top of page

I WORRY ABOUT YOU WHILE I'M AT WORK
By Max Concannon

Today is one of the rare days when Garland and I were scheduled together. I wouldn’t have gotten out of bed if I didn’t know they would be there today, and they almost make me want to keep working on this godforsaken site.

I threatened to just stop showing up after a close call with a cloud of jellyfish a while back, but they decided I must be bluffing, and so by the end of the conversation it turned out I was. It’s for the best, they assure me- there’s not much else on the market right now, isn’t it so fulfilling, think of the children. 


 

The changing room looks how it smells. It’s full of people getting off of work, the younger ones remembering how to walk again still. They track in mud from one direction and sea water from the other, just begging for OSHA to close it down from the mold alone. 

From behind me, “Ira, my man, lookin’ slick! Have you been working out?” 

I jump, almost hitting my head on the shelf above me. “That’s just the decompression you’re seeing, Gar. You already forget what I look like?” 

We catch up as we prepare. 

How’s the husband? Good, you hear we’re pregnant? Eyyy! Congrats! You applying for the hermit crab thing, or waiting it out? Haven’t decided. How’s painting going? Good, picked up some new oils the other day. Can you help me lock up my suit?

 

We head over to the bell for our descent.

 

It’s always so loud on the way down. The currents have gotten worse, and the silt clouds more common, no thanks to the work we’re doing. 

The light from outside fades, the red one at the roof of the bell flickers on. We wait as a pod of whales crosses our path. We reach the work zone in a matter of minutes.

The foreman hands out assignments- Garland and I are together with Ciel on clearing the floor to prepare for digging next week, Peter and Jameela are guiding building supplies, Favor is with Anderson and Memphis on assembly. In the silence of the deep, we seal each other away beneath our glass helmets with our clumsy gloved hands. 

“Stay safe out there,” we all say to each other. We dive in. And we get to work. 


 

It’s dark. Through the water, I can make out three or four other clusters of lights already at work, affixing lengths of steel and pumice to the structure. They’re working on- I think that’s the residential district? Hard to say, it’s been a minute since I looked at the whole schematic, but even if I had the whole thing in front of me I doubt I’d be able to pinpoint what side I was looking at with how small the print is on that thing. 

I hear my radio shuffle on- Ciel and Garland are set to go. We take each other’s hands and swim over to the dig site. 

For a couple of hours we clear rubble. The rocks are always heavier than they look. 




 

Project Hermit Crab. Lyle and I were still dating when it was first announced, and just engaged when it started. Taking the job here was pretty much the only option if we wanted to stay near family. 

I’ve no clue how this one got approval from the UN. They must have been really and truly desperate to agree to fund it. A bit more feasible than Mars or the moon, I suppose, and apparently more sustainable than any of the land options, not that there’s much land left.


 



 

“Ira, you don’t have to take this job.” 

“We need the money.”

“I don’t want you down there.”

“The world’s already ending, it’s not like-”

“DON’T-” he looked me in the eye. I couldn’t look back for long.

I took his hand.

“… I’m sorry.”

We took a breath.




 

Ciel and Garland hold steady the survey equipment, guiding me over our asthmatic radio where to place down the markers. 

Between rasped voices, a sound- a warning.

The foreman cuts in, doing his best at not letting the panic filter through his words, the dark water, and the choppy radio signal. 

“Hello all, for your safety, check to be sure that your anchors are secured and that your group members are within reach. Our sensors detect an unusually strong sea current swell heading towards the work site. If possible, find cover. Do not attempt to reach the diving bells, unsecured equipment, or other groups. I will check back in once the swell has passed. Stay safe out there. Over.”


 

“Do we have to discuss this right now?”

“We have so little time to decide.”

“Ira, if I had known this would be an option when you got the job…”

“I didn’t know either, Lyle. I told you the moment I heard.”

“I’ve barely had any time to think about it, where do you even start? It can’t possibly be safe.”

“There’ve been at least a few successful human tests, according to what they gave me. I think it’s at least worth considering.”

“That’s easy for you to say. It’s not you they’ll be putting through this. Will I be able to hold it, even?”

“It wouldn’t be a traditional situation, but I’m sure they’ll have something for us- a room, a nursery, a p-”

“We have to do it, right?”

“What?”

"I. Lyle?

The message finishes and I can already hear the distant rushing. Where can I anchor myself? We just finished clearing three hundred square feet of ocean floor. I drop the remaining markers and rush to the others. There’s not enough time to make it to the more stable surfaces. The city above us lurches. We huddle together, our anchors hastily wedged as deep into the stone and silt we can manage. 

 

And the current hits.

 

“Are you sure?”

“Are you insane? Of course.”

“But there have only been so many successful cases.”

“Ira.”

 

We strain to stay together against the ocean.

I shift to keep my balance.

I can hardly see anything. 

 

“What if it comes out and, and it-”

“Then it fails.”

“We don’t have to do this, we could just have a normal family.”

“Don’t lie to me.”

 

My whole body aches from the impact.

I can feel Garland’s grip slipping.

 

“Lyle, please, don’t do this.”

“I couldn’t bear to bring a child into this world.”

 

I hear glass breaking.

I’m so tired.

 

“At least this way they might have a chance for a full life.”

 

 I cannot feel their hand. I call out.



 

I cannot hear their voice on the radio.

 

I cannot hear their voice on the radio.

 

I cannot hear their voice on the radio.








 

The current passes.

The foreman takes roll call. 

Peter?

Here.

Jameela?

Here.

Ciel?

Here.

Ira?

Here.

Garland?

 

Memphis?

Here.

Favor?

Here.

Anderson?

Here.


 

We gather at the diving bell. The foreman tells us it’s too dangerous to go searching more than two hundred meters away from the site. Ciel and I don’t even bother going that far.

We begin our slow journey back to the surface.

bottom of page