They had met in Singapore in one of those student hotels and immediately fell in love, having so many things in common in addition to young age. One of these common loves was their passion for Indonesia-and they decided on the spot to take a long trip to the big near island of Sumatra. They spent there a happy month, reaching the southern tip of the island, by Banden Lamsung, where, on the coast, directly on the ocean, they had found a cheap and cosy small pension. The owner, a British couple already in their seventy, developed a strong affection for the two young people, and proposed to them to take over their pension- they, in their old age, wanted to go back to Liverpool. Bob and Linda, overwhelmed by a wave of enthusiasm, had quickly organised a fund rising by their friends in California and succeeded in meeting the modest request of the couple.
To tell the truth, Linda felt a kind of doubt, or suspect, arising in her mind at the hurry by which the two older people wanted to get rid of their property and leave. But the emotion for that new adventure with Bob was too great to let space to unproper questions.
And things were functioning well - with British tourists filling their four guest rooms, arriving from Jakarta by drone or by an old-fashioned helicopter. And so, their two children came to the world, Jimmy and Valentina- who now were already respectively eight and six years old.
But things were now not going too well. The cause was something they had never thought of. The cause was the rising level of sea water, due to climate change. Yes, something they used to hear in the news about, but never as something which might interest them really.
Now instead Bob was daily listening to the news. He learned, disconcerted, that the city of Jakarta was been abandoned, being already half-submerged by water; the capital has been already shifted to the island of Borneo, and that there was a lot of troubles due to the million people who had to be evacuated and transferred in new areas.
The big smile of Bob, which once characterised his elongated face, was long gone, and the two children were often looking at his grim face, with open eyes, without daring to ask questions.
But they knew about the water level. It was enough to look at the swamps now almost surrounding their house- where up to a few years back there was there a green golf camp.
-Papi! - this was the small Valentina, who was always asking questions - What is this water? And will it go away soon?
-Darling, listening, it is a complex thing. This is water from the sea, from the ocean. It is like that, dear. The sea level has been arising one centimetre every year for the last three years, and now... well... will increase even faster. It will be what we call a non-linear, exponential growth. Too difficult to explain to you. But there will be more and more water coming.
-I read in the Internet that it will be a non-linear increase, papi - this was Jimmy who had even more difficult questions - What does this mean?
-Well, if you make ten steps in a linear increase, you go from one to, say, ten centimetre-right? If you make ten steps always doubling, namely you go 1,2,4,8,18 and so on... in ten steps you reach one thousand centimetres, namely one hundred meters! And if you make twenty steps in this doubling way, you reach one million meters.
-I don't believe it! - exclaimed Valentina.
-I agree, it is impossible! - added Jimmy - Come Valentina, let's make the calculations together at the computer, I will show it to you. We will show to papi how wrong he is.
-They are lovely|- said Linda from behind, putting a hand on his shoulders. And she noticed again how Bob's shoulders, just in three years, had lost all muscles, and the head had taken that bending forwards, which reminded her of her grandfather, in Florida, so many years back.
-I am worried, Linda, and you know. For them, mostly.
-You have read so much about the rising water, Bob. You know all what there is to know - she made a pause - then tell me: What shall we do?
Bob for an answer, was shaking his head. And he said:
-The neighbours around us have begun to move away. Even the native Malaysian fishermen, who used to bring us bananas and coconuts, have stopped coming.
-There are nice people, always so friendly. Particularly that tall one, with the beard, the one you used to call Robinson... And their children, when they came, loved to play with Jimmy and Valentina. I wonder what they can do, with their wooden stilt houses. By now, Bob, the level of water has certainly reached their living level.
-No, I don't think so. I remember that the first floor of Robinson' stilt house was a couple of meters above the water level.
-They have two or three rooms. But they are many in the family, let's see, maybe fourteen? All his brothers, and also all wife's brothers and their families...
A long silence. They were watching the children who were playing on the computer.
-I feel responsible, Linda. I should have organised a flight back long ago when the helicopter was still working. Now we should organize our escape by our pick-up, now that the roads are still practicable.
-You think we should leave, right?
-Absolutely, Linda, there is nothing else to do.
-And we can try to get a flight from Singapore - said Linda looking at him in the eyes - would we go to my grandfather in Florida?
-No, Linda. Did you hear the news? Florida is partly already submerged. And all the US East coast is in danger, even up to New York. Ten million Americans are being evacuated.
-And where will they go?
-They are debating this. You realize: ten million people! where do you put them? The Governor of California has sent the army to the border, so as to prevent an invasion.
-You were right for once, papi! - cried Jimmy running and coming back - But I do not understand why, now, all at a sudden, this gigantic change? I mean, papi, from linear to non-linear... on the Internet they call it exponential...
-See, Jimmy, suppose you have a building, and you begin to take out one brick from the bottom, one, two, ten, twenty... one at a time... Nothing happens for a while, but then...
