Mary hummed as her car sploshed its way through the puddles. She always liked this part of her drive into work — the road curved through a wooded hill, then cut through some fields. The sudden burst of open sky put her in the right temper to face the day. Even the gloomy talk on the radio didn’t lower her mood.
‘Have you ever seen anything like this before?’ asked the interviewer.
‘Well, no,’ replied a man with a strong Somerset accent. Mary smiled, imagining some yokel in a field. ‘I’ve lived here nigh fifty year and this little stream never hurt nobody. But now! Look at it! Flooded as far as the eye can see.’
Mary checked the clock on the dashboard: 8:47. She’d be on time.
‘There are now over two hundred and fifty severe flood warnings across the UK,’ said the radio announcer.
His words gave Mary a strange sense of satisfaction. She felt safe, cocooned in her little car, comforted by the regular beat of the windscreen-wipers and the warmth of the heater.
‘The latest predictions,’ continued the announcer, ‘are that very heavy rain will persist across the UK throughout the morning. The Met Office is advising people to travel only if their journey is essential. And now, with time coming up to eleven minutes to nine, we have a special report from flood victims in—’
‘Oh, stop it,’ said Mary, turning the radio off. Why couldn’t they talk about something cheerful?
One more curve and the road, shiny with rain-water, stretched out across the fields. Mary shifted into a higher gear, when— ‘No!’
Those weren’t puddles, they were rivers flowing across the road. She could feel the tug of water pulling her car to the right, hear it running past the door—but then, thank goodness, the car juddered up another two metres. She was out of it. She stopped the car and looked ahead. This had never happened before. It didn’t make sense: this was a flat section of road, not some steep dip in a valley. Looking through the clammy drizzle, she understood: the grey-green fields were absolutely water-logged and water was running off them, from higher fields on the left, down to the lower fields on the right.
She tried to remember how you were supposed to drive along water-logged roads. Don’t go too fast, but never stop. Wasn’t that it? Why weren’t you supposed to stop? She couldn’t remember. Should she turn back? She’d come too far. Mary shook her head, put the car in gear and pressed on. The next slight dip was just a puddle, no problem. Then a rise and she felt safe. Another dip: this was tougher, again she felt the water pushing her car to the right. Up and safe. She could see the trees now, marking the last section of road before the hospice. She tried to remember: the next section was just a slight dip, wasn’t it? Mary pressed on. No, no, no—the water was deep, too deep, this wasn’t safe. Fast-flowing currents ran past the door and the car pulled to the right.