The urgent shout stabs into Rudd. He grabs at a metal roof support with one hand and, with the other blocking the rain from his eyes, searches for the cause of the alarm. But all he can see is rain, and the slippery shift of water licking down the stairs above him.
“What?” he shouts.
The reply comes, but it too is ripped to shreds by the wind, and cannot warn Rudd of the bulk he sees suddenly, turning and tipping past Tonderai and Innocence. Horrified he watches the shape seesaw down. Twisting closer. Gathering speed. Becoming a table. Four legs jabbed up into the dark.
Rudd braces for impact, breath thumping. But there is no collision. Instead the table stalls, close enough to touch. He stretches an arm towards it, but as he does it breaks loose again. It swings round, end first, its momentum missing him by a shadow. He watches it surge past, and block to a stop against a bedroom wall below, then he turns and pushes upwards, the pounding rain and adrenaline forcing him on, his legs suddenly strong. He reaches the verandah just behind the others, and follows them back through the broken doors, into the dry of the lodge. He is soaked and desperate for news of Fred and Bernard, but all that meets them are questions.
“Hey Rudd …”
“ … any sign?”
“Where are they?”
“What’s it like out there?”
“What’s the damage?”
The three do not reply. Instead they weave a path back through the impatient crowd to the reception area where Father Norman waits with towels. Rudd passes a few back to Tonderai and Innocence, then burys his face in the rough oblivion of the dry cloth. He stands for a few seconds, letting it soak the damp from him, then he rubs the towel up and over his hair.
“Nothing?” Jen asks.
“Nothing,” he replies.
“You checked their room?”
“The three of us did Jen. We searched all the rooms.”
“But where are they?”
“I don’t know. I promise we’re going to keep looking.”
He passes the towel back to Father Norman, and then sits down on the chair he had stood on earlier and begins to unlace his shoes.
“What’s it like out there?”
Rudd looks up to see Steve looming over him.
“Bad,” he replies, shaking the water out of one shoe, and then the other. “It’s the loose stuff you have to watch. We nearly got wiped out by a table.”
“That’s cyclones for you.”
“Hey Steve. How do you even know it’s a cyclone?” someone challenges.
“Yeah Steve … this is Zim we’re talking.”
Rudd jumps to his feet.
“Steve’s right …” he shouts, voice taut.
“Hey speak up, Rudd. Can’t hear you back here.”
Rudd climbs up on to the chair, blinking as torch beams bear down on him. Slowly the voices fade away, leaving only wind rattle. Rudd clears his throat.
“Guys this is bad, and likely to get worse. This is a cyclone. It’s the edge of the one in Mozambique. The really bad news though – Fred and Bernard are still missing. We’re going to need help.”
“Did you see Aneke out there?” someone calls.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023