A Hauntingly Sad Look At Brooklyn Under The Flood

Illustration for article titled A Hauntingly Sad Look At Brooklyn Under The Flood

Brooklyn is a trendy place to live right now — but what about after the ocean level rises and the ocean floods in? In the new story "King Tide" by Alison Wilgus over in Vice's science fiction magazine Terraform, we get a sad, contemplative look at a flooded New York.


Top image: Art by Koren Shadmi.

Here's how "King Tide" begins:

Some particular trick of the moon, the weather, and the Earth's closeness to the sun had pulled the tide all the way to 5th Avenue, a good half-block further uphill than usual. The city had put out an alert, so Jordyn knew to clear out the basement ahead of time. Their landlord was smart enough to have the foundation sealed years ago—that would be fine—but there wasn't much to be done for cardboard boxes and old futons. Those had to be kept above the tide line, or they were garbage.

Her girlfriend, Mia, had paused on the first floor landing to breathe, a disintegrating tomb of Jordyn's family albums clutched in her hands. Its weight eased for a moment as she rested an edge on the railing. "We should toss these," Mia had said. "You digitized them years ago."

"Oh, but it's not the same," Jordyn had said, and it wasn't.

Now she sat cross-legged on their bed while Mia showered, a stack of albums on the duvet beside her and another open in her lap. She peered at the careful handwriting under each photograph, names and dates and in-jokes, most of them incomprehensible. The photos had been taken with cell phones and carefully printed out, an anachronism even then. Her grandmother had pressed hard when she wrote, and as Jordyn ran her fingertips over the pages she could feel indentations beneath the ink. The album smelled of dust and old glue and a worrying hint of mildew.

Jordyn had copied one—taken a photo of a photo, found a place up in Bushwick that still did small print jobs, bought a silver frame secondhand at the Brooklyn Bazaar—and set it on the wooden dresser beside their bed. Her grandmother had taken it decades ago, when her mother was a little girl and the Gowanus canal only rarely ventured out onto the streets.

In the photo, a small, smiling version of Jordyn's mother sat on the stoop of her grandparents' house. She was an almost-copy of herself: curly black hair, brown skin, freckles on her cheeks and bare shoulders. The house was yellow brick, with white-washed iron bars over the windows and a little flower garden tucked between the concrete stoop and the stairs down to the cellar. Her grandparents had bought it in the 1970s for very little money, and, at the time the photograph was taken, were rightly smug about their foresight. Back then they could have sold it for a million dollars to developers who'd have cheerfully replaced it with a narrow stack of condos.

They'd stopped using the cellar after Hurricane Oscar. Hurricane Andrea had ruined the curtains and the carpets on the first floor, and they'd been forced to sell the house for little more than it cost to buy a new car.

Read the whole story over at Terraform. [Full disclosure: I'm especially chuffed to see this story published in a top market, because Wilgus was one of my students at Clarion West last summer.]


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