Holiday Or Nightmare
Pravin Vaghani(Photo by Unusha)
On to the Holiday
He had made a firm resolution. This holiday he will take his family for camping by the seaside. He had promised them. His little daughter was excited by the thoughts of roaming around on the golden sand of the beach. She had dreams of building a castle of the sand and decorate it with the seashells which she was going to collect on the beach. His beautiful young wife had bought the latest and sexiest of the swimsuits and was looking forward to rub the sunscreen lotion all over her body and bake in the sun to a copper brown tone. She had been collecting books and magazines to read while lying on the silky sand. He himself was dreaming of languishing on the beach with a can of beer on his tummy and a straw hat covering his face to avoid the glare of the sun over his eyes. He will also try his prowess on the newly bought barbeque and have long walks on the beach playing with his daughter.
The Day of Departure
Finally the day came when all the preparations were made. All the provisions were loaded in the car – the things which were absolutely necessary like food packages, cool box with drinks, beach ball, beach toys of his daughter, beach towels, extra cloths etc. A couple of folding chairs, a banana lounge, a floating mattress and a beach umbrella were tied to the roof rack. Some things like ‘may be useful’ and some things with the question “Why you want to take this to the beach?” were all loaded. A sleeping bag was thrown on the back seat as an after thought just before starting.,
He set off early morning, beating the early morning pick-hour traffic. Out of the city, through the suburbs and soon his car was cruising at a steady speed on the highway.
Sheep on the road
His wife, with a strip map and a guide book in her hands, was keeping eyes on the road, reading signs and commenting on the eye-pleasing beauty of the green landscape of the countryside. Occasionally they saw a flock of sheep or a herd of cows grazing in the pastors. His little daughter was excited with pleasure when he slowly negotiated the car through a flock of sheep crossing the road. She wanted to touch the ‘little lamb’. He stopped the car on the side of the road, got out with his daughter and let her touch the soft wool of a sheep. He exchanged greetings with the farmer who was shepherding the sheep.
All going well, they should arrive at the caravan park by noon where he had booked a caravan in advance.
Soon his wife signaled him to slow down. There was a turn-off to the beach on the right. He left the main highway and got onto a by-road. The road was narrow but the asphalt surface was good. The road went up and down and was zigzagging around the hills.
Suddenly he had to jam the brakes. He was facing a sign “ROAD CLOSED FOR REPAIRS” and an arrow pointing to the left “DETOUR”.
“What a nuisance ?” he murmured, “must be a short detour” he hoped and eased the car on to the dirt track. The bumpy track kept winding left and right going downhill until he arrived on a plain level ground. Still there was no sign of another “DETOUR” back to the main road.
There was a loud ‘Bang”, a hissing sound and the car skidded to the left; he stopped just managing the car on the track. He got out of the car, followed by his wife and daughter. They all looked at the flat rear tire. It was totally flat. He and his wife looked at each other. They looked around. The place seemed to be a valley surrounded by hills. There were a few cows in a distant field but there was no sign of human being, not even a hut, no possibility of help.
He opened the boot of the car. The spare tire and jack were under a floor board on which were piled up all the requisites of their holiday. He looked at the sky. The sun was shining. But he knew from experience that during this time of the year four seasons in a day was more a norm than the exception.
He and his wife started taking out things one by one and piled them on the side of the track. Their little daughter, oblivious of the plight her parents were in, started playing around, jumping off the rocks and collecting daisies.
The First Cloud
He was half way changing the tire when thee was a change in the wind. A cloud appeared over the horizon from behind the hills. He was now working frantically to tighten the nuts on the wheel. A drop of rain touched his nose just when he tightened the last nut. Quickly he removed the jack and put the jack and the tire in the car. Then he looked at the pile of the things he would have to put back into the car.
His daughter was still playing a few meters away. The sky was fully covered with the dark clouds by now. He looked at the hills and saw a wall of rain slowly coming towards them He shouted to his wife, “Quick, let us put all these things back in the car before the rain reaches us.” He and his wife started frantically putting the things in the car. What was neatly stacked up from home was now being thrown in helter-skelter in a frenzy to beat the arrival of the rain. But the wind was too strong. They just about put half the things in the car when a bucket of rain fell over them drenching them totally in a few seconds. His daughter screamed and came running towards them. She tripped over a stone and fell flat on her face. He ran and picked her up. She was covered fully with mud and her nose was bleeding. He shouted his wife to get into the car, put the daughter in her lap and got in the car quickly.
Water inside Car
It was raining very heavily by now. The water was slowly gathering around and soon the road was under water. Some of his things, which were left outside started floating on the muddy water but he dared not get out of the car to save them. The water kept on rising. He felt water under his feet and noticed that it was coming in the car from underneath. In no time there was ankle deep water inside the car. His daughter was frightened and she was screaming and crying.
On the Roof
He and his wife discussed and decided that they should move out of the car and move to a high ground. He got out of the car only to land in a knee deep water over the road. There was so much water all around them that it seemed as if they are in a middle of a lake. The nearest tree was over a hundred meters away. It was not safe to walk over the unknown ground under water. The only available high place was the roof of the car.
He put his daughter on the roof rack, helped his wife to climb over and then got on to the roof.
The Daughter fell in the water
By now the heavy rain had slowed down to a drizzle but the water kept coming form the surrounding hills and its level was rising. Soon it was only a few inches from the top of the car. The ground under the car gave way and it tilted on one side. His daughter slipped and fell into the water. He gave out a horrifying scream and stretched his hand to grab her. Luckily he could catch the end of her skirt and pulled her up. She had swallowed some water and was out of breadth.
Keeping their daughter between them he and his wife held tight to the roof rack which was under water by now. He looked at the tree nearby and pondered whether he was strong enough to carry his wife and daughter on his back and swim to the tree.
Was it a Detour
Then he started thinking of that “DETOUR” sign he had followed. Was it really there or that it was some kind of an illusion ? Since the time he had left that sealed road to follow the detour sing he had not come across any vehicle from either direction ! This dirt track did not seem to lead to anywhere. Was he being led to some strange and horrible destiny or that this was just a bad dream ? He reached for the penknife on his keyring, opened it and proceeded to make a cut on his wrist. His wife was horrified, she caught his hand and shouted, “What are you doing ? Have you gone mad ?”
Or a Nightmare ?
He stared at her and then started crying, “I want to wake up ! This must be a nightmare !”