The Shivering Ground & Other Stories, Sara Barkat
Author: © Sara Barkat
Publication Date: December 1, 2021
Type: Fiction – Short Stories
Social Media: Author website, Instagram, YouTube, about the author, book page
It’s Already Too Late (excerpt)
House on a hill. River down below. And the rains speckling the grass, dots of cold, salt-ocean. We lived in this house, and from the window we saw: myriad flowers, vermillion, rubicund. The weeping willow dipped its branches low. The paved roads stretched on to the horizon. And down in the low valley, sparkled. And the reeds.
Now the water kept rising, just a bit, and the air was thicker and hotter than it had been. Down in the village we heard crying, we heard dying, but still on the lawn near the road under the haze of sprinklers we could look forward to an endless filmstrip lighting up. “Do something, do something,”
Oh you poor things, it’s already too late.
We put on our striped bathing suits and went down to the pool. Hot sun scorching, casting down a black line of our shadows, insects buzzing. Might as well make the best of it while we have it. Eyes closed we splashed water in our faces; it dried our skin with the acrid smell of chlorine, sun-drenched summer. Toes in the dirt. Never end, never end.
Down the road we heard the tornados shriek and the wind rattled the house’s bones. Like the kiss from a stranger, shivering, cooling the sweat on our backs. “Do something, do something,” the fish in the sea were turning over. It wasn’t our fault, why should we fix it? You fix it. Anyway, it’s already too late.
Saw the flowers wilt, plugged in the hoses from the dry ground. Saw something poking out of the ground. Bones in oil in the sand pit. We stood there with our toes in it. Stood there and couldn’t say a thing. We never liked playing here anyway.
“Do something, do something.”
“What are we supposed to do? It’s already too late.”
Did you know the name of the frog that lay upon your front porch yesterday? The one that you tripped over, crackling? No, it wasn’t there. No, it was just a frog. They only vanished, and I never heard them anymore, we said, we don’t know why; (we sprayed the lawns to keep them clean, and ignored the piles of textbooks. “Do something, do something,” but all they ever told us to do was go to the rainforest and shout, they never told us the names of the frogs by the pond, and why the village was so far behind a haze of smoke.) We could hardly see out, but still, from the top floor the whole expanse was almost like an inverted bowl, a drop of water shimmering on a leaf, an ant’s world.
Then the village went up in smoke, and we saw the line of cars snaking its way through the ash. “Do something, do something,” we heard shouts, shouts—who are they shouting at?
We didn’t do anything wrong. Talk to the people who made the plastic deck chairs. We bought water bottles and left them on the porch, and behind the porch we burned bonfires and laughed. “It’s already too late!”
Then the cracked earth went up to our doorstep. The river was too high, but our toes were caked in mud. The windows had blown out, so we took to a boat. Oars out, we reached for Mars. In the nighttime, the sky was silent. The boat cracked, the water poured in spurts, covering our feet. We could have taken off our coats and plugged the gaps, but then again— it’s already too late.
So we lie down, what else is there to do, we take out our bottles, and, dripping, let the water sludge its way over elbows, hips, eyelashes: we look upward; the black is endless, the eye of the storm stretches on a forever moment. Drops splash down on our arms like summer cooling thirst—