Rudd climbs on to the chair to get a better view. He swings his torch beam around the room, searching for Jacobus and Hansie, and finds them just off to his left.
“Jacobus, I’m going to take some staff to look for Fred and Bernard. Can you hold the fort here? Keep your guests inside if possible?”
“Sure.” Jacobus nods, his face broad and calm.
“Can’t we help search?” Hansie asks.
“Maybe later. We’ll do a first sweep. Not sure how bad it’s going to be out there. Hopefully the generator will come on soon.”
Rudd moves his torch beam on, glancing it across Simi and Marybelle, whose backs are towards him, their attention returned to the storm. Then he circles the light round to the kitchen where he picks out Tonderai and Innocence shining wet in their waterproofs. He raises an arm in greeting.
“How’s the generator?” he shouts.
They shake their heads. “Too much water. Flooded.”
No. Man! Just what we need.
“Any sign of Fred or Bernard?”
“Okay. We need to search the rooms. They may be there. Please come.”
He jumps down from the chair into the swirl of voices, and starts to make his way to the doors, with Tonderai and Innocence behind him, and the wind slapping at their legs. They are at the far end of the room when Jen blocks their path. Her hair is tangled, and her face made ghostly by the torchlight reflecting off the white of her dress.
“What can I do?” she asks, anxiously.
“Please, just keep everyone here. We’ll be as quick as we can.”
“What about the lights?” Katania demands.
“Not working,” replies Tonderai. “Too much rain.”
“At least we’re used to the dark,” someone calls.
“Eggsactly … Harare every night.”
Rudd tries again to press on, but now a hand on his shoulder holds him back. He swings around.
“Do you want me to come?”
“Ah, no. Didn’t see you just now. Probably not. Better if you’re here with this lot. If we need you we’ll come and get you.”
“Okay. Hope you find them.”
Broken glass crunches under Rudd’s veldskoens as he opens the doors, and steps out through their damaged frames into the gale, his torch fluttering feebly. Tonderai and Innocence join him, closing the doors as far as they can behind them. They switch off their torches, and with the rain sweeping over them in blinding gusts, manoeuvre through the chairs and tables to the edge of the verandah. There are no stars, and there is no light, just the dull gleam off the metal walkway poles, stabbing roofless, up into the night. The three splash down on to the drowned terrace. Ahead is the squash court, and beside them the trees, mad in black.
Rudd crooks an arm across his forehead, longing for the raincoat, hat and boots he left in the back of the truck. Tonderai and Innocence, are in front of him now, clambering through the branches of the tree that has fallen across the steps down to the bedrooms. Rudd catches up, and they jump down to the lower walkway. Here the wind is less, but the roof is not so high, and the rain is deafening.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023