The problem is, human memory is short. If the floods came once a year, there would have been no building in the fertile valley, as tempting as the deep, rich soil was to the farmers who came to the land early. By the time they disembarked, the planet had only felt human steps for a decade. Long time to the human’s way of thinking unaided. Short time, when you calculate the tilt of a planet.
The rains came in the eighth year. At first, they were welcome, sweeping curtains of relief over what had been rippling grasses as far as the eye could see up the valley. The consensus had been that the colony was landed in the midst of a drought – if it were this dry every year, the land would have been desert rather than something more like a meadow. Prairie would have been more familiar, but to the terrestrial-oriented humans, the valley looked like a riverine plain. So they had tilled, and planted with the seeds coated in microbial boosters, and they had harvested. Irrigation from the thread of a river came later, when the dry years dragged on. By the time the rains came, there were houses, and small canals, and crops in fields where they could be carefully tended.
The valley sprawled open, wide, with the foothills on either side mere smudges and the mountains whose toes they represented lost entirely in those first stormclouds. The satellites watching with unwinking gaze reported a change in wind direction, and it was then there was a trickle of fear added to the rising current of the river.
Trouble comes softly on tip-toes, sometimes. Creeping in under the cover of night when all are sleeping, lapping at the wooden floors until it oozes between the boards and runs around the legs of the bed.
The rain covered the entire valley like a shroud, pulling in tighter and tighter, and it was heavy enough to conceal the water from the overwatch. The few who were awake found the rain had drawn more than a veil across communications, and their voices were muffled until they could sound no longer.
They had known of the Narrows, of course. The planet had been surveyed and mapped before human feet ever touched the soil of the valley. They had promptly forgotten them, miles away, not bothering anyone or causing any trouble. Just towering over the thread of a stream that might have been a river. No one remembered that what had once been, might be again. When the water came down too fast to push through the confines of the rock there. When the rocks and debris carried on the force of the onslaught plugged it up, on top of the masses that told the story of all the other times this had happened.
By the time the rain stopped, days and weeks later, the long valley had become a long lake. It would drain, given time. The humans would forget, given time. They would forget why houses were never built on low ground, centuries later. Houses were built in the hills. Always. The lowlands were unsafe. They didn’t remember the names of those first people, by then. The names were soaked up and washed away by time. The valley stretched out and on, unchanged, filled with ripples.
I was prompted this week by AC Young with “In the dry season ‘Long Lake Valley’ was a bit of a misnomer. But in the wet season, water flowed into the valley at a faster rate than it could get out the far end, and the Long Lake formed.”
I prompted Padre with “She lay in the water stiff as a board, as though she could refuse to sink.”
You can read all the prompt responses over at More Odds Than Ends, or you can throw a prompt into the hat and play along next week!