Arbie pushed her feet into the water.
She felt her body tense, realizing that she could no longer see where she walked. Any sensation of something brushing against her ankles led her chest to only tighten further.
“Hurry up and open the door,” Sokwurf urged from behind her, his small hands still clinging onto the black horns of the white goat teddy bear.
She did as she was told, finding that pulling the door against the water was harder than she had expected. The door open, more water soon poured in. She held onto the frame to keep upright against the more powerful current while stepping over the threshold.
Her hair soggy against her face from the splodges of water dripping down from the roof, she pulled strands away from her eyes just in time to see Sokwurf surging forward on his goat. He sped down the hallway, and around the corner towards the top of the stairs.
Books floated and bobbed, a river of words in front of her. Arbie batted her hands towards them to clear a path. Unable to swim she moved at a more rapid pace than before as the water crept up from being above her knees to not far from her waist.
Her black shorts soaked she found herself holding on to them, and reaching the top step her other hand clasped onto the wall.
The water wasn’t as high as she had expected it to be. She had believed that the lower floors must have been flooded for the water to have come to the height it now was, but instead it was the same level below.
“Sokwurf!” she cried out before hesitantly walking down the stairs.
“Towards the door,” the sock called back.
At the bottom step she turned right to see Sokwurf, no longer with goat, lying on his back and clinging onto a handle with the water threatening to sweep him away.
Arbie rushed towards him, resisting the drag back of the water, its source seeming to be coming from the other side of the door.
She perched Sokwurf on her shoulder, cringing a little at the feel of a course woollen material against her ear where his hands took grip.
“Do we go out here?” She asked, hoping that he would know.
“We can’t stay in here,” he said in reply.
Arbie paused, looking back over her shoulder to see that, yes, the house was filling with water but also that it no longer seemed to be getting any higher.
Sokwurf, too, had noticed this, and so without hesitation he replied, “I’m not sure, that’s just what they usually say in the films.”
Arbie had taken no more than a slight step back, a mere movement of her heel staying put but toes lifting, when a spark caught their attention. Behind them, in place of where she was certain a lamp fitting had been, a wire now hung dangerously close to the water.
Her palm was pushing down on the steel door handle before Sokwurf could once again criticize her lack of survival skills. Before a second crackle could be heard, the two of them were through it with the water slamming it shut behind them.
They took a moment to breathe, and a little longer to take in their surroundings. The front garden was flooded. Plants that had been swaying in a Summer breeze were lifted and floating around their waists. Arbie looked across the street to see if over the water their neighbours had yet appeared. There were no neighbours. There was only her house and her front garden and, although it certainly was her front garden, it was bordered off from what was in fact a river bank that rose up on either side of the wall.
“What is happening here?”
Sokwurf jumped down onto the brick wall beside him and reached his hand over. He pushed it down onto the sodden blades of grass and then reached into the water that had now settled at a steady pace.
“The river overflowed,” he said, turning back to Arbie, who was brushing a long strand of blonde hair out of her way.
“I can see that,” she said, using her hands to show the water that was bobbing around her. “I don’t live by a river. Is this a dream?”
The last question gave Sokwurf pause for thought. He wasn’t sure himself. He knew that he was capable of having dreams but he had believed that his moments with Arbie were waking ones. His dreams were also usually about stockings, but then they did often tend to include water. After all, large and unpredictable water sources had become a fear ever since Arbie had sent him through the washing machine.
“Are we both dreaming?” he asked. “What do you normally dream about?”
“I don’t know,” Arbie replied, knowing full well her dreams were usually just a jumble of thoughts she’d usually forget by the morning. “I used to dream I was being chased by the blob.”
“I don’t think that’s too relevant to the here and now. At least, I hope not.”
Sokwurf looked about himself, marvelled at how despite believing that the river had settled, water was streaming down the side of the river banks, creating a gentle waterfall display.
“It’s quite pretty isn’t it?”
“It’s uncomfortable,” Arbie replied, “and I’m worried this isn’t a dream. I have animals inside there. We need to go back in.”
“No, no you don’t.”
Arbie and Sokwurf looked up to see that one of the bedroom windows was open and sat upon its ledge was a man. His black hair hung about his shoulders and his slender frame was adorned in elaborate materials of a deep crimson with thick golden buckles. Upon his feet were boots that reached to his knees, and the edge of a cloak, the hood of which partly concealing his head, also draping about his thighs.
“Who the he-“
“Ratch,” Arbie interrupted, staring up at him and wondering when she gave him permission to start dressing like a pirate.
