Donovan Douglas, waterfront lifeguard, was doing his rounds and just turning down the Davenpool Bridge when he heard the splashing. Months of training had his arm automatically reaching for the safety rope hanging at his side, and before he even fully understood what he was doing, Don had run to the side of the bridge and expertly thrown the rope out to whoever was flailing in the water.
The safety rope's end had a slightly weighted tip to improve accuracy, with a small float attached just behind it to prevent it from sinking. Don was a good shot; endless hours of practice had seen to it. The rope flew true and landed in the middle of the splashing.
The silhouette of a head poked out of the water, and then he felt the rope grow taught in his hands. Don started pulling them in.
Tova spluttered to the surface and weakly tried to drag himself over the edge of the bridge. Don grabbed the back of the boy's shirt and hauled him up the rest of the way.
"Tova! What were you doing out there?"
Tova coughed and spewed out copious amounts of the water he'd swallowed. Sighing, Don took off his jacket and wrapped it around the kid's shoulders.
"Thanks," said Tova, sniffing.
"Welcome. What were you doing out there? Did you fall in?" A worrying thought hit him. "Do your parents know where you are?"
Tova smiled disarmingly. He found that most people melted when he smiled at them. Or at least they didn't ask him so many questions.
It didn't work. Don, by virtue of having dealt with the local kids on a regular basis since their births, was mostly immune. He did tone down the officer's glare, though.
"I was just talkin' to the girl in the water," Tova said. "Only-"
"There's someone else out there?" He grabbed the rope and ran to the edge.
"No," said Tova, still sniffling. "She left when I made fun of her hair. We was just talkin', and-"
"Tov, how many times have I told you not to play near the water?"
"I wasn't near it-"
Don crossed his arms. "No, you were in it. You know it's dangerous, you know you aren't supposed to be anywhere near the edge's of town, and you know you've probably gone and scared the life out of your folks."
Tova mumbled something apologetic sounding. Don sighed.
"Come on," he said. "Lets get you home. I bet your parents are worried sick."
Torn between not wanting to get into trouble and not wanting to remain wet, Tova hesitated, then got to his feet. Together, they passed through the labyrinth of makeshift bridges and rooftops in silence, with the only sound coming from the water below.
According to Donovan's father, Verdaine had been a busy city before the flood.
Nobody knew why the flood had happened, but twenty years had passed since then, so nobody really bothered wondering 'why?' anymore. Granted, sometimes the older people would still reminisce about the 'good old days', but for the most part, people just focused on living.
Don didn't remember much about life before the flood. Sometimes he could remember the feel of dirt on bare feet. Sometimes he could remember playing in the park with his sister. Sometimes, if he tried really hard, he could almost smell the dry-dusty air of what used to be desert.
The one that came most clearly, though, was of him and his sister running, their mother dragging them both by the wrists towards one of the buildings. Everyone was running tot he buildings, a whole crowd of people trying to get inside them, even more people trying to climb to the top of them. His mother had kicked and hit and screamed her way through the crowd to get them to the doors.
He'd been younger that his sister. Lighter. So when his mother threw them both to the doors, he'd gone farther and had actually made it inside, into his father's arms. Then the door closed and there was a loud noise, and things got blurry. Sometimes he would still wake up with a vague memory of their faces, and he could almost imagine what it must've been like to be swept away.
He dropped Tova off at his parent's house and was promptly invited to dinner by Mrs. Faulkner. After the initial halfhearted refusal, Donovan found himself enjoying Mrs. Faulkner's baked cod and politely laughing at Mr. Faulkner's very bad jokes. By the time he'd left, the sun had sunken and the sky was glowing a rosy pink.
He whistled as he walked along the MapleView Bridge, ignoring his own advice and walking right along the edge. He made a mental note to go to the mayor and request they build a fence or something over here. It wasn't safe.
Something splashed nearby and Donovan almost lost his footing. He leapt back and let his training take over, getting out the rope in case anyone needed it.
The waters were still. Completely silent, and totally empty.
"Hey! Anyone out there?"
He waited a few moments, then thoughtfully walked home.
The world ended the next day.
