A great story about rain in the town of Yackin by Shae Grace
You can find a YouTube version of prompt that inspired this terrific story here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=8&v=iFdXEaNnyYc&feature=emb_logo
WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS
By Shannae Ku
Dew had never seen her namesake. For fifty years, six consecutive droughts had sucked the life from Yackin, but the latest was the worst.
Dew scuffed her heels as she walked, kicking up small clouds of dry earth. Her bag of small plastic containers clattered as she swung it to and fro. She’d seen pictures of real clouds, white and fluffy like yarn, in the town’s tiny museum. But she was much more acquainted with her constant dust companions. Over the years, searing winds coupled with blazing sun had stripped the small town of any surface moisture, leaving the dusty land brown and empty.
Much like its inhabitants, Dew thought with a rueful half-smile. Dew waved to Mrs Lawson, the stereotypical cat lady next door. The old woman’s faded grey eyes stared vacantly back. She didn’t seem to notice as one of her eight tortoiseshell cats leaped onto her head and made a bed in her nest of grey hair. Dew came to a small gap between two houses and slipped through the narrow alley. The ever-present breeze tangled her long brown hair as she let gravity pull her to a trot down the gentle slope toward the creek.
Dew shivered despite the warmth as she drew up to the trees bordering the creek bed. The gnarled skeletons were all that remained of a lush mangrove forest, but the constant wind caused it to howl, as if the thicket itself was moaning in pain. A chill ran down Dew’s spine as she picked her way through the grove of graves, carefully stepping over the tangled mass of roots sprawling over the lumpy grey ground. A branch snapped overhead and clattered to the dirt. Dew jumped as the sharp sound reverberated though trees.
She shook herself. This was ridiculous. The trees were trees, nothing more, and she was going to be late if she didn’t get a move on. Dew hopped and stumbled her way through the grove, following a tiny trickle of water slithering between the roots. At last, she came to the source, a mossy hole at the base of a large rock dusted with dry brown earth. The hole marked the entrance to the underground springs, the sole water source within a 400km radius.
Dew set her bag down with a clatter and set to work tying the long straps to her shoe. For an adult, crawling through the opening was snug at best, possibly catastrophic at worst. So, the town sent the children to collect the water. Satisfied the knots were secure, Dew checked her name off the paper stuck next to the entrance of the opening. Only one person could fit in the caverns at any one time without depleting the oxygen, so the trips were scheduled down to the last minute. Dew got to her hands and knees then drew out her torch and switched it on. With the light to guide her, she wriggled through the opening and crawled her way through the small tunnel. The walls and floor were smooth, being worn to a dull shine by hundreds of little bodies worming their way through the stone caverns. Occasionally, the tunnel branched off as new caverns were eroded, but Dew was swift and sure in her choices.
At the age of seven, Dew had been trained by the very best water collectors on how to navigate the passages safely and surely. Since the early days, each water collector was issued with an emergency SOS that notified the High Council of an emergency. However, the only way to safely extract a child was to drill a hole to the springs from the ground above, which would deem the water unfit for drinking. So, the SOS devices were to be used as a last resort only.
Dew smiled in the darkness as she heard the familiar sound of running water. Within a few minutes, she had reached the end of the tunnel and was standing on a mossy ledge just above a small fountain of frigid water. It used to be bigger. The first water gatherers had only had to set out their containers to catch the spray of a small waterfall. But fifty years of drought had depleted even the ever-flowing spring. The people of Yackin were unsure how much longer it would flow. Dew shoved those thoughts aside. She couldn’t dwell on what would happen if the water supply stopped, she had a job to do. Setting her torch in her teeth, Dew quickly filled her containers with the cool liquid, stuffed them back in her bag and refastened the straps. She crawled much slower now, weighed down by several kilos of precious water.
Just as Dew was about to round the final corner of the caverns, a flash of colour caught her eye. Dew shone her torch on the object and inhaled sharply. The orange veins in the crimson flower almost glowed in the fluorescent light. Dew recognised the sharp, purple-tipped thorns scattered across the thin stem sprouting from a crack in the stone wall.
“A Yackin Orchid?” she breathed in wonder.
Dew made a quick decision. She dug her fingers as far into the crack as they would go, hissing a little as the thorns needled her skin. She felt around for the roots of the flower and carefully tugged. The plant slid out of the crack with ease. Dew fastened the flower to her waist and wriggled the few metres to the mouth of the caverns.
Once outside, she examined the flower more closely. The petals were velvety soft, and they seemed to glow underneath the baking sun. A Yackin Orchid! Not a living soul had set eyes on the native flower since before the beginning of the droughts. They had been sadly marked as extinct due to the lack of rain. The High Council would need to hear about this!
