This is my second entry in the Holiday Spirit blogfest -- flash fiction this time. Cyclones are a fact of life in the Pacific during the summertime. Australia has her fair share, but the current cyclone is to the north. As Samoa and Fiji are battered by Cyclone Evan, my story for the blogfest is completely relevant. As Wellington lawyer Janet Mason says right now from Lautoka (a coastal town not far from Nadi) -- the weather is extreme and dramatic...an empty house has flown through the air and landed beside hers. "Another house has completely disintegrated, its roof is in the trees." Debris is everywhere and much of it is flying through the air. "Everything is going, all the trees are being destroyed, there will be nothing left."
In her own home the roof was coming off and she was losing windows. "It's really bad, it never stops. The wind is howling so strong and it is raining, except the wind is so strong you cannot see the rain.”
Damage to Darwin
DARWIN, NORTHERN TERRITORY, 1974
Dawn peeps over the horizon, like a shy child coming late to a birthday party. Dawn’s light reveals crepe paper streamers—red and green dye trickling like blood, swaying nonchalantly in the morning breeze. Gold tinsel, ripped to tatters, is choking fallen timbers that lie on the soil like fallen soldiers. Balloons bobble and bounce across the streets—having a party all of their own—popped by exposed nails or sizzling electric wires that snake along the ground looking for someone to bite. Christmas presents lie spurned and broken like unwanted toys from the birthday child’s gift table.
Humans enter the dangerous landscape, looking as shell shocked as survivors of a wartime bombing raid. Puzzled—disorientated—stepping over a carpet of broken glass—dodging downed power poles—lifting twisted galvanized roofing, making sure no-one lies wounded beneath.
Houses that once stood proudly on stilts are lying crumpled in backyards, fallen on remnants of Christmas Eve barbeques. Odd sights like a car bonnet peep like a child playing hide and seek from under a pile of cement blocks. Rectangles of timber that once housed glass louvers gape emptily, propped like lazy drunkards against walls. The few trees still standing offer denuded fingers to the sky as if in surrender—battle over—battle lost.
Mandy pulls herself from underneath the mattress that had landed on top of her during the long night.
The night—the darkness—the fear.
No lights—no radio—total terror.
She hurts. Her chest is crushed—her breathing labored—she cannot move any further.
When will help come? The hideous sound of the wind blowing in from the sea is her only companion. She hears glass shattering, streetlights popping, neighbours screaming.
The long night is over. Dawn is breaking. It’s Christmas Day. Help will come, God willing.
Cyclone Tracy was not a fictional event. It struck on Christmas Eve, 1974, practically destroying the city of Darwin. Darwin has been rebuilt and is today a thriving tropical city, the northern gateway to Australia. My account of events is of course, purely fictional, and based on my study of the event.
This is not the cheeriest Christmas story, but I hope it helps us to remember those less fortunate --whether affected by natural or man-made disasters -- as we approach the holiday season.
I hope your Christmas is wonderful!
Thanks for reading. Perhaps you have a story...fact or fiction...you'd like to share.