clare_dragonfly: Claudia from Warehouse 13 all in purple, text: if I only could make a deal with God (WH13: Claudia: deal with god)
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Title: A Race
World: other (apocalyptic)
Word count: 800
Rating: G
Prompt: [community profile] origfic_bingo, swimming; [community profile] tic_tac_woe, megatsunami/tidal wave
Notes: So I guess I like apocalypses.

Alisa dived.

For the split second above the water, she could hear her little brothers cheering from their raft, but as soon as she hit the surface, all sounds faded away. The boys were still young enough to think it was all a game; Alisa was desperately envious of them, and fiercely determined to keep them that innocent for as long as possible.

Several feet away, Jimmy had dived at the same time as her. His little sister was cheering from their raft, too, for the same reason. The little ones had all thought it was a race, to see whether Jimmy or Alisa would reach the bottom and come back first. Alisa had played along, but now that she was swimming down, everything was serious again.

She didn't care whether she or Jimmy came up first. As long as she stayed down long enough to find enough food to fill her net, and held her breath long enough that she didn't injure herself coming up, she would be happy. As long as she and her brothers were fed and could live until the waters receded, she would be happy.

Her mother had, on an almost weekly basis, insisted that the waters would recede. A year after she was gone, Alisa wasn't so sure.

She was approaching the bottom. She could see roofs and chimneys below, in among the broken rubble. It was so strange that this had once been a neighborhood--had once been a place she might have ridden her bike to, if there hadn't been a highway in between, if she'd been old enough to ride her bike more than a few blocks before the megatsunami hit.

Neither she nor Jimmy had visited this neighborhood before, so they had their pick of the houses. She could see him, a dim shape to her left, not close enough that they would have to figure out who took which spot. She could also see, below her, a partial standing wall with a sink attached to it. She aimed for it, kicking her flippered feet for more speed, knowing her best bet (now that all the supermarkets had been cleared out) was what had been someone's kitchen.

There was no problem getting inside. Most of the house had been crushed, splintered into rubble, by the awesome force of the tidal wave. Alisa pushed aside a cabinet door with her elbow and found it: cans.

She pushed them as fast as she could into the net bag she carried until it was bulging. She didn't have time to check the faded labels or whether they were corroded or whole. All she knew was that there might be food inside and they weren't bulging with botulism.

She would never collect a bulging can, no matter how much of a hurry she'd been in. Meat from a bad can had taken her mother.

Her air was running out. She could feel her lungs straining, begging for breath. She tucked one last can into her bag and pushed upward with all her strength, kicking her flippers--an excellent find by another neighbor, Rosario--to propel herself upward. She was heavier now, fighting against gravity, but she was strong. She could do this. She had to, because if she drowned here, the food she carried was lost and her brothers… they wouldn't starve, because the new village would care for them, but what would they do, with no parents and no sister?

The surface was there. She had to make it. She would make it. Her lungs begged, her vision sparkled and then--

She broke the surface and sucked air in gratefully. Looking around, she found herself only a dozen yards from the rafts. She struck out swimming for it, clearing her ears of water.

Her brothers were cheering again. "You win!" cried Anton gleefully. "Jimmy isn't back yet!"

Alisa grabbed the edge of the raft, tossed her net bag onto it, and looked around wildly. Jimmy's little sister was kneeling on their raft, staring solemnly down.

Alisa's stomach twisted. She'd been almost out of oxygen--but Jimmy was taller than her. His lungs had to be bigger. He could make it for longer. Maybe he'd come up somewhere, but it was too far to be seen…

The only thing to see for miles around was the edge of the mountains, or what had been mountains, where they now had their homes. She would see Jimmy if he had surfaced.

"Jimmy?" she cried, her voice fading out into empty air. Her brothers grabbed for her, but she pushed away. She searched for Jimmy, but with the sun sparkling off the surface of the water, he could be inches below and she wouldn't be able to spot him.

"I'll find him," she said, and dived again.
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