Thursday, June 23, 2011

After The Flood

by CWK

           This is the shipmonk writing. I'm hoping my words reach someone, somewhere. I'm lonely.
           I think it's June of 2031. That means it’s been almost 20 years since the flood. I’m in the Gulf of Mexico now, by myself, floating along on an abandoned Carnival cruise ship. It’s been almost a year since I had contact with anyone. If anyone is out there, please email me @

            Anyway, I feel like writing tonight. It's cool. The waters are calm. I just found a pack of potted meat in an old suitcase. First time I've eaten in -- I don't know. I really hope someone else is out there. If you see this message, reply. Please.
            The world is different now, after the flood. I learned in Sunday School that there would never be another flood, but there was. I learned in Sunday School that we were all pretty nice, and that we deserved a nice life. Bad things don’t happen to good people, and so, be good. I tried to be good. I tried more than most. I was nice, and so, I thought, the world would be nice to me. I believed that lie religiously until it -- and the whole world -- were drowned, mercilessly, under millions of pounds of water.
            A few years ago I started to hear reports of how and why the flood happened. One geologist from New York won a Nobel prize for his theory of ‘how.’ I didn’t fully grasp his theory of ‘chance oceanic concurrence.’ In fact, I don’t understand any of the explanations of ‘how.’ I doubt that the people doing the explaining understand.
            All I know is, without warning, everything went dark, and the world was covered in water. Then we were under water for days, or maybe it was weeks, or maybe it was years. The time ran together. No one knew what day it was, or what year it was. No one cared. They were trying to breathe, or swim, or find food. Calendars are useless when you are starving.
            All I know is, one minute I was sleeping in a London hotel, enjoying modest fame and fortune, and the next, I was drowning.
            Theologians and politicians have also advanced more philosophical opinions on ‘why.’ Some said the flood was the wrath of the Lord. Others, that God would never allow such a thing to happen, and that he tried to stop it. Some that the floods prove there is a god; some that the flood proved otherwise.
            I am not a theologian, but I come down with those who believe the flood inspires belief. After all, why would anyone go out of their way to argue against a person that does not exist? The doubters I’ve read always seemed angry. My question is, then -- who are they so angry at?
            Why? I thought about it a lot. I tried to piece together my own life with that of all my fellow men. I tried to differentiate consequences from results, and causes from concurrences. But, in the end, it came always came back to this – did I, or someone else, do something to cause the flood? Was it because we used too much oil, or chopped down too many trees, or killed too many babies? Was it because some were too rich, and others too poor? Was it because of some trivial incident that no one noticed, but the Lord noticed – was this cause of the wrath of the waters?
            I thought a lot about it. I replayed history in my mind. I dissected global trends of war and poverty. For awhile, I blamed America, which was a fairly popular thing to do in those first years. Then, I dissected my own life. I found, after I had blamed everyone else, that I blamed myself. For several years I thought I had caused the flood. I still kind of do.
            I remember one action in particular that happened just hours before the flood. I've often had a sense of oppressive guilt about this one small deed. I've often had a sense that this action -- small as it was -- caused the flood.
            I was traveling in London, staying in ritzy hotels, and lecturing on the literature of the Ancient Near East. I had just finished a lecture at London College. This was my last lecture of the tour, and I was bone tired. I stumbled back to my hotel, past the door man, and to the elevator. I was standing next to the elevator when I noticed below, in the lobby, a man drop his credit card as he was walking out the door. I was tired, and I was in a rush. So, I simply walked onto the elevator and ignored the incident.
            Mind you, I didn’t steal his card. I simply got on the elevator, and hurried to my room. I layed down for a few minutes, but I felt anxious and guilty. I finally returned to the lobby, only 15 minutes later – only 15 minutes – but the card and the man were gone. I approached the door man and asked if he’d seen the man, or the card. No, he said, he hadn’t witnessed anyone drop a card. And no card had been turned in. No one had reported one missing. 
            I went back to my room to get some sleep. I tried to sleep, but couldn’t.  As I lay there, sleepless, I excused my actions – I couldn’t be responsible for something I had only witnessed. After all, I had tried to go back and make it right. I had done all I could. But, I hadn’t, really. When it counted, when it actually counted, I did nothing. Then, when the waters deluged the world only hours later, the first thing I thought about was that man. Where was he? Did he ever find his credit card? Did I cause this? Was the world being punished for my simple foolish selfishness.
            I finally decided -- after thinking it over for 20 years -- that it wasn't that one act, but a million acts just like it, all piled together over decades and decades; that's what did it. That’s my theory of what caused the flood. Maybe my selfish passivity was the final straw: the breaking point, and God couldn't take it anymore. But I wasn't alone. We stood there. All of us just stood there, and did nothing. Humanity had a brief moment of passivity, but it was a moment we could never get back. We stood there; then we went to our rooms and felt guilty.
            I fell asleep that night around 3 a.m., guilt-ridden, but happy and successful.
            At 6 a.m. I was awakened by a siren of some kind. I ignored it for 5 or 10 minutes. Finally, I got up and looked out the window. I saw no buildings, no lights, no people – just a black calm, with shimmers of moonlight. The whole world looked dark.
            Then, I noticed something blacker than the darkness moving toward the building in my hotel. It didn’t look like water to me. It looked like black sand. It didn’t look sinister. It looked peaceful. Then, the blackness converged on my hotel, almost gently. I felt the hotel shake slightly.
            I turned on the TV, but I couldn’t get any channels. I flipped up and down. Finally, a blue message board came up on the screen. It read, “Catastrophic Flood...Catastrophic Flood... Get to high ground... Get to high ground ...”
            I turned the channel until I came to the only live station I could find, CNN. I saw Anderson Cooper pacing around gloomily, mumbling, “It appears that London will soon be under water.”  So much for live action news. London was already under water.
            Funny, after all these years I still feel guilty about the credit card. I have a dream sometimes that I meet the man who dropped his card, and I apologize, and give him a 100 dollar bill.

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