terra alta

The water is rising again. It’s closing in on the edge of the quay. Slowly, slowly, rising to reach its critical point. Tired of rising, it starts to spread instead, the surface crawling along quays, through alleys and streets to a square. Someone lifts a foot, splash. Is it raining? Another one looks out through a window, pops back inside and runs to the door to keep the water out. The sound of sirens and running, splashing footsteps in alleys and across squares. The flood is here, Aqua Alta. It trickles through cracks and crevices, fills Venice from the inside. There walks someone who has given up, with slow steps in wet shoes, head down. She can see her face down there, it’s frowning. Let it trickle, she thinks. She reaches a square, shoes beneath the surface, so look up from shoes and reflection, because over there stands something else, something new. We’ve seen it before, but there is something new about it. An arcade, a forest of columns, a house upside down? Enter among concrete columns, look down or up, it doesn’t matter anymore. Everything is the same by now, a double Venice, split in two by the surface who keeps spreading, rising and taking charge. On top of the pillars sits something that looks like wooden pyramids turned upside down. It doesn’t rain in here, so stay awhile, dry for a while, and ascend the stairs over there, the steps are bright, as if the sun is shining on them. After a few steps on concrete, your wet shoes leaves prints on wooden steps instead, and now you will have to raise your hand to your eyes, because everything disappears in white, the sun is shining and Venice is vanishing. The sun filters through foliage and over there a squirrel scurries up a tree, fly jumps to the next one. Take off your shoes and walk around in the undergrowth for a while, lie down on moss and soil. Terra Alta. Above, blue sky and sun through tree branches. Below, humming machinery. A battery of soil, water purification systems and God knows what. You’re on the first floor now, on top of Venice now, in the forest now. Close your eyes and feel your new ground, Terra Alta, fall asleep to the sound of nothing, fall asleep with sun spots playing on the inside of your eyelids, fall asleep in a forest.

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