14 Jim Turns

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Stephen Whiteside
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14 Jim Turns

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Mon Oct 24, 2011 5:57 am

14 Jim Turns

© Stephen Whiteside 24.10.2011

Horatio opened his eyes to see that the log had come to rest against dry land. It looked more like an island - the top of a hill - than the edge of the flood, but anything was preferable to this wretched log. He hopped off the sodden mouldy bark onto the firm earth. Magnifico followed.

An urgent voice came from their left. It was Jim.

Quick! Run! I can’t hold on much longer.

The rodents turned in alarm. Hold on?

I’m reverting to type. It’s predator and prey again. And I’m very hungry. I’ll be after you both any moment now, and you won’t escape me. My instincts are returning. I can’t hold them off much longer. Then I’ll be a ruthless killer once again, as I usually am. Run for your lives! It may already be too late! Trust me, I’ll chase you! I’ll smell you! I’ll hunt you down!

Horatio and Magnifico did not need a second invitation. They were learning fast. This was not civilisation any more. You don’t get second chances in the wild. Often, you don’t even get first chances. They bolted across the debris strewn landscape. But where to hide? The scene was one of total desolation.

Nevertheless, they ran and ran. How far did they need to go? Was Jim behind them? Was it true that he could smell them? Could he hear them? How far was enough? When would they know they were safe?

There, ahead of them, lay what looked like some sort of rambling wreck. Crushed houses. Distorted, twisted buildings, all pushed up against one another. A place to hide! The only place to hide! Horatio and Magnifico raced in and squeezed themselves into a dark narrow space, where they lay panting with fear and exhaustion.

Was this enough? Would Jim hunt them down even here? And how would they know when they were safe? They said nothing to each other, in fear of being overheard. Time passed. Seconds. Minutes. How many? Who knew? Gradually, the feeling stole over Horatio that this place felt very familiar. He had been here before. Was it? No, surely not. It couldn’t be. But in his heart he knew it was, even though his conscious mind rebelled violently against the idea.

This was the nursing home from his village. Torn and twisted way beyond repair, beyond recognition even - but not to Horatio. He recognised it. There could be no doubt about it.

Gradually the significance of it all sunk in. What devastation was this? If this building was here, there were likely to be others. The village. The flood must have swept though the valley of his home, and destroyed the whole village. But how could this be?

And then he had another thought. If he had stayed home he would have been caught in the flood, and almost certainly killed. Yet here he was, very much alive. Cold. Hungry. Frightened. All these things were true, but at least he was alive.

And he pondered again on freedom. The freedom to float through a log in a flood, yes, but the freedom also to live and not die. That was something, wasn’t it! That was something to respect, something to value. This whole freedom thing might not be such a bad idea after all.

And then the next thought him like a freight train. His mother! He had to find his mother! There was every chance she was in here somewhere - dead or alive, probably dead - but he must find her either way!

And so the search began.
Stephen Whiteside, Australian Poet and Writer

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