This is the seventeenth part of a fiction serial, in 795 words.
Closing the strange book, Roger placed it on the coffee table. Emily stared across at him. “Now you understand, but you need to know much more”. She turned to Yamada. “Coffee for our guests, I think”.
When the coffee arrived, a subdued Roger and Delia waited untl Emily started speaking again. The sheer enormity of what they had learned so far hadn’t really sunk in, and it was naturally hard to comprehend. But neither of them protested or scoffed. They both believed her.
“I am from what you currently call Germany, at a time in the future when we no longer use place names, dates or calendars that you would recognise. After the various disastrous events you have read about on the recall device, the decision was made to move human civilisation underground. The projects started on each continent, but were not all successful. Britain was not suitable, but colonies were built in Germany and France, also in America, Japan, and Sweden. As you can imagine, this took hundreds of years, and did not include the poorer nations of the world at that time. They were left to fend for themselves, and Russia and China made their preparations in secret”.
Delia had a question that wouldn’t wait.
“So are you really a child of eleven? And what is the role of Riku here?” Emily seemed a little exasperated, but answered anyway.
“I am myself at the age of eleven, as you see me. But where I come from, I am close to what you would consider to be very old. Perhaps eighty, to give you some perspective. But in the future that is not old, as age is irrelevant to a large extent. As for Yamada, he is my guardian in this time period. Tell them, Yamada”.
Riku sat down.
“Okay, so I am from San Francisco, in this time. I am forty-six years old, and have Japanese-American heritage. People like Emily need to have a guardian. They don’t understand how things work in their past, so they need instruction. They also need watching, as they have to be very careful not to get seriously injured or die in this time. That’s why she does no sports, and no swimming. Where she comes from, swimming and sports are unknown anyway. Exercise is also limited, so she tires very easily. Before me, Erika Richter was her guardian, but she was diagnosed with breast cancer, so I was brought over. I used to be the guardian of a Japanese teenager who travelled back to live in San Francisco. But he stupidly went out on his own and was run down by a car. It’s hard to find good guardians, as it is a stressful job involving a lot of care and attention, and a lot of lying!” He smiled at that.
Delia spoke up again. “What about the diamonds? Don’t you have money? How do you cope with everyday expenses, and running the household bills?” He looked at Emily, and she nodded.
“Well no, money as we understand it doesn’t exist in their time. But they have been coming back throughout our history, and used advance knowledge to secure fortunes in valuable stones, gold, anything of value that could be traded. They bought land and houses with it, like this one. It was built for one of them in thirty-eight, before the war. And the house you came to in London was bought by another one of them in the early nineteenth century. Worth a small fortune at today’s value. They have land and houses all around the world, and they pass them on from guardian to guardian in wills. It has worked as a system since the middle ages. Same with all the documents, like Emily’s birth certificate. They just apply for duplicates of people who have died, and use them as needed. Emily Hartmann is not her real name, and she was not born to parents as you and I understand it”.
Emily raised her hand, and he stopped talking. She took over.
“The guardians are well-paid of course, and carefully chosen. None of them have children or close relatives. None of them are married, none have criminal records or bad reputations in their communities. They are set for life, after twenty-five years of service. Given enough valuables to live in comfort, and a house in the country of their choosing. None of them would ever tell their stories anyway, as trying to explain all of this would make people think they were crazy. Unfortunately, Erika contracted cancer, and we had to find a replacement for her. But she will get extra medical treatment, and help at home until she dies”.
She turned to Yamada again. “More coffee. It is going to be a long night”.