Climate change is real! Alan would never have believed it! It's been raining more and more lately. But the drops were not made only of water - rather, they were filled with lies! Lies like "you look great in that dress," "no, you don't look fat," "great haircut!" and "no, I don't think you're stupid." Lies like that.
Alan was talking to Shelby. The rain had not started in full yet, it was just a drop here or there. Alan loved Shelby’s face, her pale complexion, a couple of freckles, slightly reddish hair, often pulled back with a braid. He wanted her so badly and thought she might be “the one.” The thought that anyone might be “the one” scared him a little. It overwhelmed him. Anyway, he put that out of his mind for now because he was certain that she was dissatisfied with the relationship, but he was not sure why.
He listened to her talk about her studies. She was a biology major and never felt she could keep up. Her eyes were narrowed, severe. She was talking about blood cells one minute, but the next minute she stopped, mid-sentence. This is when Alan knew his worry that she wanted to break up with him was real. She was going to tell him now, he was sure of it.
“Alan…” she said.
Shelby stammered, “Things… they just haven’t been working out.”
“What do you mean?”
She inhaled and just before she spoke a rain droplet from the sky landed on her nose. Shelby said, “What I mean, Alan, is that I love you and want more,” she lied, stunned at her own words. But she couldn’t resist. “I want you much, much more.” And she threw her hands around his neck and pushed against him giving him a passionate kiss on the mouth.
In his thoughts, Alan was taken aback, but his body fully reciprocated and it was indeed a hot embrace. That is until he felt a rain droplet on his face. He pushed Shelby away. And though he was so glad that she suddenly wanted him, he inexplicably said, “No, Shel. We’re through. It’s time we cut things off. Right here. Right now.” If he had not been so confused by his own actions, he would have slugged himself in the face.
For several seconds they just stared at one another, utterly perplexed: Shelby wanting to end things kissing him, Alan wanting her so bad, yet telling her he wanted to break up.
Then, the rain became heavier. The droplets became a formidable army of water from the sky. Alan and Shelby were quickly becoming soaked.
“Let’s get out of here,” Alan shouted, jerking his head toward the direction he was headed, but pointing in the opposite direction as if telling her to go.
“I can’t!” Shelby told him, even though she knew damn well that she could.
Alan paused. “What?” Then, not understanding, he said, “Okay, I understand.”
They exchanged a troubled look as the rain continued to pummel them.
“I have to wash my hair,” Shelby explained.
Alan nodded his head, though he didn’t want her to go.
She nodded in thanks and then they left, each headed in their own direction.
Alan took his time looking for shelter. He didn’t care he was being drenched. He wondered if he might need to see a shrink.
* * * * *
Shelby cried on the way home, but she was mostly cried out by the time she got inside her apartment. She flopped on the couch and flipped on the TV.
The weather girl was doing a live feed from Balboa Park. Rain this strong was unusual for San Diego. The weather girl, in trademark tight one-piece dress, moved out of the TV van and an assistant kept pace with her to keep an umbrella over her. She heard the producer in her earpiece, “Four, three, two… “ And she was on the air. The rain fell hard and a wind was carrying the drops everywhere, even onto the weather girl.
She smiled into the camera, reporting, “Once again a beautiful gorgeous day in sunny San Diego. I don’t know why we are doing this special report today,” she lied. “Isn’t every day as sunny as this?” She lifted her palms upward toward the rain clouds, as though they were the sun. A gust of wind inverted the umbrella and blew it away. The crew rushed back into the van.
“The world’s gone crazy,” Shelby muttered.
On another channel, one anchor remarked to another, “In addition to this being a record rainfall for this time of year, the 9-1-1 emergency line has been flooded with calls, and all of them are reports that people are lying to each other.”
The other anchor chuckled. “What? Lying? We’ll have to find out more details on that one.”
The first anchor said, “I guess people just can’t handle the truth these days.”
The second anchor said, “Or the rain.”
Then they went to a commercial.
Shelby thought to herself, lying… hmm…
* * * * *
Shelby and Alan talked via video calls over the next few days. They had agreed to stay out of the rain so they could be honest with one another. Shelby told Alan she wanted to break up and Alan told Shelby he was disappointed and was sorry for whatever he had done, though he had to admit he hadn’t a clue.
“Yeah, that’s the problem,” Shelby said.
Alan drank from a glass of water. He was parched. Then, he asked her why she was still talking with him since she wanted nothing to do with him anymore.
“We could still be friends,” she said.
Alan didn’t like that and told her, “I guess so.”
“Have you been outside?” Shelby asked.
“You just agreed to being friends. I know you want more. You’re lying. Did you go outside? Did you get rained on?”
Alan said, “The rain might make you lie, but people can still lie on their own and, you’re wrong… of course, I want to just be friends.” He drank a bit more water.
Shelby sat bolt upright. “Alan, your water.”
He examined his glass cluelessly.
“Where did you get your water?”
“It’s tap water.”
Shelby frantically began searching the web.
“Someone told me the reservoir was filled with rain.” Then she found what she was looking for and read Alan the headline, “‘Water Department Tests Water For Cause of Lying Epidemic.’ It’s in the tap water. You can’t drink it.”
