That was this summer. I had very long relationship and last year i got ridden of it. So I sex occasionally wit various girls till then. One night this September I was very very tired of everything. Job went finally better and some private investing also, but I had being working for 14 hours a day at time. It was About 1 am in the morning and was just went of from long shower and about to lay down on my bad.The voice from the other side of cell phone was very pleasant, some kind of baby talking voice. Voice said" Annnn' what what do want from me now?...LOL.. i said "who is this?&... Continue»
This following chapter from the third volume of my "Slaves of the Amethyst" saga is not an erotic story as such although there is a strong erotic thread throughout mush of the novel. I decided to post this extract however in the wake of Hurricane Sandy which has so badly affected the Eastern coast of the United States because of the parallels between the story and the real life experiences of my American friends who lived through the hurricane. In the story the valley of Mathomdale, where most of the novel is set, is holding its annual summer festival with tens of thousands of visitors in the valley when it is struck by a powerful and destructive hurricane causing widespread damage and massive flooding. With many thousands of people in imminent danger and without shelter the valley authorities organise the inhabitants of the valley into a large scale rescue effort and mobilising every resource to that end including the valley's own private military f***e and requisitioning nearly every large building in the valley as emergency evacuation centres including the massive near legendary edifice of Mathom Hall. The chapter joins the story at the height of this storm and when the rescue services face the most dangerous crisis yet. I post the chapter in dedication to all the brave men and women of the emergency services who are called upon whenever the f***es of nature are unleashed and to the incredible resilience and collective courage of human beings in the face terrible danger.
Heart of the Storm
There was flooding now all over the valley but the critical point had still yet to be reached. That much was obvious to Robin and William Richards of the Mathomdale Water Authority as they examined the river in its course just above Mathom village. The river was still rising steadily and becoming more dangerous by the minute. The valley floor was already awash in run-off water from the torrential rain but the river was still largely confined within its levees. This was about to change as Robin and William could see all too well in the light shed by the powerful lamps on their emergency vehicle. The gushing water was within a few inches of the tops of the flood barriers and the levees themselves seemed to be sagging ominously under the huge pressure of the water behind them. It only needed a tiny breach in those last defences and the gap would widen in seconds releasing untold millions of tons of water in a torrent into the already sodden landscape of the valley floor.
Their vehicle was perched precariously on a track atop the endangered levee and it was a position that all prudence warned was not a place to remain for very long. There was already evidence of seepage through the earth banks of the levee indicating that it was becoming more and more undermined as the minutes passed and was surely close to imminent failure. The vehicle rocked in the blasts of the high wind but William poked his head out of the window to take a better look at the state of the embankment in the glare of the headlamps cutting through the sheets of rain. “This bastards gonna go anytime now!” he shouted.
“Can’t you go out there and stick a finger in it?” asked Robin.
“Sorry sir! I left me sodding clogs at home!”
“Well we’d better get the hell out of here before the bugger decides to collapse with us on top of it.” Robin keyed the radio link. “Come in Alpha One. Are you reading me Alpha One? Are you there Danny?”
Daniel’s voice crackled over the static. “Alpha One here, reading you loud and clear. That you Robin?”
“Affirmative Danny. Have you got those flood zones clear yet?”
For a second they lost Daniel’s reply in a burst of static. “.... just gettin’ t’ rest out now. We should ‘ave the last of t’ ‘ostels clear in about ‘alf an hour to an hour or so. What’s yer situation?”
“If it’s bad news you want Danny then we’re the men that have it for you! You might not have an hour! The levees here are approaching failure. We’re looking at imminent collapse. Repeat we’re looking at imminent collapse. We’ve got half the water in the valley bunged up against these barriers and they could go any minute. I’d suggest you move those people sharpish!”
Daniel uttered a rude word “Acknowledged Robin. I’d gerrout o’ there if’n I was you.”
“We’re bugging out right now Danny. See you back at the ranch. Over and out.” Robin turned to the driver. “I forgot to bring my water wings so let’s get the hell out of here!”
Mathom Hall was already filling up rapidly with evacuees and more were expected every minute. The Hall had become the last major remaining refuge on that side of the river and Daniel was stuffing every vehicle that he could lay his hands on to the gills with people and despatching them to the sanctuary of its stolid resistance. The Hall was beginning to resemble a castle under siege as more and more bewildered survivors disembarked from the motley collection of requisitioned vehicles at the main entrance to be ushered hastily under the shelter of its eaves. There seemed no end to them and Lady Mathom, stood on the front steps with a long cloak wrapped around her against the elements, looked on in disbelief as a double-decker bus of the Mathomdale Bus Company lurched up the drive, packed to capacity with drenched people. She turned hastily to the young footman at her side that was acting as her runner. “Phillip alert Mr Carmichael. Tell him that we have at least another fifty or sixty people arriving. We’ll have to open up another of the ballrooms.”
“Yes Ma-am!” the young lad dashed away back into the house.
Many of the people arriving at the Hall had expected this night to be attending the summer ball that evening. That was not going to happen in quite the way they expected but at least they would find themselves in some of the most beautiful and elegant ballrooms to be found anywhere in the country. Mathom Hall had an embarrassing richness in this regard for it boasted not one but five large, ornately decorated ballrooms; the legacy of the glory days of the Hall when it was renowned for throwing the most monumental parties in England. Four of these ballrooms had long been closed and, while not exactly gathering dust for they had been well maintained, they had been somewhat dark and sad reminders of the faded past of Mathom Hall. Now after their long slumber they were coming to life once more and light glittered in their fantastically ornate chandeliers and if the people crowding into them now were not the elegant ladies and gentlemen in formal dress of former times then there was at least the sound and animated chatter of throngs not seen by these great chambers in many a long year.
The big ballrooms had proved to be a fantastic asset in the current crisis for it was easy to shepherd people into them and keep them together in one place where they could be tended to with relative ease. The ballrooms didn’t much look like ballrooms at this point it must be admitted. In fact they more resembled something between a gypsy encampment and a hippy festival at the moment. People were gathered around in groups, squatting on the dance floors in circles or at the chairs and tables around the edges and buzzing with suppressed excitement. Rebecca, as she wove through the crowds distributing dry clothes, blankets and sl**ping bags was struck by the almost carnival atmosphere among the evacuees. Most people evacuated to the shelter of the Hall had arrived drenched, cold and somewhat shocked by their experiences but once in the safety of the Great House their misery had turned to something approaching awe and disbelief. It amused Rebecca enormously to watch people’s reactions as they first arrived and were shepherded into the ballrooms. The people had been desperate as they were evacuated from the ravages of the storm and they would have been grateful for any sort of shelter; a musty old village hall, a school gymnasium, even an old barn, anything, but to suddenly find themselves ushered, in their sodden clothes into enormous grand ballrooms with great sweeping dance floors, neo-classical marble pillars, acres of polished teak, huge ornate glittering chandeliers and massive grand staircases seemed just so bizarre that many of them could only stand open-mouthed in amazement leaving puddles on the marble floors.
