Everybody said it wouldn’t happen. Then one morning the whole town is submerged and we’re inhaling our final breath. Those with boats suffocate on the surface—or get eaten, maybe, what’s happening up there is unclear. Like my family, most will drown in the ever-rising tide.
Dad motions for us to gather in the kitchen. He finds the etch-a-sketch and tells us he loves us. He starts with Mom. I’m last because Melanie is older. Melanie hugs me. Two days pass. We all get hungry and pale. Dad captures a fish with a sweater, but what can we do, swallow it? And raw? Dad gets the etch-a-sketch and warns us that yet another neighbor has checked the surface and sunk back headless. Mom demands the etch-a-sketch to find out which neighbor it was. A large bubble escapes me as I begin to laugh. Dad writes not to laugh on the etch-a-sketch.
Three days pass. We’re starting to think very poorly because of the lack of oxygen. We are all breaking records for longest dive, but all of the books are destroyed, so no one will be remembered. We will never become memories or fish or anything else. After a week has passed, all of the vessels in Dad’s eye pop and he goes blind on the one side. Mom has gone inexplicably bald. “Ugly?” she writes, and bubbles escape all of us.
Melanie sees Bill’s son through the window and gestures that she loves him. I know that she wasn’t ready to make out with boys. But to die never having done it? I would settle for holding hands with one. There is nobody left. Melanie holds my hand and I kiss her cheek. The boy sees us and waves slowly, before being swept away by a current.
Dad’s second eye goes and then Mom takes over completely with the etch-a-sketch. She writes, “Wonder what’s above?” But we don’t, really. Dad starts floating into walls. I wonder how it’s possible that we can go so long without sleep. I wonder, if there was time enough, whether we’d evolve into sharks or whales. Mom says, “What’s up there?” A day passes. Mom writes and underlines, “Really.” Dad dies and we all don’t know how to cry. It takes a while, but she writes, “I lived in Wyoming, did you know that?” We knew that. We’ve heard all her stories more than once. In the hills near her school, there was a landslide that opened a hole in the earth itself. When people finally got the courage to explore it, all they found at the bottom of the gash were dead animals. “What’s more moving? Imagine,” Mom writes. I picture stars above the surface. Angry fires. What no one is able to say is that hurting the earth is forcing the animals to become stronger. But now it’s morning and Mom’s mouth is open and there’s a worm or something living under her tongue. The water is getting progressively warmer. We take off our clothes. A day passes and on the etch-a-sketch Melanie writes, “Imagine.” My brain is nearly mush, but I know exactly what she’s referring to. It’s our beautiful, silly Mom. Our very first love. We could laugh and die now. There are worse ways.
Another day passes. I imagine a million moving things. Melanie, too. We’d tell them all to each other, if there was time.