THE DARKEST DAY.
Matt and Mary had still not reached their parents.
The despondent mood in the Maith living room was palpable.
Mary, at the left edge of the sofa, curled like a ball underneath two brown blankets. She had stopped sobbing long ago; she had become stationary, speechless, convinced her mother and father were dead.
Even the normally gregarious and loquacious Matt was flabbergasted. He rested on the floor, in front of his father’s recliner. He tilted downward, revealing his frizzed hair, his palms firmly implanted on his cheeks.
An equally exhausted Jesse and Sarah sat on the opposite side of the sofa. She leaned her head against Jesse’s chest as she stretched out her legs.
In the past three hours, he had assumed control of contacting Bob and Stacy. He logged thirty-six missed calls.
So profound was their collective enervation, coupled with their attention spans drained, they did not notice what was occurring on the holoTV.
“My fellow Freedomers,” began a despondent-looking Francis Stewart while seated in a dark corner of the Marvelous Room.
A large DRF flag was positioned to his right on a pitch-black background, and bright lights highlighted sweat pouring on his head and on to his three-piece suit with loosened red tie.
“Today… is the darkest day… in our nation’s young history.” The pauses in Stewart’s initial statement showed dramatic effect. “A cowardly attack was perpetrated upon our Capital city and its surrounding areas. At 816hrs, the Special Ops Corps of New Alaska detonated a TSUNAMIBOMB in the Hudson River, causing a tidal wave reaching two hundred feet high, spread out over a five-mile radius. The devastation, injuries, and potential loss of life can only be described as catastrophic. I have deployed all branches of our Divine Military within said radius, and we pray for their safety and for that of the first responders, the victims, and their loved ones. The Divine Republic of Freedom condemns the attacks committed by New Alaska, and I call on the rest of the world to do the same.”
As they watched, Jesse and Sarah silently scoffed. Despite the circumstances, Stewart’s words meant nothing to them; it was same phony eloquence they expect.
When Stewart the 10-0 SAA decision to declare war in retaliation, they didn’t flinch.
His next statement drew their full attention.
“Besides this unanimous declaration, I would like to announce that I have invoked the second indentation. The DRF will implement a military draft for Freedomian men and women ages fourteen through twenty. Notices will be sent within two weeks.”
A shocked Jesse thrusted forward.
“Jesse!” a startled Sarah implored. “What the heck was that?”
“Did you hear what he said?! The Tipster was right! By Joshua, that’s what Harrison was referring to when he hinted I must use my talents for more than just football!”
Then a shriek reverberated in the room.
“DAD!” Matt and Mary simultaneously screamed. They sprinted to Bob, who had just walked through the front door, and vigorously embraced him, knocking his black briefcase out of his hands.
Bob, however, appeared surprised by their reaction.
“Whoa! Easy!” he said as he nonchalantly returned his children’s embrace.
“Why didn’t you return any of our calls?” Jesse implored as he approached his uncle. “Where’s Aunt Stacy?!”
“I haven’t heard from her! No one else has, either?”
“She was close to the epicenter of the attack!” Mary shrieked. “We’ve all tried a million times! Nothing!”
“You work near the epicenter, too!” Jesse growled. “How did you get out of New York?”
Bob sighed and walked toward his recliner and sat down. “I’m sorry, everyone,” he replied with a hint of nervousness in his voice. “I was scheduled to work from home today, but Lonnie and I got summoned to an emergency meeting in Chicago, and I had to leave at 530 before you all woke up. I took the company’s private warpcraft from Teterboro to Chicago. As soon as we got word of the attack, we immediately chartered our craft to zoom back. But because of the insane amount of airspace delays, we didn’t get back to Teterboro until a half hour ago.”
Jesse scowled at his uncle. “Warpcraft flights from Chicago take thirty minutes! There were no reports of flights being grounded! How could it have taken that long to –“
“SHUT UP JESSE!” Mary snapped. “He’s safe! That’s the most important thing right now!”
“Cuz, I’ve had enough of your conspiracy theories!” Matt yelled. “Why can’t you just believe him for once?”
“Jeez, guys! I just asked an honest question!” Jesse pled.
“You know,” Mary continued, “Jesse, you may not get along with my dad, but I still love him, and he’s still your uncle!”
“Exactly!” Matt added.
“OH PLEASE!” Jesse shrieked. “YOU HYPOCRITES CRITICIZE HIM AS MUCH AS I DO!”
They both snapped and charged Jesse with the speed of a predator attempting to capture its prey. Bob then separated his children immediately prior to them contacting Jesse, and Sarah interlocked her arms underneath his shoulders.
Matt and Mary both continued to fixate their bloodshot eyes on Jesse’s weary ones as the three each trembled with outrage.
“Jesse, stop!” Sarah implored. “They’re still upset and fighting them is not worth it!”
“I don’t care you know what it’s like to lose…” Mary growled.
“STOP IT! ALL OF YOU!” Bob shrieked, wisely cutting Mary off before she could make a statement that would officially destroy her relationship with her cousin. “It’s obvious we’re all upset, but the last thing we need right now is to point fingers! We need to keep faith! Now, I sincerely apologize to all of you for not leaving a text or a note about my meeting in Chicago. It was a poor judgment call. As far as my wife, I assume she left at her normal time!”
“She was out the door before we all woke up!” Matt entreated.
“Well, she didn’t tell me that,” Bob replied. “Did any of you see the Jacobsons?”
“Yes,” Jesse replied, “but they were preparing to invade the New Alaskan embassy with their rifles in a fit of revenge, and they seemed more interested in that than ensuring we were safe!”
“They have become a lot angrier in recent months, that’s for sure,” Bob replied. “Look, I will try to reach some contacts I know near where she works. Maybe I’ll get lucky. Matthew and Mary, I know it’s going to be tough, but don’t drive yourself insane attempting to contact your mother right now. As for you, Jesse, if you have any other ideas, I’d like to hear them.”
“Yeah, I have an idea,” Jesse sarcastically retorted, “come up with a more plausible explanation for your deviance! Come on, Sarah, let’s go to your house. No one here wants me, anyway!”
Jesse grabbed Sarah’s hand and led her past his family and towards the front door. Bob pled with them to stay, but was rebuffed.
“Off to a conspiracy theory safe space, huh?” Matt yapped as they walked by him. “Project drink, or something?”
“RIP OFF YOUR BALLS, HARLOWCANE BOY!” Jesse snapped, then exited the house with Sarah silently leading behind.
As the door slammed, Matt, Mary and Bob Maith re-embraced each other and wept.