The Seawall

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story about the rising sea and what it means for the town on the shore.

Submitted: January 18, 2013

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Submitted: January 18, 2013

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The Seawall

The waves have begun to crash, and it may be too late to stop them. Or, not too late, but impossible from the start. It’s the creeping reasoning that has led to big shifts before. A silent erosion of the invisible seawall, holding back the surf that is, only in hindsight, irrepressible.

The first swell darkens the gray, dry stone at the top of the wall, driving a seabird from its perch.  As it recedes, pebbles and sunbaked flakes of mortar wash away into the increasingly restless water below. The seabird takes flight and circles overhead in long, suspicious arcs above its home, waiting to be convinced that this was a fluke, a momentary convergence of wind and sea. Its theory appears to be borne out. The water is now much lower on the wall than before; too low, in fact. The tide lingers at that level for 3 or 4 heartbeats longer than it should, as if somebody had suddenly pulled the plug, causing the water to rush to a far away drain and remain still and low here, nearest the wall. Until, all at once, the surge returns, thrusting the crest of the wave not just to the top of the wall, but up and over the three-foot width of stone and cement, spilling over the other side. This time, there are no heartbeats. A second wave pounds the wall, spraying aqua sea foam into the sky. A third wave hits, followed by a fourth. They are barely distinguishable as individuals any longer, but rather, the entire sea level appears to have risen, as if a dam had given way somewhere out across the horizon. The sea pours over the wall in a steady avalanche of cold and gray. The wall holds, but is now entirely submerged. The ocean breaches it without washing away or breaking through the age-old stones underneath. It’s as if there never were a wall. The seabird looks down, circles once more, then drifts off toward the horizon, hopeful that not every shore is taking such a beating.

The beam from the lighthouse crosses the scene, briefly flashing the bird’s shadow onto the churning sea below, and the keeper already knows what’s coming. It’s too late to sound the alarm bells. The storm is already here. No sirens or evacuations will save us now. We can only wait for the water to flood over our own walls, offering as little resistance as possible, knowing that the brittle oak fares worse in the gale than the malleable sapling. 


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