Saturday, 6 June 2020

Debut Fiction: 'The Flood' by Martha Lane

No one took the newsreader seriously when she said a wave was coming. But it did come. An ocean wave came and took a bite out of the city. Brazen. In the middle of the day. People chose to watch it through their screens. The blue light numbing them. Thousands sank with their homes, too flimsily built with plasterboard to withstand the force. Some fled in time. Those with red bricks to protect them fared better. If they could just stay inside until help was sent. Ivan stayed inside.

That morning, light shines through Ivan’s window. Ivan hasn’t seen light that bright in 458 days. It hurts his eyes as his pupils turn to pinpricks. Ivan runs to the glass and presses his face against it. He feels the condensation of his breath spread across the glass like a rancid flower. Ivan sighs as a large silver fish sidles by. A flick of its head betrays a momentary concern as headlights cut through the murk. The train announces its arrival with a blare of the horn. The fish darts away.

They’d done it. They had finally done it. A promise actually fulfilled. The trains were waterproof. Ivan could leave. He could go to work. He could eat something that wasn’t fish or tinned peaches. He could buy toilet paper.

Ivan can’t shake the skip from his feet as he runs to fetch his coat and umbrella. If he hurries, he will reach the platform in time. He’s always loved living this close to the tracks. He catches his breath as he thinks of fresh bread and Fiona from HR. He reaches out and grabs the door handle.
Ivan is still smiling as a wall of brightly lit water crashes into his hallway.

The driverless train pulls away from the station, its corroded carriages full of old Pepsi bottles banging against the ceilings and plasters coiling round grab rails. Occasionally operated from an office above the sea to prove the theory. It wasn't safe for drivers. Probably never would be. But look at the technology. Imagine the applications if only there was investment. The lights shine briefly over a sign, rusting and leaning with age. Underwater walkways direct from platform to people – coming soon!

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