by Michelle Shin
Nov 8: I wake up to sunlight streaming in around the edges of my blackout curtains. I can sense it, feel it, before I open my eyes. That moment, when I'm still in a grey sleep, when dreams feel like reality or reality seems like a dream, is at once comforting and deeply dis-orienting.
It's a holiday, but I'm groggy from a cold that has been plaguing me. As my son plays, and climbs over me, and demands stories, I lie on the ground and close my eyes. For a moment, the room darkens, as if a single light bulb has flickered out. I blink. The light is back. I roll over and read about a firetruck. Again! Again! Again. My son is persistent—that firetruck keeps coming to put out the same fire. Over and over, I read of a fire.
Uncle Jim comes over and Dan and I leave to see a movie, a matinee. We hold hands as we walk, enjoying this luxury, enjoying the walk. The streets are quite empty and there is no line at the theatre. Imagine our luck. The movie does its job to the pass the time. There is some superhero, some villain, some bending of time and space, and the inevitable end-of-the-world scenario. When the lights come on, people start talking, get up and leave. But I feel heavy, and bewildered. How exactly had they saved the world? My phone is buzzing, but I am staring at the credits. The credits appear different, like an alien language. I look around—no one else has noticed. My husband is on his phone.
We walk outside and the world has changed. It is dark already. The sounds of traffic and pedestrians chatting are muted. I wave my hand slowly, touching the air. It feels unknown. The streets look alien. My phone is still buzzing. I don't know why, but I feel deeply scared. I close my eyes, then re-open them to wake from my dream.
Nov 9: My three year-old, almost four year-old, son wakes up screaming. Absolutely terrified, hysterical. I wrap him in my arms, take him in the bed, and repeatedly smooth his hair. Tell Mommy I plead. What's wrong? But, between his gasping gulps for air, the sobbing continues. Finally, it becomes a whimper, his little body more of a hum than a hurricane. Then silence. He lets me hold him, tightly, something he never does anymore. Tell Mommy I whisper. What happened? He looks at me; his long lashes laced with tears like insects in a spider's web. Yesterday, I was lost Mommy. I was lost in the dark and I couldn't find my way home.
At work, everyone moves in slow-motion, mannequins being shuffled around. Hello, how's it going? They look at me with terror in their eyes. The terror burrows into my skin, into my cells. The change is at a molecular level. I run down an empty hallway, collapse into a stained chair with threads dangling down over the legs. I take out my phone; it won't stop buzzing. I look at a picture of my son from Halloween. He's dressed like a dinosaur—a T-rex. Will people shoot the T-rex? No, baby, no one wants to shoot a T-rex. How do you know? I just know. Besides, Mommy is here; I won't let anyone shoot you.
Nov 10: White guns are lining my front yard. No, it's the picket fence. At 6pm my husband doesn't come home. We wait in silence, uncertainty. The clock ticks like tapping fingers. Even my son is still, self-soothing by mumbling an exorcism under his breath.
I can't stop the scratching under my skin.
Something keeps buzzing, it's behind my ears, or maybe behind my eyes. Where's my phone?
Isn't that weird to think about the time? What do you mean, hon? I mean, in four years he'll be eight. Almost eight. Just, think about the time.
The fear is tickling my throat, like a cough.
We turn and face the door, left ajar, half-open. I'm waiting for you to come home.
Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.
Want to comment on this story? Click Here to go the Literary Review Discussion Forum (for the subject, enter "Comment on story November 8th")