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by Jack Fisher

He watched her as she floundered, knee deep in the water. Her children had tried to stop her. Her grandchildren, too. But she was having none of it.

“The photographs,” she said, to no-one in particular.

She reached a chest of drawers, plunged her hand into the brown water and started tugging one of the handles. Her movements became frantic, her face etched in frustration. He watched, helplessly, unsure as to whether he should be intervening. He turned to the doorway where her son stood, shaking his head, a weariness tinged with shame. That it had come to this.

“Leave it, mother,” he implored. “Please.”

“Leave it?” she exclaimed, crossly, and breathless from the exertion. “It’s our history in these drawers. In this whole place.”

The drawer burst open. Photographs, black and white, colour, a collection of shapes and sizes, began to float to the surface. The sudden motion propelled her backwards and she lost her balance, teetering precariously. He rushed toward her, but he was never going to reach her before she fell. There was a splash, a cry of pain, and then he was beside her, pulling her up with one arm, while her son, his face now filled with anguish, took the other. Together they heaved her up and into a chair. She gripped the arms, breathing heavily. A pair of photographs drifted towards her. She reached a hand down, slowly, grabbed them, and held them to her face. Grandchildren, great-grandchildren perhaps, beamed sodden smiles back at her. She began to sob.

“It’s all ruined,” she said, her voice breaking between laboured breaths. She sounded almost childlike, he thought. Incredulous at the unfairness of it all.

Then again, more quietly and this time, it seemed to him, just to herself.

“It’s all ruined.”

He stared down at her. She seemed so small suddenly, her shoulders slumped forward. He looked at his uniform. It felt ludicrous to him now. He hadn’t known exactly what to expect, but it hadn’t been this. At first it was places far away, rural areas, towns or villages you hadn’t heard of, but that you somehow weren’t too shocked about, places that you could forget once you were home again, that faded from the news and from your memory. But from that first time the Thames had burst its banks, it had been different. Everything had changed. People had begun to panic. The South Bank underwater. Sandbags outside Parliament. Nelson’s Column rising from the sea.

And now this. He couldn’t bear it any longer.

“Please, your Majesty,” he said, quietly but firmly. “It’s time to go.”

Born in Rochdale in the U.K., Jack Fisher became a chemical engineer. At 35, as an antidote to facts and numbers, he began to write. First came an account of a journey through Mongolia, published as an ebook, Hold the Dog! 16 Days in Mongolia. Then, after a short course in creative writing, he tried fiction, and nowadays he is experimenting with short stories. You can find more about him at jackfisher.org.uk.