The Cathedral Beneath the Waves
Full fathom five
Sarah had never heard of a drought as extreme as this one. The birds fell from the sky, and as they plummeted to earth, their little bones made a clattering sound. Her skin was dry, and hung from her body in swatches. Her mouth felt like a desert cave. The leaves on the trees were crisp, and crumpled to dust when you touched them.
All the earth’s damp places were gone: the rivers, the lakes, the ponds. Sarah walked out onto a reservoir. Decades ago, it had been created by flooding a valley and sacrificing the villages. The little homes had been lost - the pathways, the signposts, the garden benches, the pig-sties. Some objects had been too old or too bulky to take: the old pram, the wheelbarrow, the watering-can. When the waters came roaring down, everything had been engulfed, and minnows and eels had made their home there. Sometimes you’d sail your boat over the church-tower, and fancy that the bell was ringing you home.
Now the waters had receded in the fierce heat, and the little habitations were exposed once more. Sarah thought it seemed almost indecent now: the walls were covered with slime, barnacles grew on the door-knockers, dried mud had blocked the keyholes. Sarah plodded on, because she could see something in the distance. It had a tower, but was too big for a village church. Massive, cross-shaped, with a huge graveyard and a vast wooden door that still swung on its hinges. It was a cathedral. The roof had caved in from the weight of the waters, but one stained-glass window remained, and caught the last rays of the sun.
Sarah climbed over the wall and saw that the graves had yielded up their dead. The skeletons were decorously disposed. With a shock, she realised that she recognised most of them. They were the people she had loved. And here, here was the most recent and searing loss of all. His eyes were pearls, his bones were coral. It was him all right. Or it had been him. He had taught her so much, but he was quiet and still at last.
She walked back slowly and began to ascend to the top of the reservoir. The skies began to darken and the rain began to fall. The waters came roaring down as they had done before: the torrents now concealed what had been displayed. The water rose above Sarah’s ankles, calves, thighs as she scrambled up to the top. She looked back. This was nature, this was change. Perhaps being food for the fishes was not so bad, after all. Accept it. Accept it. Accept it