Molly Brainard, The End

Molly Brainard is an aspiring writer from Southern California. She fell in love with writing short stories and poems at a young age and studied writing and English Literature in college. She is a lover of cats and tea and a good book on a rainy day.

I look out the window, sigh, and cross off another day on my calendar. It has been raining for five months and seventeen days. They’d warned us as best they could of what was coming but nobody had dreamed it would be like this. Luckily, my family and I had planned and prepared early. We moved to the Redwood forest in California, home to some of the world’s strongest, tallest trees, and built our house at the top of the biggest one we could find. It’s pretty cool, really. I’ve always wanted to live in a tree house.

I look out the window again and sigh…again. Today it is a steady rain with big fat droplets. Sometimes it comes down hard and fast, and the drops are like tiny bullets. Sometimes it rains sideways. And sometimes it is so light that it’s almost a mist. Those are my favorite days. I go out and sit on the balcony, surrounded by floating water. I can draw patterns in it with my finger or blow it away like silver dust. I can’t go to the ground of course because…well, because there is no ground.

I try not to look down too much. It frightens me to see the water level rising further and further up our tree. It has to be at least a quarter of the way up by now. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but we don’t know when this rain is going to stop. What happens when we wake up one morning to find the flood at our front door?

My father thinks it’s the end of the world. All he’s done for the past three months is sit in his room adding up numbers and dates and who knows what else. He hardly eats or sleeps anymore and he has become thin and haggard looking. This frightens me more than the rising water.

It frightens my mother too. She has constant worry lines on her forehead and I can tell by the shadows under her eyes that she hasn’t been sleeping well.

I, on the other hand, have never slept better. I love hearing the rain falling on the roof at night. It is soothing to me, despite its implications.

My brother Dylan and I are similar in this. He told me once, about a month after we moved here, that he sometimes dreams the rain is actually all the stars in the heavens falling down onto our rooftop and making the whole house glow with starlight. I think if Dylan weren’t here I would be perfectly miserable, what with my parents in the state they’re in.

He’s pretty optimistic about all this, unlike my father. He says any day now the rain will stop, the sun will come out, and the earth will be ours again. Sometimes I wonder whether he really believes it or he’s just saying it for the sake of our sanity.

There are a few other houses in the trees around ours; people who had the same idea. In one of them is a family with a boy my age. His name is Ben but I call him Benny. And he calls me Flower even though my name is Daisy. He thinks he’s being funny by pretending to forget which kind I am and just giving me the all-encompassing name. I don’t mind.

On misty days and days when the rain is light enough, we can talk to each other if we raise our voices just above normal speaking volume. The sound carries surprisingly well in the forest. On the other days we use two-way radios, but they don’t always work very well and we have to repeat ourselves a lot.

The radios came from one of the government copters. Each month, the government sends helicopters out to survivors and drops down food and water rations and other things we might need, like blankets or batteries. The first month they dropped the radios, one per family/tree house. I’m the only one in my family who uses ours. Ben says he is as well.

Ben lives with his mom and two younger sisters. They’re twins; Jenna and Jamie. He says they like the rain but that they’re too young to understand what’s going on. I wish I was too young to understand it. Then I could have just the joy and none of the worry. Sometimes, if I think about it too much or worry a lot, I get panicky. I start crying uncontrollably and feel like I can’t breathe, and Dylan has to calm me down. So I try not to think about it too much.

Somebody knocks on the open door, bringing me out of my thoughts, and I turn around.

Speak of the devil, I think as Dylan walks in.

“Hey Daze,” he says cheerily, “what are you doing?”

“Just thinking,” I reply with a small smile.

“Talked to Ben today?”

“Nope,” I say, frowning. “I think his mom is having another episode.”

Ben says his mother has “breakdowns” a lot. She’s a very nervous woman. He’s never told me exactly what happens, just that she stays in bed for days afterwards.

“I hope they’re okay over there,” Dylan says, looking troubled. “I guess it’s mostly up to him to take care of the twins, isn’t it?”

I shrug. “I guess so.”

Dylan knows all about Ben because I tell him everything. We’ve always been pretty close but I think this whole rain crisis has made us even closer. Not to mention the fact that it’s a little hard to talk to our parents about much these days. The last few times I tried talking to my dad he only mumbled something about not interrupting his work. It must be nearly two and a half months since we had a conversation. My mother at least makes an effort. She’ll respond to me in a vague sort of way but I can tell her mind is elsewhere. Dylan says they’ll snap out of it but I’m not so sure. I think the only way we’ll get them back is if the rain stops.

“Come on,” Dylan says, “let’s get some dinner.”

Tonight’s dinner consists of oyster crackers and cold chicken soup. We’ve got some wood and matches and a little kettle for heating things up but we try to conserve them as much as possible. Cold soup isn’t so bad.

The next morning I wake up to a light rain. I go out on the balcony and find Dylan there, sitting with his legs dangling over the edge. Hearing my footsteps, he looks up at me and I stop, alarmed. His face is ashen and his lips are pressed together in a thin line. He points down silently. I walk over slowly and sit next to him, then follow his finger.

Below us on the surface of the water there is a small boy draped over a large floating log. He is so thin, nearly skeletal, and he does not move. I look at Dylan, wide-eyed, and he shakes his head sadly. I turn back to the boy and tears begin to roll down my cheeks as I wonder what his name was and where he came from; how he became just another piece of driftwood.

