“Come away from the window, Genevieve.”
The little girl turned to her mother. “Why are those people shouting, mama?”
Her mother leaned forwards and tugged her away from the train window. “They are… saying goodbye to us. Wishing us well on our journey.”
Genevieve glanced back out of the window. The people outside didn’t look much like well-wishers. They looked rather angry. She sat back next to her mother with a little sigh, but her eyes remained focussed on the world beyond the window.
Until today, her world had consisted of the mansion and estate; vast acres of perfectly landscaped grounds which had been raised up above the flood levels by her great-grandfather. She knew that there were boat-people, of course, and had even seen some at the Spring Fair, but she had never before seen the floodlands where they lived.
The train passed through them too quickly for her to see very much, of course. Mostly she saw open water with the occasional island sticking up in the distance, and the boat-people moving between them on their wonderfully varied boats. But what concerned her most was the fact the they had seemed to gather all along the train lines to shout and wave their poles as the train passed.
“Mama, why are they so angry?”
Her mother glanced nervously out of the window, as if the boat-people might be able to shatter the protective, quadruple-strengthened windows of the train. She looked down at her daughter and realised she couldn’t pretend they were well-wishers any more.
“They’re just jealous, Genevieve. They know that we’re going to the big ship and they wish that they could go too.”
“Why can’t they go too?”
Genevieve’s question was born of complete innocence. She didn’t know anything about privilege and poverty, because everybody she’d ever known had been as privileged as she was.
“There isn’t enough room on this ship, dearest,” her mother lied smoothly, “So they’ll have to wait for the next one.”
The train pulled into London, gliding smoothly through the water and up to the specially-built transfer station.
“Make sure you have all your bags,” called the conductor as Genevieve and her mother, like the passengers in the other compartments, got ready to leave.
“Put your bonnet back on, Gené,” her mother said, tutting over her wrinkled skirts. “You must look your best.”
They left the train and crossed the station.
“Look up there,” her mother said, pointing up into the sky. A great ship could be seen beyond the clouds, higher and larger than any Zeppelin. “That’s the big ship. Your father is up there waiting for us.”
Bells rang in the distance as they moved up the gangway onto the shuttle that was to transfer them up to the main ship.
“Look, Genevieve!” Her mother pointed across the water. In the distance, the top of an ancient tower could be seen. “It’s Big Ben, risen from the water to ring us a farewell!”
The little girl stopped and solemnly waved to the sunken tower.
“Mama,” she asked, “Will we ever come back?”
Her mother shook her head. “To Earth? I don’t think so, dearest. I don’t think there would be much point. After all, we’ll have an entire world on the ship, and there will be so much out there to see.”
The transfer shuttle’s captain met them at the door.
“Ah,” he said, saluting smartly. “Lady Moore and little Genevieve. The General is awaiting you on board. This way.”
Genevieve took one last glance back at the flooded world she had grown up ignorant of as they stepped through the door and left the Earth behind.
© Kari Fay