Chapter 21 Summary
Jean and George wait on the island as the Overlords’ ship approaches. Jean remembers when, not long before, Jeff had been saved from death by the Overlords. However, she thinks that at least death is something she could understand as a part of the cycle of life. Men had died before, but at least the human race survived. But not this time.
Below, the children cluster in groups without sound or movement. They have no more interest in each other than in the homes and parents they are leaving behind. Some of the children hold babies that are unable to walk. George wonders why the ships are collecting them at all, if they can move inanimate objects with their mental powers. He thinks back to a newsreel showing the children of London being evacuated during the Second World War. He remembers how they waited to load onto the trains as the parents, whom they would never see again, wait for their departure. But George knows that history is not repeating itself. Those who are leaving now are no longer children, and there will be no reunion.
The ship lands at the water’s edge, and the panels rise and the gangways extend. George at first sees the children as lonely figures but realizes that only individuals can be lonely. The children are part of a single entity. Jean squeezes his hand and tells him that she can see Jeff. As they watch, their son turns around and looks, but they cannot tell if he is looking at them. As the ship’s doors close, Fey the dog begins to moan, separated from her master. George realizes that he no longer has a rival for the dog’s affections.
The adults who are left have many choices to make. Some decide that the world is still beautiful, so they will enjoy it until they are forced to leave it by death. Others had set their hopes on the future, which has disappeared with their children. Alone or in groups, they leave this life by their own will. The island of Athens has decided to end their experiment together. No one is supposed to know when the end will come, but Jean, with her heightened consciousness still in action, awakens out of a sound sleep and reaches for George. They go to the nursery, where Jennifer Anne’s toys still lay scattered about. They hold each other as the nuclear bomb explodes and obliterates the island.