On the fortieth day, The Water no longer rushed through the streets. The Water hadn’t receded completely, but held steady around the eighth story and The People tried to accept that everything below had been washed away. As they had every morning since the seas swallowed the shores, The People in the tallest buildings took to the rooftops to find solace in the sunrise, but only briefly, as they continued to survey the damage and tally their losses.
The quiet of early morning was the only peace The People had. A few short hours after dawn, the violence, the screaming and the keening would begin again. The People grew only hungrier and more panicked as the day went on.
Starvation created typical results. In the evening The People spoke of gods and of judgment as they ate smaller creatures. Some preferred to starve and could not bear the gruesome sight of those who dined upon their murders with satisfaction, and so they strangled their grandparents, suffocated their babies, pressed their furry companions into pillowcases with a household iron or a bowling ball and threw them out to The Water.
Suicide grew more common. Each day, more and more of The People leapt into The Water from great heights. When they didn’t leap from high enough places, they cried out in regret and begged for death. The People begged for death all day, because The Leviathan only fed at night.
Initially, The Leviathan swam by peacefully as it feasted on the bloated bodies of the dead. For a time, The People marveled at its magnificent size and beauty. Once the dead were no longer abundant, The Leviathan grew hostile in its hunger. It flapped its useless wings on the surface of The Water and cried out for food. It slammed against buildings in fury. Now and again, The Leviathan shook a building to ruin and then The People heard the moaning, slurping noises of The Leviathan devouring its prey. The hungry roars of The Leviathan bellowed through the hollowed city. Every night, The People covered their ears and prayed others would leap into the water. Every night The People threw others into The Water to quiet The Leviathan.
At dusk on the fortieth day, dark clouds appeared one after another until they covered the sky. From behind the clouds, the voice of The Sun promised to save The People, but only if The People did as The Sun commanded. The People, again, spoke of gods and many fell to their knees as The Sun told them to bow their heads and close their eyes.
I didn’t close my eyes. I never close my eyes.
I saw, as The Sun became thousands of stars descending on the buildings. I watched as light became everything else. Lights painted the buildings green with moss. From The Water vines grew up, lacing the buildings together, filling the windows ledges with fruits. Light covered The People, the rooftops, everything beyond The Water, until all that had been made by The People was burned out and replaced with The Sun’s designs.
When it was done, The Sun spoke to The People, promising to make all that was old new again, promising to abate their hunger, and assuage their fear, but The Leviathan could not be exterminated, for The Leviathan had come first.
Indeed, I had come first. I looked at The Sun and The Sun looked at me, and I knew my place. So I slapped my flightless wings against the surface of the water and headed back to my original depths. No matter how many millennia pass between each beginning, I always enjoy The Light Show and The People. Over time, The People only grow bigger and their fear tastes more delicious.
Jolene Mottern studied English Ed at Ball State University, so yes, she has eyes on the back of her head, but she still can’t find her glasses. She lives in Indianapolis with her husband, the last half of her kids, and a lot of pet hair. She’s into words, nature, food, feelings, and sleep. You can read her predictably unpredictable blog at jolenemottern.com
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