Alan set his water glass on the table and backed away as though it were a monster. “Send me that link,” he said, absently.
“We can’t drink tap water while we’re talking.”
Alan opened the link from her text and examined the Water Department’s web page. Then, he clicked on something related and recoiled. “Check this link out. It’s more recent. The rain made the reservoir overflow! Any contact with any water anywhere and we’re screwed.”
* * * * *
The rain worsened over the following days and weeks. No one on the earth was able to tell the truth if they were in the rain or drinking water that had been contaminated by the rain, which was pretty much all water. But a rich philanthropist had spent a lot of money to rapidly build a mock ark for people who had been flooded out of their homes.
He was also a survivalist and had a large water supply that was protected and had not been rained on. People could drink from the philanthropist’s protected supply and choose whether to lie or not. This protected water was rationed. Mostly the supervisors of this ark were allowed to drink the protected water when they needed to confer to make important decisions. While they could still choose to lie, they were encouraged to only tell the truth so that they could make the very best decisions for the people who were receiving help from the philanthropist.
Alan and Shelby continued to spend time together as the rains continued. They only had one another, though the friction between them simmered under the surface. Neither was confident about their long-term feelings for one another, assuming they survived this cataclysm. Both of their apartments were in an area that was recently flooded. They were grateful they had been accepted into the philanthropist’s ark community.
A shuttle had brought them from their old “normal” world to the new world of the ark community. The last thing they saw in their old world was on a TV in the transport station. A cable news channel played a live broadcast of the United States Congress debating whether to pass a bill that would make it a felony to lie. Shelby seemed transfixed as she watched.
“What’s so interesting?” Alan said.
“The rain’s contaminated everything. Those politicians should be lying, too.”
Alan listened briefly and said, “Maybe they are.”
“It’s sad,” Shelby said. “They sound the same as before the rain.”
* * * * *
In the ark, Alan and Shelby had found a living space of their own. The living spaces were similar to animal pens surrounded by crude wood-slatted walls and a door. Some families on the ark had a pen of their own, but most were urged to share with other families to make best use of the space. The pens had beds of straw to lie on. It was not so bad. Alan and Shelby were laying in the straw, pretending they were in a field, gazing at the stars. Except there were no stars, but only the ceiling, which was the floor of the deck above them, one deck stacked upon another.
Shelby told him, “Thank you for helping me through this. What a weird messed-up thing, this lying rain.”
Alan agreed. After a peaceful silence, Alan said, “I had this dream last night. I don’t remember much but the feeling was like I wanted you very badly, but I was also pushing you away. I woke up really worn out.”
“Interesting,” Shelby said.
He could not bear to look at her as he asked, “I guess that’s why you wanted to break up. I want you, but I push you away.”
“It makes me anxious. But I guess I understand it… at least a little.”
“I don’t want us to break up. But being exclusive with you feels like a commitment. It’s overwhelming.”
She laughed, “Commitment scares you? You’re a guy, dumbass. It’s in your DNA.”
He glanced at her, almost smiling.
They resumed looking up at the ceiling. They could hear the rain outside, smattering against the ark. At the same moment, Alan and Shelby took each other’s hand. Still looking up, Alan said, “I want to be with you. Even if we have to work on some things.”
“I’ve got plenty to work on, too,” she said. “Can we really make this work out? Can we change?” She paused. “What if we are lying?” Right away, she regretted saying that, so, she quickly added, “Not necessarily lying to each other, but we could be lying to ourselves.”
Alan released her hand. “There’s no rain here. We could be lying or telling the truth, same as any other day.”
Suddenly Shelby got up, grabbing and kicking Alan. “Come on, this damn rain might be good for something, after all.”
Alan followed her lead and they went.
* * * * *
On the ark’s deck, it was pouring hard. Alan and Shelby came out and looked around at the dark ocean and the turbulent waves around them. The rain was heavy, steady, relentless. Alan and Shelby grabbed a nearby railing.
“Talk about us. Come on. What do you want?” she hollered, to be heard over the downpour.
Alan was so glad she valued their relationship so earnestly. But he found himself saying, “I hate your guts and never want to see you again. I’m going to find a different pen to stay in.”
Shelby was elated. “Screw you! I want to totally change you, make you do what I say and regret losing your freedom. I know you won’t go for that so we might as well break up now!”
Alan, miffed, turned to leave, but she grabbed his arm.
“I’m not done,” she yelled.
Alan turned to her, face red with anger. But her arm was already in motion and she slapped his face hard. Alan drew back, rubbing his face.
Their eyes met and each had a mischievous smile. Then they left the rain, racing one another back into the ark.
* * * * *
Alan and Shelby leaped down the stairs to their deck, rushed down the alley of pens, and into their pen, letting the door slam with a crack. The couple crash-landed into their pile of straw.
“You’re such a liar!” Shelby told him.
“I learned that from you!” he joked.
Someone from another pen yelled, “Quiet!”
Alan and Shelby kissed with newfound passion. This was not the place for making love, but the rain was quite loud and they were sure they could be quiet about it.