“Paradise Drowned” published in Undertow

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My near-future dystopian tale “Paradise Drowned” is now available to read in the Gold Coast anthology Undertow. I want to give special thanks to Helen Stubbs and Elizabeth Fitzgerald for their hard work as editors, and particularly their editorial input into my story.

“Paradise Drowned” is set in the Gold Coast hinterlands, with the majority of the coastal strip drowned by rising sea levels. The story drew inspiration from several sources: a dream my partner Lloyd had; the photos provided as prompts; and particular controversial social issues that affect contemporary Australia. I grew up on the Gold Coast so it was really interesting to think about what the Gold Coast might look like in the future, and how the inhabitants may have to adapt. Here’s a little teaser…

I crept away from camp, wading through the shallow water that flooded the mature rice crop, and climbed up a small hill in the middle of the paddy. At the summit I lay on my back. Wisps of cloud swirled across the stars. The sounds of people drifted on the humid breeze: talking, pots banging together, the cries of tired children, the occasional raised voice. Smoke from the woodstoves lingered in my hair. My conscience nagged me to go and help clean up, but instead I gazed at the sky and wished I could fly away.

Water sloshed. I tensed, then a familiar irregular footfall crunched uphill toward me. I sighed and sat up. Guilt prickled, that I’d made Layla follow me out here on her crippled foot.

“Nasra, you must stop this. You are not a little girl anymore.” My sister’s voice was sharp but carried a note of sympathy; at twenty, she was three years older and wiser than me.

I replied in Arabic. “Every night I want to throw up, waiting for the next one. What if it’s you? What will I do then? We’ve already lost Mama.”

The night darkened as clouds gathered to obscure the stars. The first drizzle of warm rain started to fall as Layla sat beside me. She gazed off to the east, to the hills where the remnants of the Gold Coast’s residents clung, safe above the flooded streets of the coastal strip. New Venice, as it was known, was the refuge for undesirables and escapees.

“Be strong,” she said, stubbornly speaking in English. The more we speak English, the better we get. She put her arm around me and squeezed. “We will take care of each other.” She stood and tugged at my arm. “No point worrying about what might be. We take one day at a time.”

I pouted but in the darkness she didn’t see it. With a groan, I got to my feet and wiped the rain from my eyes.

“Good girl,” she said. We returned to the camp filled with temporary buildings and unwanted human flotsam.

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