By Jacob Rennick
The constant drumming on the roof was enough to drive a man insane. Allan Croft sat on the porch of his father’s house, looking out over the waste and smoking his fifth cigarette. A half-empty bottle of whisky rested, forlorn, on the table next to him. It had been full, an hour previous, when he had walked into his brother’s room and discovered what Christopher had done.
The rain swelled and ebbed. It never stopped. Allan’s old neighbourhood, once so familiar, had been transformed. Everything was blanketed in sheens of rain and fog, the moisture seeping into everything, breeding rot and fungus and despair. From his vantage point on the porch, Allan could see maybe 50 yards before his vision was swallowed up by the wet and the dark. Nothing else moved or breathed in the rain-soaked night, giving the landscape an alien feel. Allan felt like a stranded astronaut on a strange new world.
Everything had changed the night the comet had appeared in the sky. Funny that it had only been a year. It felt like an endless gulf of time separated that former, happier Allan from the one who now sat in silence, brooding over a dying cigarette and the endless rain.
He had been young then. They all had been; him, his father, his brother Chris and his wife, Molly. They had stared up at the night sky like everyone else on Earth, dazzled by the sight. The astronomers had been raving about it for weeks. The comet seemed like it had come speeding towards Earth from behind Jupiter. It was one of the largest comets on record, measuring many kilometres in length and width. As it passed close to the sun it began to bear a bright tail of phosphorescence, the brightest and longest in recorded history. On the night of its arrival, Allan and his family had gathered in their backyard for the event, as had millions of other people around the globe.
The comet had come into view at around three am, Eastern Standard Time. Allan had been standing by his father, a stout and healthy man of sixty who in six months would die ranting and raving at the sky. The comet had soared slowly and eerily across the moon, trailing a wraith-like cloud of greenish light. It was unnaturally bright, transforming the night to a monstrous form of day. Everything took on an eerie green hue, what Allan would later think of as corpse-light.
Upon seeing the comet, Allan had felt a deep uneasiness in the core of his being –something he had never felt before. He had felt small and vulnerable under the ghostly light of that cosmic traveler, like he had been served up on a petri dish and was now being analyzed by a great unknowable presence. Christopher had hugged his wife with sudden force. It was then that they had felt the first drops of rain.
The rain had begun in the early hours of that cursed night and had never stopped. All around the world, the rain fell in droves. From the streets of America to the jungles of the Amazon, from the cold hills of Russia, to the blazing heat of the Sahara, torrents of rain spilled from the heavens.
Nobody could understand it. Humanity’s most brilliant scientists worked night and day trying to figure it out, but all research was fruitless. The laws of science and physics, as mankind understood them, no longer applied. Rain fell in a never-ending tide all across the planet, and in the coming weeks and months it became clear that it was never going to stop.
Allan flinched suddenly. He had dozed off, lulled by the pounding rain, and let his cigarette burn down to its filter. He flicked the butt away and dug another one out of the pack. It was far too late to worry about his health, he mused with a chuckle. He had nothing left to lose.
Everything had fallen apart so fast. The seas rose and swallowed the coasts. Flooding was rampant. Crops were beaten down and drowned. Animals everywhere died in massive numbers. The sun lay choked and hidden behind a veil of vapour and cloud; without sunlight, plants soon began to wither and wilt.
And what’s more, humanity lost hope. The endless rain had drowned something essential in the human spirit; some inner fire had been dampened. Billions of people proclaimed it God’s wrath and called it just. Countries disintegrated in religious furor. There was mass hysteria; wide swathes of sacrifices made in vain, millions of people laid upon altars and offered up to the vengeful God. Humanity did everything it could to end the rain and bring back the sun. But their pleas went unheard. Their only answer was endless rain.
Allan rose from his chair with a groan and tottered drunkenly for a moment. A bright flash of lightning arced across the sky, blinding him momentarily and leaving blurry spots under his eyelids. Allan stumbled back and bumped against the table, almost overturning the whiskey bottle. He grabbed the porch rail and steadied himself, cursing his weakness. Enough wasting time. He turned back to the house, but not before pouring himself one last drink and gulping it down. He had a feeling he would need it.
He wove his way through the house towards his brother’s room. It was utterly dark save for brief flashes of lightning which illuminated the walls with violent force before fading again. Thunder crashed ear-splittingly overhead. Allan reached the bedroom and paused in the doorway. Christopher lay under the sheet just as Allan had left him, after cutting him down. In the end, he had gone like Molly had. Shunning the gun or the razor, like so many others before him. He hadn’t left a note. Allan understood. These were the end times. There was nothing left to say.
He crossed the room unsteadily and slid his hands under his brother’s stiffening body, lifting him in his arms like a cord of firewood. Allan almost buckled under the weight, but held firm. He carried Christopher out the backdoor into the yard, the sheet trailing like a ghostly shroud.
Their father’s backyard was a sea of mud. The house had been built on a high plateau which had saved them from the worst of the flooding, but it wouldn’t last. Almost all the plants had been drowned in the deluge. Allan’s shins disappeared into the mire, but he sloshed his way through the muck stubbornly. His teeth gritted with effort.
Finally, he reached the pond. Their father had had it installed for his goldfish and frogs, and surrounded it by marble patio stones. The stones had sunken deep into the mud, but they were still solid, and the pond had kept its shape. It was a deep dark eye in the mire, its waters murky and unfathomable. Allan knew it wasn’t the best resting place, but it was better than to be laid in the mud.
He fell to his knees and let Christopher slide into the pond. The sheet billowed around him. For a moment, Allan could make out his brother’s face under the sheet, white and featureless with a grim line of a mouth. Then his brother slowly sank beneath the surface and disappeared.
Allan sat there in the rain for a long time, feeling the water sink deep into his bones. His hands lay white and glistening in his lap like strange fish. Somewhere out in the distance a dog howled, seeking an answering cry and receiving none. Allan didn’t move. He felt only a deep and profound emptiness.
The rain would fall and the waters would rise, until everything that mankind had built would sink beneath uncaring waves, and the world could begin again. Maybe someday in eons hence the waters would recede and reveal a land swept clean, bearing no mark of the people who had once fought and philosophised upon it, and it would be home to a new race. A better race, perhaps.
What use was there in fighting? Allan thought dully. He had struggled to survive when no one else would, kept himself and his brother safe through tests and trials, only to end up here: In this drowned and dying world that no longer belonged to the likes of man. He felt tired and longed for oblivion.
He felt willing to sit there forever and let the rain and the mud swallow him up. He bowed his head slowly and closed his eyes.