11:00 pm – continued
Mother and daughter joined Nick in the living space. He was waiting for them, sharply dressed in a charcoal gray suit. He smiled and nodded at Iris’s choice of dress and then hurried everyone out the door. He wanted to make sure they were in the ballroom as the ship left Earth; he had always wanted to see what the Earth looked like from above with his own eyes.
The hallway was already full of families and individuals making their way towards the ballroom. The wait staff was now lining the hallways, directing people in the correct direction. Nick, Rose, and Iris just clung to each other and followed the crowd. A quick glance out the round windows told them the warehouse walls had fallen away, revealing they were located in the middle of a huge field of overgrown grass and weeds.
They were still heading for the ballroom when three dings rang throughout the ship. The crowd, being bright people and having learned once already, was pretty sure the captain was going to come on the intercom with some new tidbit of information. They were no longer surprised, so everyone just kept heading towards the ballroom. Whatever the captain had to say could still be heard while everyone was walking and asking for directions, as long as their voices didn’t rise too loudly.
“Take off is imminent. While this craft was designed for effortless take off and you shouldn’t feel a thing other than a slight disturbance, we nevertheless suggest you hold on to something, especially if you are prone to becoming unbalanced. Thank you.”
A few grumbles could be heard in the crowd as some individuals gravitated to the walls and used them to prop themselves up. They didn’t hear or feel anything different for the next few minutes. Iris frowned and looked around as they walked along, wondering if they had taken off or not. She was too short to see around the crowd to look out the windows, so she inwardly shrugged and continued walking with her family. If the ballroom had windows, she would find out soon enough if they were airborne.
The ballroom was large and had more than enough room to accommodate a crowd of three hundred. It was decorated in gold and blue hues, filled with streamers and balloons. Half of the space was filled with large rectangular tables full of food platters and smaller, round tables for people to sit at. In the middle of the ballroom, against one wall, a DJ had been set up and music was already playing. Some of the people immediately recognized the tune, but Iris was sure she had never heard it before, so didn’t pay it any attention. About half of the wall space was comprised entirely of large concave windows that, sure enough, told people the ship was in the air.
Nick led his family over to an empty table as most of the crowd rushed for the windows to ooh and ahh at the sights. He figured now would be the time to claim a table while everyone else was occupied. Rose settled her curious daughter in the chair next to hers, promising Iris she would be able to get up and take a look once the crowd by the windows subsided a little. In the meantime, Nick went to get some snacks for them.
“How are you doing, honey?” Rose asked, toying with a lock of her daughter’s hair.
“I miss Alice, Mommy,” Iris said, turning watery eyes on her mother. “Is she really going to die?”
“Oh, honey,” was all Rose could say.
Iris looked away. She didn’t really want to know anyways. She would have her answer soon enough if she saw the world explode. Swallowing hard, she blinked a few times to keep back her tears. If she cried anymore, she knew she was going to get a headache.
Finally, the crowd around the windows began to melt away as people made a beeline for the food or grabbed a partner to sway to the music. Iris watched them all with a feeling of fascination. Everyone was dressed in their finest clothes. The men all wore suits. Even the boys wore some semblance of a suit. The women were all in floor length gowns like her mother’s, long and flowing with a decorative neckline and nipped in waists. The teenage girls wore shorter, tighter dresses and the younger girls, around Iris’s age, wore dresses like hers. There were muted, pastel, and even neon colors and they seemed to swirl around her as people streamed by their table.
“Okay, sweetie,” Rose said near Iris’s ear. “There are fewer people if you want to go look outside. Just don’t go too far away, okay? We don’t know the people here.”
Iris nodded and slid off her chair. Without looking back, she made a mad dash for the windows and pressed her hands to one window panel to frame her face as she stared out into the night at the quickly falling away ground. Earth was getting further and further away with every heartbeat and the stars were getting closer as they floated higher into the atmosphere. She could see sparkling lights far below her and assumed they were cities and parties. She wondered how many people were going to die in less than an hour, and what they were doing in their last moments of life. The dark earth just kept receding as her heart kept beating and she kept breathing, which she knew now were going to continue after midnight.
Tears filled her eyes as she thought of her friends, particularly Alice, and her beloved former nanny. They were going to die and she would never get to see them again. The tears spilled onto her cheeks as she pressed her nose to the window, watching the ground get further and further away, leaving behind her friends forever.
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