyes away from that terrible sight.
They didn’t scream. They didn’t cry. The last words I heard as they disappeared from view were words of love. Even in the worst of situations they thought more of us than of themselves. That’s how I’ll always remember them. Loving us more than anything else in the world. Giving anything to keep us safe and happy. Giving their lives for us. Or so I’m told. Their body’s were never found. Nowhere on the plains of flooded ground laid my two loving parents. Where were they? Had they been lost to the elements forever? Or had they survived, and were desperately missing me and my sister as we were them?