And Then It Rained…

What is worse, may I ask? To seek aid only to arrive too late,

Or to never have tried at all? – Sam Mellor

The rain attacked the window for the third hour. Blue droplets flew, gliding almost in the heavy winds, before splattering against the window. Like fireworks. Blue, blobby, fireworks. Some would call it beautiful. I wouldn't. The poet Arnet wrote a poem, "A Million Little Journeys." All about beauty in rain drops. He didn't have a problem with rain. He didn't know what I know.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The lock "buzzed," and I was admitted. I looked around. Nice place really, considering what the government usually bought. At last, we seemed to have elected someone with good taste this time. Especially considering it was a pretty remote town. Still it was my home. I walked up to the receptionist and stood waiting. After a minute or two she looked up from the book she was reading and looked at me with a start.

"Oh, I'm terribly sorry! I didn't notice you there. What can I do for you?"

"Good morning, I'm from the local paper. I have an appointment to see the Volcanic group."

"Oh of course. They're waiting for you on floor 6, room 27. Do you need some directions?"

"No thanks. I've been here before." I took the elevator to the 6th floor, humming to the music that was playing which I was sure I'd heard before. "Blue Christmas" I think it was.

The elevator "dinged," and the doors slid open to reveal the head of the Volcanic group staring glumly right at me. Without a word he turned and walked away from me down the hallway. After a moment's hesitation I followed. The lights cast a blue flicker across the hallway as I ran. The head of the Volcanic group turned and walked into room 34. I followed of course. Without turning around, he began to speak, adjusting a few controls on a keyboard in front of him.

"Thankyou for coming in. I'd engage in pleasantries about the weather, but unfortunately I know a fair bit about the weather that you don't, so I won't. I won't bore you with the jargon of my profession; I'll simply say that something is up. There's a monitor just to the right of your head. On it I've just brought up a picture of the "mountain" just outside town. The arrows on the diagram represent the flow of magma and volcanic activity in the general vicinity. You may notice that all the arrows point up. This is not a good thing. What I'm showing you now is a geographic scan which, in the event of an eruption, can predict where lava flow would most likely affect the most with a 2.6% margin for error. The predicted flow is shown in blue over the top of the scan. That black square in the middle of the blue stream is our town. Seismographic techniques have come a fair way in the last 50 years Mr reporter, and I can tell you that the mountain outside town is not mountain. I can also tell you that at best we have a month. After that this town is up shit creek."

I finally managed to work up the courage to speak.

"Then, then, then why did you tell me? Why didn't you tell the mayor?"

"I told the mayor two weeks ago. I can't be sure exactly but I think he's somewhere in the vicinity of Sweden. You have probably the best chance of helping us. The President is not interested in bailing us out. We need federal support to be able to save lives in this town. We are not prepared for this sort of disaster. Unfortunately, 471 people not including you don't seem to matter all that much. You know the Vice-President however, better than most, and you might be able to persuade him to arrange the evacuation."

"Well, I don't know. I'll try, but I don't know."

"If you don't try, then you're murdering 470 people. I can trust that you'll get yourself out, and I will do the same, but those 470 people will not have a clue what to do and when that mountain erupts they will all be dead within five minutes. Now I can't stay, I have to make preparations for my departure. Have a nice day, if that's still a possibility."

And he left. I stood in silence. Outside, there was a crack of thunder, and on cue; blue rain fell from the sky. It fell, it splashed, and it flowed. And I stood.

One hour later, the rain was still unabated. I sat on the beach, looking out over the sea. I didn't care if I got wet. Not that there was an if to it, I was wet. And getting wetter by the minute. But I didn't care. In front of me was the sea, a field of blue, with blue rain falling on to it, from a blue sky. Everywhere I looked was blue. If I was still around in a month, everywhere I looked would burn. The plains would burn, the trees would burn, the houses would burn, people would burn, dogs would burn, cars would burn, it would all burn. And so would I.

Behind me was the mountain. A tall spire of black against the sky. And in a month it would erupt, spreading until the blue above was covered by black. I was sad. In a month I wouldn't be sad. It's difficult to be sad when it's raining fire.

I was a bit confused. What could I do? I'm just a reporter for the local newspaper. Yes, I knew the Vice-President, but that was five years ago, and that was before he was elected. I was just one man. One man could not save four hundred and seventy people. But then, it only takes one rock to start an avalanche.

I stood, and ran to get out of the rain. I knew I had to try.

The rain attacked the window for the third hour. I put the phone down for the fifteenth time, and sighed for the fifteenth time. So far I had gotten nowhere. Lighting flashed, illuminating the room in electric blue. But I had to try. Nearly five hundred lives were depending on it. I picked up the phone and dialled number 16. And hit the jackpot.

Two days later I left for the People's Forum For Urgent Matters. In my hand I held a folder containing statistics and proof kindly donated by the head of the Volcanic group. I had only one chance to plead my town's case. But I thought I had a chance.

The helicopters were horrendously loud; I could barely hear the evacuation coordinator as he outlined the plan of action. I was almost too excited to listen. It had worked! I managed to win support for an evacuation of my entire town. 471 people. I had done it. I was broken out of my thoughts by the helicopter pilot.

"Uh, are you sure you got those coordinates right?" He half meant it too. I looked down. That sight would stay with me. Oh god, it would stay with me.

The town was gone. Almost. Here a blackened wall, there the remains of a car. I ordered the helicopters to land.

The sky was a mass of grey. I couldn't work out whether it was storm clouds or smoke. I wandered around the remains of the town. Looking for a survivor. Everywhere, blackened and distorted bodies lay where they had died. I counted them. A gruelling task, but I counted them. I didn't care that the helicopters had left. I counted them all.

471.

The thunder roared, the lightning flashed, and the blue rain fell. The bodies were unrecognisable, but on the last one I found a piece of paper floating in the breeze that had somehow survived. I grabbed it. Most of it was blackened, but what I could read was this:

"…Volcanic eruption is predicted for October 27th and the estimated…"

I looked at the date on my watch. October 14th. I turned the paper over. Scrawled in the head of the volcanic group's handwriting I read:

"…course, I could be incorrect in my…"

And then – Above me, in front of me, around me, behind me, and inside me – it rained.