People quickly staked out their own corners within these fantastic settings but the collective experience of flight from danger into this most extraordinary setting rapidly blurred territorial boundaries and groups and families tended to merge together, sharing their resources and swapping experiences. Rebecca observed that quite a number of people seemed to have salvaged supplies of alcoholic sustenance among their survival kits and many a bottle was being passed around adding to the animation of relief and novel circumstances. A couple of people had even managed to bring their guitars through the storm and circles of people were already bursting into favourite festival songs around these minstrels. Many others however were simply content to drink in the atmosphere of the Great Hall in wonder and forge the beginnings of stories they would tell for years after to rapt audiences for whom tales of the inside of the greatest house of the Line were a source of endless fascination. These after all were mostly the c***dren of the Goddess and Mathom Hall did not just represent some particularly fabulous English stately home. The Great Hall was a legend, holding a place of reverence and spiritual significance in the culture of the Line. Few among the company had ever set foot inside the Hall before. To suddenly find themselves unexpectedly transported from the most wretched conditions imaginable into the fantastic environs of the Hall of which such incredible stories were told pressed against the limits of credibility. Fear and misery turned to awe and wonder and people talked excitedly among themselves, sharing the adventure with each other and reflecting that a drenching and a battering by the storm was a small price to pay for this experience.
Adding to the colour and general party atmosphere was the quite fantastic collection of clothing now being distributed among the company. The girls from the slaves’ wing had performed sterling work in locating clothes and the snap decision to hand out large quantities of saris and yukatas had proved an inspired one. The women among the evacuees had been delighted with the colourful and exotic garments and had shed their wet clothes readily to adorn themselves in the novel finery. Rebecca amusedly realised that even those women with relatively dry clothes and thus little necessity for a change had eagerly snatched up the proffered alternatives. There were parts of the ballrooms beginning to resemble a Marajah’s harem and others that looked like a particularly busy day in a Japanese bath house. The ladies from the Oriental Gardens had proved to be a boon in this respect. Rebecca passed Doris and Daniela squatting in the middle of the dance floor in the main ballroom surrounded by around thirty giggling women and girls and instructing them how to tie the obis on their yukatas. “Ok ladies!” Doris was saying “First of all take the end of the obi in your right hand. Oops Miss you have your yukata wrapped the wrong way round! It must always wrap left over right. Never wrap it right over left. Only dead people at funerals wrap it that way around. Ok now holding the end of the obi in your right hand extend your arm out and then hold the rest of the obi around the middle of your waist with your left hand like this. Good now fold that length over from top to bottom so the fold is on top like this and lay that folded length over you right shoulder. Now you’ve got to wrap the other end of the obi around your waist toward the right. Make two turns and bring the other end of the obi back to the front from the left hand side. A bit higher up ladies, the obi should come to just below your breasts. Ok now you’ve got to fold this left hand side of your obi bottom to top so that the fold is downwards.”
“Goddess!” giggled one happy young lady, “How many hands do Japanese women have?”
Daniela laughed. “Oh it’s easy once you get the hang of it. I have to do this up to ten times a day!”
“Ok ladies! You’re doing well.” Doris told them. “Right the next step is to bring the length you have over your shoulder down and over and around the left hand length to form a knot. Put the end over your left shoulder this time. Now open up the other end and bring the end up underneath so you can tuck it into the knot you just tied. Make sure the fold is centred over your waist. Ok here it gets complicated. Pinch the centre of the length to form a loop on each side and then bring the length you’ve got over your left shoulder down over the bow loops were you’re holding it. Wrap it around from over to under like so pulling it tight so that the bow you form will hold tight on top of the obi. Now roll the remainder up so that a roll is formed on top of the bow and tuck it into the underside of the bow like this to support the bow. Now grasp hold of the bow firmly with one hand and the back of the obi with your other and twist the whole thing around so that the bow is at the back and straighten out the whole thing so there are no creases and wrinkles.”
“Why does the bow have to go at the back ma-am?” asked one lady.
Doris grinned. “A matter of tradition and protocol lady! Only those ladies accustomed to earning their livings on their backs tie their obis at the front as a practical consideration because it makes it easier for their clients to unfasten them that way!” A chorus of giggles greeted this item of knowledge.
“They wouldn’t ‘ave any trouble opening mine!” remarked one young Alpha slave from the east of the county. “I’ve med a total hash o’ this! T’ bl**dy things gonna fall open all on its own some!”
Daniela laughed “Come here let me help you.”
Rebecca passed on shaking her head in amusement. It was astonishing how resilient people were. An hour ago these same ladies were exhausted and at the limits of their endurance yet now they were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Some were even trying to fashion the disaster of their hair and make-up into some semblance of oriental style. The people camped out around the ballrooms were Alpha-Sensuals too and she noticed the close physical contact between them and their uninhibited lack of modesty. One attractive girl had stripped her wet clothes off and was stood agonising over a choice of half a dozen saris Helen was holding for her perusal quite oblivious seemingly to the fact that she was stark naked and surrounded by strangers. People of the Line tended to be much more relaxed about that kind of thing. Rebecca realised that it would not be long too before they became even more relaxed for there were many people whose caresses of their partners and friends were becoming more languorous. She’d read somewhere in her studies that there was a measurable inbuilt instinctive reaction to danger among human beings to combat it with promiscuity. Wars and other disasters statistically produced baby booms. Wasn’t there was even a well documented case study of a sudden surge in the population of New York City exactly nine months after a major power cut had blacked out the city for thirty six hours? The thought brought a new smile to her face. It was statistically very likely that there would be a number of the women present that were in their Alpha fertility cycle. How many of them, she wondered, would be able to resist trying to conceive under the hallowed eaves of Mathom Hall. She guessed that sooner later there would be corners of the ballrooms that would resemble one of the Empress Messalina’s more notorious soirees.
Rebecca saw the figure of Dr Chandra weaving her way through the crowds looking pensive. She and Professor Sehler had been called upon to attend to a number of minor injuries and some low level cases of hypothermia but, thankfully, as yet, nothing serious. Dr Chandra saw Rebecca and worked her way toward her evidently desiring speech with her. She looked curiously troubled. Rebecca curtsied politely in deference to the Doctor although in common with most of the slaves of Mathom Hall she had no fond memories of the lady in her past experience. “Thank you for gracing us Doctor. How are things in the hospital wing?”
“Nothing we can’t handle so far lady Rebecca. We’ve been lucky up until now. How’s it going through here?”
“Better than we’d hoped for Doctor. Everybody seems to have settled down and we’ve got lots of volunteers to help out.” Rebecca nodded toward the tables where food and drink were being distributed. Many of the evacuees themselves had rolled up their sleeves and were helping the Hall’s staff. Rebecca suddenly stepped aside as a very young toddler came staggering in her direction being pursued by a somewhat harassed looking mother.
Dr Chandra looked about her. “There seems to be a lot of c***dren here.”
“Oh most of the older ones we’ve bedded down in the k**s’ wing Doctor but most of the families prefer to keep their very youngest with them. We’ve designated the far corner over there as a crèche area for people with very young c***dren.” Rebecca pointed to a large area in which a number of babies were squalling lustily or being nursed and breastfed by their mothers.
Dr Chandra looked even more thoughtful. “I see. What about the sanitary facilities? Are they holding up?”
“Oh yes Doctor. The ballrooms were after all designed for very large parties so the adjoining lavatories are huge. We’ve had to limit them for essential calls of nature though because we were finding that the ladies were getting choked up with women all trying to repair their faces in front of the mirrors. We had to put our foot down and tell them that this was an emergency shelter and not a flipping boudoir. As for the young k**s we had a real stroke of luck. One of the young maids was digging out towels, soap and other sanitary supplies in the housekeeping stores and she came upon a dirty great stash of disposable nappies. Goddess knows how long they’ve been there but there were perfectly usable and we’ve pretty much solved the pee-pee and p*o-p*o problems.”
“Excellent! You girls and the rest of the staff are doing a wonderful job. Keep up the good work.” Dr Chandra looked around. “Ah I see your s****r Abigail is there. Let’s call her over. I’d like a quick chat with you girls.”
