The rain falls lightly. The twins are asleep in the lounge. Ayanda is washing the last of the dishes. Sthembiso is on another couch. He is scrolling through channels on the TV when the lights suddenly go out.
“How can they hit us with load shedding on a day as cold as today?” shouts Ayanda from the kitchen.
Sthembiso moves the curtain to the side. Streetlights are on in an area not far away. “It’s not load shedding. The lights are on in other parts of the neighbourhood. Maybe the rain damaged something on our side.”
Soft yellow light fills the lounge as Ayanda lights candles. The twins look beautiful and peaceful as Ayanda and Sthembiso tuck them in bed. Candlelight flickers in their pupils when they open their eyes, look at their parents, smile from their dreams and go back to sleep. The family falls asleep to the sound of light raindrops on the corrugated iron roof.
The rain changes pace at dawn. Raindrops drum down on the roof. It is a violent sound that jolts Sthembiso and Ayanda awake. The storm has landed with fury on their side of the township. When it lets up for a few seconds they hear a roar. The river is raging. Sthembiso and Ayanda look at each other.
“The twins!” they scream simultaneously and scramble out of the room.
They dart past the lounge into the twins’ bedroom. The twins are sound asleep. Then the lounge door flies open with a bang, letting in the full sound of howling wind and rain. Ayanda peeks out of the twins’ bedroom. She lets out a sharp yelp.
“Aya! Aya, what’s that?”
“The water broke the door. Get the girls!”
“Water from outside, it is filling the lounge! Get the girls right now!”
“Hurry!” she cries. “The water is rising!”
Sthembiso shakes the girls awake. He hooks one on either shoulder. The water pours into the bedroom through the door, quickly rising to his ankles. The water is knee high by the time he gets to the lounge. Outside the house he finds floating debris – pieces of their door – the storm shattered it completely. The girls cling on to his shoulders.
“Sthe!” Ayanda calls out.
Ayanda is scared out of her mind. She has retreated to the kitchen which is on higher dry ground. Her maternal instincts take over. She dips her leg in the water because she wants to help Sthembiso with the twins.
“No, Aya! Stay there!” Sthembiso shouts.
Sthembiso wades through water quickly rising inside the house. By the time he reaches Ayanda and hands over the girls to her, the water is waist high. Ayanda grabs hold of the girls and ushers them outside up the hillslope. Seeing that they are safe she comes back to the kitchen and reaches out her hand to help Sthembiso out of the deep, rushing water.
“I’ve got to get our documents!” he yells.
Sthembiso wades to the wall unit where they keep all their important documents in a zip lock bag, inside a Tupperware container. Ayanda is drenched from the few seconds she has been out in the rain. She heaves as if she has been through the toughest, longest journey on earth. Her shell-shocked eyes open wide as more water gushes in through the broken door and rams Sthembiso to a corner in the lounge. For a moment she cannot see him because he is under water.
“Sthe!” she screams.
It takes long seconds before Sthembiso reappears with the Tupperware container in his hand. He hands it to Ayanda.
A violent creaking sound rings throughout the house. Light appears in the room. Rain pelts down inside the lounge. The roof is gone – the sheets blown away by the howling wind. It’s as if they are paper, blown by a giant in the sky.
Sthembiso grabs on to Ayanda’s hand. Relief turns to horror when they hear a loud cracking sound. The entire far wall of the lounge behind Sthembiso disappears into the river that is now flowing in their lounge. Ayanda can feel Sthembiso slipping out of her hand. She pulls him but it feels like he is backing away. She doesn’t have time to react as a wall of water crashes through the remaining walls of the lounge, taking Sthembiso away.
She is left there, her hand reaching out for nothing. Shock courses through her body. She doesn’t believe what she has just witnessed. There was a lounge where the river rages mere centimetres from her drenched toes. Below their lounge there was a row of houses. Below that another row of houses. All of that is gone now. Only the raging river remains.
Tell us: How does this description of the flash-flood make you feel? (You may remember that a flood like this really did happen in Durban over Easter 2019, causing over R600 million in damage, and killing over 60 people.)