Warning Systems

Picture Credits: Stefan Keller

Warning systems

4 hours before: The first sign is deep in the earth, a
tremble becoming a tremor. There is time to flee to higher ground.

 49-year-old Xavier Da
Sousa leans backs in his 22nd floor Canary Wharf office, sinking into his first
Glenfiddich of the day. The slight tremor in his right hand causes drops of
amber liquid to bounce off the edge of his Waterford crystal glass. He picks
them up, one by one, with a wetted finger, the way his father chased grains of
rice even in the throes of Parkinson’s. He tastes earth, and ash.

In the end, he needn’t have worried. He outlives them all.

 45-year-old Elisabeth
Da Sousa smiles through the aftershocks from her second ever orgasm, enjoying
the tremors rolling deep in her belly. The purple-haired woman sprawled across
her runs a pale hand over her dimpled brown thighs. This newly discovered
pleasure feels so undeserved she takes it as retribution that this is what she
was doing as the wave gathered pace.

Eventually, she dies alone in her Richmond garden flat, dreaming
of a woman she can’t name.

2 hours before: Then, water may recede from the coast, exposing the ocean floor, reefs and
fish. Some escape routes may be cut off.

22-year-old Mary Da Sousa drops the coral earrings she’s
borrowed from her mother into the  sink at
Café Rouge, an attempt at returning them to their original habitat. She throws
her blue plastic hairnet in after, an expert at the right dramatic gesture to
use before leaving a room. She takes the expression on her ex-manager’s face
and the clapping of her former co-workers as her due.

Ultimately, when she returns herself to the ocean ten years
later in unnecessary sacrifice, it’s only accompanied by the shushing of the

 22-year-old Marcus Da
Sousa scrubs the last piece of grime from the empty tropical fish tank that was
the twins’ joint 12th birthday present. His father wanted to replace
them but it wouldn’t have been the same. He talks to Maggie, the long dead Forktail
Rainbow fish, the way he always did when his bronchitis flared up. He talks
about it the most after, the space that’s left, he’s even interviewed, holding
back tears, on local TV.

So the painful way his lungs fill with water for the final
time makes it into the papers, the son of the financial genius, the brother of
a teenage mermaid.

 19 yr old Magdalena
Da Sousa, Maggie to her friends, lies back on the deserted white sand beach,
and puts in her headphones. It’s how she’s always dealt with the arguments she
lives in, whether the voices in her house were too loud or too quiet, or when
she needed to recharge. She’s started ‘Their Eyes are Watching God’ in the
middle and already read the last page, something that her brother, her favourite
teacher, would frown about. She immerses herself in Janie Crawford’s life.

  She never knows
she’s exactly 30 minutes from solid ground.

29 minutes before: An
approaching tsunami creates a wall of water and loud “roaring” sound
similar to that of a train or jet aircraft, unmistakeable if you can hear it.