The walk to the town hall seemed to take an eternity as the water weighed heavily on Dew’s shoulders, but it was really only thirty minutes. She wouldn’t be able to talk to the High Council until a meeting was called. There had been some debate about replacing the old, wrinkled members of the council with some younger people. But the council had insisted the younger generation didn’t have all the knowledge needed to make the necessary decisions that came with running Yackin. Now everyone was just waiting for them to die so they could move some fresh blood in.
As she approached the small brick building, however, Dew saw that a town meeting had already been called. Chairs were being brought out of the storage room next door by the adults of the town and wheeled into the hall. Dew could just make out a couple of her classmates helping to set up. That didn’t make sense, school was supposed to be in session right now. Dew could only get out of class because she was water gathering.
“Dew!” A little girl with wild chocolate curls scampered to her side. “Here, let me help.”
“Thanks,” Dew grunted as she shouldered a couple of the smaller containers to her younger sister. All the children in the town could lift at least three kilos of water with ease. Together, they made their way to the water station in the cool shelter of the hall, stepping up onto the small platform.
“What’s going on, Raine? What’s the meeting for?” Dew climbed the short ladder to the top of the water tank and turned to wait for Raine to unscrew a jug of water.
“You won’t believe it!” Raine fumbled with the cap and it came off with a little pop! She passed the jug up to Dew. “Mrs Lawson spotted a cloud! A great grey one!”
Dew frowned as she poured the spring water into the purification tank. “Again? Raine, Mrs Lawson is old. This is the third time this month she’s claimed to have seen a cloud! I think her eyesight’s going.”
“No, no, no.” Raine assured her. “This time is different. Mister Bent actually went over and said it actually was a cloud! That’s why school’s closed. Everyone went over to check it out, but I wanted to wait for you.”
The water had all sloshed out of the jug and Dew exchanged the empty container for a full one from Raine. The water rushed into the half-filled tank like a fountain. Dew felt a little light-headed. Finding a Yackin flower on the same day as a cloud spotting? That couldn’t be a coincidence. The flowers seeds must have felt the change in the atmosphere as the clouds came and begun sprouting. Dew was just about to tell Raine about the orchid when she had a better idea. She would surprise her sister later, once the rain had come.
Raine was begging Dew to hurry up, antsy with anticipation. Once the final container was emptied, Dew slapped the power button for the purification. Raine tossed the containers in the community storage and Dew adjusted the flower at her waist. Then the two girls ran for Mrs Lawson’s house, giggling all the way.
You could see the crowd of people gathered around the old lady’s house and standing atop her roof from halfway down the street. There was cheering and festivities being held right in her front garden, and the cats were not happy. They mewed crossly as people shoved them to the side. One hissed and bit a young boy when he came too close to its sunbathing spot on the fence.
Dew and Raine shoved their way to the centre of the mass, ducking under elbows and occasionally crawling through legs, in Raine’s case. They finally reached the ladder to the roof and eagerly climbed to the top. A neighbour saw them glancing around in confusion and guided their gaze to the west. Sure enough, a dark grey smudge could be seen blotting out the horizon.
Dew rubbed her eyes and looked harder. She wasn’t used to anything clouding the distinct line of horizon in the small town. But what a great cloud it was! There was something funny about the air, too. It seemed…cooler, fresher. An older girl nudged the two sisters and whispered, “Have you heard? Some of the old people said the air smells of rain!”
Dew and Raine glanced at each other in excitement. Neither of them had ever witnessed a Yackin rain, as they were both born several years after the last one. In the midst of their flurried buzz, melodious chimes rang through the village. The sequence indicated the town meeting was about to begin in five minutes. As the crowd began to make its way to the town hall, Dew remembered the Yackin Orchid still tied to her waist. Taking it out, she was dismayed to find it was already wilting. She would have to plant it soon, or it would die completely.
“Hey, Raine.” The small girl paused at the bottom of the ladder.
“What is it?”
“You go ahead to the hall, I just have to drop something off at home, okay?”
Raine nodded and ran off to the hall. Dew quickly scrambled down the ladder and ran to her house. She opened the door just to collide with her mother.
“Oof!” she grunted.
“Dew!” Mum laughed in surprise. “Watch where you’re going! Your father and I were just about to come to the meeting. Would you like to walk with us?
Dew sidled past her mother, “Uh, I just need to drop something off. I’ll catch up with you guys later, okay?”
“Alright, if you’re sure.”
Dew was already at the back door. Once she heard the door shut, she took out the flower and carried it to their vegetable garden. Well, it was more like a strip of dusty earth at the moment, but hopefully the rain would change that.
Dew took a small, rusty shovel from the box of gardening supplies and began to work the earth. Once she was satisfied, she made a little hole in the ground and placed the Yackin Orchid in.