Don was in the middle of his rounds when a thoroughly soaked Tova hit him in a flying tackle.
"I didn't mean to!" the boy shouted, almost in tears. "I didn't think she was serious!"
Don grabbed Tova's shoulders and pried him off.
"What's wrong? Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. But the water- she's going to- I didn't mean to!" he wailed. "Now I'm going to get into trouble. You can't blame me if it was an accident, right? 'Cause I didn't mean to- you can't yell at someone for an accident!"
"Tova, just take a deep breath and tell me-"
Marcel Tanner, an older gentleman who had owned on of the high-rise buildings before the flood and was now in charge of fishing expeditions, came huffing along the bridge. He pressed his iconic plaid cap against his head in order to keep it from flying away.
"Douglas, you've got to come see this! Come on, it's at the North Point."
Tova grabbed him and Don had a horrible sinking feeling in his stomach. The two of them followed Marcel to North Point, where it seemed almost the entire town had gathered.
Everyone was clustered at the edges of the bridges, clinging to the fence and looking out over the side. The mayor was going through the crowd, trying to get everyone to calm down. It took him a minute to realize what was wrong.
Since the flood, the water level had remained static. Even through the bouts of winter rains, and the summer dry periods, the water had never risen or fallen below the large red line painted along the walls of the North Point building.
Except for today. The water was about three feet under the usual spot. Some worried people came to ask him questions -he was the water patrolman after all- and he said vaguely polite things back to them.
He wasn't really thinking about how this would effect the next days fishing, or whether it meant bad weather or anything else people were intent on asking him. Instead, he discreetly dragged Tova through the crowd until they had left the everyone behind. After he was sure nobody was in earshot, he took a deep, cleansing breath.
"Tova. . . "
"It was an accident!"
"Tova. . ."
"It wasn't my fault!"
Donovan rubbed his temples. "How did you- why did- oh God. Just tell me what happened. What the hell happened?"
"It was that girl I met. We were just swimming and talking and I told her how I'd never seen dirt before. She sort of tapped me on the head and then I could breathe water, so we swam to the bottom. I saw the roads and stuff. Most of it was covered in plants and mud, but they were there. Then I told her that her hair looked dumb and that's when she made the breathing thing wear off."
"Which is why you were drowning when I found you?"
Tova nodded. "Before that though I found this giant metal wheel-thing. It was under a plaque that said 'emergency flush system'. There was something about a 'sewers' too, but I didn't know what that was, so I ignored it. I turned the wheel, and the holes in the roads started sucking up water, and now I think that's what's happening. All the water is being flushed away, and please don't tell my parents!"
"There is no way we're telling anyone. If this all blows up, the whole town would skin us both alive. You for doing it, and me because I'm supposed to stop this sort of thing. Oh no no no no. Come on, Tov'. Let's go back there with the good citizens and look properly shocked."
Tova nodded hastily and they both made their way back to North Point, where they acted like the good, well behaved, surprised citizens they were not.
It was three days before the water went away completely, and another two days before anyone was brave enough to send down a scouting party. The troupe hacked their way through several floors of dying sea life and rusted out doors until they reached what a faded, water-worn sign declared to be Main Street.
Dying plants and fish were everywhere. Large puddles abounded. The rank smell of dead sea life filled the air, and seagulls inexplicably turned from nowhere up for the feast. The group cautiously set about exploring this new and thoroughly damp world.
When Don turned off the main road and found Tova sitting at the edge of a rather large puddle, he found he couldn't muster up any feeling other than very mild interest. When he saw that the boy was talking to a girl around his age with bright green hair, pale white-ish blu-ish skin, he was slightly more interested, but still not particularly surprised.
Tova looked up at Don, and then turned to the girl. "And that's him," he said.
The green-haired girl giggled, then dove under the water. Don noted dully that it shouldn't be possible for her to dive in a puddle only a few inches deep, but then shrugged it off. Obviously regular physics didn't apply to someone who could let people breathe water.
"Tova," he said, "You know you aren't supposed to be out here."
"Awww. . . "
"Come on," he said. "Let's get you home. Your folks are probably worried sick."
Both reflecting how some things would never change, Donovan and Tova headed back.