They beckoned to Abigail and she walked through the crowds squatting on the floors in their direction. A newly arrived evacuee started to her feet to curtsy to Abigail but she gestured to the lady to remain seated. It had been somewhat of a problem at first because the high ladies and slaves of the Hall had elicited the usual courtesy when moving among the evacuees and at times the big ballrooms seemed to have developed a Mexican wave as one of them crossed the floor. Whenever Lady Mathom appeared in the Hall the entire company had leapt to its feet and it had proved nearly impossible to cater for everybody efficiently when obliged to acknowledge normal rules of courtesy. As a result they had suspended protocol for the duration of the crisis and, other than customary obeisance upon first arrival; everybody was to remain seated should a high lady of the Hall make an appearance so as to expedite the necessary work of tending to the large number of people.
Abigail came up to them. She was clutching a box. “What have you got there Abi?” asked Rebecca.
Abigail held up the box. “bl**dy tampons! You wouldn’t believe the number of menstruating women that seem to have come adrift of their sanitary towels and tampons. I’ve been scouring the Hall for them. It’s not just the Beta women present either. There seems to be a hell of a lot of fertile Alphas and quite a number of those are having periods.” Abigail shook her head. “I can’t weigh it up. Maybe it’s just a statistical fluke but why should so many Alpha women be all fertile simultaneously?”
Dr Chandra pursed her lips. “It’s just possibly not a coincidence Abigail. There have been several studies done on the subject. There have been waves of Alpha fertility noted several times throughout history. I read a paper on it just last month. They’ve done research on apparent clusters of pregnancies in Alpha societies that seem to be statistically significant and unexplainable by the laws of blind chance. There was a recent case in certain countries in Africa where the birth rate among Alpha cultures suddenly quadrupled over a few years. The increase isn’t related to particular age groups either. There were women throughout a wide range of ages all becoming fertile. There was no correlation that anyone can see with social changes either. The increase occurred in long established Alpha societies that hadn’t much changed in hundreds of years. It wasn’t as if birth control had suddenly gone out of fashion either because these societies had never used birth control in any case. It was just as if a significant proportion of the Alpha females all suddenly became fertile spontaneously.”
“But why?” asked Abigail.
“Nobody knows.” Dr Chandra told her. “Nobody has identified a trigger that might have caused it. That’s hardly surprising though since we are still pretty much fogged as to what triggers any fertile cycle in Alpha women. I have one lady patient that had been infertile for eighty two years and then she produced three c***dren in the space of six years. I have no idea why.”
Rebecca nodded. “Yes Doctor my own research turned up quite a lot of inexplicable Alpha baby booms for want of a better word. They’re not just localised phenomena either. There’s an indication that there was a huge increase in the Alpha birth rate in the mid 19th century for example and it was global in nature. There have been some indications that the 20th century saw similar sudden up-trends as well. My own generation may have resulted from such an increase although the actual statistics tend to get obscured by the general human population increases from those times.”
Dr Chandra mused thoughtfully. “I’d like to see your research material Rebecca. Professor Sehler tells me it is brilliant.”
“I’m sure the Professor is being too kind Doctor.”
“That’s a failing that even Dieter is rarely guilty of young lady! He might have a discerning eye for a pretty young thing like yourself but it wouldn’t cloud his academic judgement.”
Abigail shook her head. “It seems a little fantastic Doctor. Do you mean to tell me that for no apparent reason large proportions of Alpha women suddenly all become fertile at the same time? It doesn’t make sense. Goddess you’ll have me believing in astrology next!”
Dr Chandra smiled slowly. “Abigail I can’t explain it and nor can anybody else. There’s just so much we still don’t understand about the Alpha Sensual syndrome. We’ve made fantastic strides in the last few years but the biggest thing we’ve learned is just how much we simply don’t know. The reason that I read that paper and some others is because we seem to be experiencing a similar effect at the moment.”
“Really Doctor?” asked Rebecca interestedly. “Is this fully documented?”
Dr Chandra shook her head. “No not as yet. All I know is that during the last eighteen months or so in my own practice I’ve had more ladies turning up with the proverbial bun in the oven than at any time since the war. They’re not all young wenches in early maturation either. You’d expect them to be fertile. No what I’m seeing is a lot of mature ladies suddenly entering into fertile cycles as well. I’ve spoken about it to a few colleagues and they’re experiencing much the same thing in their practices too. I’ve been trying to monitor the situation which is why I was interested in what Abigail told us about the number of menstruating women present. We’ll really have to get off our backsides and conduct a proper survey.” Dr Chandra shook her head with a wry smile. “But anyway girls that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about. Where is your Mistress?”
“Why she was in the main hall the last I saw of her Dr Chandra.” Abigail informed her.
“And how is she?”
“Somewhat concerned Doctor. Shiro-san never turned up with the rest of the people from the Oriental Gardens and I think she’s worried about her.”
Dr Chandra clicked her tongue in irritation. “And what is your Mistress doing in the Hall?”
“Well she’s very busy Doctor; greeting all the new arrivals and assisting them in their needs.”
“Damn it!” swore Dr Chandra. “I damn well told her to leave all this to her slaves and servants and to go and rest! She shouldn’t be stressing herself like this! It’s downright irresponsible!”
“Is there a problem Doctor?” asked Rebecca in sudden anxiety.
“Yes Rebecca. Yes there is. I can’t go into details and I won’t know for certain in any case until I’ve examined her properly but I’m concerned about your Mistress. I’ve told her several times today that she needs to rest. She’s obviously not taken a blind bit of notice of my advice.”
“Is this because of her accident Doctor?” asked Abigail.
“Not directly Abigail. Let’s just say that it exacerbates my concerns. Your Mistress is under a huge amount of strain at the moment and.....” Dr Chandra paused “and well she shouldn’t be. That’s why I wanted to talk to you girls. I want you to persuade your Mistress to take things easy. I want you to relieve her of some of the burden. Show her that you have everything under control and get her to go to bed. She won’t damn well listen to me!”
“Doctor?” asked Rebecca. “Is there something wrong with her?”
“You tell me girl! You and your s****rs live closer to her than anyone else. What do you think is wrong with her?”
Rebecca rubbed the back of her neck thoughtfully. “Well it’s true that she’s been under a lot of stress Doctor. There’s been the war and everything and then of course today has been pretty wretched.”
Dr Chandra waved a dismissive hand and snorted. “I’ve seen the Lady weather worse crises than these girl. No it goes deeper than that. You girls shouldn’t need to be told this! If you’d been keeping a better eye on her I wouldn’t have to talk to you about it.”
Doctor.” protested Abigail, “We’re just the Lady’s slaves! If she won’t listen to her doctor why should she take any notice of us?”
“Girl you slaves are the most precious thing in her life! Of course she’ll listen to you! More than you think! She’ll go and get some rest if it keeps her little darlings happy. Now in the name of the Goddess take better care of your Mistress and open your eyes! If you don’t know what’s ailing her then you haven’t been doing your jobs properly. She shouldn’t be able to so much as sneeze without you knowing about it. What do you think you’re there for? Your Mistress is the most important person in the world. People all over the globe are dependent on her continued health and well-being. As her personal young ladies you have the duty to safeguard that well-being whether she wants you to or not. Now she might well, in her current mood, tell you not to worry about her. Ignore such a command! Remember your responsibilities. Your primary duty is to safeguard her, serve her interests, cherish her, love her and protect her. Your second duty is to obey her but only....” Dr Chandra paused to raise a finger, “only if that duty does not conflict with your primary duty! Am I making myself clear ladies?”
“Perfectly clear Dr Chandra.” said Abigail with dignity and just a touch of resentment. “We are well aware of our duties.”
