In the north and to the west, there had been rains for days. It was years later, and where Kara had been twelve and living in Arizona, she was a teenager of fourteen. Bloomed. Confident as always. Caring but in a pragmatic manner more than a cutesy doll fairy tale flavor. When the rains had begun, the residents of the cities that rested far below mountains and their ridges only took quiet notice. In May, the month of Mothers, precipitation was often more pronounced than at other times. And being a rural grouping of cities, if one will allow for such an animal, the people that lived there were cut of a coin and cloth that did worry needlessly. So, unaffected by modern mindsets that may have been troubled by light trouble- because the rain was now coming harder, – the populace did not ring alarm bells of any sort.
But it did not stop raining.
Days and nights passed and soon vehicles slid along roads because mud had taken over gravel crushing on the sides of shoulders and spilled upon black cement. Look there and you will see that there is a vapor or fog in the hills that is not a vapor or fog. It is a wall of rain.
Alarms should have been sounded.
The cities below the mountains saw the waters fell a few trees and harm some animals. It was on the fourth day that a dyke or dam broke open and at the same time it began to pour harder yet. The day looked like the early evening and the early evening looked blacker than anything before save for when it was lit up by electric light from emergency generators. Specks and glows from these lights and the emergency vehicles sought out bits of sky or ground but to little avail. The sheets of sky water continued. Now the rivers and tributaries, the pools and storm water systems, the roads and grasses and yards all lost their demarcation lines and began to melt into one another as if in a strange and surrealistic dream. Unwelcomed and wanton did the water rise and rise and there is a point in height, in this case, a point of about four feet, which corresponds with a point of sheer panic in the human heart. This panic, followed by many similar cousins and brothers- dread, loathing, confusion, and others- gathered quickly into the members of the city.
The status of the cities of the flood was simply that of emergency.
Seventeen people lost their lives before the waters calmed. One of them a child. One hundred and twenty nine received injuries, thirty seven of which were listed on the wire as serious.
There was a story though, that in the business and excitement, and perhaps because its smaller intricacies and larger plot took place on the most northern and barren side of the mountain, did not make the news.
A family of five was saved by a brave and unlikely soul. A family that would have surely perished if not for the quick thinking and vision of a fourteen year old girl- our girl- Kara Courtright.
Kara had been in the series of cities that lived by the mountains. On her way to the west coast, before heading down the continent to salt water oceans, she had saw fit to stop and work as a hand in a tree planting group. They had left when the trouble started, made their way down the mountain, and she actually left with them. Near about the bottom of the mountain, about ten kilometers from where their small camp had been, a haphazard series of pickup trucks, van taxies, and civilian vehicles had scurried the group away. They went into the cities, then through them, and outwards to meet the plains where they were to be housed in temporary dwellings made of trailers and large and small tents.
In one of the trucks a conversation ensued that was only learned about by others in the larger world later. The driver had asked if anyone knew about a family that lived near the valley adjacent to where the group had been planting.
No, came an answer from one girl.
No, was the answer from Kara. And then she offered that she wanted to know if the driver was certain.
Of course. But I can see what you are thinking. We can’t go back. The water is rising.
We have to go back.
Listen, called the driver, it’s not tenable. Their place won’t even be there soon. This flood had broken lose parts of the larger buildings. They live in a shack. They either got out, or they didn’t. We will tell the emergency centre and when the army comes maybe they can do something somehow. Check with a helicopter.
It will be too late, offered Kara.
With that, she opened the door and the truck stopped. She stepped down and into feet of water before she felt any infrastructure under her soles.
I’m going, she called, and waved the truck to go on.
You’re crazy nuts, the man directed his voice the best he could to the air outside his window as she was on the other side of the vehicle and the door had closed.
Crazy nuts! He called out once more, but to no avail. Kara was already in a light jog, the best one she could manage atop the brown water.
Back up she ran and across the small summit to a larger one. She did not know what she would do if she found them, and searched her memory for any sign of a shack.
Back at the site where camp was she looked around. Equipment had already been washed away. The water was rising and sheets of rain pressed. Vexatious sheets now. Considerable force as if they were not falling but being thrown down, ten million drops and not a drip in them.
A pylon washed by. Then a large yellow rope. She reached out to grab it, not knowing what she would do with it.
A silver bit of aluminum, some piece of siding or part of something. Flashing by.
That too, gone.
Then she had an impulse to run faster up and up, into the rushing water. It took twenty minutes to traverse what would normally have taken five minutes. It was a direction she had not gone in. NNW or North North West. She had been working to the NNE, or the North North East, high, but in the other direction. There was the abode, and she could see the family- a conglomeration of yells and flailing arms.
We have to go, she called to them.
You have to.
Kara made her way over. She took a rope from the man and pulled her way towards him. Then, without asking, she tied the rope around his waist and the waste of his wife.
More rope? She asked.
One more. This blue one and that’s it.
Kara took it and tied it to the first yellow rope, and then to tied it around each of the children’s waists and then her own.
We are going to walk down together, said Kara. Slowly. Everybody goes and nobody gets washed away. Even if you, the biggest, slip or fall, the strength of the rest of us will pull you up.
And they went then, one of the children slipping right away. They pulled him up, and continued. It took about forty minutes to get down but they made it. A small boat had been sent back to the base of the mountain and it saw them on its second sweep. A figure with a bullhorn called out and told them to stay put now.
We saw the colored rope, not you, called the man that drove. The yellow. You are lucky.
They got in and went like that, with the rope still knotted around each waist, away from the mountain base through the rushing water.
Upwards the rain continued and several hundred trees began to dislodge from previously quiet earthen ways. They ran down the waters like parts of broken wooden castles or sad terrene bits that were not meant to be horizontal but instead should have stood proudly in silent sunlight alone. Their solidarity stolen now, and the entire landscape being defeated by the storms and floods, even the deeper earth surely compromised in the miasma and chaos of the rushing water. There were no creatures, insects, or other about to witness the ways of the water in that area. Even the tearing roots underneath went unheard and unknown, travelling as if by night terror or demon glee, part of a torrential flash that yet continued for hour upon unholy hour into depth of night towards the bottom of the mountain.
Soon any sacrosanct thing for miles and miles had been washed away and that part of the mountain had not flower or tree but only rushing waters still and still and still.
Brian Michael Barbeito is a Canadian poet, writer, and landscape photographer. He has work currently at CV2 The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing and is forthcoming at Fiction International in July 2015. Brian is the author of the book Chalk Lines, [FOWLPOX PRESS, cover art by Virgil Kay (2013)].