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21st May 2012

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A mighty roar

He looked at the distance to the bottom of the ravine, bared his teeth and let go the cliff, to jump. But even as he bent his knees, he became aware of a difference in the air, a faint noise, new, unidentifiable. No herd of animals ever rushed so — and now louder, from higher up the ravine, louder, nearer — he stared at the corner and the hunters stopped, uncertain in their fear and pride, and stared too. They recoiled, lost pride and gladness and kept only fear and uncertainty, they moved aimlessly and clutched each other. The noise became a mighty roar. A mad creature of clods and branches, of trapped animals and rolling stones, of muddy water and foam burst round the corner of the ravine like a monstrous paw. It reared and roared higher than a man. It took the hunters, elders, men, and youths, included them, turned them upside-down, whirled them round, washed away weapons and strength. It beat ringing heads against stones, bounced faces in mud, twisted limbs like straws. It was mindless, resistless and overwhelming. And then the front wave of the flashflood was past, the roar diminishing to a vast, pouring sound. The water smoothed, washed sideways up the crumbling walls of the ravine, accepted the falling clods, beat together down the centre and poured on, the colour of wet earth streaked with yellow foam.

William Golding, Clonk Clonk, from The Scorpion God (1971)

Tagged: booksnaturefloodshuntingWilliam Goldingwater