Chronicle of an urban drowning foretold


Almost exactly a year ago I posted “Submarine garrets for starving writers” (4 November 2010), which foresaw the entire city of Bangkok serving as a recreational dive site. And that piece itself contained a link to an article (“One Born Every Minute“) I wrote 25 years ago wherein I interviewed a visiting extraterrestrial who foresaw the submersion of Bangkok within another three decades. The TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand), I suggested, would hail his proposals for turning this to advantage. 


I’ve also anticipated a submerged Bangkok in Syn, my most recent novel (awating publication), which is set about 50 years in the future. (I should say that the excerpt below isn’t representative of the book’s overall pace or point of view, which includes much more action from several other POVs. Once in a while, though, we get an installment of Leary’s ruminative Chronicle.)

From Syn, a novel (complete, awaiting publication).

full of it

(a chronicle of Leary’s second half-century and beyond)

Leary here. It’s Monday again. Seems like it’s Monday half the time, these days. And on Mondays I’ve got nothing to do except scribble these notes, for whatever that’s worth, and putter around my apartment, never mind my apartment can look after itself without any help from me.

I get lonely sometimes. I get lonely a lot, truth be told. For one thing, it looks like I’m the last person in this cell. For all I know, I could be the last one in ESSEA. Which is kind of scary. Maybe I’m being saved for something, though it’s hard to say what that might be. I’m an anomaly. That’s a fine word, and it means out of place. Like the Baiyoke Tower, which is all you can see of Bangkok these days. In fact that’s pretty much all that’s left of the entire Eastern Seaboard, Southeast Asia. ESSEA.

Guess what I’m doing for excitement right now, aside from chewing on a tasteless substitute for beef jerky. I’m looking out my window. Me and Rexy. My robopet. I neutralized the holoport — goodbye Waikiki — and telescoped the view so I can see all the way to the Baiyoke II Tower. Ninety-four stories and up to its butt in seawater. The Baiyoke I is drowned, right up over its ears. I recall when the Baiyoke I was the tallest building in Bangkok. That was way back in the twentieth century when Bangkok was booming, and the local movers and shakers had a bad case of Singapore pecker envy. Not just in Bangkok. Right across Southeast Asia, everybody wanted the tallest skyscraper. Right across the world, come to that. But now there’s nothing standing where New York used to be except the Millennium Mall, what’s left of it. Old Singapore and the mall down there would be nothing but a bunch of highrises poking out of the sea by now, if there’s anything left at all. Of course the government there might have passed a law against the PlagueBot. Maybe busted it for chewing gum or peeing in the elevators. I doubt it, though. Haven’t heard from anybody down there in quite some time. Haven’t heard much from anybody anywhere, lately. Whatever. With no children getting born, it’s natural enough to see us dying off.

Just look over there, on the other side of the Baiyoke. Three cumulo-nimbus cloud towers stand side by side like giant mushrooms. Black and gray and smeared with red, which tells you the sky in the west, back on the other side of the mall, must be like fire. We’ve got these external monitors and, what with the mall perched up here on hundred-and-fifty-meter stilts the way it is, they let me see all the way east to Bangkok, to where Bangkok used to be, so why can’t they give me a look at what’s happening on the other side? I’m no meteorologist, but it’s strange. You’ve got hot, humid air condensing out there over the sea instead of over the mainland, the way it should do. The way it would have done in the old days. Who knows what’s really out there, though; it looks like sea, but who can tell?

Here I sit, dictating these notes to my wallscreen. Nothing better to do.

Be that as it may, writers are extinct. In fact, there aren’t many jobs of any description out there. MOM and her Dolls look after everything anyone needs. Pretty well everybody’s a welfare bum these days, but no one even remembers what a welfare bum is, so we can just go ahead and enjoy it. Though I tend to feel kind of useless. So would most people, if they stopped to think about it. But they don’t. They don’t dare to.

The Kid, now, there’s one man still doing a man’s job. I wonder if he knows how lucky that makes him.


Seascape by Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Flooded temple from

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