15 The Search

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Stephen Whiteside
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15 The Search

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Tue Oct 25, 2011 5:49 am

15 The Search

© Stephen Whiteside 25.10.2011

Horatio eased himself from the little cubby-hole they were perched in, and tried to survey the scene around him. It was utter chaos.

It was immediately apparent that there was no way he could conduct the search systematically. Pieces of architecture were crushed together, torn apart, and hopelessly twisted. What is more, the whole shebang was utterly unstable, and very unsafe. Then there were the layers of silt and mud, grass, weed, leaves and branches heaped throughout, and other assorted pieces of rubbish. What a mess. It struck him as odd that something so utterly transformed could yet be so instantly recognisable. Uncanny.

Nevertheless he must do what he must do. He had happily turned his back on his mother two days ago with no plans to return, yet this was very different. Clearly, in some subconscious way, he had indeed harboured plans to return. Because now, when return was impossible, he felt very different. Very different indeed.

In large part he was driven by guilt. Yet he could also see how irrational this way. His abandonment of his mother was the only thing that, in the end, had saved him, yet some crazy corner of his mind was telling him that he should have been there with her when the flood came through, that perhaps there was something he could have done to save her. Clearly, nothing could have been done to save her, and he would only have drowned himself. He probably wouldn’t even have been with his mother at the time, but back in their own home - the family home that he had grown up in that his parents, through their infirmity, had been forced to leave. And he would have drowned, just like his mother, and his tiny corpse would be...who knows where? Lost and forgotten, never to be seen again, somewhere amongst this whole abomination that lay all around him.

Lost. Lost. His mother was lost, and he must find her.

From the very outset, Magnifico was nervous. It was broad day-light, time for all good rodents to be tucked safely away in some convenient little hidey-hole. Yet here they were exposed to all the world on this huge mudflat. For that is essentially what it was. They might as well be standing with their front paws in the air, yelling out to some passing bird of prey here I am! Come and eat me now!

Yes, Magnifico felt very nervous indeed. All his senses were on high alert, screaming warning! warning! warning!

Yet he understood also how important and tragic this pathetic discovery was for poor Horatio. He would allow him a little time for his search. He had to do that. But a little time only. Not a lot. And he would make sure he dragged him away before it was too late. When that was, though, was the hard judgement to make. The trouble with too late was that it was usually too late before you realised it.

Horatio stepped onto a large length of timber that wobbled under his weight. Alarmed, he hopped again, landing in a huge pile of leaves that subsided under him, till he could scarcely see a thing. Clearly, this search was going to be quite a challenge. Almost impossible, perhaps.

It didn’t strike Horatio at the time, but it did afterwards. There were no corpses to be seen. Presumably the extent of the damage was so great as the whole building had been torn from its foundations and rolled endlessly end over end that all the inhabitants, both staff and residents, had simply been expelled one way or another, spat out like the pips of an orange.

Horatio extricated himself from the pile of debris he was enmeshed in, and staggered to the bank, where the ground was relatively sure underfoot. He would survey the scene from outside, he thought, and it would give him a better sense of perspective. Rather than scramble randomly and blindly through this minefield, he would try to be objective, and scan more rationally for places where he was more likely to be successful.

Meanwhile, Magnifico was becoming more agitated, hopping from one foot to the other. Horatio was actually making quite a lot noise stumbling through this wreckage. He was surprised they had not attracted some unwanted attention already.

The sun was carrying a bit of a punch. There was little wind. The sky was broad and blue, and nearly cloudless. A great day for hunting. He scanned the heavens for those tell-tale shadow-throwing black dots that signified circling birds of prey. In the end, the threat came from a different direction entirely.
Stephen Whiteside, Australian Poet and Writer

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