|Illustration by Dao Quoc Huy
by Nguyen Danh Lam
There is a noise somewhere, but it is not loud enough to wake him up from a very deep sleep. Last night he tried to gulp down some cups of brandy before going to bed, while his little daughter buried her face in the blanket since nine o'clock. He stayed on in front of the computer with the numbers until late at night. On the days when he had to work so hard, he kept thinking even when he had already slept. For many nights, the thinking had suddenly wakened him up from the feeling that he was floating, and he stayed wide awake right after that, even some time through to the next night. He was in a state of being paralyzed in the brain. But he hated taking tranquilliser. So he found it better to gulp down some cups of brandy. The noises have now become the roaring noises. It seemed that he could hear it, but he thought it was a dream. Don't believe it, he told himself, and try to get some sleep!
Then, there is the second noise, more powerful. He felt the bed was rushing against the wall and everything was being drifted into a whirlpool. He could not tell what was happening. His daughter was turned on her side and her arms got hold of his neck. The space was pitch dark. Those terrible sounds were heard all over the universe. There were the sounds of collapsing houses and uprooting trees.
He now knows that it is a disaster. The house lies very close to the edge of the river. When he started working in the night, his wife did not bear the light made from his computer plus its sound, she said:
"From now on, I will sleep in the next room. If this carries on, I am afraid I will lose the job!"
"It's up to you!" - He said.
"So, who will sleep with you, the daughter or the son?"
His older son looked at him with worry. The little girl said:
"I'll sleep with dad!"
Now the little girl was holding tightly her father's neck. He felt she was greatly trembling, but he could not hear anything, except those chaotic sounds around. Miraculously enough, the bed was not turned upside down. Actually it was an empty bed because when they had just got married, they could not afford buying a wardrobe, so the bed was made with drawers to arrange their clothes. Now the bed was turned into a large life buoy or a boat with four masts, just to say so. Out of a blue sky, he remembered that the bed where his wife and son were lying was not the same. It had not drawers. The water was rushing powerfully, probably from the upstream or possibly a tornado from the sea. He could not determine the direction or tell if it was a disaster. He could not be able to tell the time either. It seemed that his daughter was screaming. He tried to press his ear to her face, but he found all the water.
The bed was dashing against the wall of a house being seen floating on the river. The water was in a powerful circular motion. His left arm was holding his daughter tightly, while his right arm was holding the edge of the bed and his two legs were struggling to keep the balance. Waves were overflowing them. The little girl got ever more terrified. She seemed stopping crying, but she was having convulsion.
The sky was still pitch dark. There was not any sign of having a day break. He was skeptical about the time. When he went to bed, it was about one o'clock in the morning. Then he slept. And the flash flood or a tornado came. It seemed being calm now. But why did it look black and deserted everywhere?
His daughter could now able to cry.
"Here I am!" - He said, trying to conceal his feeling.
The girl repeated:
The bed kept floating. Water was rushing around. Sometimes there was something crashing onto the bed, probably a dead body. After crying for quite a time, the girl stopped and slept in his arms. Or she got fainted, he did not know! He himself was also thirsty. He used his right hand to scoop some water to drink. It was quite fresh. It meant that he was yet to be drifted to the river mouth. It was quite lucky, because if it was salty, it would be synonymous with great despair. He gulped some more water. This time he felt it was a bit stinking. He shuddered to think of it.
The bed suddenly inclined to one corner. He heard as if someone was squirming hopelessly in the water. He wondered if someone was trying to catch the bed when he was being swept by the water. The girl got awakened upon hearing the noise. She continued to yell in trembling. He touched her forehead and sweat was wetting his hand. He touched her body. It was burning hot as if she was having a high fever.
He got startled. He had to answer her this time.
"Mother is sleeping with your brother and you are sleeping with me. Do you remember?"
"Do ask mother to get me some water, dad!"
His daughter was getting a high fever. He tried to scoop some water at the edge of the bed.
"Do have some, daughter!"
"No, mother, give me a glass!"
He dropped some water into her mouth. The girl sipped it and then shook her head:
"No, it's not the water. Mother, give me some water!"
