It is the eleventh day since Kristine impacted my moonscape. I know this is so, not by counting the happy days since we met, but by daily checks of a fast approaching deadline. A calendar’s red-circled task glares at me unnervingly, while I traverse a downward twisting spiral.
The ten day intervals are not marked as a suggestion. Neglecting this duty leads to darkness and foul air. Discomforts I don't intend facing until my final exit.
I have to service the generator.
I have to go outside with the Creepys and Crawlys.
The mission raises levels of paranoia and anxiety to the point of overload. Peace and tranquillity can only be swallowed in finite amounts before doses are returned in rancid vomit. I check the service schedule again, in case the passing days are fabrications.
Definitely due. Two days ago.
Procrastinating further is inadvisable. I risk damaging our only source of power. We’d return to the Stone Age. No lights, no aircon, and no refrigeration. The prospect of drinking warm beer scares me almost as much as a Crawly caressing my face.
I laboriously drag myself to the kitchen, intending to dampen bright anxiety with straight liquor. I reach for protective bars and touch the delicate window they shield. Stark reminders of the dangers that lurk below. I summon the courage to peek out.
A car park. Loyal cars remain in regimented rows. The overgrown lawns, viewed at this revealing angle, are empty of persons who’d use its sparse cover to draw near. A distant stretch of cyclone fencing, marking the extremities of our property, is intact.
I don’t know how long my face stays pressed against the cool glass. I’m totally absorbed in rescanning an increasingly familiar arc of ground. The view captures me overlong until Kristine’s thirst interrupts. The kitchen door bangs open. I curse loudly to repress a high pitched scream. Kristine back-peddles a step or two before adopting the look of irate puzzlement she commonly affects when addressing me. My flattened face is numb from prolonged pressure with the hard clear surface I looked through. Huge, dry eyes are agog.
“What the hell are you doing, Sam? I thought you must be in your...”
Kristine takes in my feral state.
“...what’s out there? Are they here?”
Her urgent whisper raises hairs. I whip around to strain eyes outwards, checking again to be sure.
“No. Nothing. Nothing’s there. Nobody...nothing.”
I leave the kitchen, mechanically checking the security door lock as I pass. Kristine sidles up the window and looks outside for herself, confused.
The conundrum has reached an impasse. Purposefully I head for the bedroom we now call the armoury and strap armour over leathers. Clumping noisily across the room I retrieved a shotgun and check it over. I instruct a printer to expel a typed procedure, developed over the months to ensure essential tasks aren’t forgotten.
Kristine slips into the room and stands in a shadow, watching these movements. She sees a bottle of artificial calm and the disappearance of another pill causing her to tackle me before the last glimmering brain cell sputters out.
I sit on a beckoning couch, head dipped to read the page.
Kristine genuflects in my presence, misreading my sagging deep-thought posture as relaxation. She thinks it’s appropriate to wind my clockwork spring tighter, unlimbering an arsenal of probing complaints. Rattling this bottle of nitro could spell doom or deliverance in my catatonic state.
Her demands are simple and completely opposite to my needs. She wants out when I would stay in.
She gets my attention by dragging the page away from my eyes. The cartoon playing on the silent TV is suddenly a fascination.
“What’s this? You’re going outside? I want to go too.”
“Okay. Why? Okay.”
I trail off, caught up in the Roadrunners trickery.
“I’m bored, Sam! You can’t keep me cooped up here forever. Besides, if something happens to you I’m locked in, I can’t get out.”
She speaks so very slowly and forcefully, like you’d talk to a drunk or the feebleminded. At the moment both words describe me well. I sigh and rub my face while thoughts congeal, not needing this distraction.
It never occurred to me that I hold her captive, like a pretty song bird in a gilded enclosure. Confinement is merely a side effect of keeping nasty things out. This ailment of free time that abrades her mind is also a new development. Finished with her housekeeping, fretful and bored, she wishes to broaden her horizons.
I’m not in the best shape to cope with a wilful woman’s demands and the needs of a mechanical device. I sort through various stones that may kill two birds with one throw.
“You WANT to get out?”
“Yes! I can’t without your help. I don’t know how to work the security doors. You’ve got all the keys and you’re going outside completely fucked up.”