A Time for Everything
That afternoon the sea reached the valley.
They stood at the top of the steep mountain face and watched it happen. When they’d got there, tipped off by Javan and the twins, who’d been down to the farm to fetch food, the water was still a little way down the neck of the valley. But it was rising fast. Yard by yard it worked its way upward. It was almost as if it were alive, thought Anna. As if it had a will of its own. It slipped in-between the trees, as if exploring, only to rise steadily once the ground was covered, until only the crowns of the trees showed above the gray surface. Then they, too, disappeared.
No one can stop it, she thought.
All was silent around them. And motionless. The clouds, the mountains, the trees, the ground beneath them. The only thing that moved was the water. The rain that fell, the sea that rose.
When the water reached the point where the land didn’t go up anymore, Javan took her hand in his. She squeezed it.
The sea was now in the valley.
Then between the sloping mountainsides it came flooding over. For perhaps fifty yards it retained the shape the mountains had for so long impressed on it before it began to spread out, while its speed remained constant. Subconsciously they’d expected the wave to stop, because the plain it ran into was so huge. But it was constantly being replenished from the water in the valley behind, and simply rushed on yard by yard. Cart tracks, fence posts, streambeds, meadows and thickets, fields and pastures, houses and barns, groves and bogs, drains and paths. It swamped everything and covered it. If it met an obstacle, it would divide and reunite on the other side. And so, the gray surface that formed after the first wave was punctured by a myriad of tiny islands. But not for long. As the wave crashed foaming across the ground, the water behind it lifted, rose swelling, across the whole width of the valley, island after island vanished, at the same time as the pressure on the wave got stronger all the time, so that its speed and size merely increased the farther it got.
It thundered between the walls of the valley.
For the first time Anna was seriously frightened.
She realized that living was just what it was not. That a will of its own was just what it did not have. It was dead and blind and followed the laws of the dead and the blind.
When the wave reached the countryside beneath them, it was many feet high and carrying away all that stood in its path. The half-destroyed buildings on the farm were swept away as if they were made of cardboard. The trees that were still standing snapped like twigs.
Anna’s eyes filled with tears, and she turned her head away.
It was then she saw it.
In the neck of the valley the sea had risen to the height of the mountains. It must have occurred in seconds. Suddenly a three-hundred-foot-high wall of water was between them and the valley. For a brief moment she didn’t know what she was looking at. It appeared to hang motionless. But then it came on.
“Run!” she screamed. “Run!”
But Javan put his arms around her.
“We can’t get any higher,” he said. “We’ll die here.”
Frantic with fear she tried to get free, but Javan held her.
“It’s coming now,” he said.
A crash sounded between the walls of the valley. The water that had reared up slipped slowly like an avalanche down it. The rumble that arose from the vast wall of water that came pouring down made the ground shudder. Anna had closed her eyes, and all she heard was this rumble, and she thought that what she heard was the voice of God.
A great hiss filled the air. Just afterward there was another crash, this time from the other side. Then another, and another.
Then there was silence.
She opened her eyes. The sea was thirty feet below them.
No one felt able to leave the mountain that afternoon. Partly because they couldn’t really believe what they saw, that their whole world had been changed from one second to the next, partly because they wanted to see if the water would rise farther, or if it had stopped there, as they hoped and also believed: for the past three hours the water level had remained the same.
Time after time they let their eyes take in the scene. There were no longer mountains out there, no valleys or wooded hills, rivers or plains. All that lay on the bottom of the sea. They were now standing on an island and were surrounded by sea on all sides. The mountains they had always seen stretch away blue into the distance had also been turned into islands.
Was it strange that they found this hard to grasp? Was it strange that all they did was stand and stare and stare?
Now and then someone would begin to laugh.
Perhaps they were just relieved to find themselves still alive, Anna thought, and gave vent to the joy that welled up within them at the thought. Or perhaps they really did find everything comical.
She caught herself smiling too.
They’d lost the farm, they’d lost the valley, but they were alive. And the water had stopped rising.
They’d get through this. They would dig in here.
If the sea could rise hundreds of feet in just a few days, it could sink hundreds of feet too. Until then it was just a case of hanging on.
Even though the sea must have risen just as much on the other side of the moun¬tain, the area of dry land in-between, which had previously been high mountain plateau, was extensive and fertile. Herds of reindeer and sheep from most of the farms in the district grazed there. If one assumed that about the same number of people had clambered to safety on the other side of the mountain, there couldn’t be more than two hundred all told. At most three hundred.
They’d have to send some people over as soon as possible.
“Can you believe it?” said Javan. “Can you believe it?”
She shook her head and put her arm around him.
“If only it would stop raining,” she said.