"Mother is sleeping soundly. Mother has to work tomorrow morning, my dear! Be a good girl! Try some more water, little daughter!"
The little girl tried to have some more water. It seemed that she found it impossible to drink it, she shook her head. Or the bed was now floating to the salty water area, he wondered? He got a slight start. He licked some water left in his hand. The water was still fresh. The bed was floating. The girl asked:
"Are we sleeping in the yard, dad?"
"Yes" - He replied quickly.
During the summer nights, there was often blackout and he took his son and daughter to the small yard to get more fresh air and tell them some stories. It could help make them sleep better until he could carry them onto the bed.
The river seemed getting less fierce. The bed was wet with water, but he carried his daughter in his arms. So she was not wet any more. The girl was moving in his arms.
"Dad, I'm hungry. Do tell mother to get me some milk, dad!"
"Oh, mother forgot buying milk for you in the evening. So try to get some more water, daughter! When the day breaks, I'll buy milk for you at once"
He again used the hand to scoop some more water and drop it into her mouth. She drank it with difficulty. Her forehead was still wet with sweat. He was now feeling terrifically hungry. All the energy inside him had gone. He felt he was completely exhausted. Why was it still so dark? The day did not break yet, he wondered. There was no sound of life. Only death and terror were enveloping him. He actually got used to living with intimidation and he knew disaster could fell on his head any time anywhere. But what was happening around him was quite strange and he had never gone through yet. If the day broke, he could be able to define clearly things around him. Possibly he could lay his daughter down the bed and try to use his two arms to propel the bed forward to somewhere.
There was something crashing onto the bed again, rocking it greatly. Suddenly he thought he had better not sit on the bed. So he carried his daughter on his chest and slowly he lay down. Water was filling his ears. He lay still for a moment and looked at the sky. Stars were twinkling up there. It meant that life had still existed. His daughter was sleeping, breathing evenly. Her warm cheeks were pressing on his. He closed his eyes. From afar, some dull sounds were heard. Probably those gigantic water masses were racing towards the sea.
His daughter was moving, awakening him. So, he had just a short sleep. He raised his head and saw that the air was no longer so dark. A dim light was appearing on the horizon. He turned his head towards it with great hope. But the nape of his head had suddenly become numb. It could be an illusion, he thought. The night was so long, absurdly long.
He began to see that he got cold sweat all over the body. On the contrary, the body of his daughter was very hot. Or one way or the other, he and his daughter were gradually getting fainted. With his last energy, he tried to sit up, whereas his daughter was slipping from his chest and his two exhausted arms. He tried to shake the girl. She was motionless. He screamed:
"My daughter, do get up! Here's your father!"
It was so dark that he could not be able to tell if her eyes were opening or not. He pressed her cheek on his ear and found that she was still breathing. So he felt a bit assured. He tried to be in the position of half sitting and half lying. So doing, he felt a bit less cold. However, his back, shoulders and waist seemed being numb. The bed was floating slowly. He again dropped off to sleep. His two numb arms were trying to hold his daughter. By instinct, he believed that his arms were in that position even though his whole body had got paralyzed.
His sleep this time seemed being prolonged for good. He suddenly got awakened, feeling the dim light through his eye lids. He blinked and the first thing he saw was the bright sky above his head and probably his daughter was still lying on his chest. A pale body. He got frightened. He pressed his ear onto her nose, put his finger on her lips, but he could not be able to determine she was still breathing or not. He quickly slipped his hands into her chest and felt vaguely her heart was still beating slightly. He darted his eyes around and recognised in great fear that all around him was muddy water. Those pieces of planks, tree trunks, tables and chairs, cases and beds were drifting without any sign of a ship or boat. There was no sign of humans, even dead bodies. He understood that the deluge had just rushed in, so it was not long enough for those bodies to get afloat.
He again scooped some water and put it into his mouth. It was very salty. He lay down, looked at his daughter's closed eyes and kissed them. Through the girl's ears, he could see the blue sky above./.
Translated by Manh Chuong