The Rainstorm - fiction
Oliver T. Spedding
We left the school one afternoon and walked back to the squatter camp. We reached the road bridge that crossed the stream running past the settlement.
“Let’s go and look for fishes in the stream.” Ernest said.
We clambered down the embankment into the huge concrete culvert, leaving our school satchels at the top. In the distance I heard the faint rumble of thunder.
The walls of the culvert sloped steeply upwards. They were much too high and steep for us to climb if at any time we wanted to get out of the drain. As we walked we could hear the thunder in the West growing louder.
“There’s another bridge further on.” Ernest said. “If it starts to rain we can shelter there until it stops.”
No sooner had I spoken when a loud crash of thunder flowed over us. The sky was covered by a mass of dark grey cloud that hid the sun completely. An icy cold breeze blew over us.
Large drops of cold rain began to smack down on the concrete around us.
“Let’s go the bridge further down the drain and take shelter.” I said.
By the time we got to the bridge we were soaked. As we stood under the bridge I noticed a wide crack nearby that ran up to the top of the wall and had several sturdy well-established bushes growing in it.
As the rain pelted down we noticed that the level of the stream running down the centre of the drain was rising and the water was spreading across the base. Soon it had reached the walls and began flowing over our bare feet. Within seconds the level of the swiftly flowing water had reached our knees. A cold shiver of fear ran down my spine. I glanced at Ernest and saw the fear in his eyes. If we stood here much longer the torrent of water was very likely to wash us away.
“If the water gets any higher and stronger it’ll wash us away and we’ll drown!” Ernest said.
I looked around hurriedly, fear beginning to take control of me. I saw the row of bushes growing up the crack in the concrete wall.
“We’ll have to climb up the side of the drain using those bushes growing in that crack.” I said.
Ernest waded out into the pouring rain. He grabbed hold of a bush and began pulling himself up the steeply sloping wall. I glanced up the channel and saw a low wall of water rushing down towards us. I hurried after Ernest, the freezing rain taking my breath away. I gasped as I struggled against the current, almost losing my balance. The water was now up to my waist. I grabbed hold of a bush and began to pull myself up the wall. Chomp struggled upwards ahead of me. The wall of water hit me and I almost lost my grip on the bush. My feet were swept from under me and I hung on grimly. Ernest was moving very slowly. I grabbed the stem of the bush that he was standing on and pulled myself higher.
The level of the swiftly flowing water rose even higher. I dragged myself higher, fighting the pull of the current. I looked up and saw that Ernest was almost half way to the top, but the bushes up there were not strong enough to hold him. He stopped, frustrated. I clung to the bush and hauled myself higher, my arms and fingers aching from the strain. The water was now up to my chest and the strength of the current kept dragging me sideways.
“I can’t go any higher!” Ernest shouted above the roar of the rain. “The bushes higher up aren’t strong enough to hold us!”
“We’ll just have to hold on and hope that the water doesn’t rise any higher!” I shouted.
I pulled myself up until I was almost next to Ernest. The level of the water continued to rise inexorably until it was up to our chests. The strength of the current was terrifying, threatening to pull us into the raging flow. Icy rain continued to pelt down on us. I felt my left foot slip off the bush that I was standing on. I felt myself losing my balance but Ernest managed to free his one hand and steady me. Lighting flashed and thunder crashed above us as we hung desperately to the side of the channel. My hands were numb from the cold and I couldn’t feel my feet at all. It was only a matter of time before I lost my grip and got washed away and drowned.
We clung to the bushes for what seemed an eternity, the icy rain pouring down on us and the vicious current threatening to tear us away. I closed my eyes and prayed in desperation, oblivious to everything but my hands gripping the thin stems of the plants. I could feel Ernest shivering next to me but I was too frightened to open my eyes. He began to whimper.
“I don’t think I can hold on any longer!” Ernest cried. “My hands are totally numb.”
“Don’t give up!” I screamed. “We’ve got to hang on! The water has to start receding soon!”
The rain was beginning to ease and the lightning and thunder had moved further to the East. I focused my attention on the level of the water. It was gradually beginning to drop.
“The level of the water’s dropping!” I shouted. “We’ve got to hang on! It won’t be long now. Just hang on!”
My teeth were chattering and my whole body began to shiver from the cold. I glanced at Ernest. His eyes were closed and his body shook as he struggled to keep his grip on the bush above him and also keep his balance. The pressure of the current on my legs eased and I looked down to see that the level of the water had fallen to below my feet, but the depth of the water rushing past below me could still wash us away if we fell now. We had to wait until it had completely receded.
The cold was so intense that I could feel myself going into shock. I closed my eyes and continued to pray. Ernest stood silently beside me and I had no doubt that he had reached the end of his tether. I opened my eyes and looked down. There was hardly any water flowing over the concrete floor.
“I’m going to start climbing down!” I shouted. “I’ll go down as quickly as I can. Try to wait until I’m down on the floor before you start down. I’ll guide your feet and help you if you fall.”
I couldn’t feel my hands and fingers at all and it was agony trying to move my body. I forced my one hand open and slowly moved it to a bush lower down. The pain in my muscles was excruciating and I almost cried. Ever so slowly I moved my one foot down until it rested on the stem of the bush below me. My whole body ached, the muscles stiff from the cold and the strain of keeping my balance. I tried not to rush even though I knew that Ernest was hanging on desperately and might fall at any moment. My feet touched the cold wet concrete and I collapsed onto the hard surface. I forced myself to stand.
“Okay, I’m down” I shouted. “You can start climbing down! I’ll direct your feet for you!”
Ever so slowly Ernest moved down the side of the concrete wall as I told him where to place his feet. He reached the bottom and collapsed onto the concrete. We were both shivering uncontrollably, shocked at the fact that we had almost drowned. I felt a faint warmth come over me. I looked up and saw that the sun had broken through the mass of cloud. I helped Ernest to his feet and we stood in the growing warmth of the summer sun. Our muscles began to relax. I glanced at Ernest. He stared back at me and then smiled faintly.
“Let’s back to the bridge, get our school bags and go home." he said.
That night I lay in my bed I couldn’t stop thinking of how close Ernest and I had come to drowning. If the water hadn’t begun to recede when it did I had no doubt that we would have fallen into the raging torrent and been washed away to our deaths. And it had all been my fault. I had heard the distant thunder when we first climbed into the drain and yet I had ignored it. It had never crossed my mind that the water would come rushing down the channel, even though I had seen it do this many times before. I closed my eyes and sighed with relief. In future I would think of the consequences of my actions before doing anything.