After the End of The Road

You won’t be able to imagine England dry. Not every single part of it. I mean, sure, you’ve probably lived through hot summers where hosepipes were banned for a while and your grass went from green to brown. But you still had water in your local river, right? Sure, the levels might have dropped, but it still flowed. Rivers that dried up completely only existed in other countries. But think about the differences between England and those other places. Yep: rain.

Something tipped the dial in England and the thermostat went from mild to screamingly hot and stuck there. Hosepipes were banned, rivers stopped flowing, reservoirs dried up along with lakes. Then mud started to come out of the taps instead of water. Then even that stopped.

Even then, it rained every now and again. Not enough to get anything flowing or anything big filling up with water. But it was enough to fill a shallow saucer. But you had to be quick to get to it before the sun took it back. Even that little stopped when the forests burned. Not English forests particularly; there weren’t none of those to speak of. No; all the forests.

Daddy never had the head for explaining complicated stuff. He was a Sun reader; not that there was anything wrong with that newspaper or those that read it, but everyone rises or sinks to their level. At least that’s how Daddy saw it. Anyway, the point being that he read somewhere that once you got a of dust or ash in the air, rainclouds don’t form so well. I would have thought it’d be the opposite, but five years on Daddy’s visiting with the angels and I don’t remember ever seeing rain. I’m nine, No, not today; don’t try to be funny; it doesn’t suit you.

Then came the year when things started to get better.

I forgot to say: I’m with other people now. They found me just after Daddy went away. They’d been following us actually. Not for any bad reason. We must have just looked like we knew where we was going. We didn’t.

Daddy told me how there was these things called deserts where there was a lot of sand and a very little bit of water and none of it that fell from the sky. Leastwise, that’s what he said. He also said that people used to run around kicking a ball from one end of something called a pitch to the other, but I reckon he made that up too. I mean; why? Anyway it seems to me that if you lived in a desert for years on end then water falling from the sky’s going to seem pretty weird. And wild. And very wonderful.

When you’re nine and you’ve you’ve lived in what might as well have been a desert for years on end, you can’t imagine how rain feels. Not really. I have no memory of ever having water to waste.

That’s what I thought of rain afterwards: how wasteful it was. Just falling with nothing to catch it but dust and ash. But while it was falling all I thought was how Daddy should have been there to see it. And how my heart felt like it would stop.

I was just a boy who froze when the first drop hit my face. I registered the sensation without understanding it. I looked up and saw only the same, grey sky as ever. No branches, no buildings, no bigger person for anything to drop from. When the second drop hit my hand I raised it to my face to see what it was. It was nothing but a tiny streak in the dust coating my skin. I knew it for liquid then. I looked at the other kid. Not my brother but getting close like that. He had a way of playing tricks. Flicking pee at me wasn’t outside of his range. But he was looking up too with a look of some kind of wonder on his dirty face.

I don’t say dirty to mean anything bad; we were all the same. I just mean that as I watched him, his face got cleaner. More and more drops of liquid fell out of the sky until after a bit the air was more water than air. I looked up too. I wanted to be clean without knowing what it meant. I wanted to be wet without understanding that being wet meant more to the world than it did to me. I didn’t get it at first. But I would.

I raised my hands up and whooped. Silly, but I did it anyway. The skin on the back of my hand was more mud than dust. I allowed myself to accept the reality of what I’d had only known before from the stories of before that Daddy had told me: it was rain.

Daddy, when he was in one of his mopes, told me that hope dies in a human heart for lack of experience. Then, after he’d cheered up some, he added that sometimes, seeds of hope live on. They survive deep in the flesh, waiting for something to happen without knowing what that thing is. When it arrives, they know it straight away.

The next day, or maybe the one after, was when all the seeds began to sprout. Not just the ones in the heart but the ones in the ground. They must have been hibernating like tiny, little bears. Daddy told me lots of stories about all sorts of things; some more probable than others. He never told me about this though. Probably even he couldn’t have thought of something so unlikely.

I thought it was a broken bottle at first. Shard of glass in the earth. But it wasn’t glass; it was something much better. And bigger. And brighter.

And that’s how the world came back after the end of The Road.

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