I rest my cheek on Dylan’s shoulder and he leans his head against mine. We stay that way for a while keeping our thoughts to ourselves.

I do not see Ben for the entire day again, so that evening I decide to radio him. I sit cross-legged on the floor in the bedroom, tweaking the antenna on the two-way in an attempt to get more than static.

“Benny?” More crackling. “Hey Ben, you there?”

Finally his fuzzy voice comes through the speaker. “Hi Flower.”

“Hey stranger, everything okay over there?” I hadn’t realized how concerned I was until I felt the relief of hearing his voice.

“Yeah,” he says, and then sighs. “Mom is worse than usual this time.”

“How do you mean?” I ask worriedly.

“She won’t talk to me or look at me. She just lays in bed and stares at the ceiling.”

Dylan walks in and sits down next to me. I can tell from the look on his face that he heard what Ben said. He motions for me to give him the radio. I hand it over and he holds it up to his mouth. “Ben? It’s Dylan.”

A low crackling hum answers him.

“One more time?”

Ben’s voice again. “Hey Dylan.”

“Has your mom eaten anything, Ben?”

“Not since the day before yesterday. I offered her some food but she didn’t even look at it. She’ll drink water sometimes but that’s it.”

“All right,” Dylan says, “well that’s something, at least.”

Then in the background a child starts to cry.

“That’s Jenna,” Ben says, “I have to go.” He sounds tired and close to tears.

Benny wait!” I yell, grabbing the radio from Dylan. But Ben has gone and the static takes his place.

I look helplessly at Dylan and he leans over to hug me. This has been one of the worst days I can remember since we moved here.

Hours later, something startles me out of my sleep. A bad dream I suppose, although I can’t remember what I was dreaming about. I lay there in the dark for a few minutes and then decide I want some water.

I round the corner into the kitchen area holding a battery powered lantern in front of me and the soft light from it falls onto a figure standing near the window. I let out a squeak and nearly drop the lantern. Then I realize that it’s my father.

“Oh,” I say in surprise. “Dad?”

He does not look at me, but continues to gaze out the window. I can see the quarter moon reflected in his eyes. His face is pale and drawn. I go to him, set the lantern on the wooden counter, and take his hand.

“Tomorrow,” he mutters almost imperceptibly.

“What?” I whisper.

“Tomorrow, it’s tomorrow.”

I stare up at him, frightened. Suddenly he looks down at me, as if just realizing I am there.

“Oh, Daisy,” he says, and it comes out as a sob. Then he is crying and hugging me and I don’t know what else to do but hold on to him.

When I wake the next morning I immediately feel that something is off. I walk out to the balcony and gasp.

The rain has stopped.

Not as it “stops” on misty days, but it is completely gone. The morning air is chilly, but clear and dry. I can see the cloudless sky turning pink over the treetops in the east as the sun comes up. The rain has stopped and all I can do is stand there with my mouth hanging open.

I hear hurried footsteps behind me and then Dylan is there, wearing the same expression that is probably on my own face.

“I heard the…the…” he stutters, pointing vaguely at the sky.

“Silence,” I finish for him. The silence. It is so perfect and beautiful.

Some movement across the way catches my eye. I see Ben come out of his house. He is wide-eyed and open-mouthed, and I can’t help but giggle at all of our reactions.

“Benny!” I call.

He looks at me and throws his arms up as a huge grin spreads across his face. I start to laugh and Dylan picks me up and spins me around. His eyes are happy and shining with tears.

“I’m going to wake up the twins!” Ben yells, and runs back into his house.

Dylan and I stand there watching the sunrise, smiling like fools.

“Wait until Mom and Dad see,” he says.

“Should we wake them up?” I ask.

No, they’re actually both asleep for once. Let’s let them rest.”

That reminds me of what happened with my father the night before. I should probably tell Dylan about it.

“Dylan-”

But before I can say another word, a strange sound fills my ears. It is a low but immense sort of roaring. Dylan and I look at each other questioningly.

Suddenly the sky starts to darken. We both turn back to the east and there, just visible now above the trees, is a massive, churning, rising wall of water. My heart jumps into my throat and I swallow painfully.

“Holy hell,” Dylan whispers.

It’s difficult to determine how far away it is because of its size. Although, it does seem to be moving at an alarming rate. Already the top of the rising sun has disappeared and the rosy sky is being quickly and greedily consumed. The swell spreads in both directions as far as I can see.

“It must’ve taken out the entire rest of the country already,” Dylan murmurs.

“He knew,” I say quietly, shocked.

“What?” Dylan says sharply, looking at me.

“Dad. He knew this was going to happen today. He…he told me last night.”

He stares at me in silence for a moment, then turns back to the impending wave.

“He was right. It’s the end.” Dylan’s voice is sad and resigned. Perhaps he has been resigned the whole time.

I move to stand closer to him and he puts his arm around my shoulders. The world begins to shake and rumble as the wave rolls nearer.

Ben does not come back out of his house. I wish he would so that I can say goodbye.

What I wouldn’t give to have the rain again, rather than this.

It is closing in now. It’s nearly upon us. Dylan leans over, squeezes me, and kisses the top of my head.

The sky is gone now; replaced by a swirling mass of grey water.

I feel a hand on my back then and turn, just in time to get one last glimpse of my parents’ faces before the end crashes down on us.

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