Sokwurf squinted his eyes, the material pulling tighter and his mouth becoming thinner. A brief inspection confirmed Arbie’s words, and to his horror he realized she was right. It was Ratch.
“What did I tell you about mad gods?” he said, turning on her as though she had written him in.
“You told me not to overuse them,” she replied, with a brief shrug of her shoulders before looking back up to Ratch. “I’m not overusing anything right now. If I were in control I wouldn’t be standing in a river.”
“Why wouldn’t you want to overuse mad gods?” Ratch asked, joining in the discussion as he climbed down the ivy that covered the right side of the house. “Romantic, don’t you think?” he asked of Arbie once he had reached the ground.
“I’m in agreement,” Sokwurf added, the wool of his chest feeling heavy and not just from the weight of the water. “Why are you here?”
Ratch jumped up onto the wall and splashed his feet in the water, droplets slipping off the smooth material of his boots.
“I have no idea,” he replied, his eyes fixed on Arbie. “One minute I was enjoying a dalliance, and the next I’m wandering around a house that’s forgotten how to use it’s roof. I hear voices, I poke my head out the window and I find you both out here. I thought it was her doing.”
“It wasn’t my doing,” Arbie said, her eyebrows dipped and mouth slightly turned up at the side. “I don’t write about you anymore, either of you. I guess we’re all dreaming and for whatever reason, Ratch, you dream about being in flooded houses.”
“Not in much of a position to criticize that, given you’re here too,” he pulled a small knife out of his boot, checked it over, shaking it free of water, and then placed it back. “Looks like I’m not the only one that likes dreaming about floods.”
“Are my pets inside?” Arbie asked, ignoring Ratch’s knife display and returning to her original predicament.
“Did you see them?”
“Those walking water things weren’t in your room, Arbie. They were there every other time I visited,” Sokwurf chimed in with a raised hand.
Arbie thought back and the sock was right. There hadn’t been any tanks beside her bed. This only coming to her attention now, and as a reminder from a sock, left her feeling pretty lousy about her axolotl parenting skills.
“I want to check, just in case,” she turned, and pushed down on the handle of the front door, only to pull it back with a sharp cry.
“Are you bleeding?” Sokwurf asked, watching as a small drop of blood slipped from her finger and into the water.
“The door bit me!”
Arbie shook her finger and then held it to her lips. The sweet iron taste soon lessened, and as it did she remembered that this, too, was a character. “Rustard,” she muttered, turning her attention back to the handle.
The door began to shake, the handle rattling and hinges soon loosening until if not for the water it would be swinging open. Instead, it soon became less important that the door was shaking, less likely that the handle would be biting anyone anytime soon, and more obvious that the entire house was now shaking and the ground beneath their feet with it.
Instinctively now, Arbie grabbed hold of Sokwurf and backed towards the wall where Ratch was sitting.
She had intended to hold on for support but this was now unnecessary. The rattling stopped, the trembling earth quietened, the door was gone and along with it the house.
In front of them a dirt path rose out of the water and wound into the distance. Above them clouds formed and the sky darkened, a gentle grumbling sending a warning that a storm was soon to come.
In unison, Arbie and Ratch dragged their feet towards the path and out of the water.
A cold breeze drifted about them, and with her arms pulled tightly across her chest she followed the road with her eyes to see where it led.
It twisted and turned with bends and arches every few feet, as though uncertain of its own destination.
“I suppose we have no choice,” Sokwurf said, his voice defeated, his small body shaking with the cold.
Ratch had already started following its way, but over his shoulder called, “If I know anything about roads that think they’re snakes, they usually lead into dangerous forests. But, it’s better than this mess of a place. More interesting too, I hope.”
Arbie trudged behind him, her head down, watching the dirt skip up with every step and wondering if it would be wiser to remove her squelching socks. Or, if this would seem rude somehow to Sokwurf. For a brief moment her attention left the cold and she wondered if they could be communicating with each other. She stepped at a lighter pace.
“Looks like there is a mad god at work,” Ratch said, drawing her attention upwards.
The sky was no longer only masked by dark clouds. A soft purple glow trimmed their edges, and lightning that flashed orange to red, hot like a flame, scattered through them. Raindrops soon began to tap above their heads causing them instinctively to pull their eyes away from the sky.
A glow ahead, that of windows on a lower floor lit by a fire inside. A tall lantern beside whatever dwelling it might be. One that was not there only seconds before, but one that called them towards it. Shelter.
“Huh,” Ratch muttered, “at least this mad god is playing fair.”