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Slip before the rise

The slip was coned off for safety, though we could all see it was there. Unmistakable, even in the gloom of storm.

I watched from the ditch at the edge of the road. Next to me a culvert spouted rainwater, blooded with soil and oil.

Grim-faced cops stood manfully in front of their red and blue beacons of authority. They watched a house teeter 10 metres above a newly torn edge. They stood by. They waved cars back. The drivers’ faces milled, unsure how to retreat into the line backed up behind them.

Rain spat from the sky. The slip shifted and slumped. Rills of water ran across the mush. Clumps of rock and grass topsed across the mound of mud, plopping thickly onto the tarseal.  Dense water ploughed mud down the chunky slope.

I could see the outline of what had called me here. The scream when the hillside first fell away. That shriek had subsided. The first breath taken, it now exhaled a moan, issuing its bearings on the wind.

Rain sluiced soil off pale corpulent flesh. She was still fetally curled, refusing to react to the cold truth which slapped bitterly at her side.  Her splindly limbs wrapped around her abdomen, winding it into a circle to touch her mouth. It was crinched shut – little pincers folded tightly at the corners. She squeezed her eyes shut.

I called to her. Reassured her I was there.

She pulsed, dislodging a cascade of mud and crumbled rock. She slid mightily, pulpy, with it. She avalanched across the orange cones. Swamped the cops. Their florescent jackets fell silent beneath black mud.

I sheltered under the culvert pipe as the tide of wet mud flowed over the road’s edge into the gorge.

She flowed with it. Her tight muddy skin wiped slickly over my hunched shoulder and head. Down the slope.

She cried out for her shepherd. But there was nothing I could do for her. They trusted me when I bade them lie down. I told them not to fear. Though they should have, in this eroding country. My throat constricted. I wiped at my eyes. The others would have heard the scream, like a dream in their deep earthy sleep. I will need to reassure them. We shall all rise. But it is not yet time.


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