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Literature / This Is How Floods Begin

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This Is How Floods Begin is a short story by Kir Bulychev, first published in 1967.

An astronaut from Earth is stranded on a distant planet after a catastrophe. He finds out that the Hummingbird, a ship from Earth with qualified doctors and up-to-date equipment, is coming to his aid, but he also knows that it shall arrive in about forty days, while with his injuries, he only has a few days to live. However, the local doctor suddenly seems to have an idea to save him.

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Tropes featured in the story:

  • Alien Sky: The sky of the planet is fully covered (for the better part of the year) in "silver clouds". From the ground, they look like an endless mirror that reflects the ground in detail.
  • Alternative Calendar: The planet's day equals about twenty-two Earth hours, and it's divided into periods and slices.
  • Bizarre Seasons: The planet's year is divided into two seasons: the one with the silver clouds and the one without them. When the clouds are in the sky, the weather can be like anything.
  • Clock Tampering:
    • A young man tampers with the clock of the city tower to make it go slower. It makes dawn arrive late.
    • Later, the Planet Council sets the major clocks forward to save the astronaut's life. As it turns out, the minor clocks and wristwatches were also tampered with, because the Hummingbird arrives five hours early.
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  • Determined Doctor: The doctor isn't giving up on the astronaut, despite the latter's horrible condition and the fact that to ensure his survival, the planet's inhabitants have to hugely mess with time.
  • Hypochondria: Played with. The doctor constantly complains about the numerous diseases he supposedly has, trying to distract the astronaut from the latter's own condition.
  • Hypocrisy Nod: Dr. Brodsky insists that the astronaut isn't allowed to smoke and then begins smoking himself.
    Brodsky: Patient! What is permissible for Jupiter, is not permissible for?
  • No Name Given: We never learn the protagonist's name, or the planet's name, for that matter.
  • Stepford Smiler: The doctor, as the astronaut’s condition worsens. As he sees the data from the latter’s life support machines, he starts whistling a merry tune. The patient quickly figures out this means the situation’s really bad.
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