After the history lesson was over, the children of Kay’s class gathered in the playroom on B deck, talking excitedly among themselves. Overhead, through the screens, the stars were a belt flung across the velvet-black cloth of space, but nobody spared a look. They’d only seen it every day of their lives.
“So that’s why they left the old planet,” Peetu said. He was big and dark, and Kay was afraid of him because he was so rough. “I asked my mum about it, but she said they left because there were other worlds to conquer.”
“That’s what my dad said too,” Juno put in. She had a crush on Peetu so strong that everyone knew it except Peetu himself, and agreed with everything he said. “He said...” she put on an exaggerated accent. “...the old planet was getting worked out. There was nothing left to discover, so they decided to sail out into the wide open spaces.”
Everyone laughed, even Kay. Juno was a good mimic. “But it was a nice planet,” she said. “Look at all the animals and plants they showed us. The pines, the whales, the dogs...”
“The hippos,” someone said. It was Teddie, who was long-legged, slim and had a narrow, anxious face. “I loved the hippos. So nice and squashy. I wish I had a hippo of my own.”
“It would probably make a mess,” Juno told her. “And it would probably bite you.”
Teddie glared at her. “You really can’t let anyone else have a little fun, can you?”
There was a quarrel developing. Kay hated quarrels. “It doesn’t matter,” she said quickly. “Remember what the teacher said? All of it, hippos, dogs, pines, they were all gone long before we left the planet.”
“Yes...” Peetu rubbed his nose. “Remember the video of the nuclear wars? All those mushroom clouds. That was really cool.”
“Oh shut up,” Teddie snapped. “And you saw what happened afterwards? All the dead rivers and the sea filled with sludge, the sky black with smoke. You saw all that?”
Peetu shrugged. “They’d already killed everything with pollution anyway,” he said. “Hey, you know what?”
“What?” Juno asked.
“It must have been a really lousy planet, or otherwise why would they have thrown it away like that?”
Everyone sat considering that statement.
“The dolphins...” Kay began. She had a sudden vision of sleek black bodies leaping from a sunlit sea, full of joy and energy. “The dolphins...”
“What about the dolphins?” Peetu asked. Everyone looked at Kay, waiting for an answer. She blushed.
“Nothing. Forget it.”
“Well,” Peetu said, turning away, “that’s school done for today. Hey, anyone found any good video games lately?”
“I did,” Juno said, and playtime was on.
Copyright B Purkayastha 2015