“Please grow,” she whispered as she packed the dirt around the thorny stem. “Please grow.”
The town meeting had a definitive air of excitement. The High Council had a hard time settling the restless children, and the adults weren’t much better. However, they did manage to squeeze in some water-conservation rules. There was no guarantee this rain would break the drought, so they had to preserve every last drop, just in case. Once the meeting was adjourned, Dew attempted to make her way to the council to tell them about the Yackin Orchid, but they were swamped in a crowd of townsfolk, all with their own queries and questions.
After twenty minutes of trying to break through, Dew gave up. She stepped out of the hall. And froze. The world was…dark. She looked up. For the first time in years, clouds like chalky slate had blocked out the sun, making the very air seem heavy.
“It feels so weird.” Raine whispered. Dew jumped.
“Raine! Don’t sneak up on me like that!”
“Sorry, but do you realise what this means?”
Dew frowned, “What?”
Raine’s eyes seemed to dance. “Remember the stories the old people used to tell us about swimming in the old river by the mangrove? If this rain is enough, we could go swimming!”
Dew’s heart skipped a beat. Swimming in a real pool was on every bucket list in Yackin and the rain would give them an opportunity to finally do it! She looked around at the town. Empty flowerboxes, cracked earth, the tree skeletons in the distance. Rain would change everything! Even now, the people of Yackin seemed more alive than Dew had ever seen them before. For the first time, a buzz of conversation filled the air. A new light shone in their eyes, hope.
Boom! Dew’s eyes flew open. What was that? She rolled over and checked her clock. 5:48am. A flash of light outside her window, followed by another echoing Boom!
Thud! Her door swung open.
“Dew! The sky is falling down!” A panicked Raine stumbled into the room and dived under Dew’s covers. Startled at her sister’s fright, Dew darted to the window. She peered out, but could barely hear herself think over a constant rattling noise. Like millions of pebbles were being poured on their roof from the sky. Something spattered against the windowpane and Dew realised what was happening. She gasped in delight.
Dad appeared at the door, grinning from ear to ear. “You girls will want to come see this.”
Raine peeked out from under the blankets. “What is it?”
Dew pulled her sister out of bed and swung her around, laughing. “Your namesake, Raine. It’s finally raining!”
The girls didn’t even bother to change out of their pyjamas before they burst out of the house. Yelling and whooping, they jumped in the puddles forming on the ground, splashing mud everywhere. The sky poured the precious water on Yackin, and the thirsty town was lapping it up. Dew and Raine laughed and kicked up the muddy water pooling around them. Cries of delight could be heard rippling down the street as the people of Yackin realised what was happening. Soon, the entire town was joining the two sisters. Dew had never before sensed such an air of joy in the community. Kids stuck their tongues out to taste the fresh water, young couples swung each other around and around in giddy celebration.
Hair tangled and plastered to her face, Dew lifted her face to the sky and inhaled deeply. The air had never smelled so fresh and clean. It was like she’d been breathing mud her whole life, but now she gulped clean, fresh air. The sky thundered, the sound rolled over the town like a thousand purring cats. The rain did not cease, even as the first rays of morning light shone behind the clouds, giving them a shiny outline. Now Dew understood the saying about a silver lining.
A scream rang out from among the happy-goers, piercing the dim morning.
“Agghhh! The rain is erasing me!”
Chaos broke out. People were screaming and running everywhere. Dew looked about in bewilderment.
Dew swung around to see Raine standing behind her, hands outstretched in awed dismay.
“What’s happening to me?”
Dew’s hands flew to her mouth. As she watched, the rain pelted her sister, but instead of rolling off her skin, it seemed to melt into her. Her arms began to fade away, the rest of her body soon followed. Dew stumbled back in horror, frantically trying to shape words but making no sound.
The sky thundered again, but this time it sounded more like a menacing roar of a predator. In the town, people were crying and clutching each other as the rain erased them, one by one. What kind of rain was this! Dew looked down at her own body and saw her own feet melting away, revealing the impressioned mud beneath them. She clutched her hair, accidentally yanking on the knots, her nails scratched at her scalp. Dew inhaled sharply and, this time, her voice did not halt. Dew screamed.
The effects of the rain were not permanent, the old people assured the trembling community. Once dry, it only took a few minutes for the body to completely reappear. They handed out towels, their wrinkled faces creasing in sympathy. By the time the rain stopped and town bell rang its solemn tone, the people of Yackin were visible once more. Though still shaken. Some of the youngsters were already calling the bizarre event The Erasing.
However, things were far from back to normal. For a start, you could barely walk for the sea of Yackin Orchids crowding the town like children to a puppy. Every square metre of the once-parched land was now overflowing with hundreds of thousands of crimson blooms.
