Alice slammed her clenched fists against the glass in sweeping overhead arcs, curves of water forming over her head as her hands scooped up the now waist-high water. She screamed, she swore. It didn’t help. The windows had been expensive upgrades, sold with the promise that the double glazing would save her money in the long run. It even made the white plastic frames seem acceptable. Now, this modern barrier from noise and smoke had become as stubborn as the door, closed hard and fast against curses and pressure. Slick window locks and oiled hinges were now firm and resolute, ignoring Alice’s pushes and pleas as she straddled the top of the living room couch.
A final frustrated kick sent her slipping backwards, flipping headfirst back into the murk. Silence enveloped her panic and, for the second time that night, she finally found her feet and emerged up amidst the floating remote controls and fashion magazines. The water was pushing around her, a think current attempting to sweep her legs away towards the hallway. It wasn’t just the strength that troubled her now; it was the ceaseless flow. The water itself, it was angry and motivated and threatening. It didn’t feel like it was going to stop. Her body was starting to feel troublingly light and powerless, a tiny bag of flesh thrust helpless into a raging torrent. Alice forced herself forward, strong legs heaving with the effort of sunken movement, towards the phone. The time for plumbers had passed. She needed help.
Jabbing 9-1-1 with frozen fingers, she held up the earpiece in anticipation of the questions that would soon come as a preface to the men with axes. The phone, though, was silent in response; uncooperative and disinterested in Alice’s increased demands. Even the keypad had gone to sleep. Teeth chattering with fear, or cold, or anger, or maybe all three, she flung her hand hard to the right and sent the phone to a watery grave, wall cable following its diving bell master along in the flow. Alice swore at the phone as it drifted away. Fists clenching in renewed frustration, her head tracked back to the window and, finally, her brain caught the intent. The water was up on the sill, lapping in like the rising tide biting a rock edge. It wasn’t the water pressure that was keeping these closed; and anyway, the windows opened outward. These bastards called for a different kind of persuasion.
Alice twisted to the right and pounded back into the kitchen, this time heading straight for the store cupboard. The folding door did its best to also remain shut but proved unable to match Alice’s rabid intent. Kicking aside the steady flow of pasta packets and chip tubes that were flowing out, she scooped the heaviest items into her arms – a giant tin of crushed tomatoes, a thick Maplewood chopping board, and a rolling pin. She sloshed back to the living room, weapons almost toppling into the water but just remaining safe in her grip. Lining them up on the deepening sill stream, she grabbed the tomato can, pulled her arm right back, then slammed it into the window as hard as she could.
Blazing spikes of pain sparked up her arm and shot into her shoulder, causing an instant of white light behind her eyelids. Her hand shook from the shock of tin hitting glass. The window did not seem to share the trauma, barely even noticing the event. Incensed by its bare-faced insolence, she hurled the tin together with a scream, both bouncing off their target in impotent apathy. Snatching the chopping board, she flung it like a frisbee with all her remaining strength only to watch it thud and slide down into the rising chill of liquid. Left only with only the rolling pin, she lunged forward and beat the glass from every angle with impassioned strikes backed by desperate screams of smashing, destructive intent.
Finally, with arm muscles spent and fingers red from the shock, she allowed the rolling pin to submerge by her feet as the image of an unfettered, undamaged screen of glass mocked her. With the water now easing over her belly button, she had the face the reality of the situation. The door was jammed, the windows were sealed, the water was flowing. Constantly, aggressively flowing. The phone refused to help, and she needed help now.
Pulling the curtains right back to the window frames, she pressed her face hard against the glass. It was three thirty in the morning and the world was sleeping. One of the main reasons she’d bought this house was the location – it was further out of town than most people liked, but that brought a wonderful stillness that just couldn’t be found in a town apartment. The act of separation had been an important theme in her personal redesign, not just from John but also regarding people in general. Always friendly but now more careful to make bonds, Alice had carefully engineered a social circle that was more passive support system than close friend network. As she squinted out into the gloom, not a single light moved against the dark of the night. There was a road directly outside, that much was true, but this was the kind of neighbourhood were someone could walk home drunk in the middle of the street and not have their pissed stumbling interrupted by bikes or cars.
Still, a beacon is viewable from many angles and would be certainly more useful that throwing tins or wielding rolling pins. She almost had to swim as she made her way back to the kitchen lights, current growing in strength by the minute. This time she checked the wall before tenderly touching the switch, half expecting a flash and release but instead finding just cool plastic. Using her other hand to lodge herself against the kitchen counter, she began flicking the light off and on and off and on, over and over and over, almost smiling to herself because the even the bastard windows couldn’t stop light. Her eyes were fixed across the living room, desperately staring out the exposed window in anticipation of lights, uniforms, sirens, anything. Off and on and off and on, over and over and over again. Scattered recollections of morse code – what was SOS? Dot dot dot dash dash dash? More dots? – soon led to a simple aim to be as a lighthouse, shining a warning in the dark, though the message this time was COME CLOSE instead of KEEP AWAY. Click, click, click, water now rudely forcing up under her breasts, lungs starting to fight the increased pressure. On, off, on, off, come on come on come on. Time drifted to 4am but the winter night showed no sign of morning light, each second click of the lights plunging Alice into two seconds of intimate, intense soaking black fear. Each flash of the lights as they came on blinded her anew, furniture shifting in form each time as the enclosing liquid pushed and pulled everything around her.
She stopped, lights blazing, and examined the sight across the room for signs of outside curiosity. The water was now flipping and frothing across her chest, swirling her vision along with it. Feeling the anger again pulse in her frigid veins, she threw herself forward towards the window. There had to be someone who could see what’s happening here. This thought came and went, muted as the constant sound of pulsing water, as she swam across the ocean that used to be her living room. Her bladder hurt with internal pressure, human protocol still forming ridiculous rules even in the face of crazed anarchy. When she finally slammed up against the window it was face first with wide eyes blinking away froth in an attempt to make out the dim early morning outside. The lights twinkled gently in the distant darkness, grass and trees sleeping with the birds. A world content and at peace. Alice’s breathing was pushing hard in and out of her lungs now and she had to move down the width of the window to avoid the forming mist. There was nothing. Wait.
There was a car. On the road, lights on but parked hard on the curb, the driver seems to be looking at something. Looking in. Alice’s heart jacknifed into her throat and her pulse drummed into her ears. Eyes wide, she threw herself backwards, ignoring debris and tables and chairs and bowls and papers and so many bottles snacking into her face as she put all her swimming experience into her muscles and powered her way back to the kitchen lights. Hand up, screw the danger, click click click click off on off on come on come on come on see this dammit. She only realized she was yelling with every click click click when the water flew up into her mouth and throat and then there was a face at the window THERE’S A FACE AT THE WINDOW THERE’S A
And then, with a fizz and a pop and thundering bang, all the lights went out.