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ON A CLEAR DAY

by Jennifer Schwabach

 

 

 

 

They say on a clear day, well you know what they say. I think Iím seeing it now. The tops of the tallest buildings show above the flood waters. Those buildings that survived, anyway. Most toppled as the lead wave crashed against them, two hundred feet high. They had assured us that they could control the melt rate of the icecaps, but physicists never did live in the real world. Once those lasers started, there was no stopping it. Oh, we turned the lasers off, just as planned, but the runoff was so great that the melt process had become self-sustaining.

New York, Chicago, San Francisco Ė they all felt the impact. Buffalo is no more than a memory. Some of the Central states thought they would be spared, but the rising Great Lakes overflowed into the rivers. The Mississippi flooded like it never had before.

The entire state of Florida is gone. No more Cape Kennedy. Abandon in place. Houston, we have a problem. The whole city is under thirty meters of water, sir.

I turn away from the satellite images. Theyíre far too depressing. Itís time to try the radio again.

"Hello out there? Does anyone read? Ni how, stradzveetchya, China, Russia Ė is anyone listening?" Surely Russia, good old Russia, will respond. Their launch facility is far inland, not like ours. China is almost all mountains and highlands, isnít it? Leaning toward the microphone, I say desperately, "Is anyone alive down there?" Iím picking up a faint signal. Someone speaking in Russian.

A moment of excitement sweeps over me and I pull myself closer to the pickup. "This is the United States Space Shuttle John Glenn, calling whoeverís listening. This is Mission Commander David Fairlane. Do you read?" My Russian isnít good enough to repeat the message in Russian, but Iím hoping whoeverís on the other end will be able to hunt up someone who speaks English. Theyíll at least recognize my name and the name of my ship.

The voice continues, then laughter rings from the speaker. It takes me a moment to realize Iím hearing a television broadcast. A comedy, probably on automatic. In any case, if there is someone on the other end of the broadcast, their receiver canít pick me up.

I float back to the sleeping area. Wilsonís still and silent in his sack. The medical kit is floating through the cabin, tumbling slowly across it. Tubes of antibiotic cream and rolls of gauze are scattered every whichway. I bat a bottle out of my face, and it sails several feet before I think to dive after it and catch it. Itís only aspirin, but itís empty. As I scan the drifting contents of the medical kit, I spot other empty bottles. Wilson, it looks like, has swallowed every pill in the kit. Thereís not enough of any one of them to kill you Ė the kitís only intended to last two weeks, after all Ė but taken all together, itíll probably do the job.

Damn.

"Evers?" I raise my voice. The shuttle isnít so big that she couldnít hear me. Why doesnít she answer? I duck back into the lab area. We donít come back here much. All thatís here is the laser array, after all.

And Evers. Globules of red float through the air. Evers hasnít poisoned herself Ė after all, Wilson used all the drugs. She had to slit her wrists. Dreading what Iíll find, I push over to her, grab her by the jumpsuit and pull her close so I can lay two fingers against her neck. Sheís still alive.

Awkwardly, I push off the bulkhead and tug her back into the main cabin. If youíve ever tried to rescue an unconscious swimmer, you have kind of an idea of what it was like. Now try to imagine dragging that limp body through a passageway thatís only wide enough to crawl through.

I eventually get her into the main cabin, and she still hasnít bled to death. It takes a long time to do that without gravity. I bundle her into her sleeping sack and truss her in, then swim around the room collecting the antibiotic tubes, the gauze, tape, and a precious roll of butterfly stitches. Tucking them into various pockets as I capture them, I return to her and get back to work. When Iím satisfied Iíve done as much as I can for her, I go back to the radio. Someone with a space program must have survived. Someone must be planning to come for us.

"Moscow? Beijing? Paris? Tokyo..." No, thatís silly, Tokyoís completely gone Ė most of Japan is. I can see that with my naked eye.

You really can see forever.

© Jennifer Schwabach, 2005
All Rights Reserved

 

 

BIO: Jennifer Schwabach lives in Upstate New York. When she is not writing (which is far more often than she'd like) she works as a vocational counselor for disabled veterans.

 

 

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