by Mike Jenkins
We are the flood-refugees, the new nomads; except, it is not by any choice of ours.
We are all inhabitants of Cantre’r Gwaelod now, lost cities under the sea. All citizens of Capel Celyn, though it wasn’t just a callous government in London which caused this demise, but all powers everywhere who ignored years of warnings.
Somehow we never thought it would actually come to this.
The ice caps melted and opened up sea passages for trade and whole fresh areas for oil and gas companies to raid and exploit.
We even joked about it. What would it be like to have a holiday at Costa Ponty, or take a ferry trip from Abercynon along the flooded valley, our very own fjord?
Year after year the sea rose and, like the glaciers had once done, came to shape our topography and our destiny.
As thousands escaped in utter panic many died, taken by the floods.
That is when they moved in, the Feds, with their arms and ‘copters. I can understand why the Government had to act to keep order, but we soon became like a military state.
Gangs ruled the hillsides, as the Feds tried in vain to clamp down on a population increasingly out of control.
It became like ‘Gulliver’, with the Big Enders and Little Enders, only there was nothing trivial about this strife. The battle was for any land unaffected by water.
Once such a precious resource, yet now a scourge.
And still it falls….
As we crawled up the valley in lorries, trailers, vans…anything the Feds could get their hands on; to myself, my wife and little daughter Bran, it felt more like a funeral procession.
A funeral for a way of life come to an abrupt end.
As we journeyed away from catastrophe, we met a strange fellow called Oz, who was heading in the opposite direction. He insisted he wasn’t the only one, yet seemed either hopelessly insane or a saint. I still don’t know which.
‘There are people down there,’ he insisted,’ who need my help. They’re stranded and desperate….when nobody cares, I’ve got to do something!’
He was like a man trying to swim in a river in full fierce flow. He even threw his arms about him as he spoke, taking long , deep breaths as he talked about the dear friends he’d left behind up the mountain, who had taken to the trees like our distant ancestors.
I thought about these tree-people long after Oz had gone and hoped we would meet them, to prove they weren’t some invention of Oz’s crazed brain. Anyone had to be crazy to walk towards the floods, after all.
And still it falls…
I often wonder what became of Oz, as we stare at the UPVC walls of our temporary homes in this camp for flood-refugees. We gawp at them, waiting for flickers of information. These are not wall-screens however and nothing comes on, no matter how hard we press their smooth, clinical surfaces.
There is so much sound. They magnify the insistent, beating rain always reminding us why and what we’ve become.
These dwellings can’t keep out the noise of gunfire either, or the explosions of siles across the sky (the favoured missile of the youthful gangs).
There are revolutionaries out there, Oz told us, who want to alter everything, who want to start again. I even thought he might be one of them, come among us to recruit the willing.
I just feel it’s too late.
I sometimes dream of us fleeing at night, though I know how difficult, with the constant patrolling of the Feds. Taking to the mountains and searching for those tree-people, or finding an abandoned building in some sheltered place.
‘We are all to blame,’ Oz would explain,’ even those who made an effort to change their life-styles, simply didn’t do enough. And now, more than ever, as we are conscious of being one species on this earth, threatened with extinction…we fight!’
And still it falls…
Rats the size of fat cats rule the world now, no matter how many guns the Feds wield.
Little Bran cries andwe comfort her, my wife telling her stories of the future which sound like myths : of a land far up in the mountains where we can finally settle, build a small house and grow vegetables.
At night we’re disturbed by the juddering of the ‘copter blades and I imagine their searching beams over street-streams, road-rivers and field-lakes.
My only purpose is to hold us together as the valley’s drowned ; to survive another day dark as night, another night within the white brightness of enveloping plastic.
Yet still it falls…
( The background for this and character of Oz come from my dystopian novella ‘The Climbing Tree’, published by Pont)
About the author:
Mike Jenkins won Wales Book of the Year in 1998 for his collection of interlinked short storiesWanting to Belong. He has also won an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors, The Young Writers Prize from the Welsh Arts Council for Empire of Smoke and the John Tripp Award for Spoken Poetry.
Mike is at the forefront of contemporary Welsh writing and is a fellow of the Academi, the Welsh Society for Authors. He is a former editor of Poetry Wales magazine and has co-edited Red Poets for 15 years, an annual magazine of left-wing poetry from Wales and beyond.
Poetry forms the bulk of Mike’s published work, though he has recently written two novellas, one for children entitled Barbsmashive and another, The Fugitive Three, which is for adults. His latest book of poetry is published by Carreg Gwalch and is called Walking on Waste.
Mike’s next big project is Moor Music, a book consisting entirely of open field poems to be published by Seren.