The plan is to continue their journey, but there are no trains going south.
At the station there are just people everywhere. The employees of the rail network who have the misfortune to be on the information desk are surrounded like prophets. On a television screen they see footage shot from a helicopter but it’s difficult to use those pictures to put the flood in context – it looks too much like a movie, too much like something that’s happening to other people.
Outside they find water coming from the sky and water all over the floor but in this town the water is still draining away – whether by geographical design or geographical accident, they feel sure the reasons are geographical. They squash into the pub across the road and find themselves sharing a table with other travellers who are all trying to think and plan their next move. Nobody seems sad or frustrated. Yes, they had wanted to see the other city, the one that was now under water, but really this was just as good – when they get home and people ask if they had gone there, they’ll be able to tell the story about the flood instead.
It’s difficult to find somewhere to stay in the town that night. Everyone in the pub is phoning round the hotels, hostels, inns and bed and breakfasts to enquire about the remote chance of a room, or they are remembering forgotten friends and text them to beg for a berth on a sofa – all in this together and fending for themselves. They drink and joke and discuss their lives with these new people, people who seem just like them. They are disappointed when some of their new acquaintances move on and the group begins to thin out.
Those last remaining few are the ones most like them, the ones who have been slow to plan their next move and are by now just glad of company and over-eager to forge new friendships. Now the flood is not an exciting event, just something to get through. They eat in the pub then go to the cinema where an all-night triple-bill is showing, and that seems like a good place to stay, a place where they can either sleep or watch the films. Or stay awake and stare at the screen, thinking about their situation.
When they finally emerge into the broken new morning, the rain is still falling, but softly now, and the news is that the flood situation in the south has improved. They don’t want to talk about it, not straight away. They don’t want to decide what to do next. They want to spend some moments in silence in the soft rain, thinking their own thoughts.