Drought

Written by Rachel Hubbard

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A large cloud drifted across the hills that morning. Its ominous darkness engulfed everything in its path as it rolled slowly towards them. George tightly gripped the wooden handle of his sword. His shorts were torn above the hem and his T-shirt was damp with perspiration after the Big Hill. Charlie, younger than George by a few years, looked up at his big brother and copied him, but with a sword a little too big for him. He had to use two hands to keep it upright.

They could smell the rain that accompanied the cloud now: its fresh, crispness tingling the inside of their noses and giving them excited shivers. They could tell it was close. They could sense the electricity in the air, tingling through the leaves and the clouds and their clenched little fingers.

George had forgotten about his tiredness; his eyes were kept open with a rush of energy. He stood unnaturally still, his frame rigid and steady. A light wind blew against him but his only movement was the gentle rise and fall of his shoulders as he breathed. Charlie thought it was amazing that someone could stay that still when they were so very excited. George closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath, filling every inch of his young lungs with the musky summer air. Unable to contain  his boyish excitement, Charlie jumped up and down on the dry field and ignored the dust that rose up and dirtied the edges of his trainers.

Both boys paused in this sacred moment, their swords held high and their eyes fixed delightedly on the infinite obscurity now nearly above them. For a silent second only Charlie’s frantic exhales could be heard. Nothing else moved. The animals were still, the birds' wings motionless, the wind dead and the trees calm and quiet. Every muscle in their bodies tensed as they hunched their backs and lowered the tips of their swords. Both boys tried not to look at the sky and to keep their heads bowed in honour but neither could resist. Pure elation coursed through their veins as they mirrored the scene around them and froze.

Crack. Thunder smacked their eardrums and, with one eye admiring the lighting overhead, their legs began moving. George could run so much faster and Charlie knew he wouldn’t wait. With rain drenching their shirts and blurring their vision the two brothers felt like they were flying. Down the hill they slipped and skidded, pounding along the tracks left by the combined-harvester. Serenaded by the orchestral patter of raindrops on the compact ground, dying leaves, and their prickled skin, they raced the weather home.

All around them the world began to change. Flowers opened to the symphony of the rainfall and branches cavorted in the wild, wild weather. A burning pain devoured George’s legs from his ankles up and air stung his throat as he gulped down the fresh, humid air. He didn’t stop until the stubby remanence of the shorn barley crop ended. So did George. He panted uncontrollably, bent down in exhaustion. Behind him the hectic snorts of Charlie echoed as now splashing footsteps eagerly caught up.

Luscious raindrops descended from the glorious clouds and kissed George’s cheeks as he tilted his head back in satisfaction. Even with water running off his hair he stayed perfectly still in a secret prayer;  paying his respect to the awesome power of nature. His little brother did not feel so obliged and collapsed onto the soggy, wet ground beside him, opening his mouth in an attempt to quench his thirst.

Crack. Thunder struck again and lighting whipped the horizon as water descended upon the parched landscape. Even in the early morning sun the lighting was bright and obvious - the fork of electricity seemed to emulate the strike of euphoria that reverberated through the boys’ bones where they stood.

There was a low hum of energy now, a deep resonating that tingled through their fingers and toes, like pins and needles. Charlie could feel the mud seeping through his cotton T-shirt and cooling his skin. As he inhaled, the expansion of his lungs pushed his body into the cold ground and the exhale created a warm pocket of air between him and the divine earth.

Rain had now entirely saturated the canvas shoes on George’s feet. His hands were even wet inside his pockets where he had tried to keep them warm against his legs. It was now that they slowly begun to cool that the boys got up, held hands, and commenced the ceremonial walk home – tired, satisfied and with a strange sense of rebirth.