“Good! I’m pleased to hear it.” Dr Chandra’s attention was drawn to a young footman hastily weaving between the crowds in their direction. “Hello.” She said. “What’s up with this young man?”
The footman sk**ded to a halt before them. “Doctor!” he began without preamble, “The soldiers are just bringing a casualty in; a serious one. Professor Sehler is asking for your assistance.”
“Oh Goddess! I’ll come straight away.” Dr Chandra turned to Rebecca and Abigail. “Where are your s****rs Helen and Heather? I might need them.”
“They were with Professor Sehler a few minutes ago Doctor.” Abigail informed her.
“Good! Go on lad lead the way.” Dr Chandra departed rapidly leaving the two young women staring after her.
“bl**dy dear Doctor being her usual charming self!” grumbled Rebecca indignantly.
Abigail looked uncertain. “I dunno Becky. She’s trying to tell us something.”
“What? That we’re terrible slaves?”
“There’s something the matter with the Lady Becky. She’s trying to warn us about it.”
“Well what the hell is the matter with her Abi? I know she’s under strain! Goddess anybody would be with all the responsibilities she has.”
Abigail bit her lip, suddenly wracked in uncertainty. She shook the box in her hand. “Becky do you know where I got these from?”
Rebecca shook her head. “Not my chambers anyway Abi. I don’t use that mark.”
“The Lady sent me to fetch them Becky. They were in her chambers.”
Helen and Heather were with Professor Sehler. In fact the twins had been the first on the scene when the new casualties had been brought in and it had been they that had summoned Professor Sehler to the scene. Heather and Helen not only had Masters degrees in foreign languages they were also competent trained nurses. They were not as such fully qualified nurses according to the guidelines set by the NMC, for their training had been largely outside of the official qualifying bodies of the health service. Nevertheless they had studied nursing at degree level and had some practical experience gained during the occasional periods of service that all Slaves of the Amethyst were obliged to perform at some point in their careers. In fact they had taken two stints of overseas service in their first three years of enslavement at the Hall assisting in clinics founded by the Line in Third World countries where their extraordinary linguistic prowess had been as equally valuable as their nursing skills. This body of knowledge and practical experience stood them in good stead in this crisis.
It was not a single casualty, as the footman had mistakenly informed Dr Chandra, but rather several. It had been a crash with a mini-bus on the road toward Cropton. The storm had uprooted a large tree and tossed it across the road into the path of the mini-bus and a collision had occurred. There had been six people in the vehicle and most of them had been injured. Two men and two women in the bus had suffered bruising and lacerations. One of the ladies had a severe gash in the side of her face requiring stitching. The only person more or less unharmed was a small c***d; a girl of around six years old who was crying pitifully but was to all intents and purposes completely uns**thed. The footman had been right in one respect however. There was only one real serious emergency among the victims. They were wheeling this latter on a guerney toward the casualty reception of the hospital wing when Dr Chandra arrived on the scene. It was a teenage boy, with fair hair, in shock, naked to the waist and obviously suffering a serious chest injury. The twins were holding dressings over the injury while Professor Sehler was hovering over the patient and looking worried.
“What have we got Dieter?” asked Dr Chandra brusquely.
“Penetrating chest trauma Akuti. The lad’s been thrown forward onto something sharp. We’ve got a tension pneumothorax in the right pleural cavity. The girls here have applied an airtight pressure dressing to the wound but we’re going to have to aspirate that pneumothorax right sharpish.”
Dr Chandra looked down at the patient noting the emergency first aid performed by the twins with approval. “Good work girls.”
“Excuse me Doctor,” said Helen worriedly. “The military wanted to try to evacuate him to Brawton Infirmary by helicopter but we over-ruled them. I hope we’ve done the right thing.”
“Absolutely girls! Quite apart from the prevailing weather conditions a flight evacuation is absolutely contraindicative for pneumothoraces. You acted absolutely correctly. They’d never have got him to Brawton alive! Come on! Let’s get him into the theatre.”
They rushed the young boy along the corridor to the emergency casualty theatre. Professor Sehler’s concern was mounting. “It looks like a bad one Akuti. I don’t know if needle aspiration is going to be enough. Are we equipped to perform a tube thoracostomy here?”
“Relax Dieter. This house and its facilities were designed to be completely self sufficient even in the event of a major war. We’ve got one of the best equipped emergency trauma units in the county here. We’ll manage!”
Elsewhere in the valley crisis mounted upon crisis as the storm swelled toward a crescendo. Midnight had long come and passed by the time that Daniel, in his mobile command vehicle, received the most horrifying news of all. “What d’yer mean they’re not out yet!” he cried in disbelief to the young soldier who had the misfortune to be the bearer of ill tidings. “We ordered that ‘ome cleared ‘ours ago!”
“Sorry sir but they ‘aven’t shifted. They seemed ter think that they was safe enough where they was and it was too dangerous ter move the k**s.”
“For fucks sake!” swore Daniel furiously. “Robin an’ Bill are sayin’ them dykes could go any minute! ‘Ave we got a radio link to the ‘ome?”
“Yes sir. We’ve got a squad in there now trying to persuade them to move.”
“Well get on to them and tell them ter shift them k**s now! Don’t take bl**dy no fer an answer!” Daniel glanced around wildly. “Sarge!” he shouted.
Sergeant Oldfield hurried across. “What’s up?”
“The bl**dy Lady Anne’s k**’s ‘ome asn’t been evacuated Sarge!”
“Oh fer fuck’s sake!”
“Get ‘old ov every bl**dy vehicle an’ every man yer can find and get it down there now. They’ve only got a couple o’ mini-buses there that can tek mebbe a dozen people at a go an’ there’s seventy or eighty k**s an’ their ‘elpers in that ‘ome!”
“I’m on it sir!”
“Right!” Daniel called forward to his driver. “Manny! Let’s move. Lady Anne’s k**s' ‘ome fast as yer can!”
In another location another crisis was building towards its climax. Warfaa’s forehead was damp with sweat as he knelt over the agonised labouring lady lying on the blankets before the fireplace in the lounge of the Mathom Arms. Warfaa was desperately trying to remember everything he had learned in his parent’s clinic and praying fervently that he would prove equal to the task. Sally and Patricia had cleared a good space around the fireplace but there was still a crowd of people pressing around the perimeters of the little drama being enacted under the glow of the fire and the calor gas lamps. The lady’s husband was supporting her under the arms and her wife was gripping her hand as she strained in agony, her face contorted and pinched and her naked body slick with perspiration. She gasped and cried aloud as another contraction wracked her, sobbing in relief and frustration as the agony subsided momentarily once more. She had been well into the second phase of labour when they had first laid her before the fire Warfaa knew. Her cervix had been well dilated and he had timed the contractions on the little travelling alarm clock Sally had given him. They’d been occurring every three or four minutes and the contractions themselves lasting to over a minute. Now the contractions were very nearly continuous and intense. They were entering the final stages.
“Another effort if you please mimsaab.” urged Warfaa.
“Come on honey! Push!” his lady assistant encouraged.
There was another wrenching spasm of agony from the lady and the tension in her body grew to a horrifying strain, knotting her muscles in contorted sinews. She squealed between tightly clenched teeth and her wife winced as the grip on her hand became vice like. The tension in her body was matched by the tension in the atmosphere. The lounge of the pub had fallen silent other then the lady’s cries of pain and the soft encouraging words of her assistants. The spectators clutched each other’s hands and held their breath in horrified fascination each time the lady went into another contraction. The whole little microcosm of the pub had focussed down to those few square feet of illumination before the fire where this tiny and yet titanic struggle for life was being enacted before their eyes.
