On the first day, it began as a light drizzle, more like the air hadn’t quite finished going through the dryer than actual rain. A typical spring morning. You complained that your hair was going to get frizzy in the damp. You didn’t wear a raincoat.
On the third day, you asked me to drive you to work instead of taking the bus. The rain tapped against the windowpanes like idle fingers against a desktop. You put on a hat and I grabbed my keys.
On the fifth day, people started to notice. You stood under an orange umbrella in the backyard and spoke to the neighbours over the fence, leaning one nylon-clad elbow on the peeling white wood. You said you remembered there being longer wet spells, up to two weeks when the days were dark like twilight and the water poured down from the sky without pausing for breath. When you were a kid, your dad had told you a joke. “Do you want to hear it?” you asked when you came inside.
“The joke,” you said. “A tourist comes to town for a week and it rains the whole time. On his last day he’s passing this kid on the street and he looks down and he says, ‘Does it ever stop raining around here?’ And the kid goes, ‘How should I know, I’m only six?’”
You waited for me to laugh.
“It’s funny,” you said, gently placing your umbrella on the floor to dry, “because the point is that it’s been raining the whole six years the kid’s been alive.” The water drips from the arc of the umbrella onto the tiles. I watch it pool in the grooves of the grout.
“Oh,” I said. “I didn’t get that.”
“Yeah,” you replied. “No one ever does.”
On the ninth day, the puddle at the bottom of our front stairs was too big to step around. You performed a balletic sort of leap across it and found an old piece of plywood around the side of the house. You said it was much more practical than expecting me to lay my coat out for you every time you needed to cross.
“Is this you laying your coat out for me then?” I asked, toeing the edge of the plywood.
You grinned. “This is a modern romance,” you said.
On the twelfth day, the water had begun to lap against the underside of the porch, and the neighbour’s kid had started floating around in a little inflatable boat, wearing a bright yellow raincoat. The neighbour’s dog sat in the prow and barked at nothing. The yellow raincoat was the only colour on the street. It was the middle of the afternoon in April but the street lamps were all on, their orange glow diffusing into the night-like dark. You sat in the window and watched the kid float past while all around you was the patter of raindrops into buckets. “That’s cute,” you said. You picked up the bucket next to you and handed it to me as I passed.
I said that perhaps we should be getting a boat of our own.
You said, “Or maybe an ark.”
On the fourteenth day, everything in the house was damp. I lay wrapped around you in bed and the sheets were cold and wet against our skin. Water dripped from the ceiling and pounded against the windows. Even your hair had a hint of dampness to it as you pressed the crown of your head into my neck. You whispered that you couldn’t sleep for the sound of the wind, and I felt your voice before I heard it, buzzing against my collarbone. We both bolted upright as the air outside our window cracked and after a moment or an hour of silence the ground shook. You stumbled to the window and flung open the curtains. There was no light to spill in.
You must have been sleeping more than you thought because your voice was thick and rough. “A tree fell,” you said. I came to look. The branches stuck up in all directions like broken limbs, alien and stark against the light coming from the windows of the blue house that had just barely avoided being crushed. The white car parked at the end of the walkway had not been so lucky and barely looked like a car at all anymore, a twisted hunk of collapsed metal.
I asked if you thought we should go see if everyone was all right as doors up and down the block started to open and our neighbours poured out of their houses in pyjamas and rubber boots. The rain poured down. You said, “I’ll get our coats.”
On the seventeenth day, we woke to a foot of water filling the first floor. We salvaged the TV and the microwave and moved them upstairs, emptied the fridge and made a new kitchen in my office. I plugged in the television and turned to the news. You came up behind me and wrapped your arms around my neck and watched. You’d been quieter since the tree fell on the neighbour’s car. Twenty straight days of rain, they were saying, and hurricane winds at the coast, whole cities already underwater. They showed us a map and fast-forwarded through their weather predictions for the next ten days. They said there was no sign of the rain letting up, that we should all make provisions.
You took the remote from my loose grasp and flicked to a different channel. Everyone was talking about the weather. New satellite images. From the Space Station photos that showed clouds like that last hurricane everyone was bringing up again, but no eye to the storm—just clouds, swaddling the whole world in a fluffy white blanket. Swirling patterns like colourblind tie-dye.
“Imagine,” I said, “what it must be like at the coast, if we’ve already had to move upstairs.”
You just frowned at the television and turned away.
