Sam had arrived in Green Park not long after midnight, and already there had been hundreds of people there, waiting. Now, nearly five hours later, people were saying that the crowd had spilled out onto the Mall, and into Hyde Park. Apparently, the bods from the BBC had had to send for more speakers, so that the people at the edges would be able to follow what was going on. Five rows from the front, Sam had spent the time watching the camera crews set up and talking to the others around her. She'd had a thermos of hot chocolate, but that was long gone now, and the candle she'd collected at the park's entrance wasn't doing anything to keep her warm.
Similar ceremonies had been taking place all over the world since The Event, and more were being planned, but most of the big ones were planned for right now - exactly seven days after The Event. Of course, pretty much everywhere else in the world it had been a far more civilised hour. Today had been declared a National Day of Mourning, and almost every business had closed down, or was operating on a skeleton staff, so almost everyone here would be able to get some sleep afterwards, at least.
A wave of hush passed over the crowd as the Archbishop of Canterbury stepped onto the stage, flanked by the King and the Prime Minister, their suits sombre and their heads bowed. Sam checked her watch. 5:07. Almost time to begin. The Archbishop opened his mouth and closed it again, and Sam suddenly felt so very sorry for him. The poor man had to say something that would comfort millions of grieving parents; he had to make sense of the most horrible thing that had ever happened. She wanted to cry, not for her own daughter, Zoë, for a change, but for the poor man finding himself in such an impossible position.
"Dear friends, it's been exactly a week since our children vanished," (There had been a handful of adults that disappeared, too, and their friends and communities would have their own vigils, but this ceremony, it had been quietly and tacitly agreed, was to commemorate the loss they all shared.) "And in that week, I've been asked many times 'why would God do this?', and I think the answer to that is clear.
"God is a being of pure love; it is inconceivable to me that He would be so monstrous bring so much pain and misery to so many people by separating all the world's parents from their children. As to why it happened at all, I think all anyone can say is 'we don't know'. Scientists and detectives the world over are searching for an answer to that question, and we can only pray that they can find one. I urge that everyone pray that God finds a way to reunite us with our children; if not in this world, then at least in Heaven."
Sam had never thought of herself as being particularly religious, but being here was a great comfort for her. Being surrounded by so many people in the same position as her, it was just so much more real than it had been. Being told that people cared about her loss, the government, the church, the tens of thousands of people who'd turned out at this miserable hour...
It was a few minutes before she realised that she was crying.
Sam decided to walk home from the train station. It wasn't that far, and after the crowds in London, she wanted a little time alone. Like everyone else, she'd probably spend the day watching TV coverage of the various vigils that had happened around the world, along with analysis and wild speculation of The Event itself - all kinds of explanations had been proposed, from vengeful gods to aliens to something incoherent about electromagnets. Sam just hoped that someone came up with something soon that she could believe. She needed something she could believe.
After a while, she found herself in her local newsagents just as they were opening. Amongst all the magazines with pictures of crying parents, empty schools, CGI embryos, the flags of all nations at half mast, candles... amongst all of these, Global Weekly stood out. The guy on the cover was cute, in a young George Clooney kind of way, and the lead was "Nicolae Carpethescu: The kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being we've ever known". The newsagent caught the look on her face and said "It just got delivered yesterday, miss" - it was obviously a question he'd been asked too many times already.
"GW's an American mag, isn't it?" she asked. "Didn't I hear that The Event was even worse over there?"
"I just sell them, dear," he told her. "But if the monthlies can put out a special edition in a few days, I don't know why they didn't bump a puff-piece about some Bulgarian politician off the cover..."
Sam had started flicking through it. "It says here he's Romanian. Hey, maybe all their staff disappeared, and this was just what was already lined up."
He chuckled. It had been an inappropriate joke, and not a very funny one, but it felt good to laugh about it. "You might just have something there. You know, most people have put that back on the shelf by now."
"You know what?" Sam said, "I think I'll take it. I might need some time away from The Event today." She dropped a Mars Bar on top of it, and fished some change out of her pocket.
As she headed out and turned the corner onto her street, she realised she was smiling. This morning had been good for her, after all.
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