It was just like the story of Chicken-Licken who thought the sky had fallen on her head when it was just an acorn, to be sure.
Only for us it was not just an acorn. The sky quite literally fell upon our heads. There was thunder. There was lightning. The clouds burst, and the earth shook. The electricity failed. Worst of all, it happened at night, and with the failure of the electricity and there being neither moon nor stars, the world became pitch dark.
Furthermore, it seemed to rain inside the houses as well as outside, and we were sloshing ankle deep trying to find torches, candles, matches – anything to lighten the darkness! When we did find something the small pools of light brought no comfort at all.
What is there in the human psyche that continues to contend when there is little enough may be done? Not in our house alone, but in all the homes of our small, close knit community, we struggled to salvage what we might, fighting not only against the water and the dark, but an increasing sense of greater disaster yet to follow. It is in times of crisis like this that you discover how much, or how little, you think about the routine placements of ordinary items, and how fear distorts reason.
During those long hours we lived with fear. We speculated whether there had been an earthquake in our region. Obviously if there had been it was not in our immediate vicinity, but the earth continued to heave and shake from time to time. Twice or thrice we heard the crash as something fell. Was it a tree, a pole, a building? There was simply no way of knowing. The intermittent trembles, the frequent unfamiliar sounds, the guttering candles, fed our fears.
Still within the frame of night we abandoned our efforts and drew together, counting heads. There were seven of us in the house, and it was with some relief that we compared notes. No one had sustained a serious injury. We retreated to our parent’s double bed, still standing out of the water, and thankfully more or less dry despite the rain blowing in. At least, it was until we all climbed on, but in huddling together we gained a modicum of warmth and comfort.
“What do you think is going to happen?” Mother’s voice was tremulous.
Father’s reply was grave. “No way of knowing, Molly. All we can do is to wait out the storm before we know what has already happened. Surely a storm like this can’t go on for too long. And then we just have to take it a step at a time.”
We heard him in silence. It seemed a rather bleak outlook, and as far as we could judge there was little hope of the storm abating as yet.
Youngest of us, David started the riot. His small treble rose quaveringly, “With Christ in the vessel I can smile at the storm, smile at the storm, ...”
As we joined he gained confidence, leading us from one Sunday school chorus to another. In that confined space we outshouted the storm, jumping on the bed and doing all the actions with little consideration for our fellows. The occasional splash signalled a fallen songster, but our boat was not yet floating and it took just a moment to hoist the fallen one back aboard. With parental restraint, Father and Mother joined us in song, making no protest at our summary treatment of their bed.
The pitchy dark softened to a gloomy grey. With one accord we repaired to the nearest window. As far as we could see there was utter devastation. A corner of our neighbour’s house was crushed beneath a tree. We gathered to the front door, hesitating briefly before opening it. A small car straddled the path between house and gate, the fence was gone. So was the building across the road.
Speechless for the moment we sloshed through the water to the road, turning to look first one way then another in the slowly growing daylight. All that remained of the rain were wet gusts of wind. Broken clouds harried the sky.
“Look, Dad!” Edwin’s voice was a shriek, his eyes and mouth round with astonishment. “Something terrible has happened. The sun’s coming up.”
We followed his pointing finger with our eyes, Father’s “Yes, Edwin,” dying in his throat.
Edwin’s voice escalated, “But, Dad, it’s coming up in the west!”
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