-...all of a sudden, the entire building collapses!
-Right! And this is what happened with all our glaciers... the big reserves of ice in the Arctic.
-And the Internet was saying that, if all ice of the earth would melt, the sea level would increase by six meters! And all New York would be underwater.
-Oh gosh, imagine! - said Valentine moving her eyeglasses to the tip of her nose, which was a sign of her profound concern - Flying then over New York City, you would see only the tips of the skyscrapers and nothing else! Just water!
-But papi, the Internet says that they had foreseen all this almost one hundred years ago! Why the grown-ups have not prevented it?
-Yes, tell us papi! If you all knew it, why didn't you do something in time? And you, papi, what did you do?
Bob emitted a loud sigh, shacked the head, looked at his wife before speaking, then said:
-Everybody knew, but the decision of what to do is in the hands of the politicians, who in turn are linked with all those large international corporations, who have all interest to continue business as usual. Extracting, selling and burning oil.
-But they didn't think of what would happen, also to themselves?
-Hard to say, Jimmy. But greed, here and now, appears to be the most powerful driving force of our old civilization.
-But is not simply so! - entered Linda - There has been a lot of fight, with so many good people organizing rallies in the big cities and writing books and giving speeches...
-And what you and mami have done? Were you also protesting?
-It is late now -said Bob again, clearly in a heavy mood - Let's go to bed, and we will see tomorrow what to do.
Bob and Linda accompanied the two children to bed, on the ground floor of their house, and went up to their room.
-I will prepare the suitcase for the children - said Linda. And begun to work in silence.
Bob didn’t say anything, sat thoughtfully on the edge of their bed. They could not sleep. The night resounded of the call of the birds in the nearby woods, bird' voices which sounded full of fear. And the barking of the dogs of the neighbours- why also the dogs were not able to sleep? Linda was holding herself tight at the body of Bob, clenching her firsts. With eyes open, she waited until the first light of the new day entered through the window. And it was at that moment that Jimmy and Valentina run up the stairs into their room.
-Mami! Papi! The water is in our room! Till our ankles!
Bob run down, and it was really so. The sea level had undergone a sudden jerky increase.
-I have to run to the pick-up, to save it! - cried Bob.
-But the roads will be a lake, Bob! We are trapped!
They, all four, holding each other, went on their porch- or what was their porch till the day before. Now, at the weak, uncertain daylight, they could see from there only water, quiet water, with the crispy surface barely moved by the fresh wind.
Water, water all around till the line of the horizon, where water and sky united in a dangerous grey.
Valentina started to cry, grasping the legs of the mother. Linda was watching the water with open mouth. Bob was pale as never before and he felt his legs yielding- he made a great effort of standing up.
-We should walk towards the road! - he said.
-Where to? - yelled back Linda. -The children! our children, Bob! Look around-water and only water!
The four people clustered together, now also Jimmy was crying. And Linda too. Then they stopped crying. Silence. Even the water seemed quiet around them.
-Look! - cried Jimmy all of a sudden.
-What is that?
-A boat- answered Bob trying to regain his calm- a canoe coming towards us.
-Oh! -this was Linda- I see...yes, I see Robinson. He is so tall... and I recognise his white beard...
-They are coming here - said Bob - I wonder why.
The canoe came to the porch, and Robinson began to talk in his language, moving quickly his arms and hands.
-What does he say? - asked Linda.
-I am not sure... - answered Bob - but I believe he wants us to go into the boat and go with him.
-Yes! - said Jimmy who could understand better the native language - He says we should go and live with them.
-They are so generous. But they are so poor. How could we live all there? - Linda was crying again.
-We will do so. We have no other choice - said Bob.
They were sitting, all four together, at the back of the boat. Robinson and two other men were roaring vigorously. Valentina looked outside-water and water- and said:
-Mami, is just like the Bible, how was it, that God decided to kill all men on Earth?
-I am glad you remember the Bible, darling. Yes, this is all in the Old Testament. Men had behaved so badly, that God decided to undo his creation and bring all back to chaos and darkness.
-Then it was a punishment that God gave us, right? But then there was Noah, right?
-Yes, Noah was such a pious man, that God decided to spare him, and ordered him to prepare a big ark- a large boat- where he should collect all animals, one male and one female of each species, and so he did. And when the deluge came, and rained and rained, all land was submerged and all living species died. But not Noah, nor his family and his animals.
-And then he sent a dove...
-Yes, Valentina. Noah sent a white dove out, but the dove didn't find any place to perch-and came back to him.
-And Noah waited another week, and sent the dove again!
-Very good, Valentina!
-And this time the dove came back with an olive leaf in her beak.
-And that meant, that there was land nearby, that water had subsided, and that the deluge was over.
Valentina stood up on the boat and said:
-That is what I will do: I will look in the sky expecting to see a dove with an olive leaf on her beak.