Day 2: The Wait (Liz)
Liz couldn’t stop watching TV. The images cascaded in from all over the planet, and the stories were the same. The sky ripped apart, millions of black drones pouring through the rip, and everywhere they appeared, death.
“Turn that off.” Her Mom clumped down the stairs, a glassy, pale look about her. Last night’s bender had been epic. She chugged a bottle of vodka down in half an hour. The only bonus of her Mom drinking so much, that fast, was that she passed out. Liz didn’t even think she woke up for the alarms that blared every few hours.
“It’s everywhere, Mom,” she said. “All over the world. I’m scared.”
“Okay,” Alexandra shuffled past her, into the kitchen, rooting around the fridge for something to drink. She didn’t even make eye contact.
“The president is making an address soon,” Liz called after her.
“Great.” The faucet turned on, and Liz heard sounds of slurping. On the best of days, her mom was withdrawn and unhelpful. She didn’t know why she’d thought a crisis would be any different, but she had hoped that it would draw out something resembling a parent. No luck. Liz suspected she’d have to figure out what to do on her own.
“It’s starting,” she called out. No answer from the kitchen. Liz turned up the volume on the TV. The presidential logo appeared on the screen, but the image flickered. The TV had been spitting jerky images all day. It would be clear for one moment and then go fuzzy and indistinct, like the signal was getting scrambled or something. She flipped through the channels to see if any were better, but it was the same quality across them all. Further, the president was broadcasting to every network in North America, even the specialty cable ones. She clicked through hundreds of channels, every single one showing the presidential logo. That, more than anything, caused her mouth to dry in fear.
The screen faded to the interior of the White House where the president sat, flanked by two other men, one in a military uniform with hollow and sunken eyes. The president’s hair stuck out, and he hadn’t shaved.
“My fellow Americans,” he began. “Yesterday, at approximately four-thirty, Eastern Standard Time, crafts of unknown origin attacked us. These crafts bear no markings, contain no pilots, and upon arriving, launched an unprovoked assault against every state, city, town, and village in these United States. Through consultation with leaders of other countries, I have confirmed they repeated this attack across every continent and country on the planet. We responded with all the combined force available to the United States to repel the attack. So far, our attempts to neutralize the threat have been unsuccessful.”
He paused, reaching out with a trembling hand to take a drink of water.
“In the meantime, I ask that all Americans, and anyone listening to this telecast, follow this one simple instruction: do not go outside. These crafts attack any person who leaves their home or building. We don’t yet understand the source or purpose of these attacks, but through trial and error, we learned the crafts will only attack people outdoors. For now, I urge every single person to stay inside, stay safe, and do not engage the crafts. Effective immediately, and with the full support of Congress, I am declaring Martial Law across these United States. Every government service is now on hold, excluding our military forces.” He took a deep breath and shuffled the papers on his desk. The two men beside him hadn’t blinked.
“If you are indoors, you are safe. Ration your food, and store as much water as possible. We expect electricity will be unavailable within the coming days. If you go outside, you will receive no assistance. This is a difficult message to hear, and it’s even harder for me to have to say. I will provide further updates as they become available. As the Commander in Chief of our military forces, I have directed that all measures be taken toward our defense. No matter the duration of the fight, the American people and the strength of the American spirit will prevail. Stay safe, and God bless America.”
The screen faded to the Presidential seal, and the TV flickered a few more times before Liz turned it off. Her lips tingled, and she couldn’t catch her breath. The edges of her vision turned black, and a hollow rushing sound filled her ears. She rested her head against the side of the couch. Aliens. That’s what the president hinted at. Crafts of unknown origin. Every city on Earth attacked. This was real.
“Mom, did you hear any of that?” Liz called out.
Her Mom walked back into the room with an orange juice. She hadn’t bothered to wash her face, and mascara smudged her cheeks. Her expression was dull.
“He said to stay outside?”
“Inside, mom. Inside. He said it’s…” Liz struggled to get the next few words out and needed to pause for a breath. “He said it’s an alien attack and that they won’t attack you when you’re inside.”
Her mom didn’t react but stared at her for a long moment before shaking her head. “I’m sure you misheard him. Try CNN and see if they know what’s going on.”
“I didn’t mishear him. He said, ‘crafts of unknown origin’ and he said they’re attacking everything.”
“I’m sure it will be fine. Even if we can’t go outside today, I’m sure they’ll have it figured out by tomorrow.” Her mom couldn’t focus on this conversation, she was too hungover. Liz tried a new approach to get her mom’s head back in the present.
“Heather and Matty and Abby are in the treehouse. We need to figure out a way to get to them. They won’t have any food or water.”
Her mom sighed and rubbed her temples. “I can’t deal with this right now. Can you give me five seconds? Is that even possible?” Alexandra’s voice rose with each syllable, and Liz shrunk down and retreated. She had pushed too far.
“Sure, mom. I only thought-”
“You didn’t think at all, that’s the problem,” her mom snapped.
Liz nodded and took a step closer to the stairs, closer to the safety of her room. It would be unusual for her mom to try something sober, but this wasn’t a usual day.
“I’m sorry, mom,” she said, keeping her voice low, like trying to soothe a startled cat. “I’ll go clean up the kitchen, okay? You rest on the couch.”
Her mom stared at her, suspicious. Like she was expecting a trick. Finally, after a pregnant beat, she nodded and turned to the couch. Liz released the breath she had been holding, the real horror of the situation sinking in. Trapped in a house with her Mother. There was a real possibility Alexandra would kill her before the lasers did.