The gale outside rattled the building and the rain lashed in fury against the window panes but here, in this little haven, the storm was forgotten, dismissed as irrelevancy by a f***e more powerful than itself. The storm might rage and howl in fury, to its heartless content, but it could not defeat the obdurate, continuous resistance of life itself. The storm might unleash terrible energies against the fragile creatures in its path but ultimately it was ephemeral and it would be humbled by the obstinate persistence of the small miracle taking place even within the worst ravages of its cauldron. The storm would blow on, tearing away to the east, expending its energy recklessly to peter out into brisk breezes to stir the grasses in lands far away, to die feebly in distant parts and in its wake, with barely a momentary blip in its continuity, life would go on.
Warfaa was worried. This was the lady’s first baby evidently and the labour was hard on her. Her hair was matted to her face with perspiration and she looked to be exhausted; on the last reserves of her strength. He was trying to get the lady to control her breathing and to relax as much as possible between contractions but the effort was clearly beginning to tell on her. If this had been a hospital they might have given her pethidine or even an epidural. But this wasn’t a hospital. They had a limited amount of emergency medical supplies but of all the emergencies they’d anticipated c***dbirth was the last thing they’d expected. They were going to have to do this the old fashioned way. Warfaa winced every time he looked at his hastily improvised equipment lying in the enamel bowl beside him. He cringed especially when he regarded the pair of tongs he’d liberated from the kitchen and fashioned into delivery f***eps. He prayed fervently that he wouldn’t have to use them and thanked the Goddess that it didn’t seem to be a breech presentation.
It was not something he was taking due notice of but the labour was taking its toll on Warfaa too. His mouth was parched and he felt unaccountably weak with the strain of the enormous responsibility laid upon him as the many eyes in the pub fixed on him in his work. He fought desperately to keep the worry from his expression. He glanced up to catch the eye of the lady’s husband supporting his wife. The man looked almost as wretched as his labouring wife. Warfaa guessed that this man was most likely the father although among families of the Line the distinctions between parenthood and biological parenthood among males were frequently blurred. Whether or not he was the father this was nevertheless his c***d too and he seemed to be sharing the agonies of the woman he loved cradled in his arms. He looked at Warfaa questioningly and Warfaa felt the burden like a great weight that this man would look to him for reassurance. He f***ed himself to smile encouragingly. “We are nearly there now I am thinking.” He said as calmly as he could and hoped desperately that he was telling the truth.
But in fact they were nearly there. The lady went into a long terrible spasm, the cries of her agony escaping from her tightly clenched teeth, and the first glistening curve of the c***d’s crown appeared at the opening of the cervix. “Be easy now!” Warfaa told his patient. “We are seeing the baby’s head but please do not be pushing too hard. We are not wanting the baby be born too quickly.” Warfaa didn’t want an overly hurried birth. Throughout the labour he had heard the quiet instructions of his mother in his mind, the lessons she had taught him in the clinic in his home land as she’d let him assist in the delivery of the babies of the village. His mother was dead now but her calm assured voice lived on in his mind. “When the c***d crowns,” she told him now, “be careful not to let its mother be too hasty to rid herself of her burden. Let her ease her c***d gently into the world so that she will not tear herself in her haste.”
The lady was gasping for breath and sobbing, her eyes tightly closed as she struggled to control the end game of the delivery. But the end came quite quickly in the event and in a remarkably short time the final efforts of the struggling woman slid the c***d, slippery with mucous, into Warfaa’s hands. There seemed to be an explosive exhalation around the spectators who had evidently been holding their breaths during the final phase of the drama. Warfaa cradled the c***d carefully, examining it quickly as his lady assistant handed him soft towels to swab and dry the feebly squirming tiny being. The pub lounge was suddenly full of relieved laughter, the slaps of people’s palms against each other and the crooning of soft eyed women. The new mother was struggling up on her elbows, her bleary eyes searching her c***d.
“Is... is it all right?” she croaked weakly.
It was a good question. Warfaa had never seen the new born c***d of a white person before. It looked horribly pale, even translucent to him and the skin seemed to have a bluish tinge to it. Nevertheless the tiny little figure seemed otherwise perfect. Everything seemed to be there and in the right places so Warfaa smiled at the worried mother. “Oh yes mimsaab. You have a perfect little boy.”
“C... can I see him?”
“One moment please. Let us first clean him a little and then you may hold him.” Warfaa gently swabbed the mucous away from the c***d’s skin. There didn’t seem to be much mucous in the c***d’s mouth and nose for the placental fluid had been thankfully not too viscous. Warfaa had previously improvised an instrument from a length of plastic tubing and a rubber bulb should it prove necessary to suck excess mucous from the baby’s air passages. He had been dreading using it. He hoped now that it would not have to happen. He just wished the c***d would breathe! Long seconds had passed since he had received the c***d from its mother but still it refused to gasp the air of the new world it found itself in. “Don’t panic.” His mother told him in his mind. “The c***d will breathe when he is good and ready. He still has air from his umbilical cord and there is no need to rush him. If he proves too lazy then encourage him with a gentle flick on the sole of his foot. Don’t smack him though as people in older times used to do. He’ll earn smacks enough as he grows up. Let him wait until he deserves it before you give him his first.”
The gentle rubbing proved stimulus enough. Before Warfaa’s astounded eyes the tiny little c***d gasped once and inflated its lungs. The reedy cry was like the ringing of triumphant bells in the expectant hush of the pub. The packed spectators cheered in approval, hugged each other and slapped their companions on the back in glee. “A miracle” thought Warfaa; a terribly, terribly ordinary miracle and none the less miraculous for being so ordinary. He wrapped the c***d gently in a soft warm towel. “Wrap the c***d quickly.” his mother warned him. “He has come from a warm safe place. He will be cold.”
“Please let me hold him.” The baby’s mother was holding out her hands eagerly, her exhaustion forgotten as she reached for her new son. With a smile Warfaa handed the baby to her and she grasped it; her eyes shining in wonder and fascination. She brushed her matted hair from her eyes the better to see her c***d and her husband and wife leaned over her shoulders in eagerness, eyes full of pleasure and love. Instinctively the new mother held the c***d to her breast and he groped ineffectively at her nipple still searching the instinct that would tell him that comfort and nourishment would come from there. “He’s... he’s beautiful!” the newborn c***d’s mother gasped as she stared through eyes tinted with a mother’s love for the ugly little wrinkled creature in her arms. She was touching him all over; feeling him. She was even counting his fingers and her spouses’ eyes were damp with tears.
As his parents’ regarded their new f****y member with awe Warfaa examined the cord that still attached the c***d to its mother. The voice in his head sounded business like. “Don’t be in too great a hurry to cut the cord.” His mother told him. “It will still be pumping bl**d to the c***d. Wait! Wait until you no longer feel the pulsations in it and then you may tie off the cord and cut it. But be patient!” Finally Warfaa could detect no further life in the umbilical. Their emergency supplies did not extend to proper clamps so Warfaa was obliged to use two rubber bands to clasp the cord. Once these were positioned he took a deep breath and picked up the pair of heavy duty surgical scissors that were at least one asset he could count on. He had been relieved to find these among their supplies. He had wondered if they’d need to take a sharp knife from the kitchen to perform this operation. His hand was trembling slightly as he poised to make the cut and he brushed the perspiration from his brow with his sleeve caring not that he left a trail of bl**d and mucous across his forehead. The cord was tough, sinuous and by no means easy to cut but Warfaa severed it, tidied the end up and swabbed a little trace of bl**d from the end. The c***d was now an individual human being, cut from the womb and with a life to live.
