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There is a little yellow rubber duck that sits at the bottom of my bathtub, wiggling in the breeze. The whites of its eyes are bugging out of its little yellow head, and its orange beak pokes out in front, pointing right between naked legs. My hairs stand on end and my skin is peppered with goosebumps. There are two sounds: the creaking of the tree boughs, and the chattering of my teeth. The little yellow rubber duck makes no sound - it just stares at me with those bulbous eyes, inflated to the point of bursting. Over our heads, the grey sky observes us.
Then, drip drop, drop drop. The first lashings of rainfall splat down into my bathtub, dinging off the porcelain, smacking against my legs. The rain forms small puddles here and there in the basin of my bathtub, merging into one another. Don't worry, I planned ahead. The plug is very much in place.
Flash, there's a rumble in the sky, and that's the signal for the rain to come down harder, spraying into my face from all four sides of my bathtub. My naked legs are covered in the stuff. Then I'm all but floating, the sides of my bathtub getting shorter and shorter, and the little yellow rubber duck starts bobbing up and down on the surface of the rainwater, between my legs, never taking its eyes off of mine.
My hair is drenched, and the rain slides down the strands, rushing down into the rising pool of water. My head is yet to submerge, but that's the only chance I'll get to blink, so down, down, into the rainwater we go. Down, with no chance of ever coming back up. The sky has opened up and it's never going to stop, but my bathtub will keep me safe.
The waterline goes up above the lip of my bathtub and spills out into the big wide world. My naked legs and I are staying here, but the little yellow rubber duck is still bobbing on the surface, yearning for adventure. Its shadow hovers over, on the shimmering liquid roof of my bathtub, then bobs out over the side. There's no way to breathe now. Hopefully I gulped enough air down already.
This little yellow rubber duck, it's carried by the water surge powering down the hill my bathtub sits atop, this brown sludgy tide cascading across the land, flooding the valley and all its inhabitants. The rubber duck with the eyes popping out of its head, and that beak betraying no smiles, no tears, for the lives lost underneath its Made in China bottom.
That little yellow rubber duck, spilling out into the sea, bobbing across the vastness of the planet.
In Rotterdam, the rubber duck snags its tail on the outstretched arms of Zadkine's Destroyed City sculpture. It's splayed out fingers catch the little rubber duck, and beg it for mercy from the storm. The world's works of art drown underneath the little rubber duck, as it bobs across the rising water.
In Venice, the duck gets caught out by the cross atop St Mark's Basilica. Beneath the water, the power of the Byzantines, the riches of patricians of the old maritime republic, the faith and culture of the world, all washed away by the flood.
In my bathtub, all is calm. The only sound is the blood rushing in and out of my ears. My beating heart is safe.
The little rubber duck beaches itself on the roof of Angkor Wat, but the tide picks it back up again and it bobs down over the top of Jakarta. The surge of the never-ending rain takes the little rubber duck this way and that, until it bumps into the Rizal Monument in Manila. It sits there until the water brings it over the top, and the little duck swims onwards. The little yellow wing of the rubber duck tags the top of Osaka Castle, before it carries on its merry way. The duck bounces off of the spire of the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai. Bobbing along, beak and eyes unchanging, it bangs headfirst into the tippy top of the Burj Khalifa.
In my bathtub, there is nothing but my naked legs. Bump bump goes my heart. Bump bump. Bump bump. There is nothing in here but my life.
The rain crashes down upon the head of the poor little wide-eyed yellow rubber duck. It bobs atop the world, all on its own, crushed under the weight of the grey sky. Behind those bulbous eyes, the little rubber duck remembers my bathtub. The rubber duck remembers the good times we shared together there, and the crap times too. It longs to return home. It wishes the world was not lost. It feels it could have done more to prevent what has happened. It knows there is still one act it can perform, perhaps, to save it.
So this little yellow rubber duck, it turns against the tide. It swims against the surge of the rain. It stops bobbing, and it starts going wherever a little yellow rubber duck wants to go. It heads back in the direction of home. It sinks underneath the eternal sea.
In my bathtub, I see a shadow descend towards me and my naked legs. Down and down it comes, from the big wide world beyond my bathtub. Touching down on the porcelain basin, at the other end from my naked legs, its eyes staring right back at mine, my old friend has returned. The little yellow rubber duck doesn't say hello or even nod at me in acknowledgement. I do not blame the little yellow rubber duck. I hadn’t asked how its holiday had been. But our relationship is more of a functional one. Our relationship doesn't need many spoken words. We both just know what needs to be done.
The rubber duck lowers its protruding beak to the plug, and catches the chain between its lips. The little rubber duck starts swimming away, up and out of my bathtub again, but only so the chain can yank the plug out of the plug hole. My bathtub gulps, taking its first breath in a long time, and sound drains back into the world again.
Bump bump goes my heart, beating a tempo to the drone of the disappearing sea. There is great change in the big wide world outside my bathtub. Irreversible disasters have ravaged the land. But life survives out there, just as it has in my bathtub. My little yellow rubber duck assures me of this.
Oli Court is a Brighton-based writer. His writing has been featured in The Cabinet of Heed, Portmanteau, and The Curator. Follow him on Twitter @AnotherOli and Instagram @yetanotheroli.