This was a nice neighbourhood. The Davies family had to agree. Plenty of room inside and out. Lots of families so the kids had plenty of friends to play with. An easy commute for Pete. A good school nearby, with lots of PTA activity to keep Jan occupied.The forest round the corner was wild enough to be exciting for the children but safe enough not to provoke parental anxiety. After such a long time searching, it was a relief to unpack their bags, and settle in.
Time passed. Susie and Paul got married and left home. Allie finished her A levels and began to be excited about University. Joseph got the lead in the Year 10 school play. The twins, Jenny and Georgia, went camping with the Guides. Life was good that summer.
It was Joseph who ran home with the news that another chemical spill was flowing through the forest. The streets were awash with foam and unbearable smells. Allie followed quickly afterwards to announce the bulldozers had arrived, combing the territory, destroying everything in their wake.
“Not again,” said Pete, “We’ve only just got settled here.”
“I must phone Susie and Paul,” cried Jan.
“There’s no time,” said Pete, “You know the score. We’ve got to go. They’ll find their own way.”
The family gathered what they could and hurried through the streets, covering their mouths with their gas masks so as not to be overwhelmed by poisonous fumes. Escapees from the bulldozers limped past with broken limbs. Some, already overcome by wounds and toxins, settled in street corners to die. The usual carnage.
The Davies knew how to survive. They had done it many times before. This was just the first assault. They headed for the deepest part of the forest, where the chemicals had not yet penetrated, where the bulldozers struggled to clear. They dug themselves in at the base of the deepest tree. They clung for dear life as the bulldozers swooped around them, the chemicals poured out over the foliage. They breathed into their gas masks and waited.
At last the cries and shouts faded into the distance. The foam dissipated, leaving a slimy residue across the paths. The bulldozers disappeared.
“It’s time,” said Pete.
They trudged across the slippery landscape, trying not to weep for their lost paradise. They could mourn when this was all over. At last, they reached the edge of the forest, and a chasm that yawned between them and safety. The ground shuddered, bringing the chasm closer.
“Jump!” said Jan. They jumped. First the twins, then Allie, then Joseph. Jan pushing the children ahead before she made the leap. Pete was last, the ground was shuddering again, the chasm opening up.
“Come on Dad, come on,” the children cried. The chasm was widening. He closed his eyes and with a running leap, jumped across it’s increasing gape, grabbing the ground with the power of all his legs.
The family gathered themselves together and went in search of a new home.
“Are you scratching?” said Angela Smith later that day.
Sarah looked up. “No.”
“Let me check,” Angela peered between the strands of Sarah’s hair, “Yes,you are. There’s a whole family of nits in here. I expect it’s like a forest to them.”
She sighed, and reached for the teatree and nit comb.