Warfaa sat back on his heels breathing heavily whilst his assistant spread a blanket out to receive the placenta. He gulped a couple of times and tried to still his wildly beating heart. His lady assistant laid a hand kindly on his shoulder. “You look all in lad! Go and take a breather. I’ll deal with the rest of the landing tackle.”
Warfaa nodded gratefully. “Mahadsanid Mimsaab.” Slowly he raised himself to his feet. His legs didn’t seem to be working very well.
Sally was pushing the jubilant crowd aside. “Come on folks! Give our new mum and ‘er bairn a bit o’ room! ‘Ere Jill where’s that camera? Pat? ‘Ave yer got them kitchen scales? We ‘ave ter weigh ‘im!”
There was a bowl of hot soapy water on the bar and Warfaa washed his hands thankfully although they were still trembling. Patricia was aiding the mother to place the c***d on the scales. “Blimey!” she announced. “Eight pounds four ounces! ‘E’s a big lad!”
Sally grinned. “Aye an’ born in a pub an’ all! That’ll be summat ter boast about to ‘is mates when ‘e gets older!”
All the attention now was on the new born c***d and her mother and Warfaa felt forgotten as he leaned against the bar heavily recovering his breath. He didn’t mind at all being so neglected. On the contrary he welcomed being able to fade back into obscurity now that his task was done. But he was not forgotten. To his surprise Patricia pushed a large tankard in front of him. It was full of foaming beer. “’Ere lad!” she said, “I don’t know if it’s against yer religion where you come from an’ ah know yer u******e but yer’ve proved yersen a man ternight an’ yer’ve earned yersen a drink!”
His mouth was dry and Warfaa took the tankard with gratitude. The cool, rich malty ale was a nectar like balm to his parched throat and as he slaked his thirst he heard the voice of his dead mother one last time in his mind. “I am proud of you this day my son!”
Elsewhere in Mathomdale the struggle of life and death continued and nowhere was the outcome of this battle so finely in the balance as on the driveway to the Lady Anne’s c***dren’s home. The urgency of the situation seemed to have finally impressed itself upon the staff of the home and they were abandoning the home. It was not a minute too soon but rather very close to being far too late. The water rising in the surrounding fields had already covered the depression in the lane to the home. The c***dren were cut off.
Daniel was out of his command vehicle almost as soon as they came to a halt where the drive disappeared into the oily dark surface of the water gleaming evilly in the head lamps of the vehicles and the mobile floodlights being hastily erected. The military had reacted swiftly to the crisis for the roadway was packed with trucks and buses and the glaring lamps illuminated large numbers of soldiers milling about in the rain. They seemed for the moment however to have lost direction. The flooded lane to the home had temporarily flummoxed them. Daniel wrapped his parka about himself and looked around for someone to bring purpose to the current impasse. An officer was pacing around with an aide by the water’s edge. Even through the veils of teeming rain Daniel could see he looked worried. He strode over to consult. “What’s the situation lieutenant?” yelled Daniel above the roar of the gale.
The officer recognised Daniel and snapped a cursory, bedraggled salute. “It’s a bitch sir! The lane’s flooded for nearly three hundred metres. We’re shafted!”
“Can’t the trucks drive through it?”
The officer shook his head. “We’ve tried sir! The trouble is that the road dips in the middle of this lot. It’s over five feet deep in the middle. We’d just flood the engines. I’ve called up a couple of semi-amphibious personnel carriers from Battalion but they’re the other side of Brawton and it’ll be a couple of hours before they can get here.”
“Forget it Lieutenant! We ‘aven’t got a couple ov ‘ours! The bl**dy flood banks above the village could go any minute.”
“Is there any way we can get round this flood water?”
“This is the only road up to the home sir.”
“Well what about across the fields?”
“All the meadows on this side are pretty much flooded sir. I’d hate to try and drive a truck through them. It looks like much the same all around the place. It looks like they’re pretty well surrounded.”
Daniel looked across the water thinking furiously. The home was clearly visible in the distance illuminated by the lights of the soldiers already in the compound and the vehicles of the home. It was tantalisingly close and frustratingly so distant. The lieutenant’s junior aide spoke up. “Maybe it would be best to get the k**s back inside and upstairs out of the water.” He suggested.
Daniel shot him a withering look. “There isn’t any upstairs lad! It’s an ‘ome fer ‘andicapped k**s; k**s wi wheelchairs an’ leg braces and what ‘ave yer. It’s all low buildings and bungalows. Yer don’t build ‘omes fer ‘andicapped k**s wi stairs in ‘em!”
“Well onto the roof then sir! Maybe we can airlift them off.”
“Yer takin’ the piss lad! Can you imagine a pilot tryin’ ter put a chopper down on a roof in this shit wi seventy or eighty panicking k**s, most of whom won’t know what the ‘ell’s ‘appenin’, under ‘im? I don’t think so!” Daniel turned to the lieutenant once more. “Other than this road what’s the closest we can get to them wi the trucks?”
“Round to the east sir. The main road bends around to the south there and it comes to within a couple of hundred yards or so of the buildings. There’s still flood water separating it from the home but I don’t think it’s so deep there. The trouble is that we can’t get the vehicles off the road there. The road’s up on a bl**dy great embankment and there’s a big stone wall along it. We can’t get down.”
“’Ow deep is that water there?”
“Not too bad I think. Maybe a couple of foot at the most.”
“Shallow enough ter wade through then?”
The lieutenant looked at Daniel dubiously. “For a healthy adult it shouldn’t be a problem sir but with all due respect these are handicapped c***dren!”
“’Ow many men ‘ave we got?”
“Nearly a hundred sir. I mobilised every unit in the area.”
“Right then the k**s won’t need ter wade! We throw every man into that water and make a human chain across it. We’ll pass the k**s ‘and over ‘and and up the embankment.”
“What if the flood banks give while we’re in the water?”
“That’s in the ‘ands o’ the Goddess an’ the Mermaid lieutenant! You got any better ideas?”
“No sir! Let’s do it!”
“Right get every vehicle around to that embankment and all the floodlights yer’ve got. I want those bl**dy fields lightin’ up like Old Trafford on an evenin’ ‘ome match in January! Gerron t’ radio ter yer lads in t’ compound an’ tell ‘em what we’re about.”
“Yes sir! Come on people! Let’s move it!”
Once a decision was made the urgency was admirable and it was only a few minutes before Daniel was assembling his f***es along the raised embankment. Soldiers were mounting floodlights struggling with the stands in the gale. The illumination they gave though convinced Daniel that it was doable. He could see what the lieutenant had meant. It would be nearly impossible to get anything other than a main battle tank off the road at this point. The embankment was steep and treacherous in the rain and there was a formidable dry stone wall running along its base. But the water beyond looked as if it could be waded and only a couple of hundred yards separated it from dry land on the other side. He could see the light of torch lamps waving beyond the stretch of water as the carers and soldiers mustered the c***dren in a frightened pack at the water’s edge. “Right Lieutenant! Daniel shouted. “We’ll need a dozen men on this embankment to get the k**s up. Then we’ll need a dozen more to get them into the vehicles.” Daniel turned to a young soldier in sodden military fatigues at his side. “You lad! What’s your name?”
The soldier glanced at him ironically. “Corporal Watkinson sir. Corporal Elizabeth Watkinson!”
“Oh er! Sorry Miss! Look I saw yer’ve got a stack o’ blankets in that front truck. I need someone ter wrap them k**s up once we get them up the banks and inter t’ trucks. Can you take a couple of lads... I mean er yer mates like and organise that for me?”
