We had expected thunder and lightning. Clouds had rolled up from the ocean and towered over us, bruised and purple as the sun slipped past the rim. Our parents let us stay up that night lighting candles while they rolled hurricane tape across the windows. Once or twice, power would flicker back to the streetlamps, and they’d cast silver light through, silhouetting the tape and throwing cathedral stained glass across the blue carpets. My father pulled the mattresses out of our bedrooms and dragged them into the den. We dared each other to ask him if we could stay up all night, but fell asleep before we got the chance.

I thought I’d be woken by the rain, but none came. When I stirred in the morning, I had forgotten where I was. Our mother had thrown back the curtains and I was tangled up in my blanket and a beam of distilled sunlight. The radio was on in the kitchen, but there was only the soft crackle of static and the softer crackle of eggs in the fry pan.

Outside, an octopus slipped casually by. I rubbed my eyes, but he was still there.

I rushed to the door and stepped outside, and salt water lapped at my bare toes and the ends of my pajamas. The ocean had come up in the night, tiptoeing ashore under the cover of darkness.

There were brittlestars on the mailbox, wrapping their feathery, purple arms around the post where barnacles were settling their colonies. Great piles of kelp hung from the roof of the house across the street and hermit crabs were fencing beneath the clear water that covered the lawn.

My father had opened up the garage, shooing away the sea hares from the door. They bounded away in graceful loops, looking like ribbons a magician had breathed life into. My mother helped unlash the canoe from the wall and we piled inside.

We pushed out into the street, father tugging at the front, mother steering at the back. We drifted past the supermarket. Below the surface, the shopping carts were already turning fuzzy and green. My father waved to Uncle Jack, who was in a raft and was smoking without his shirt on. We could see his tattoos – green eagles and blue women. My father stopped and tried to talk, but my mother kept on paddling.

The rock gobies followed us, dancing in and out of the shadow our canoe threw on the floor below us. But it grew deeper as we pushed off of the hill, and we could see puffers and shrimp. They were creeping through the places where meadows of sea grass had started to bloom in the cracked asphalt and concrete.

We paddled, and I could feel the canoe cut clean through the water. The lazy sunlight danced off of the wake in broken diamonds. Ahead on the rise was the church, and the neighbors had already tethered their boats to the branches of the maple tree that grew outside the door. We rolled off the sides and dog-paddled until we could feel the stairs. Inside, we stood sopping in the pews. The water from our fingers dripped onto the onion skin pages of the hymnals and made the words run together. The pastor rose behind the pulpit, wringing the saltwater from his tie. He thanked God for the beauty of the world and led us all in a prayer for gills.

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—Gordon Brown grew up in the deserts of Syria but now lives in the deserts of Nevada. Since his arrival in the New World, he has been published in Danse Macabre and has upcoming work in NoD Magazine and The Airgonaut. Gordon spends his free time looking after his cats, of which he has none.

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