More people left every year. Abel could barely remember times when the town was bustling, when his father would throw enormous cookouts with everyone on the street. White smoke would rise into the blue sky, like tall, endless clouds. Abel loved standing at the end of the street and counting the smoke towers. Now, even if Abel’s father held a party, Abel wasn’t even sure that ten people would show up.
Abel wasn’t young and foolish any more, he would be ten next month. He knew why they left. It wasn’t safe here anymore. The sidewalk is slick with rain as Abel walks down his street. It was his street now, once it had belonged to everyone, but now he alone traced his fingers along the half-white, half-red walls. He reached the end of the street and held up his fingers. The paint left the tips wet and red.
His father had painted the walls this morning after the water had finally receded. Abel’s father had never done it alone before, there had always been others to help. Now they were gone.
“The red marks how high the water has gotten.”
Abel had listened intently as he watched his father paint.
“It gets higher and higher every year, and so every year, we must keep track,” he said, his hands and elbows covered in red. Abel gazed at the wall, he could just barely put his chin over the red.
“Why did everyone leave?” Abel said.
“We’re all going to have to leave at some point Abel,” his father told him, “some just get the chance to leave earlier.”
“Are we going to leave?”
His father stopped painting for a moment. “Yes, Abel. Maybe not next year, or the year after that,” he paused, and resumed painting, “but soon.”
“I don’t want to leave.”
Abel’s father stopped painting and put a red hand on Abel’s shoulder. “We don’t have a choice.”
Abel pinched his fingers together, creating a small bridge of red before it snapped apart. A few cars were parked along the sidewalk, all abandoned, all waterlogged. He stooped to pick up a small stone and dropped it into his pocket, which was already filling up with rocks. He dashed across the empty street and put his hands on the wet railing overlooking the bay. The water was dark and restless, smashing against the wall below Abel’s feet.
He dug through his pockets, pulling out a handful of rocks. He threw each of them, one by one, leaving his red mark on each. He shouted as he did it, nothing in particular, anything that came to mind.
The ocean continued to spray up into his face, a restless monster bent on destruction. Abel reached into an empty pocket. His voice died away and he crouched against the railing. His clothes were soaked through by now. Rain fell from above, waves crashed below, and a steady stream of tears came from the young boys eyes.
– Written by Matthew Buckley