“Yes sir! Leave it to me. Jackson! D’Artagnon! Move your arses! You’re on k** wrapping detail!”
Daniel turned back to the lieutenant. “Other than that I need every available man in t’ water Lieutenant. I’ll cross ovver first ter mek sure that it’s fordable. I need a volunteer ter accompany me.” Daniel turned and saw Sergeant Oldfield at his other side. “Right Sarge! You’ll do!”
“Eh? Me? I gave up volunteering t’ day I signed up! I ‘aven’t volunteered fer nuthin’!”
“You was busy so I did it for yer!”
“Oh fuckin’ ‘ell!”
“Away Sarge! It’s not like we can get any wetter is it?”
“Oh fuck it! Go on then!”
Daniel tossed aside his restricting parka, grasped a powerful flashlamp and plunged into the water. For one moment he thought that he’d made a terrible mistake because the water was much deeper than he anticipated as it rose to nearly chest height at the base of the wall. But the depth was an illusion created by a small dip in the ground close to the wall and he soon floundered clear into much shallower water beyond that barely rose to his waist. Sergeant Oldfield splashed after him grumbling mightily, “Fuck this fer a game ov soldiers! I joined up fer the fuckin’ army not the fuckin’ marines!”
Daniel turned and shouted to the other soldiers gathered at the wall. “It’s deep just alongside t’ wall. Yer’ll need extra men there an’ get some ropes ready just in case.” A shout of acknowledgment greeted this information and Daniel turned to Sergeant Oldfield. “Away Sarge it’s nice an’ shallow ‘ere. Just like a paddle in t’ sea at Blackpool!”
“Well fuck me! If I’d a’ known that I’d ‘ave brought me “Kiss me Quick” ‘at and a stick o’ fuckin’ rock!”
Daniel grinned and ploughed on. The water was icy cold but at least it was easily wadeable. For most of the rest of the way the water lapped around their thighs and although they stumbled in some deeper parts the crossing was straight forward. Daniel looked back to see a line of soldiers following him into the water. Then the water was only inches deep and soon they were emerging onto what was hardly describable as dry land but at least a passable substitute for it. Waiting for them at the water’s edge was a young corporal with a flashlight and a formidable looking lady clutching a young boy to her side. The c***d was clearly severely autistic and he was whining and rocking back and forth, burying his face in the lady’s coat and repeating, “Go to bed now, go to bed now,” over and over again.
The lady came to the point immediately. “Are you sure this is going to be alright young man? We have quite a lot of non ambulent c***dren. How are they going to cross that water?”
Daniel brushed the rain from his eyes. “Beggin’ yer pardon ma-am. We ‘ave nearly an ‘undred soldiers with us. They’ll mek a chain across an’ all we ‘ave ter do is pass the k**s from one pair o’ ‘ands ter the next. It’ll be alright. The water’s not that deep till yer get right next ter t’ far side an’ we’ll ‘ave plenty o’ people to ‘elp out there.”
“I can’t help feeling that we might be safer staying where we are!”
“Missus the flood barriers above Mathom are liable ter go any minute. When that ‘appens this ‘ole area’s gonna be a river! Now yer can stay if yer want Missus but yer can stay on yer tod! We’re taking these k**s out now!”
The lady glared at Daniel but saw the determination in his face and capitulated. “Very well then. What about the c***dren in chairs?”
“Sorry ma-am but we’ll ‘ave ter leave them be ’ind. We can sort out wheelchairs an’ what ‘ave yer at us leisure later on. Right now though let’s get ‘em ter safety!”
The lady nodded grimly. “Well then let’s be about it.” She turned to the assembled company of c***dren and their carers gathered behind her. “Ok Everybody! Listen up! We’re going to have to paddle across. Everybody stay in your groups and hold somebody’s hand at all times. John, Steve, Jackie and Dave you’re going to have to get anybody in a chair out and carry them. Hand them over to the soldiers and pass them along. Everybody else keep your groups tight until we can hand them along. Make sure you’ve got everybody with you. c***dren! I want you all to be very good and not be frightened. It’s only a bit of water! Nothing to be worried about. It’s not even as deep as the swimming pool at the sports centre. Just hold on to a grown-up and we’ll soon be across and all nice and warm and dry.” The lady’s voice was soothing and reassuring. Even those c***dren who could not understand her seemed to be calmed by her gentleness.
In fact the c***dren seemed generally calm. Daniel regarded them with surprise. It was his first experience with a group of what he would call handicapped c***dren and like many people he had ill conceived preconceptions about them. The people that looked after such c***dren never called them handicapped. They called them “c***dren with special needs” or sometimes just “special c***dren”. As Daniel regarded the group of c***dren before him he discovered a first inkling that the word “special” might mean something more than simply a diplomatic way of describing a c***d as severely disabled. He had expected chaos among the c***dren but in fact they seemed far more orderly, quiet and well-behaved than an equivalent group of what might inaccurately be described as ordinary c***dren. True some were crying and the ones of lesser ability were disoriented and disturbed. One little girl in a wheelchair was keening loudly and rocking backwards and forwards violently and there was a small boy sobbing and hitting himself repeatedly on the forehead with his fist. Yet for the most part the c***dren waited patiently to be given their instructions and if their eyes were wide with fear they demonstrated no sense of panic. Some were even giggling delightedly as if the whole thing was some wonderful adventure.
As Daniel passed among the c***dren organising them a boy with Down’s syndrome addressed him slapping his chest. “Are we going to swim? I’m a good swimmer! I’m strong!”
A little girl tugged at his sleeve. “What’s your name mister?”
“Er Danny honey.”
“When’s your birthday Danny honey?”
“Er the fifth o’ January love.”
“Oh the same as Billy and Mrs Heppleton! Do you have a car?”
A lady scooped in the girl “Come along Betty! The gentleman doesn’t want to be bothered with all your questions now!”
Another little Downs syndrome boy grasped Daniel’s arm. “Are you my friend?” he asked.
“Aye lad! Course I am!” The boy sighed in satisfaction and grasped Daniel in a great hug so typical of the uninhibited affection so characteristic of those c***dren whose carers preferred to call special.
Another young boy, in his teens, touched Daniel’s arm to attract attention. He seemed very assured of himself and asked firmly. “Do you need any help sir? Don’t worry! I’ll take care of everybody!”
“Thank you son.” replied Daniel, “Carry on!”
“Aye, aye sir! Full speed ahead!” the youngster snapped a parody of a salute and strode off to his group amid the storm. Daniel felt a sudden rush of something that he had never expected to find in the misery of the storm. He realised that many of these c***dren; most of them in fact, would require care for the rest of their lives. They would never be fully productive and contributing members of society in the purely materialistic sense of that term. They would always be a burden on someone’s pocket. But that was beside the point wasn’t it? These k**s fulfilled another role within society for they reminded people of the meaning of humanity. There was no earthly sense in crassly economic or practical terms for caring for these c***dren. They might live short lives and give little back in material terms to the society that nurtured them yet they were vital. They were vital because a society needed them utterly to be a civilisation of human beings. They might have cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, epilepsy, autism, whatever but they were essential. They were the vulnerable; the weak, but you cared for them. You cared for them because any civilisation that failed to care for its weaker members was damned; damned utterly for the failure of its humanitarian responsibilities. You cared for them because that’s what made you a man, or a woman. You cared for them because that’s what made you a human being. They weren’t handicapped. Within their own context they weren’t even disabled. They were just k**s. They were just k**s that maybe needed a bit more help than other k**s but they were k**s. In these thoughts Daniel discovered a great up-swelling of love for these c***dren. He would protect them. He would comfort them. He would save them even if it cost him his life to do so.
