For no apparent reason (this is a song, not a story, so I'm pretty economical with exposition) nearly every tetrapod on Earth has vanished, and water is gone from the oceans. Just sort of hand-waved out of existence; too many clouds if it all evaporated.

The viewpoint character, the only remaining tetrapod we know about, is sitting on the lawn of a hotel in coastal New England looking out to sea, or what used to be the sea. There's nothing but mud. The water went away, leaving fish, whales, a thousand thousand slimy things, etc. (What? Whales are tetrapods? Look, a guitar solo!)

It's been six or eight weeks since what I'll call The Event. What would a former harbor smell like? I don't want to dwell on anything ghoulish or disgusting, but it's a key part of the scene.

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    $\begingroup$ Has all the salt gone too or just the water? (If it dries up in true evaporating fashion you could well have a lot of dead but salted fish... $\endgroup$ May 9, 2017 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ Eight week old dead is an aroma like no other. It sort of burns your nostrils and makes your throat close up in self defense. It's smells so bad that you can taste it for weeks afterwards and just the memory of that smell is enough to make bile rise. Song lyrics about purification! Who said that punk is dead. $\endgroup$ May 9, 2017 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ @LioElbammalf Good question. I'll say the water and anything in solution in it. Sand stays, krill stays, dissolved minerals go. If the oceans just evaporated, there'd be too many clouds. $\endgroup$ May 9, 2017 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ In addition to everything else that the ocean does for us, it also produces a lot of our oxygen and fills the planet's lowest valleys and crevices. Its volume adds to the volume of the atmosphere above it, thus contributing to our preferred air pressure.. If the ocean suddenly disappeared, much of our atmosphere would rush down into its now empty space. Your singer, standing on a dock at what we currently call sea level, might not have enough air pressure above him to carry his music, catch his breath or smell all the death that surrounds him. $\endgroup$ May 9, 2017 at 20:35
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    $\begingroup$ This sounds like the sort of question you'd find on what-if.xkcd.com. Have you considered posting it to there? $\endgroup$
    – CaM
    May 12, 2017 at 19:57

1 Answer 1


The ocean is responsible of absorbing a large quantity of the heat Earth receives from the sun, and stabilizing Earth's rotation and atmosphere. Since the Earth's temperatures would be drastically different between day and night, and the atmosphere would also be greatly disturbed by the sudden new topography of the surface, you could expect the rotting process of sea and land animals to be incredibly fast. I'd expect the air to be unbreathable (if this word exists) between 2-3 weeks from the Event.

Your lone tetrapod survived six weeks. Air is bathed in death's perfume, but he doesn't care anymore.

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    $\begingroup$ What's your source for the oceans stabilizing the rotation of the earth? $\endgroup$ May 12, 2017 at 16:47
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    $\begingroup$ Here's all the info I can find about the ocean's affects on the planet's rotation. And I wouldn't call it "stabilizes." $\endgroup$ May 12, 2017 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ Erm yeah, feel free to edit it if you find a better word for that :P $\endgroup$
    – FireSarge
    May 12, 2017 at 22:48

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