High Ground

One day the ground shook. It was scary, but it was over soon, and none of us were injured. Two days later, we saw water in the distance. At first we thought it was a mirage, but later in the day, not only was it still there, it had grown. Our first instinct, once we realized it was real, was to migrate towards it; it would be a godsend if it’s fresh, so we figured we’d better check. But it kept getting closer, and not just because we were going closer to it. We soon realized the implications, and turned around and fled for the mountains. The mountains were far away; we weren’t sure exactly how far away, as neither my husband nor I had ever been to the mountains.

We walked just about as far as we could each day, but we could see that the water was catching up. And then, one day, we woke up before dawn, because we were wet. We all got up and started walking again, but first I tried a taste of the water. It was salty. We reached dry ground just after dawn, but the water caught up to us again around noon. By dusk, it was up to our ankles. We’d moved especially quickly that day, and were exhausted, but we couldn’t rest, because we’d drown, so we pressed on through the night. Our son was too exhausted to keep walking, so my husband carried him on his back while he rested through the night. The water kept rising through the night and the next day. By the end of the day, I felt like I could barely go on. It wasn’t just the sleep deprivation and overexertion, but also the pain in my feet from them being immersed in cold water the whole time, and worst of all, the dehydration. It was impossible to get any fresh water, because any source of fresh water we could reach got drenched in saltwater before we could reach it. We couldn’t go on much further, and could only hope we wouldn’t have to; the mountains were noticeably closer now, and perhaps we’d reach steeper ground soon, and be able to outrun the water. But for now, we had to keep walking, so we did.

Our son’s sleep cycle got desynched from the sun, and my husband started carrying him on his back again in broad daylight. The water reached our knees, and I figured our son would likely have trouble walking once he woke up anyway. My husband collapsed, and our son fell into the water, woke up, and shrieked. I grabbed our son, helped him get on his feet, and then tugged on my husband’s arm to help him up. My husband stirred, but didn’t get up. I slapped him, in case that helped wake up, but he didn’t move. I abandoned him, helped our son onto my back, and kept moving, hoping my husband would get up and start moving again on his own. He didn’t.

Just before dusk, I started to wonder if it was my imagination, or if the water line ahead of me was a bit closer than it was earlier. I looked down, and saw that the water wasn’t reaching my knees anymore. I hadn’t felt it because my legs were too numb. I was beating the water, now, and the mountains were so much closer. I kept walking through the night. Was I still beating the water? I thought I probably was, but I couldn’t tell for sure, because my legs were too numb, and the moon was almost new, so I couldn’t see well. I didn’t want to waste any time reaching down to check the water level with my hands. In any case, I wasn’t beating the water fast enough. I could feel that I would collapse soon, just like my husband did. My son had had a fair amount of rest, and the water might be shallow enough for him now, so I thought about letting him off and making him walk. It was tempting, but I knew it wouldn’t save me; if I stopped to put him down, I wouldn’t be able to start walking again. So I kept going, hoping that by the time I drop, we’d be close enough for my son to make it to the mountains.

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