Sergeant Oldfield was urging the c***dren forward to the water. “Away k**s! ‘Old on tight! Don’t be frightened! That’s me mate Olly! ‘E won’t let go ov yer. ‘Ere love give us yer doll an’ I’ll mek sure she gets ovver all right!”
Once the evacuation was started it went quickly. The soldiers were fit and strong. At times they seemed to throw the c***dren from hand to hand. Some of the c***dren were scared but many of them laughed in delight as if it was some fantastic game invented for their pleasure. Daniel watched in disbelief as the soldiers handed over one little girl that kicked the water in glee with her feet as she passed from one person to the next, loving the splashing that she made. One boy was telling every soldier that manhandled him forward his name as if it would be terribly impolite not to introduce himself to everybody he came in contact with. Some of the c***dren were even singing! It was unreal; bizarre! Daniel shook his head in wonderment. These k**s weren’t handicapped or even that most horrible of terms; retarded. They were just... well they were just.... special.
Daniel was everywhere in those action packed minutes, chivvying the c***dren forward, helping wherever he could, ignoring the cold chill of the water in his urgency. At last there was an ending. Daniel stood in the water watching the last of the c***dren being hauled up the embankment. He was weary beyond reckoning now and desired nothing other than a hot bath and a warm bed. A soldier was scrambling down the bank in frantic haste and shouting loudly to the men still in the water. “Everyone out of the water now! They’re saying the water levels rising fast above Mathom. We’ve lost the levees!”
Daniel floundered hastily to the shore but as he did so a woman carer from the home came rushing down the embankment crying shrilly. “Polly! Polly! We’ve lost Polly!”
The Headmistress of the home grasped her by the shoulders and shook her, “Calm yourself Alison! What do you mean?”
The women looked at her frantically and gripped her arm. “It’s Polly! She hasn’t come across. I thought June was looking after her. We got split up. She must be still back there!”
“Oh Goddess!” the headmistress cried. “It’d be just like her to wander away!”
Daniel floundered to the edge and grasped the wall. “Can we call ‘er?” he shouted.
The woman shook her head desperately. “It wouldn’t do any good! Polly’s severely autistic. She’s got the mental age of a two year old!”
Daniel glanced back across the water. “Right then! I’ll go get ‘er!”
“I’ll come with you!” the headmistress declared.
“No Missus! You stay ‘ere an’ look after the k**s that’s already across. It don’t need two of us on this job!”
Daniel made to depart but Sergeant Oldfield in the water beside him grasped his arm and whispered hoarsely. “Sir? Danny mate? You sure about this? That flood water’s gonna ‘it any minute! Think about it! It’s just one lass. You ‘eard the missus. She’s never gonna be more than a two year awd bairn and probably not long fer this life in any case! Is it worth it Danny? Is it worth riskin’ yer life for?”
Daniel stared at him wildly. “Me life wouldn’t be worth fuck all ter me if I didn’t risk it now Sarge!”
“Yer fuckin’ mad Danny!”
“Aye that’s true! Now let us go Sarge!”
With a grunt of exasperation Sergeant Oldfield complied and Daniel was away battling back through the water. “Get some fuckin’ ropes down ‘ere!” Sergeant Oldfield shouted in rage. He glared at the form of Daniel thrashing through the water before him. He wanted to curse and rage but strangely he felt a terrible pride in that moment.
Daniel staggered ashore close to the home. He still had his flash lamp with him and he swept the beam around in desperation. There was only the stream of rain through the lights beam however and so he dashed into the complex of buildings almost weeping in frustration and anxiety. Nothing! He could see nothing! There were a hundred places where a little frightened girl might hide herself. He grasped his sodden hair in mounting panic. Where could she be? “Goddess ‘elp us now!” he prayed fervently.
Almost as if in reply to his prayer he heard a soft whimper from a dark corner. “Is that you Polly?” he cried. He flashed his torch into the corner. There was a fleeting glimpse of a pale frightened face and then the girl was up and running away in fear. “Oh fuck!” growled Daniel and started in pursuit. “Come back love! I’m not gonna ‘urt yer!” She was surprisingly fleet and Daniel laboured after her, slipping once in a pool of mud and fearing that he had lost her again. He flashed the torch around and then saw to his relief she was halted on the side of the flooded meadow beyond. She was keening softly and dabbling a foot in the water as if she didn’t understand this alien presence into her familiar world. Daniel approached cautiously. “Come on now love. I’m not gonna ‘urt yer.” Carefully he wheedled his way toward her. She became aware of his presence, staring at him with wild, uncomprehending eyes. “Come ter Danny love.” He coaxed gently but her attention was flickering and he could see she was on the point of flight once more. He edged to one side trying to anticipate her move. She nearly caught him by surprise. She was so quick it needed a despairing lunge at her to grasp her by her waterlogged jacket. She squealed alarmingly but Daniel grabbed her in his arms and gripped her tightly. She was a big girl maybe thirteen or f******n years old and she was strong, struggling hard in his clutch. “Calm down now love!” Daniel yelled in her ear. “Just calm down! Everything’s gonna be all right!”
He held her close murmuring to her soothingly and incredibly she seemed to relax in his arms, crooning softly in a strange voice and biting at his clothes. When she seemed still enough Daniel picked her bodily from the ground and half dragged her back to the route across the water. He held her close to his body as he battled through the water to the embankment. She was hugging him tightly now; her hands about his back and her fingernails digging into his neck. On the shore ahead soldiers were shouting encouragement and urgent warnings in equal measure. The water level was definitely rising. That much was obvious with every labouring step that Daniel took. Sergeant Oldfield was at the deep spot before the wall with ropes around him. “Move it Danny! All hells gonna let loose in a minute”
The water was too deep and the mounting current too strong. “Chuck us a rope Sarge!” Daniel yelled as he felt his strength ebbing. Sergeant Oldfield coiled a rope and hurled it in Daniels’s direction. Daniel grasped it and as the wind rose to a banshee like howl in the air he fastened a loop around the girl’s torso beneath her armpits. “PUUUULL Sarge!” he cried. Two soldiers struggled into the water beside Sergeant Oldfield and they heaved mightily on the rope. The girl almost sk**ded across the water, kiting around to the right and squealing in terror. Then a soldier plunged into the water to his waist and lunged for her. Daniel had found a flimsy fence post to cling to and, with the water swirling about his upper chest, he felt nevertheless enormous satisfaction as the burly soldier dragged the girl bodily from the flood and flung her up the bank to safety. They were quickly detaching the rope from her and passing it down to Sergeant Oldfield once more.
“’Old on Danny while I get t’ rope ovver ter yer!”
Danny grasped his precarious hold more firmly and prepared himself to lunge for the rope. “Oh shit! Look out sir!” someone called. Daniel glanced to his left. A wall of foaming water was rushing down on him; its leading edge a nightmare of swirling debris, tree trunks and even the corpses of dead sheep.
“Danny!” cried Sergeant Oldfield “Grab the rope!” Sergeant Oldfield hurled the rope to Daniel. Daniel released one hand in a lunge for the end of the cord. He missed it. He didn’t even come close. The surging current whipped the rope away from before he could even touch it. Releasing his hold on the fence post proved his undoing as the surge of the huge volumes of water pressed mercilessly against his body. He flailed once in the current and then his grip was gone. “Danny!” shouted Sergeant Oldfield again. “Danny! Oh for fucks sake Danny!” But Daniel was gone. The floodlights flickering in the madness of the storm revealed only the churning brown waters choked with flotsam as they raged their way down the tortured valley of the River Mathom on their way to the sea.