For most of the Yackin people, this was their first time seeing a living plant. The children were especially delighted with the flowers, stripping off the thorns so they could tuck them in their hair, their clothes and wherever they could.
The sky was different, too. The clouds had not moved on, and the eerie greyness made Dew’s skin crawl. The scent in the breeze she now knew as the smell of rain still slithered in the air like a gleeful snake. Everything in nature seemed to threaten of another downpouring, and the people of Yackin were on edge.
They filed into the hall, murmuring among themselves. The hundreds of flowers pinned to their clothes resembled a churning crimson sea.
“What kind of rain does that?”
“So many flowers,”
“It was like my skin melted away.”
“This is the most colour I’ve seen in my life!”
Dew took her seat with her family and bit her lip nervously. She had never seen rain before, but she knew it was notsupposed to make you disappear. Something had gone very wrong last night. Her hands were still shaking. Dew fingered the orchid around her wrist. She had stripped the stem and wrapped the flower around her wrist like a bracelet.
Once everyone was settled, the High Council representative addressed the small crowd. Old Mr Waverly seemed tired. His figure was bent over, droopy like the wrinkles on his face.
“We know this morning’s events may have frightened some of you. And we regret any trauma we have inflicted on the younger ones.” His voice wobbled over the people and they stirred in their seats. Dew tore a piece of petal from her flower and began rolling it in her fingers.
“However, we feel we have something to confess,” Mr Waverly took a deep breath. The petal rolled into a tiny ball, releasing moisture that stained red.
“Long ago, when we old people were still young, Yackin was plagued by constant rain. Every drop that fell on our skin would erase us. There was no way to avoid it, and you can imagine the trouble it wrought.”
Heads nodded solemnly, murmurs of agreement fluttered in the chilly air. Just yesterday, the sun would have already baked the town into a parched, drowsy warmth. How quickly things could change. Dew squished the tiny ball, releasing more of the red dye. It ran over her fingers, sticky like blood.
“You must understand, we were desperate. And desperate times call for desperate measures. We worked with the best scientists to figure out the cause of the erasing rain. We found the source, but we were too eager to eliminate it and…” Mr Waverly took another shaky breath.
“We may have accidentally instigated the droughts in our efforts to stop the erasing.”
Dew’s head snapped up. The town of Yackin froze. For a moment, there was complete silence. Then a loud crack of lightning pierced the quiet. Every head swivelled to the open windows. Rain pounded the town mercilessly. The water swiftly collected in the streets as muddy, fast-running rivers. The heads of the orchids poked up through the streams, seemingly unfazed by the floods.
“The Yackin Orchid draws this particular kind of rain. We spent months rooting them all out, thinking we’d get normal rain. Rain that wouldn’t erase us. We didn’t know we’d be stopping all rain completely. But a new bloom must have sprouted and drawn the rain back.” Mr Waverly shifted from foot to foot.
“But I don’t want to be erased!” a little boy wailed.
“We could always just root out the flowers again,” a man offered. “We were perfectly okay before. The spring has more than enough water for the town.”
“But the spring is already significantly smaller than it used to be!” a teenage girl argued. “A couple more decades of drought and it’ll dry up! Then where will we be?”
“So that’s it? Those are our only two options, drought or erasing?” a mother said incredulously.
“Well, we can’t opt for the drought, we’ll die!”
“Do you want to spend your life erased?”
Arguments broke out across the hall. Chairs screeched in protest as people shot to their feet. Accusations flew across the room, the little kids began crying.
All the while, the rain gushed down on the town. Dew stood and walked to the open windows. She slid the Yackin Orchid off her wrist and twirled it in her fingers. She couldn’t help but feel a little at fault for this. She was the one who had brought the Yackin Orchid back into the town. She was the one who had drawn the Erasing to them.
Dew looked out at the streets of her town, now rivers of perilous water. Was it really a choice between life erased or death in drought? She walked out onto the platform. The speeding river rushed beneath her feet. It was all because of the flower. The Yackin Orchid. She threw the flower away in disgust. It landed in the river and was swept away.
Dew sighed. All her life, all she had ever wanted was to see the drought end and the town alive again. Now she had her erasing rain, and the town was alive with arguments. Dew folded her arms against the cold. She may not know what would happen, but the people of Yackin were survivors, like their native flower, steadfast when the rain crashed around them. They’d make it through. The flowers represented both their saving and their undoing. Now they had to figure out a way to break the cycle. Satisfied with her resolution, Dew nodded at the rain, turned, and walked back inside.
The Yackin Orchids danced in the streams, gaily swirling in the treacherous rivers – unfazed at the great destruction their presence had both wrought and prevented for the innocent town. The wind howled in glee and the rain poured on.