Joanna checked the weather app on her watch. Tornadoes likely, flooding possible in the evening, and a chance of earthquakes at night. She grabbed a fluffy red scarf off the rungs in her closet and pulled the hat her dad bought her at the fair over her ears.
Outside, it was definitely windy. Joanna ran from light pole to light pole, gripping them tightly for rest and then pushing off to grab the next one. She reached her car and had to struggle against the 75 mph winds to open the door. Once she got inside, she turned on the radio. A classical orchestra was playing aggressively.
Joanna pulled onto the main road. She had to constantly press the brake to keep the car from being pushed into a ditch by the wind. She merged onto the highway and turned up the radio. The violins were wailing, then the oboes and flutes. At a pianissimo moment in the song, Joanna heard a train whistle. A dark cloud was swirling on the road 10 miles ahead. She exited the highway and made a large, out-of-her-way loop to evade the funnel.
While the instruments were playing forte, Joanna saw another funnel forming in her rearview mirror. She merged back onto the highway and made another large loop on her way to her office in town.
The parking garage Joanna normally used was boarded up with a sign that read: “Landslide damage. Out of order.” There was a thick sludge coating the road. She didn’t think the mountains were close enough to disrupt this garage, but after weaving among the boulders in the sludge, she found another a few blocks away.
At work, Joanna was getting her A.I. to calculate global currency rates when everything started shaking. “It’s early,” she muttered to herself. “The weather report called for them tonight.” She stood beneath a door frame with her coworkers. When the walls stopped looking like slinkys tumbling down stairs, they went back to their seats.
That night, the snow was already six feet deep when Joanna managed to pull her car into what she thought was her parking space. She grabbed her gloves from the glove compartment and pulled her windshield wipers straight up so she would be able to spot her car from the white mounds the next morning.
Back inside her apartment, Joanna made a cup of rooibos tea and read the fourth book in the series she was currently devouring. Her calico cat pattered near her, then pushed his face into her page. She scratched his ears and chin and continued reading. If she looked up at the nearby window, she would have seen the snow covering the last inches of windowpane.
Magruder Park Underwater
Ten thousand years in the future, the Atlantic Ocean escaped its shores. The water crept past the coast and flooded the creeks. It overtook the Chesapeake Bay and its estuaries. It overflowed Magruder Park in a little neighborhood nestled in between Maryland and D.C.
All the people had left for higher ground inland. At first, they hadn’t heeded the government EPA warnings. But then their basements flooded. Then their first floor carpets always squished underneath their feet. When the bathtubs constantly stayed full, they packed up and left.
The park’s mulch was buried under several feet of ocean. Large tuna weaved in and out of sunken train cars and smaller tetras swam through the plastic holes little kids used to push their fingers through.
An octopus took up residence on the red merry-go-round, wrapping its limbs tightly around the handrails. If a turtle or seven-foot gar fish swam too close, the octopus would push off on the wet mulch, hold the go-round handrails with four tentacles, and let its other four swirl wildly in the movement. It always worked, and the turtles and gar raced quickly away.
Zina also made the underwater park her haunt. Her scales shimmered turquoise in the direct sunlight. Her gills filtered the park’s now-sunken grasses, cattails, and weeping willows into breathable oxygen. She often found herself flowing amongst the weeping willows’ low branches. They comforted her; something about being from a different world, but fitting in so well like underwater ferns.
Zina sometimes swam to the top of the sea above the park and floated on her back, her breasts turning browner in the sun. The merry-go-round octopus warned her about staying out of the sun with the new starfish and lionfish tattoos he had inked on her two weeks ago. But she loved the way the sun made the water on her arms and in her curly hair evaporate so that only salt was left. She lay on top of the monkeybars, her tail draped in the sea, licking the salt residue on her arms and fingers. In the air, her hair stayed atop her head instead of flowing in her eyes. And her eyes lost their constant redness.
A few months later, Zina found a magazine in the forest, under soaked leaves. She left it on the monkeybars for days to dry. She paged through, staring at girls wearing jackets and scarves and dresses and tights with patterns. She saw their hair dyed every color, lipstick in every color, and their ears pierced with metal.
She went searching through the underwater town for metal. Zina swam down an old street numbered 1 and opened the door to a store with tattoo on the sign. There was a staircase right when she opened the door so she swam up it. On the second floor, she saw glass cases filled with metal sticks and rings. She found a plastic bag and stuffed a few inside.
At the park, Zina lay on the mulch as the octopus pinned her down with three tentacles, held her hair back with two, and with the others, thrust metal through her earlobes, her right eyebrow, and her left nipple. She only bled a little, and the salt water soothed the new holes in her body.
After, she swam to the top of the monkeybars and peered between them at her reflection in the water. She liked what she saw. Zina stayed above water for a few more hours, watching the sun move across the sky. Her hair grew fluffier and larger as it drained.
When the moon came out from behind the clouds, Zina hopped back into the ocean. The moon transformed the seabed’s landscape. Colors were muted. The sleeping fish floating aimlessly, their mouths gaping, seemed more ghost-like. Even the weeping willow branches became spindly fingers reaching out. The octopus gingerly rocked his merry-go-round back and forth, easing himself to sleep. Zina fell asleep, eyes open.