Day 2: The Wait (Krista)
Krista hung up the phone, reassured that for the moment, her babies were unhurt. Matt told her about finding drinks and crackers, trying to keep his voice brave for Abby. She was so proud of him. What a strange time to feel pride, but there it was. Comforting her. Her little man was stepping up to protect his sister.
Paul was also doing well, surprising Krista with his resourcefulness. He’d talked to her about his ideas with the water and the food, and she agreed. It was good to see him handling this and coming up with solutions. Typically, she needed to do everything, and responsibility from him was welcome.
Today, she took on the role of inventorying food while Martin collected water. With only the two of them, their situation wasn’t dire, but that wasn’t her concern. The only thing she cared about was Abby and Matt, and how to get supplies to them.
Throughout the day, she’d glance out the window, at the black egg-shaped pods that dotted the skies. They’d glide from position to position, but they were always there. At any given moment she could count a dozen, circling the houses, waiting. The faint sounds of chainsaw-rip lasers could be heard faintly in the distance, and she flinched every time she heard it.
The President’s recorded message still played on a loop in her brain. Don’t go outside. She remembered his eyes. His scared, tired eyes. She recognized that look; she’d see it in other traders in the office. That look that said, ‘I’m careening down a well, and I can’t see the bottom.’ She’d join the others in celebrating their downfall. ‘Dead man walking’ they’d call out after the sales numbers for the months were released. The bottom five were cut every quarter, no questions asked.
Krista was always at the top.
That’s how she did things. Why play the game if you’re not playing to win? It’s why she was always in the top earner’s category. It’s how she stayed in an environment that spat people out after a month. And it was how she would figure out a way to get to her kids. Killer robots or no killer robots.
“We’re good for water.”
Krista looked up from the cupboards where she counted cans of soup. Four. Martin leaned against the doorway, sweat staining his chest and underarms. “I had a couple of plastic storage bins in the basement, and I filled them up. Two hundred gallons. Enough to last us a while.”
“That’s good. We have enough food for at least two weeks if we’re careful. Although by the end, we’ll be eating flour and water and plain pasta. You have a huge bag of rice which will go a long way.”
“Great.” Martin got a glass and ran it under the kitchen sink. He tilted his head, and she could see the corded muscles of his arm bunch when he brought the glass up. A big man, and although he had thirty extra pounds, a lot of it was muscle. Untethered nausea rose in her throat the longer she stared at him, not because of how he looked, but because of what she’d done. Thank god he hadn’t brought it up again. She couldn’t deal with his advances right now. The only thing keeping her attention was getting food to the kids. A thought occurred to her.
“You ever play any baseball?”
He blinked as if startled by the question. “Sure. Not league or anything but yeah, what guy hasn’t played baseball?”
Both the men in my family, she thought but kept it to herself. “Your living room window looks right out to the tree fort. Could you throw something far enough to reach the kids?”
“I don’t know.” He sat down beside her, the chair creaking under the weight. He didn’t sit across from her, he sat beside her. She noticed that.
“It’s possible, right?”
“Sure, if we had something to throw. But it’s at least two hundred feet. Since you brought up baseball, it’s about the distance from the outfield to the home plate. Even if we were positive opening a door wouldn’t cause those things to shoot at us, I’d have to thread something through the treehouse window. It would be like trying to hit a stop sign from half a football field away.” He shook his head. “It’s an idea, but let’s see if we can think of any others first before we throw things.”
“We could at least try.”
“You’re worried. So am I. My daughter is trapped too. But we don’t know what could happen. What if I threw something and knocked out a board? Maybe those things outside would shoot them.”
She didn’t say anything, but at her sides her hands clenched with enough force that her nails bent backward, close to breaking against her palm. She squeezed her eyes shut.
“Hey,” he said. “It’s going to be okay.”
She stood up, shaking her head. “We need to do something. They’ve been stuck for almost twenty-four hours with nothing except a bottle of pop and some crackers. Either you come up with better ideas, or I’m throwing food at them.”
“Okay,” he said and stood. He stepped closer, and she had to crane her neck upwards. “You’re not thinking clearly. I understand it’s a scary situation. But panic and hysteria won’t solve anything.”
“Look directly at me,” she said, “and tell me I’m in a panic. I won’t wait for someone else to come up with an idea.”
“Krista, I get it. I do. But throwing cans of soup at the treehouse won’t help them. I agree it’s an idea, but it’s a last-resort idea. There must be other ways to get to them. I don’t know, maybe we can…” he finished helplessly, not able to complete the sentence.
“We could what? What other ideas do you have?”
“Nothing.” He stared at the floor. “But for now, we need to trust the process. Give the police or army a chance to do something.”
“There’s not going to be any army or police. You heard the message from the president the same as I did. They’re as fucked as we are. Either we solve this ourselves, or our children will die.”
“Yeah.” He rubbed his chin but didn’t say anything else.
Fuck this. She grabbed a can of soup off the counter. Without waiting for a reaction, she went to the front door and turned the knob, opening it up a crack. Enough to see outside.
The angle to the treehouse was horrible. Martin was right about the distance, she’d have to toss the can across the lawn, and across the street, to a side of the treehouse that only had a single window slit. A huge tree out front partially obscured her view. Martin was right. She’d have no chance. This idea was unworkable. She bit her lip. There was nothing she could do.
I need to get out of here, she thought.
Outside, the drones circled.