International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes
come and look! cried Rose, turning the volume up.
Kelly drifted in from the kitchen and stared at the television.
Omigod, she said, Wheres that?
France, said Rose.
that where your Sarahs gone? said Kelly, but Rose, mesmerised
by what was on the screen, didnt hear.
Sirens were blaring, red and orange and yellow flames soared into the
sky, and thick black smoke was turning day into dusk. Bulldozers were
demolishing trees in the path of the fire; helicopters were vainly attempting
to douse the flames. People were running, crying, carrying screaming babies,
dragging bewildered children, their faces blackened and sweating.
A news reporter was speaking:
"The fires here on the Spanish border are now out of control.
Hundreds of residents and holidaymakers have been forced to flee the flames
with nothing but the clothes they are wearing."
Makes our little heat wave look a bit pathetic! said Kelly,
turning back to the kitchen.
Rose wiped her perspiring face with her scarf. Oh, I dont
know about that, she said. Its dreadfully hot in here.
Kelly came back shortly with Roses tray and dumped it unceremoniously
on her lap. Rose eyed the food with suspicion: the girl didnt have
a clue about cooking.
Thanks, dear, she said, Ill have it in a moment.
Ill get off then, said Kelly, quickly picking up her
bag and escaping through the front door.
Rose put the tray on the table. Sausage and mash! A little salad and some
ice cream would have been more suitable! Though, in this heat, Rose didnt
really want to eat at all.
Another news reporter was speaking.
"Here, we are just outside Bordeaux. The news is grim. Nearly
seventy holidaymakers have died here, as the worst ever forest fires have
swept through dozens of camp sites. Hundreds are missing. Many of the
dead and missing are British."
Then suddenly there in the camera frame was a family, a slim young woman,
a bearded man, a dark curly-haired boy, a girl with brown plaits, all
disorientated and weeping. Rose leaned forward, stared hard, trying to
see clearly. It looked like them! Sarah. Matthew, Josh and Tilly. But
it was a fleeting glimpse; the camera moved on and she didnt know
if it was really them. A small sob rose in her throat.
The news moved on from fires to floods. Where, Rose didnt hear.
All she knew was that every day there were reports of fires and floods,
storms and droughts. Every day, and everywhere, people were driven out
of their homes, or were running for their lives. Farmers complained of
devastated crops and dead livestock. Hundreds of people were burned, drowned,
starving, homeless. What was the world coming to?
When did it all start? Rose couldnt remember...
She dozed, exhausted by the heat and the struggle to remember. When she
awoke the room was an oven. Her face was burning. She lifted a shaky hand
to touch it: it was dry now; no perspiration.
"And now, the weather. Its been the hottest July day since
records began. The Meteorological Office at Bracknell recorded a high
of 45° at 2pm. Now, at 6pm, temperatures are 34° in Edinburgh,
37° in Manchester and 40° in Southampton. Tonight temperatures
will not fall below 27° in southern England..."
Rose didnt really understand the centigrade numbers but she thought
45° was what they usually have in Africa, not England. Anyway, it
felt like 100° in here! She had meant to get Kelly to open the skylights.
Of course it wouldnt have occurred to the girl herself to let in
some air; she never did more than she had to.
Rose needed the loo. She grabbed at her zimmer and pulled herself to her
feet, swaying as her head reeled. Steadying herself, she tottered slowly
to the bathroom. There she splashed her face with water and felt a little
better. But by the time she had taken the few steps back to her chair,
she was hot again, and queasy. She badly wanted to sit back down but her
throat was parched. She stumbled on into the kitchen, desperate for a
drink of water.
Her hand shook as she filled the glass, and it clinked against the tap.
She drank greedily, slopping water down her chin. But the cold water made
her dizzy and she had to rest against the worktop, her heart beating fast,
nausea rising in her throat. Her eyes fell on a postcard, propped up against
the kettle. Kelly must have picked it up from the mat but not given it
to her. Drat the girl for her thoughtlessness! Rose turned it over.
Its great here in Bordeaux. Camp site is lovely. Lots and lots of
trees, so plenty of shade, thank goodness! But its terribly hot
~ 45° every day. We all spend most of the day in the swimming pool.
Hope everythings OK with you.
See you soon!"
Rose gasped with dismay: Bordeaux! Sudden dread for her family and mounting
giddiness overwhelmed her. She needed air, but had no way to get it, as
she couldnt open the windows and couldnt possibly make the
long walk to the garden. All she could do was sit down and hope the dizziness
Rose awoke with a start. She could hear ringing, quite close. She tried
to focus her eyes on the television, but it was football, so the ringing
wasnt there. She realised it was a telephone, her telephone. Maybe
it was Sarah! Rose desperately wanted to get up and find out, but her
body seemed lifeless. The ringing stopped, and then started again. Frantic,
she grabbed at her zimmer, but she was too weak to pull herself up and
fell back, exhausted.
The ringing seemed to recede, vanishing down a long dark tunnel.
Was it Sarah saying they were fine, or someone else telling her that her
grandchildren were dead? Tears ran down Roses cheeks, as she realised
that she would never know.
© Carolyn Hughes November 2007
Carolyn is studying for her Masters in Creative Writing at Portsmouth
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