In the Limelight, in the Spotlight
Copyright © 2018 Ashlyn Nafina
Summary: A student makes their way from class back home in a waterlogged world.
This was something fun for me: I took a particularly compelling dream I’d had and composed it into something resembling a coherent story.
Timeline note: This was written several years ago, but since I’m releasing it for the first time now, I’m going to go ahead and leave the date stamp current.
I watched her with a surprise that came even to me in this strange time: swimming, then crawling, then walking up out of muddy water. It didn’t seem like it was anything new to her, though a few stared; I suppose we all found our ways of coping. Friends walked around the bricked ring around the library itself, water lapping nearby, while someone launched a windsurf skiff to make their way home.
Strolling through the lobby of the university library, I’m always struck by this sight waiting beyond the lobby.
At first glance, one might think that the mother of all rainstorms had come, and the whole area was flooded. Perhaps a natural disaster that just didn’t get people down. Literally, in the case of this library, being up on what used to be a hill. And at first, that’s precisely what people believed, when a lake formed in a previously dry spot. The lake slowly rose… and rose… and rose. Everyone had evacuated, waiting for the water to recede.
And waited… and waited…
But the water didn’t recede. Nature seemed to have found its own new equilibrium, and mankind had had to adapt.
What used to be a somewhat affluent valley in southern California was suddenly California’s newest water park, with half of its residents’ homes three meters underneath.
I was relatively lucky, really. My way home was across a higher road that used to be on a hill, and up into another actually dry area. I would only have to slog through enough water to reach my calves, good enough to hold the musical instrument I was carrying up out of the water.
Of course, when I say “home”, it really is a relative sort of thing. My actual home was one of the ones under the water, and my family was not wealthy enough to have sealed it before the water flooded over. Some had, and they now lived the aquarium life, inside out, with airlocks or tunnels to the water’s surface. No, we were not lucky enough for such things; our wealth was barely enough for us to get into this place to begin with, to be near good schools and bright sunshine. Lucky. What a funny word to use.
I was just starting to slog my way into the blue-green water, patterns of sunlight dancing on the bricks under the surface, when a couple of blond haired guys on skiffs slowly wove around the area, sneering at me.
“You think you can be one of us so easy?” one of them said derisively. These used to be the beach boy types, of the rich and snotty variety. They and their parents owned the condos and townhomes up on the hills, the ones that were never in any danger of flooding; and now they had new “grounds” full of people to lord over.
“I never claimed to be, now just let me through,” I responded tiredly.
“Ooooh, getting all high and mighty now,” a second one said, reaching into the water and splashing it at me. “Lowlander. You’ll never be one of us. Just go live in your swimming pool.”
I instinctively twisted around to block my instrument from the splashed water, and they all laughed, then zipped off to find another person to harass. I had to grimace angrily, but there was nothing to be done.
Of course, they were speaking of my “luck” again. I was living in the highlands because one of my friends lived there, and he had a bit of extra space. I and my family were able to live in an extra room while we tried to find a way to get back on our feet. There really was a nice university, on what was higher ground, and it carried on as a set of islands like the library. In some ways, in spite of the pain, it was a novel, unique sort of place.
After a little way, the brick road slowly sloped upward, back into dry air, toward a set of condos on a hillside. They were cream-colored stone, standing with a proud dignity over the new lake like the great cliffside towns of pueblos, but with glass and wi-fi and other such amenities. From higher on the road, I turned around and looked back at the lake. The water was relatively clear today; through its blue-green depths, lit by the sunlight, one could see the gently curving roads of what used to be suburban houses. It was a surreal, melancholy sight.
“It’s like living on a submarine,” I’d heard someone say once. “Yard work, underwater. Making dinner, underwater.” I suppose it was his way of rationalizing the situation. We all had one. Mine involved pretending that it was a singularly amazing, bizarre water park that people never left.
One that had eaten my home.
I found the condo, entered, and dropped my things in the room. I saw from the balcony that my friend who owned it was out on the sidewalk, staring into the distance, so I went downstairs to join him.
On the way down, I heard a loud sound, some kind of commotion. He gasped, pointed, then turned to me.
“Quick, quick! Come look!” he said, gesturing to me, and then pointing at the water again.
Down there, a large group of people were swimming ’round an area and screaming. Not screams of fright, screams of joy and ecstasy.
Music was drifting up to the high road from below, from what could only be described as a set of killer whales covered in sequins.
“The Killer Three! Here! Wow…” I watched the commotion, mouth agape.
Fireworks fired off in time with the music. It had a sound that was part Police, part Cyndi Lauper.
“In the limelight, in the spotlight,” an amplified woman’s voice belted out. Guitars and drums played on behind her. It was not entirely clear how the whales were accomplishing these things, but they were. The Killer Three were well known, a worldwide phenomenon, but one that had started right here in this valley, or so the rumors went.
People were bobbing in the water, cheering. Some had drinks and food on little floating rafts that they held onto. It seemed like a full on, impromptu party had broken out. The singer had black and purple sequins, and the other two were blue and white, and black and white.
Suddenly my friend lightly whacked my shoulder and pointed down the road. Three people in strange, sequin-covered wetsuits walked up the ramp toward us. The music was still playing, but somehow, they were walking up the road in human form as well.
The Killer Three smiled and waved at us, and we walked down to meet them, exchanging greetings and hugs.
“I love your music,” I said honestly. “It’s an honor to meet you.”
The water is continuing to rise, and no one knows when it will stop. But somehow civilization is thriving and learning how to survive.
And we still know how to party.