by Chris Buchanan
Short story, 2014
One story in three times. A survivor of the Great Flood talks to herself as she starves, a girl lives through the Cold War in a hospital bed, and in the present day a man tries to make conversation with his depressed daughter.
I have no other family left and I hate the silence, so I must speak to You.
Are You ready for the waters to assuage now, or are You waiting for me?
I said a prayer when my parents died, and then again when my brother gave me his food and joined them. Did you hear that? It was our old chant for the passage of the dead. There were no words of my own in there. I said it while I bound their hard bodies in the empty chickenfeed sacking and laid them in the rainwater– the flood, whatever it is. It’s still a puddle, isn’t it? Big one. No fish. Not reached the surface. My mama said it was Your tears but there isn’t any salt, so.
I know You haven’t ever spoken to me before, but I still hope You will. There were so many of Your children before, and I was only a girl. Now there’s only me and You, isn’t there? I thought I might be special at first. Thought You might have chosen me. To be saved. Hurts my stomach to think of that.
Is this a punishment, Lord?
My mother didn’t believe it was. She said You loved us all and that decent people like my family would be saved: that was why You had led us to the boat. Its owner was dead I suppose. Did You starve us because we were thieves, then? Are we like Eve and we failed Your test? Or were we meant to drown like all the rest and finding this thing only prolonged our suffering? What is meant by this? Is it because people eat pork and mate with mistresses?
Sometimes I still see the piles of cattle and peasants who didn’t sink. The birds of the air used to peck at them when it was still raining, but they’re all gone now. Did they displease You?
If You’re going to kill me might it please come quickly? I feel like I’m waiting for lightning.
Is this a punishment or could You just not think of a better way?
I’m sorry Father. It’s so hard to put what I mean into words. Please. Can you hear my thoughts?
Dear Father, forgive me for making You wait. I began to weep again. Did you hear that? It seems shameful to me. I am not a man, but I am not an infant either. You gave speech to men and their sons and daughters, yet sometimes I bleat like an ass. I hate it. But in a stupid way it does make me feel at peace.
This isn’t important.
I don’t know what it is that I want to say to You. Do you understand?
Lord God please give me a sign. Will you please just–
No, of course.
I nearly forget what the ground used to look like. I miss the colours mostly. Do You remember them? Grass and earth. I even miss the clouds.
Now all I see is blue, twice: two great big sheets of blue and the sun or the moon in one corner of them both. When I look up can You see my eyes, ah? Or if I look down can You see them on the water? Here–
I’m sorry. I know that doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes I say things and I laugh and I don’t know why. I might just be hungry. I’ve gnawed on these chickenbone splinters so much today, most of them are stuck in my teeth. Poor chickens.
I wonder how many people are under the water.
It would hurt too much to climb over to the edge of the deck and look. If I put my head under, could I see them? Ha ha ha.
Can You hear me? It’s Kala-Hira-daughter-of-Lam. Can You hear me? I’m praying! I’ll wave at You, all right? I can’t shout any more. Do You see? Here on the little riverboat! It’s me!
Are You still up there or are you tired of watching?
I don’t blame You. If I were in the Kingdom of Heaven I wouldn’t want to look down here either. Hmm. They always said it was beautiful. Is that why You drowned them all, Lord? Are they with You now? I haven’t seen any bodies in a long time.
I can’t remember what I was saying.
Are there any fish yet?
Dear God, it hurts to move now. Wait a minute. Don’t listen. I’m going to try to get up so I can look.
Don’t listen to this.
There. I’m sorry. I cursed. I didn’t mean it.
Another step now. Here we go. No–
I’m weeping again. Please, just ignore it. I fell. I need to pull myself across the deck. Fingertips in the cracks.
God, my stomach hurts. Please help me.
Two blues, reflections, deep and light. I want to look deeper. Lift me up.
Oh! There. Hold the– good. Wonderful. Can You see me? Are You up there, or down there? Here. Breathe. Let me look over the prow.
God hold me up!