On the twenty-first day, I waded in waist-deep water to remnants of the tree trunk shooting out of the waves like an island. The neighbours’ cat had gotten itself stuck when the waters rose overnight and was yowling, sodden and stringy-looking. I unhooked its claws from the bark and wrapped it in my coat, close to my chest. I’d never felt rain so hard. The drops felt like pebbles, bullets, pounding into my bones. The cat’s claws tore at my skin. The next morning I woke with bruises from the rain and scratches from the cat. You trailed your fingers over the purple and red weals and murmured that I looked like a walking Rorschach test. You hadn’t been to work in five days.
On the twenty-third day, you didn’t speak at all, just sat on the bed and stared at the fogged-up window. You didn’t eat when I brought you lunch.
On the twenty-fifth day, the news winked out. Our easterly neighbours yelled at us from across the new river separating our houses that they’d heard, before the blackout, that the only reason we weren’t entirely underwater already was because we lived so far from the sea. The coast, they said, would be unrecognizable by now. They’d been announcing the new death toll when the television cut out.
I asked you if you thought they’d send the National Guard.
“What could the National Guard do?” you asked. “Pull the plug?”
I thought that might have been interpreted two ways, but I didn’t ask which you meant.
On the twenty-eighth day, I took the neighbours’ little blow-up dinghy and went to look for help. You didn’t want to come so I took the dog instead. I propped your orange umbrella against my shoulder to shield me, and another over the dog. We paddled through the streets and I told the dog that I’d always wanted to go to Venice, but here it was, come to me instead. People hung out of their upper-storey windows to watch us pass.
I paddled into town, but town wasn’t town anymore, just a collection of concrete islands jutting out of the water, some of them with clusters of people camped out on top. They called to me and the dog barked back. Everyone had the same questions. “What are we supposed to do?” they said. Who are we supposed to call? I suggested that maybe we could send a letter to…but I trailed off. An old man sat under a makeshift tent on top of the police station. “Better to just jump into the water now, kid,” he said, “than wait for it to swallow us up.”
When I got home I told you that I hadn’t found anything.
On the thirtieth day, you started to look improbable. Like something out of Oz, melting away with the water. I made a joke about it, something suggesting that it should be me straining under the weight of all this darkness, with my southern upbringing and the sun imprinted into my bones in childhood. You looked at me listlessly. “It’s different,” you said. “I don’t think it’s ever going to stop.”
By evening a few inches of water covered the second floor, and we moved into the attic. As we flipped open the trapdoor we scared a pair of squirrels out of the corner. They scurried out the window and onto the roof. In the rafters a few pairs of different birds had made new nests. I said that I hadn’t expected to have new roommates.
“Two by two,” you said, and nothing else.
On the thirty-third day, I thought I saw a crack in the clouds, a glimmer of sunlight shining through, but when I called you to come see, it was gone.
On the thirty-fifth day, you stayed wrapped up in the damp sheets and duvets all day, your face hidden in the mildewing fabric. Our westerly neighbours set out in the boat that had been sitting in their backyard for years, and said they’d be back with help. We didn’t see them again.
On the thirty-sixth day, we ran out of food. All of our neighbours who owned anything resembling a boat had long since made off, except our easterly neighbours with their dinghy. When I climbed out onto the roof, they floated across the waters to deliver me a few cans of refried beans and an apple.
Back inside, I gave you the apple. You looked at me from your nest of sodden blankets. The shadows under your eyes made your face look skeletal, your skin waxen. “You’ve got to eat,” I said.
When I wrapped myself in blankets next to you to sleep for the night, the apple was still sitting just where I’d placed it.
On the thirty-ninth day, we were camped out in the attic, and I was eating the beans that you had refused. I told you that maybe we’d move a tent to the top of the house tomorrow, but surely it’d stop tonight.
You asked, “What makes you think it’ll stop tonight?” I didn’t answer.
On the thirty-ninth day, the floor of the attic started to puddle. You looked out the little window and back at me, accusatory, like I was the one making it rain. “Why don’t you go see if the neighbours need anything,” you suggested, but it was more a direction than a question. “Or see if you can borrow their dinghy to go look for help again.”
I said okay and I climbed up onto the roof to yell across the channel to our remaining neighbours, still tucked away into their third storey.
On the thirty-ninth day, while I was on the roof, you climbed down the stairs from the attic into the flooded house. The water filled your lungs. You didn’t leave a note.
On the fortieth day, the world drowned.
On the first day, I sit on the damp shingles with my back against the chimney, and the sun rises over the world swept clean.
—Emma Seckel is currently in her final year at the University of St Andrews studying English Literature, and recently completed a dissertation in contemporary post-apocalyptic fiction. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Emma has channelled her passion for storytelling into both creative writing and extensive experience in theatre and film. Previous publications include poems and short stories in New Shoots and 225 Songs of Butterflies with Inkwells.