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Day 2: The Wait (Matt)


Through the cracks in the walls, Matt watched early morning sunlight bleed into the treehouse. They had made the best of a bad situation last night but had gotten next to no sleep. It was hard to relax when black, egg-shaped death robots hovered above you, screaming out an alarm every couple hours. Sure, they didn’t seem to have any inclination towards shooting through the walls of the treehouse, but… what if they did?

He watched videos and newscasts late into the night on Heather’s phone before trying to sleep. They dozed on the half-rotten, splintery floor while Abby curled up into a ball on one of the beanbag chairs. He learned his little sister was made of sharp elbows and sulfurous farts. And she said he was gassy.

Beside him, Heather had fallen into an uneasy doze, snoring gently. She remained an enigma to him, so self-possessed, it was borderline creepy. He had lost count of the number of times he’d struggled to keep tears from his eyes, but Heather’s face remained a stoic rock the whole time. He had no idea how she was processing the news. For himself, he kept mentally cataloging the list of the dead. Pete, almost for certain. Kate died in front of his eyes. Well over half his friends from school didn’t answer their texts. So many people, murdered by these killer death robots from outer space.

Outer space. He turned the idea around, inspecting it from different angles. Were these things from another planet? He thought it likely. He wasn’t aware of any technology close to what they displayed. There were too many of them, their robotic features too advanced. It’s what everyone online was saying, except for the crazy few who thought the whole thing was a false flag exercise by the US government.

None of the movies about invasions worked like this. There was always a plucky hero who saved the day and figured out the alien weakness in the nick of time. Not a tired and scared boy trapped in a tree fort with his little sister and his next-door neighbor. In his fantasies, the type that entertained him at night as he fell asleep, he was always the hero. Defeating the villain, getting the girl, winning the fight. Real life sucked in comparison. He sure didn’t feel like a hero now. He missed his parents.

The alien siren went off again, causing him to flinch. So loud. Heather sat upright, a small scream escaping her lips. Abby groaned and burrowed further into the bean bag chair. After a couple of seconds, the noise stopped, leaving behind a slight ringing in his ears.

Heather blinked a few times before rubbing her eyes and yawning. He tried to smile at her, but it was a weak thing, lacking any joy.

“It was a dream, right?” she whispered. “The police came, and we’re saved?”

“Yeah, you missed it,” he said. “There were a bunch of cops and one of them wore aviator shades and dressed all in black. He destroyed the drones with a giant shotgun.”

“That’s good. Did he have a decent quip?”

“Not bad. He said, ‘I won’t drone on about it,’ and shot them.”

“That’s… kind of terrible.” She smiled when she said it and Matt grinned back. He liked seeing her smile. He wished they could keep going, trading silly jokes, but Abby yawned and sat up. Deep circles surrounded her eyes.

“I’m thirsty, Matty,” she said.

“Me too, Abs.”

“What time is it?” Heather asked.

“About seven? I turned my phone off.” He rubbed a hand through his short hair. It must look horrible; he could feel clumpy mats of congealed gel. Beside him, Heather got up, wandered to the small cupboard in the corner, and sorted through the drawers.

“Well, there’s a pop, at least,” she said, holding up a can that looked a few years old. “Probably flat, but it’s better than nothing. An old box of fish crackers too.”

“When are the police going to get here, Matty?” Abby had snuck her hand into his and stared at him with trusting eyes. He felt insignificant. Much too small for this enormous task.

“Soon. Don’t worry about it. For now, let’s have a drink. Don’t tell mom we had pop for breakfast.” Over Abby’s head, he exchanged a long look with Heather, who shook a handful of crackers into each of their hands.

“I miss Fuzzy Bear,” Abby said, sighing. Her lower lip stuck out again. Matt didn’t know what to make of that. Fuzzy Bear was Abby’s childhood stuffed animal. He couldn’t remember the last time she had talked about it.

“I’m sure Fuzzy Bear is safe with Dad,” he said. “Both Mom and Dad are alright, we talked to them last night, remember?”

“I guess.” Abby sat down at the tiny table in the center of the floor and munched away at her crackers, her shoulders slumped.

“Let’s call our parents and let them know we made it through the night.” He barked out a laugh. “I don’t think I slept more than an hour.”

Heather nodded and behind Abby’s back, motioned him over. He got up from the small table, and they moved to the far side of the treehouse.

“How long do you think we’ll be in here?” she said under her breath, low enough that Abby couldn’t hear.

“A day? Maybe two? We can go without food, but we need water.”

“We need to figure out a way to get out of here and back into our houses.” Heather bit her lip. “Those alarms are awful. Why are they doing that?”

“No idea,” he said. “For now, we need to hunker down. You never know. Maybe the police or Army will show up.”

Heather stopped her puttering and gripped his forearm. “Do you believe that?”

He wanted to lie to her. He wanted to tell her everything would work out. The sun coming in through the window made her hair shine. He wanted to be her hero.

“No,” he finally said. “We’re on our own.”

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