What I dreamed last night - Page 7

Doreen saw that boy too. I heard her draw her breath in as she slammed the door shut, trapping the boy and maybe ten others outside our dome of protection. She stayed there, standing with her hand still down on the switches, glaring at her feet, like a malevolent statue. I did nothing but watch the disappointed refugees from my peephole. Most of them were furious, but they didn't have time to spend venting their anger. If they were still there when we extended the bridge in the morning, they could be seriously injured, or even killed. I think that most of them tried to swim back to shore. I'm pretty sure not all of them made it, and the boy certainly didn't, between fatigue and the tangle of rope he was wrapped in, and the rocks that the zombies on the shore were still lobbing uselessly towards our island. I felt terrible. Even Daisy looked a bit grey, and I heard her whisper to herself that "it didn't orta be this way, no way at all".

I went and found Tom in an upstairs exhibit, looking distractedly at Greek statues. I don't think he'd slept all night, but he didn't look especially tired.
   "I'm sorry," I said. I told him about the doors, and opening them to let the older refugees in, and about Doreen closing the doors, and the boy in the pale pink cloak. When I'd finished telling I stood looking at him for a moment, caught up my courage and then said, "So I'm sorry. Please forgive me."
  "What are you sorry for? Opening the door at first and putting us all in danger, or not doing anything to stop Doreen when she closed it to keep us safe?"
  "For not doing anything. For being a coward. I'm sorry."
  "If that's what you're sorry for, I forgive you. I'm glad it was that. I couldn't have forgiven you the first because you weren't wrong. But don't do it again." Behind him, through the window, I watched the sun come up over the city, and the water, and the ancient Greek art, and I knew that times could change. Around Tom, at least.

"What happens now?" I asked him. He grinned his wide grin that suddenly did look tired. "Well," he said, "I seem to have read somewhere that, round about now, the country starts to rebuild its infrastructure after the overthrow of the old "State". People begin to make shielded domes to protect themselves and their families. People start to open their doors for strangers, protecting people they don't even know. Somehow, people learn how to expand their domes, little by little. It takes a while, but the domes grow very big. It turns out that a lot of the zombies weren't zombies at all; they just wanted to fit in and be safe, and never stuck their heads above the parapet. So soon domes grow so big that they start to join up, and overlap; one day people realise there's hardly anyone outside the domes anymore. A few people even gain the confidence to go outside the domes, to reach out and care for the ones that have always been kept outside: the genuinely crazy ones and the drunks and the drug-addicts and the few really hardened criminals. And then everyone has a place, or so the fairytale I heard runs." His smile had twist in it, but I didn't mind right now.

"That's nice." I said, "The sun's come up, and the place is still standing. That's nice. But I'm out of my time, and I don't think I'll fit in here, and my future history isn't as good as yours. I don't want a lecture, or lesson. What happens now? Where do I go?" I'd walked out of my own life and my own time, following the man who was locked up for no good reason, and he could at the least offer some advice.
  "Where do you go?" he mused, "Where do you go? You know, I haven't the faintest idea... I think I read something about the others, in the time of the reconstruction, Will and Daisy and Philip. I think I read something. But... to be honest, whatsyername, I don't know where you go. So maybe it's a matter of when." He gave me another smile.
  "This place will last for centuries," I said. "Is the future a better world?"
  "That's the theory. In practice..."
   "...it could be." I said firmly.

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