The Deluge

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ANNA SAT ON the edge of the bed with the door to the bathroom closed in front of her. She could hear the girl on the other side of the door, splashing contentedly in the bath. Something about this situation had shaken Anna. Something was brooding within her, but she could not place the anxiety. For all she knew, the girl had simply been caught in the rain, and was now quite happy to be warm and safe. But there was something in the way the girl had been standing in the road and the way she sat by the fire, the way she stared into space as though it were occupied by some horrifying presence. Anna listened to the bathwater being splashed around, attempting herself to draw some comfort from the noise.
   The girl was happy enough, for the time being; though more from the physical relief of being warm than from any real change in her emotional state. She was humming to herself; a cheerful little tune, made sombre by her delivery. She arched her back forward and dragged a flannel across the surface of the water, dreaming away as she attempted to write off the day as a kind of terrible dream. Anna, unable to put herself at ease, knocked on the door, asking if the girl was okay. The girl would still not reply. Anna looked down at the pile of wet clothes by the door. That milky colour, which had struck her when first carrying the girl through the rain, now gleamed brighter in the clear, indoor light.  She picked up a wet under-shirt which despite its thinness felt inordinately heavy. There was a damp residue on the fabric, thick in consistency, similar to a paste or glue. Anna rubbed her fingers together. As it dried, it felt more like wet paper.

The water now lukewarm, the girl pulled the plug to let some out before topping-up with hot water. She watched the water swirl down, cutting with her finger the small tornado that climbed downinto the drain. After emptying some of the water, she began to fill the bath up once more. This time, as the hot water flowed in, and the water level rose, the girl began to remember what she had seen that day. With the surface edging higher, the girl began to panic; her breathing became short and a cold tingling sensation came over her body. She then saw that the water running from the tap was of the purest white, almost invisible against the porcelain. Itspread to the bathwater, exactly as it had done in the river. She began to thrash and scream, sending water on to the floor as she attempted to climb out. The violent kicking made her catch her foot on the tap. A small cut appeared on the plump curve of her heel. Drops of blood mingled with the water, creating pink veins that spread in delicate webs across the surface. Anna, having rushed through the door, shut the tap off and held the girl by the shoulders to keep her still.
   The room quietened down, the only sound being the residual swelling of the water and the storm quietly raging outside. Anna held the girl’s face in her hands. This was the first time the two had held eye contact. Very gradually the girl’s breathing slowed down. She felt safe with Anna, which Anna recognised in the girl’s countenance.
   ‘I know you’d rather not speak about what happened, but you’re going to have to tell me’, said Anna. ‘It’s okay. I promise I won’t tell the others if you don’t want me to. But I need to know what happened. What’s more, we need to get in touch with your parents and let them know you’re safe. Do you understand?’
   The girl had been looking down into the water. She cupped her hand, filling it to the edge of her palm before letting it pour trickle through her fingers. 
   Finally, she murmured something: ‘They’re dead. They’re probably all dead by now.’
   ‘What do you mean? Your family? What makes you think they’re dead?’ asked Anna.
   ‘The water.’
   ‘What water? What do you mean?’. 
   ‘The water from the trees. It’s coming. It’s flooding everything. It’s not going to stop.’

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