“Can you hurry it up, you sloth. They want to close up.”
“I’m coming! Why is it that you don’t give others the same courtesy when they’re waiting for you?” Sam asked as she shoved her half-closed laptop into her bag.
“Because I don’t take half an hour to wait for like you do?” Jacob replied.
“I don’t take half – ”
“I called you an hour ago.” Jacob cut her off, his voice flat.
“Yeah well, you do it too,” she scowled at him.
“No I don’t and you know it. Now move, I want to lock the door.”
“You finally got her to leave her desk then?” Kikumu asked, walking up to them in front of the main gate.
“I was almost locking her in,” Jacob answered, grinning back.
The street was wet with recent rain. It had been drizzling all day, and the sky was overcast. It had been raining consistently for what seemed like months now, much longer than she could remember. Even now there was a slight trickle going on. This meant her toes and her knuckles were always cold.
“Y’all need to shut the fuck up,” Sam said, walking around them, he felt the slight brush of her fingers on him as she went toward the car.
Jacob watched her walk away from them, knowing that the keys were in his pocket. The heels of her boots were kicking up water behind her. When she reached it and pulled a set of keys from her soft pink trench coat, his brows rose in surprise; and he plunged his fingers into what turned out to be empty pockets.
“You thieving dolt!” he called out.
She laughed out loud.
“Motherfucker. What the hell is going on??” Jacob growled from the driver’s seat. Ahead of him, barely five minutes from their office, cars were laid out in front of them like the roads were just one huge parking lot. The windshields were moving along the front window faster as the patter of rain on it increased. Not a single vehicle was moving. They sat at the entrance of the junction that held their office street, completely immobile. Not able to turn back or go forward.
A little over an hour later, they joined the long line of cars just now moving, inch by tiny inch along Enterprise Road. It was devastatingly slow progress, making it nearly dark when they emerge onto the roundabout and branched off it. It was now raining without reserve, and the bad planning of the city’s sewerage systems was beginning to show. The roads were flowing over with water that was coming out of the various open sewers. Vehicles rushing in the opposite directions would do you a grave injustice if you were moving with your windows down.
They were going to traverse an estate that led to a minor road, which would give them hassle-free access to the A104. Within the small but urban suburb, they encountered a bit of traffic as well, but it was moving and thank God, breathed Sam. But she immediately swallowed her words when they turned the corner and came to an abrupt halt at the back of a long line of cars that hadn’t even touched the highway.
“What the fuck is going on??” Sam cried, her mouth open at the tableau she was staring at. “A few days of wetness and suddenly everyone’s forgotten how to drive?”
Jacob groaned out loud. “I shudder to think what a nightmare this evening would’ve been if we’d brought the left stick drive today.”
“This will still be a nightmare. Look at it! We’re about ten miles off the highway and we’re not even moving.”
Dirty water gushed beneath the wheels of their car, going out to reach the main road before them. They looked on, helpless.
It was nearly 8 in the pm by the time they exited the A104 in the direction of the Eastern Bypass. They hung a louise, veering off the highway and onto the North Airport road. As they emerged on the other side, they were able to make out a long, winding snake that stretched out into the horizon, making it clear they would go no further.
“Oh hell no!”Jacob swerved to the right, going off the road until he hit a murram stretch. There was a serviceable path for off-road vehicles with a sign that said, This way to GSU. Jacob followed the trail further and further away from the tarmac. On his right, the airport was brightly lit, and a plane was taxying the runway, gaining speed as it prepared to lift off. The occupants of the car watched as the craft, with Emirates painted on the rudder, sped on with amazing focus, gained momentum by the second; the roar of its engine drowned out the bumbling, babbling racket of their car on the murram. It left the ground with a loud whoosh! in a majestic lift, arcing up as if the sky was pulling it.
“Watch out!!” Sam shouted.
They were almost going into the muddy thicket on either side of the trail when Jacob turned the wheel sharply and they were back on it again.
The trail grew steadily ruddier and muddier and narrower as they went along it. They stumbled onto rocks in the ground that jarred the car several times, by the end of which he was not sure whether they had shock absorbers to speak of. The area was bare, open and unlit, making it hard to focus on the road. Which became so overcome with grass and weeds that it disappeared completely. By the time they were going past the GSU Camp, the road they escaped was so far from view you could only see the lights from the cars. They couldn’t turn back now.
On they went, the trail getting worse by the minute. The marsh was making it hard to notice the stones in time, so they only felt it when the car jerked up and threw them around. It occurred to them that there’d be no way to get out of here if the car broke down just then. They were in the middle of nowhere.
After what felt like a lifetime, they rejoined civilisation, or what looked like the Devil’s Acre equivalent. There were yellow street lights, huge and harsh. As if trying to spotlight crooks in the massive mix pot of humanity. People were milling about everywhere, talking loudly. There were motorcycle transporters everywhere, some moving, but most of them sat on their bikes watching folks go by. The sound of traditional music filled the air in loud obnoxious waves. Jacob drove straight through the main intersection that led out of the backwaters of that town and back onto the road they’d left earlier.
They were looking at the last fifteen kilometres a little after 10 o’clock, exhausted as week-old gym socks, and sleepy to boot. They rode on in silence, glad to finally be near home after that stressful drive. Who knew rain could bring you to the verge of tears.
About two kilometres away from home, there is a seasonal river about 700 metres wide, low and level on one side, high and steep on the other. It originated from the low hills far behind it and went, curving out of site about 500 metres ahead of a bridge that was built directly across it. Now this river was known to overflow in especially rainy seasons, but that was the last thing on the duo’s minds. After such a hard road, knowing they’d gone past the worst of it; hell, they’d probably beat a lot of people home tonight. This last stretch should be a piece of cake.
The line was not even that long. Probably why they didn’t catch on right away. Coming to a stop behind a small saloon car, Jacob craned his head out of the driver’s window, trying to see in front of the truck ahead of them.
“What’s going on?” Sam asked, doing the same.
“I don’t know let me go look,” Jacob undid his seatbelt and got out of the car. He’d gone a few meters ahead when he heard a rushing noise. And it grew to a loud crescendo as he walked toward it, noticing the water that was lapping at the side of the road. He approached a large crowd of what could be drivers of the cars he’d passed on his way. They were standing in a short row, hands on waists, shaking heads that were turned to the side, brows furrowed as they looked at something.
He was about to talk to them when he felt a wetness in his socks. Looking down, he realised that his boots were nearly emersed in water. There was water all around him, lapping at his feet, at the weeds beside the tarmac, sweeping lazily into the road as if tasting it. The river! It was flooded!