Monday, September 29, 2008

The Day The Desert Flooded

When the waters first climbed the banks, we were overjoyed, because it was exciting and now we could go where we normally could not go. I was very young then and some of the older ones looked very grave and said not to go. Instead they turned and went very, very deep indeed. When we came to the surface, everything was quite wild, much the way we loved it; we climbed the great white-building peaks and crashed with them, we formed great circles and watched the lightning, we laughed with the roar that roared above the roar.

Eventually, we began to see some of your things; we were used to their odd shapes and purposelessness. We liked to pass them around to each other and touch and smell them, they were so odd. Some made good toys. This time, we began to see more and more of them. We thought one of your poor boats had broken up, as they often do, but there was so much more and things we had never seen. My brothers and sisters laughed and played, wrapping the wet cloths around us in imitation of how we had seen you do. Honestly, we never understood half the stuff that your people did; to imitate you, was for us, simply to act silly.

When a beautiful doll slid among us, there was a great cry among our sisters, who swarmed upon it and playfully fought for it. My strongest and fastest sister naturally prevailed, as she did in all our games, and hugged it to her bosom. Then she gave a terrible shriek into the wind. It was not a doll, but one of your children. My sisters gathered all around, quite crestfallen and curious. They swam slowly and pitied it sadly, passing the thing around. Poor little thing, they cooed, kissing its cold brow and hands before discarding it to the care of the waves.

It was then it was decided that we should investigate what had happened. We swam in close to shore, closer than we normally dared, only to find that the shore had vanished. All was water, all was ours and the rain continued above us. We swam in easily and were soon surrounded by so many of your things, we no longer could pay them any attention. Beneath us, we saw your towns. How strange they were, cut up with their regular lines and everything divided up like spoils. It was funny, because your towns do not belong under water. It was so strange to see your towns and now to walk among them flooded, as though we had become the ghosts of you.

Our play gave way to awe and wonder and bewilderment at your things and life. We looked at each other. We began to wonder if any of you had survived. Your creatures, too, had all gone. We rose again to the surface where the rains still poured from a black sky that was neither day, nor night, but only rain. One of us spied a lone mountaintop; we swam over to see if some willful goat or bird had retained purchase there. It was there we saw what we thought was the last of you. You were naked, huddled and miserable. Many of you screamed at each other and at heaven. Your females held on to little ones. You had no hope whatsoever. If we could, we would have cried for you.

My brothers and sisters and I did not know what to think. We should teach them to swim, the youngest said. It must be because they were wicked, said another. That is a terrible thing to say, said the wisest and we all agreed and shamed him. Is the world ours now, asked my youngest sister. It must be, said another, look at them, they will never survive.

We truly did not know what to do for you. My brothers came back with things for you to float on. My sisters sang for you. But this was little more than play for us. The water came upon your ankles and you shuddered with terror. Some of you began to curse us, and so we left you.

Then we saw something still more unlikely. It was one of your ships, only enormous. Only a madman could have built it. Swimming closer, we saw that it was full of animals. The animals screamed and yelled, frightened by the waves, the thunder, the boat and their confinement. In many ways, the whole thing seemed like a terrible idea. The waters already lapped the highest peak. Where was your boat to go? Finally, we saw your last captain and his family on the deck. We thought surely they must seek to rescue your brothers and sisters and tried to signal to them. But they passed your last survivors without pause or regard, which baffled us.

Instead the crew of this curious ship screamed and yelled at each other. The father appeared drunk or mad. They abused the animals and each other. They slaughtered them and tossed them overboard: whether in the hopes of appeasing the storm, lightening the boat, or out of sheer cruelty, we could not tell. They seemed as mad and frenzied as the survivors they had abandoned. They cursed the black, wet sky. To our great sadness, we realized you were not saved at all, and this rain would never end.

We talked among each other about what to do. The world is ours now, one said, it has been given to the creatures of the sea. But we do not need the whole world, said another, they live on but a handful of sand and rock. Mother must be angry, said one of my sisters, she must be angry with them. We should go to Mother, we agreed.

And so we flew to our Mother. We swam down, down, down, down, deeper than can be said. And we sang the songs of praise because we are always truly happy to see our Mother. And we cried, Mother, Mother, Mother, the land creatures are suffering. Mother, Mother, Mother, the feet creatures are crying. Mother, Mother, Mother, the air breathers are dying. Why, Mother, why, why, why?

Children, children, said our great Mother, I gave them a handful of sand and they spilled their own brother’s blood on it. I gave them air to breathe and they lie and spit curses with it. I am sorry about the other creatures, but this dry land thing has got to go. Someday, the rain may wash their poison into the sea, my children, and make you sick. I cannot let this happen.

Mother, Mother, Mother, we cried, the sea is great, you are great. What about the furry ones and the winged ones and everything else that grows? They are also our brothers and sisters. These wicked ones too, did you not make them in our own image, only with two flippers to go about on land, like the lungfish? Mother, you cannot do this. Mother, you should not do this. Stop the rain, Mother, stop your anger. We have enough. We will always have enough, for you are the great Mother, creator of all. Your love is as great as the sea.

And at this, the storm abated, we could tell, and Mother hugged and kissed us all. O my children, my beautiful children, she said, never stray from me, but be always close in the bosom of the waves. For the sake of your tenderness, I will allow a dry spot upon this globe and they will do as they may with it. Cats and dogs, too. Gather stones and rocks and pile them upon the top of the highest mountain. If you do this, they will not perish all.

And I will put a sign in the sky after every rainstorm to remind them: of water you were fashioned, and to water you return.

And so we did as she bid. And so you were saved. And we sang a great praise to our Mother, we, her children, in the deepest and best place you call Paradise.