This was his second lift ride into the Flipside in August. Eight years as an Accident Inspector, and he had never visited the Flipside twice in a month. This year alone, he had clocked twenty visits.
Kevin sighed. He already spied the splotch of red on the glass far below.
From above, the Flipside’s workers looked like little blue crabs, scurrying across the sea floor. Kevin hated the lift ride for many reasons, one being the rank wind, carrying odors of sweat and oil that would spill through the lift’s open doors. The Flipside was constantly in a state of dank heat, with the engines burning hot, propelling the floating island of New Singapore away from waves of rolling thunderstorms.
As he observed the labyrinth of pipes, the turbines whirring, Kevin wondered what his life would have been like if he had passed the Meteorology entrance exams. Grand Meteorologists never visited the Flipside, never had to observe the mechanisms that made their work possible—unlike Kevin, who was here every month to log deaths as accidents. Every death an accident. If he kept up his performance, his supervisor had told him, maybe at the end of the year he could retake the exams.
The lift came to a stop, and Kevin shuffled to the site of the accident, holding his breath. Some workers stopped to stare, recognising from the sheen of his skin that he was a New Singaporean. For most Flipsiders, their last sunlight was years ago, when they first clambered onto the sides of New Singapore, adrift in their dinghies. They were survivors, their own countries eroding under the weight of the ocean. Now, after years in the Flipside, their skin had become pallid, the whites of their eyes a pale yellow, their muscles atrophied. The sagging skin on their bodies made Kevin feel itchy.
After ten years of service, these workers would be allowed onto the surface. Finally, New Singaporeans.
Despite the thousands of Flipsiders toiling endlessly, Kevin had only ever seen a handful make it to the citizenship conferment ceremony.
He ducked low under the tape to observe the Flipsider’s body closer. Most of it had become unrecognisable on impact, just a sack of death, spilling out of the worker’s dark overalls. Kevin held his nose with one hand, and reached into the pocket. A dark blue ID card, laminated, tucked away.
Three months from his conferment ceremony.
The ID card looked like his own, the same one he needed to travel to the Flipside. Except Kevin’s was a seaweed-green and allowed two-way transit. Still, it was nothing compared to the iridescent yellow card of the Grand Meteorologists.
Four more months. Four more months and that golden card would be in reach, pulling him far away, away from this sack, insides spilling out of a fractured shell, away from the Flipside forever.
The labourer had slipped. That is what happened. He slipped.
‘Flipside’ is part of a series of micro-fiction pieces around the theme Speculative Futures in the Climate Crisis. Enjoyed this story and want to read more? Let us know!