Joseph stood at the edge of the window frame with his back flat against the wall. He reached up and slid one curtain over to the centre of the window. He crouched down and crawled under the window and repeated the process on the other side. He breathed a sigh of relief. He moved across the room to a desk and opened a drawer. He rummaged around, and after a bit more of a search than he had been expecting, retrieved a pair of binoculars. Returning to the window, he parted the curtains slightly. Holding the binoculars vertically, he poked them through the gap and peered through one of the eyepieces. It occurred to Joseph that it was a shame to have to go to these lengths not to be seen, because he thought that he probably looked pretty damn cool doing this.
He’d seen the black van park outside his house and no one had gotten out. Joseph scanned every inch of the van, but from this angle the number plate was obscured by Mrs Parker’s dustbin. Nor could he make out any other distinguishing marks. Well, not that the van wasn’t distinguished enough. How many black vans with blacked out windows could there be on Britain’s roads?
Joseph stared intently at the tinted windows hoping to make out some shape beyond, but to no avail. It was still light out. He decided he’d try again when it was dark. Maybe whoever was inside would turn a light on and he’d be able to see something.
The inside of the van was still. The driver looked in the rear view mirror again. Everybody was avoiding his gaze. Nobody spoke. Everyone inside was tooled up and ready to go, but the order hadn’t come. The captain simply sat and stared at the clock on the dashboard.
Somebody sneezed and instinctively someone else said ‘Bless you’. There was a disapproving look from the captain, but she said nothing and returned her eyes to the clock.
‘Sorry, honey, that’s another thing that we just don’t know.’ said Gloria, as she pulled bottle of wine out of a cardboard box.
‘He could still be alive and we could pass him in the street and we’d never even know it.’ added Emma.
Annabelle thought about this news. She decided that since she had done without parents so far, she’d probably manage fine without them now.
Gloria poured two glasses of wine and placed a mug of water in front of Annabelle. Emma and Gloria began to talk as if she wasn’t there. This was more like old times.
Her questions seemed to spark an interest in her sisters and their conversation grew quite animated. They talked about what they might do to discover names and facts about their parents. Gloria suggested that there must be a paper trail to follow, which Annabelle didn’t really understand. Her sisters discussed going to the facility and searching for dusty filing cabinets by torchlight. They laughed and grew louder. Annabelle didn’t know why it was so funny.
The beam of the torch cut a swathe through the darkness. Ivy moved from room to room, often leaving Harry behind. He would usually catch up and become fascinated in some detail, just as Ivy moved off again. She rounded a corner and shone the torchlight on the end of a corridor that lay ahead. There were three doors. The door at the far end was metallic and she recognised it instantly as the lift that ran through the centre of the facility. To the right of the door was a panel with a single button on it marked “Press To Call”. Ivy pressed the button. Nothing happened.
Harry appeared behind her asking ‘What have you found?’
‘It’s the lift, but…’ By way of explanation, she pressed the button again. Nothing happened again.
‘Yeah, there’s no power. What are these?’
Ivy turned around and pointed the torch towards her brother. The other two doors each bore signs.
Harry looked at Ivy and for a moment he was certain they were thinking the same thing. As one they both said ‘Ah’ and shared a knowing look. They both read aloud the sign on a door, but sadly, they were each reading from different doors.
‘Records Room.’ read Harry.
‘Emergency Stairs.’ read Ivy.
Ivy pushed the door open to reveal that there were indeed Emergency Stairs beyond it.
‘Come on.’ she said, pushing passed her brother.
‘But Records Room.’ said a surprised Harry.
‘So?’ said Ivy, her face catching the torchlight in a way that cast a grotesque shadow on the ceiling.
Harry opened the Records Room door and said ‘Well, we can find out all those...’ He stopped talking. He had been plunged into darkness. Ivy had gone. He sagged and pulled the door closed. He turned and took faltering steps toward the Emergency Stairs. He was disappointed to realise that it was actually a ladder. He could see the light from Ivy’s torch flicking around as she climbed down. He sighed and began to climb after her.
Elsewhere, the darkness was interrupted by a streak of light as the meteorite came as close as to Earth as it ever would. Across the surface of the planet, millions of people prepared to watch something spectacular. They would not be disappointed.
Thanks for reading.