Sam Clemens Rides a Riverboat at the South Pole
Andrew R. Crow
Hayward Fault Line Winner

This is the way the world ends..Well, the rest of the world; mine's not ready yet. At least the part that I can see clearly. Vinson Massif is to the right, maybe a few hundred yards off. The only thing sticking up out of the water except for this little outcropping of rock that's keeping me dry for the present. Off to the North (a little South Pole humour; everything's North) I can see a flameless ember blanketing the sky. What is/was left of civilisation. My friend on the AmeriCanadian survey vessel Scott was able to signal us at the weather station a few days ago, just before it hit. The Big One we had all been cautiously waiting for. Too many fingers poised on too many buttons.The end of the world, and 17 of us stuck at the bottom. I say 'us', the rest of my meteorological survey team. There are/were thousands of others scattered around; god knows where they are now. All I know is I was the only one who didn't drown. It's funny if you think about it. Drowning in the biggest goddamn frozen desert in the world. Me, Samuel Niven Clemens (no jokes, please), a man scared shitless of the water surviving drowning in the desert.

We didn't really notice much, a warm breeze flowing over the desert ice, giving us a break from the shocking news of what was going on in the real world. Two days out, I was skidooing back from the local cliffs, sliding across the ice and suddenly sinking in water. None of us figured it would hit so quickly. All that hot, burning air melting the ice to the North and South of the rest of the world.

I don't know if anyone else made it. My lightweight multipurpose 'doo sailed me along safely enough, lighting on a mushy ice floe. That finally melted, but not before leaving me within 'sailing' distance of this mountain outcropping. Where I sit, scribbling in my notebook as the water rises all around me.

Did I mention seeing the heights of Vinson Massif in the near distance? Well, I didn't mention the flash I saw there yesterday and twice today. A signal? Maybe. Hey, it's a few hundred metres above where I'm sinking now. Maybe someone else made it. And maybe the water will stop rising before that peak sinks, too.

My pseudonymous namesake Mark Twain once said you should always end a story with a wedding or a death.

I'll let you know.

First published: February, 2003