“Mama!” Apalania screamed from the roof of their hut.
“Stay here!” her mother yelled. “I’m going down for the baby!” The floodwaters
roared all around them as the sky dumped even more rain into its swell. Apalania wiped the water from her eyes, and wildly gripped the stiffened sticks of the mud-thatched roof where her mother just placed her.
“Mama!” The water looked as though it would swallow her mother in its swirling tunnel around their home. Mama hung onto the edge of the wide cone shaped roof with one hand and dipped her other hand into the water, pulling on something. “Take these,” she commanded, handing her the sandals. “Don’t come down from there, no matter what! Wait here until Father or I come to get you.”
“Be careful!” Apalania pleaded. A sob caught her throat. She held the sandals in her hands to her chest as she watched her mother disappear from the edge of the roof.
“I have to go get him-- stay there!” her mother commanded. Seconds later, her mother dove underneath the water and through the door of the hut. Panic gripped Apalania-- her chest thudded against her wet blouse. She imagined her mother swimming up to the surface to get her baby brother who was lying in the plastic washbasin. Mama tied the tub to a pole inside, hoping the little boat would keep him safe until they got out. Who would have thought such a gush of water would come through all at once?
Apalania leaned over the side again. The water was at the top of the doorway now. She climbed back to the peak of the roof and put her head between her legs so that the water would stop hitting her in the face. Mama didn’t return and she felt edgy and jittery inside. Even though she was a teenager, she felt unsure of herself in this storm without Mama there to guide her. She looked this way and that way—there was only water everywhere. In the distance were treetops, rooftops, and debris floating in the water. She must obey and stay on the roof.
Or should I?
A great sense of dread pelted her, sinking deeper into her skin than the relentless rain. She was so sick of rain. Until yesterday, the hut gave her shelter. Today, its roof became her floor and she had nowhere to go.
Apalania pushed the thought from her mind and looked around, searching for a possible escape route.
The road that led to the winding creek below the village was hidden beneath rushing currents. For three weeks, the water swelled and then receded in a continuous cycle until it had carved and eroded the surrounding land. The land couldn’t be seen today. It was useless—Apalania didn’t even know how to swim.
Two pigs floated by in the water, ropes dangling from their necks.
Wanting something to do, Apalania nervously played with the tips of her long braids, twisting water out of the ends. Apalania yearned for her mother, so she knelt at the edge of the roof, going as far as she dared, gripping the edges with her hands.
“Mama! Mama do you hear me?”
She waited. No answer-- only the thunder of water and the distant screams of the other villagers beyond her aunt’s house. Father told the villagers just yesterday that everyone should follow the wild animals when they all ran up the hill behind the village.
“The animals know when danger is coming,” he warned.
No one wanted to listen, so Father took his tools and some of their food and hiked up the hills in the pouring rain last night. He was supposed to find a shelter and come back to get them.
Where is Father? He should be here by now.
Apalania leaned over the edge again. Suddenly, Mama came to the surface with Paulo tied on her back. Apalania hung onto the roof and reached for them as they struggled in the water.
The water pushed Mama back, away from Apalania.
“Mama!” Apalania screamed in terror. “Hang on!”
Her mother’s body went backward, under the water. Apalania froze.
Her mother came back up again, arms flailing, chopping into the turbulence.
“Luis!” Mama cried for Apalania’s father. “Help!”
“Mama!” The wind caught Apalania’s voice and carried it away. The current fought against her, but somehow Mama regained her strength and swam toward Apalania.
“Up here, Mama! Climb up here!” cried Apalania. She extended her hand as far as she could, holding fiercely to the thatch with the other.
Her mother lunged toward her and missed, flying backward again.
“Luis!” Mama cried out again.
A log hit the side of the hut and jarred Apalania from her position. Apalania fell sideways and nearly rolled off the roof. She grabbed the hardened roof thatch to catch herself. Shaking with cold and fright, she steadied herself and squatted. She cupped her hands around her face to stop the water from pelting her and blurring her vision and searched the waters for her mother and baby brother.
There was only water everywhere. Apalania couldn’t breathe. She searched the swift moving waters again. It was no use. They were gone. Apalania scooted backwards up to the peak of the roof, hugged her legs, and cried. She was utterly alone.