When The Air Strikes

By Mariya Nadeem All Rights Reserved ©

Mystery / Adventure

Planning

13

“Zara, please sit down,” Andrew says losing patience with each syllable. I’ve had enough. Normally I would just settle back but there’s hardly anything normal about this situation.

“Please, Andrew. Don’t even try.”

“They’re not just your parents. We’ve lost friends too.”

“Lost? They’re not lost. Well, there’s no proof that you’re worried so why even bother. Why don’t you go recruit some new people so you can grow them like animals on farms for sacrifice? Why don’t you go assert some of your shitty authority on employees you’re going to betray one day? Why don’t you sit all day grinning on the throne you love so much? So much that you can’t even see past your bloody kingdom. You couldn’t stop them, what gives you power to do anything now?”

My head is throbbing and I’m shaking on the balls of my heels. Nikki and Hanna have backed off. It’s a one on one face off. Seeing the sense of defeat dawn on Andrew’s face, I have a maniac urge to laugh.

“Zara, they are my best friends. They are family. They are adults. But, mind you, I’m your Godfather. You’re my little child. It might have escaped your ignorant bubble but I’ve been trying my hardest to communicate with them. I’ve got people keeping a track of signals from Kevin’s radio every single second. Your parents aren’t carrying any other devices for security reasons, which should make it very clear that they’re not on a suicide mission. We’re in this together. We will bring them back. But first of all, we need to calm down and plan it all out.”

I stumble and fall back on the recliner. Burying my head in my hands I murmur loudly against my skin, “I am eighteen Andy. I’m an adult too.”

In that forced light moment we all take in oxygen to our full capacities. The apartment is sucked up of all matter, everything is closing in on us creating vacuum which makes it difficult for sounds to travel across. When Luke gets in, he has his hands held out for an apology, “Whoa, I thought I was in the wrong apartment again. FYI Nikitha, the man in 203 will need a good explanation about shoe marks on his carpet. Why are you all so motionless? I was hoping for a more yay-all-secrets-out-let’s-get-Kevin-and-Brooke-back kind of vibe.” Hanna is flustered, “Not the time, Luke. Not.”

Hanna explains the entire scenario to Luke. The colour on his face drains and his facial muscles twitch in the most unexpected ways, providing a very convenient demonstration of the degree of abnormality we’ve put ourselves in. He throws his hands out, eyes popping at an unbiological level. “Ditto,” is all I can manage.

All of us seat ourselves again. The radio is just lying in the middle as a constant reminder of the fragile chances we have. “Okay,” I begin, “Andrew, have you had any kind of conversations with mum and dad after they left?”

“To be honest I don’t know a lot about their trip. I wished I’d asked, but they wanted it to be a total secret. The mail Kevin sent me on your birthday was the last form of contact I had with them. I replied to his message, but there’s been no answer since then. The signals on the radio are unstable. Just last night, I thought I heard somebody trying to talk but it’s hard to tell, you know.”

“So, what now? Do we sit around this stupid radio till we hear the idiot anchor from the news channel conclude her story with a tragic end?”

I have complete knowledge of regretting everything I say right now. We’re too deep into trouble to be playing the blame game. All of us worried on different levels have had this question in the mind for long. What now? Out of the blue I lung at the radio because I hear somebody speak at the other end, or at least I think I do. It’s just the static teasing my intuition. Hanna has a worried look in her eyes, she shakes her read as if trying to get rid of it, “Okay, I think I have a plan. But no, it’s very impractical. I mean we could be putting another life in danger.” Nikki gasps a little. Calm down, Nikitha. Danger is our domain now. I am so desperate for whatever it is that she has to offer that I tug at her arm a little too hard. “With that recklessness in your attitude, we better call this off now. God, Zara what do you eat?” Not at all meaning it, I say, “Sorry. But maybe you could hurry up.” I think you don’t see it but I am madly anxious.

Hanna rubs her hands a little, giving them a headstart, “Andrew, please don’t be mad at me. But our only chance at this without having to exist with any guilt and regret for the rest of our lives is to send someone behind them. Not a search party, but maybe just one person.”

Good work, Hanna. But wasn’t this exactly what I suggested at the beginning of it all? Andrew has lost it, “We sit in silence for 45 minutes and this is what you come up with.” I love Hanna and there’s no way I can see people be explosively angry at her unless of course that person happens to be me. In her defense, I shout, “Oh, come on Andy, like you weren’t thinking of the same thing the entire time. Actually there is no thought that goes into it. This is the only way out. Now we just have to decide how we do it.”

Andrew is gaping at the wall behind me, “I can’t believe this. I, I just- You know what, forget it. I’m out.” Very funnily, instead of exiting the apartment he just gets into washroom and slams the door behind him. “He’s out, great. Now he’s out. At least we can get down to the real work. Good, he’s out. So, any idea how we’re going to do this?”

A prolonged awkward silence. This is not good.

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