…and watched another helicopter lift from the pad outside the premier suites.
Curious, he ran to the observation point and looked down at the sea. It was now up to the second row of portholes, even pouring in through a couple that had been left open.
Occasionally, the ship would shudder or tilt and he’d see the crew in the bridge – on the deck below the suites – work frantically to keep the ship steady.
He looked at all the people sitting about, playing games or just strolling, occasionally pointing out the distant shores of foreign countries. Deprecating laughter usually followed that.
Puzzled, he ran to his father.
“Daddy, the ship is still sinking.”
“I told you before: no, it’s not. The going’s a little heavy at the moment – that’s why we’ve slowed down – but it’ll be fine tomorrow.”
“Come and look over the side! The lower decks are underwater!”
“That’s just a problem with being poor, son. Sometimes you don’t get to see the sun from wherever you are.”
“Now, son. That’s enough of your nonsense. We’ll be fine, the director of the shipping line is on board with us, and he says there’s nothing to worry about.”
Another helicopter lifts off.
The boy points at it.
“Then why are they all leaving?”
“They’re important people, son. They’ve got important things to do. Can’t always make money while cruising about on a luxury liner drinking champagne and eating canapés.”
The boy turns to look at his mother. She’s chatting about celebrity fashion with the woman sat at the next table.
“Don’t think about disturbing you mother, either. She’s busy.”
The boy wanders off. Another helicopter lifts. He walks along the deck until he finds a stairway. Going up that, he walks back until he’s standing outside the bridge.
As he waits for the door to open, another helicopter flies away.
The door opens. He quickly darts inside. Walking up to a man in an impressive hat, he taps the man’s arm.
“Excuse me. Is the ship sinking?”
The man jumps, then looks down.
“Well hello, young man. Did your father send you?”
“No. I came on my own because my daddy says there’s nothing wrong, but I can see the ship is sinking if I go and look.”
“Now why would you want to worry yourself like that? We’ll keep the ship stable for a while yet.”
“But it is sinking?”
A man wearing an impressive and imposing hat comes over.
“Yes. Been doing it for a long time, but now it’s getting quicker.”
“So why aren’t we all abandoning ship? Getting into lifeboats, rafts…” the boy stops – he can’t recall seeing any lifeboats, or even lifebuoys, now he thinks about it.
“Well, now. That would be a bit hasty, wouldn’t it? All that shouting and panicking would disturb the premier members who are queueing to leave. Can’t have that.”
“What happens after they’ve gone?”
The man in the impressive and imposing hat beams at the man in the impressive hat, who smiles.
“Why, we can get on with sinking properly, of course. The officers will arrange for their bridge duties to be covered, then leave on the staff helicopter. After that, the crew will help the passengers run about aimlessly, thinking they’re going to be saved, until the whole ship tips up and slides into the depths, taking all but a few of those aboard down with it.”
The man in the impressive hat takes it off, then leans over to whisper to the other man.
“The staff helicopter isn’t there. They needed the space for an emergency champagne reserve and some vaccine refrigerators.”
The man in the impressive and imposing hat nods and smiles.
“We’ll be going down with the ship, then.”
The boy looks back and forth between the men, his expression one of disbelief.
“Why don’t you go and take one of those helicopters on the premier deck?”
“Can’t do that, young man. They’re very important people. They’ve got important things to do. Can’t waste their time drowning.”
He puts his impressive hat back on and smiles at the one in the impressive and imposing hat.
“Stewards say that salmon is off the menu as the freezer section is a bit submerged. We could serve the prawn cocktail on a plate and add it to the menu as ‘Poor Man’s Buffet Salad’?”
“Excellent idea! Also, I think we should double the complementary champagne allocation for each table, add a gratis bottle of spirits to each breakfast bar, and make the all the TV channels free for the day – it looks like tomorrow will be choppy. People will need a distraction: these vessels handle like drunkards put outside at closing time when they’re half full of water.”
The boy raises a hand.
“You’ve been on a ship like this before?”
“Yes. All the big ships are owned by Capitalism or one of it’s subsidiaries. Sinking is part of the long-term strategy. After all, nobody important ever goes down with th-“
The two men look at each other.
The boy leaves to find his sister, remembering the steak knives he saw by the stacked plates on the hostess trolley. They’re getting on a fucking helicopter, even if he has to stab and bite every bastard who gets in their way.