“Honey, I’ll explain later, but you need to get home now, it’s an emergency.”
“Wait, mom – “
“Vali, get back to the car and come home, please!”
“Okay, okay. I’m coming.”
“Call me back when you get in the car.”
I started to speak again, but the sound of the call ending stopped the words in my mouth.
“Wait, what just happened?” Emi asked with her eyes wide. Amaya looked just as confused and I let out my breath.
“I don’t know.”
I looked at the two of them, trying to process what I’d just heard. WTF was going on?! I’ve never heard my mom so…scared.
“Vali, so are we going to the hotel?” Amaya asked, and I sighed, focusing on her as I got out of my thoughts.
“No. Um, we’re leaving.”
They looked at each other, confused as shit. Welcome to the club. “Wait, why?” Emi asked, staring at me.
I ran my hand slowly through my ponytail, thinking about my mom’s anxious voice. “My mom said something happened and I need to go home. Where’d we leave the car?”
They both stood there, shocked, before Amaya blinked, pointing over to a parking lot. “Over there.”
We ran over to the other side of the street (after making sure no cars were gonna run us over) and I could feel my heart beating faster and faster. Out of everything I expected tonight to be, it wasn’t this.
It definitely wasn’t this. I pulled the front door of the car open before Emi grabbed my arm. I twisted around, starting at her. “What the fuck, Emily?”
Emi raised her eyebrows, but she didn’t let go of my arm and grabbed it with her other hand, too. “You’re not driving, Vali.”
The fuck? Why not? “I didn’t drink, come on!”
“Vali, you’re literally shaking! You’re like, in shock. Go sit in the back with Amaya.”
I blinked, staring at her with my eyes wide. That isn’t her decision to make! It’s my car, I can drive just fine. “Emi, come on, I’m fine.”
Her right hand let go of my arm, prying the keys out of my other hand. “No, Vali, you’ll thank me later.”
I glared at her, but reluctantly slid into the back. Her face meant business and my mom’s voice kept replaying in my head. I swear she’d literally kill me if I didn’t get my ass home and I dunno, I didn’t feel like fighting Emily. “Turn on the GPS, then,” I sighed, leaning back. The ride home was silent with nothing to take my attention off of everything besides the semi-robotic voice of our GPS chiming out directions every so often. Time seemed to pass by slowly, even as the world sped by past us through the windows. When we finally pulled up to my house, I got out and looked around, expecting something to be noticeably off – but there wasn’t anything. It looked… normal. I turned back to my friends who just shrugged and Emi motioned for me to go up to the door. I could see the lights of the house glowing through the windows – it seemed like nothing was wrong. I walked up the staircase hesitantly, expecting something, anything to pop out of the shadows, but I found myself at the door with none of that happening. It only took a few seconds after I knocked for my mom to open the door.
“Mom, what – ”
She put her finger to her lips, shushing me, before peering over my shoulder. “Are your friends down there?”
“Uh, yeah,” I replied, looking back down to where my car was.
“Go down and tell them to come up here while I call their parents.”
“Mom, what’s going on?”
She gave me a look, shaking her head. “I’ll tell you later.”
This time she gave me a glare, filled with annoyance and fear at the same time. “Vali. Go upstairs with your siblings.”
“I thought I was supposed to go get my friends,” I retorted. Like, come on! She calls me back home for some fucking emergency but then won’t tell me what the emergency is?!
She sighed, looking inside the house and back to me. “No, I’ll get your friends. You go upstairs.”
“Fine,” I shrugged, walking past her. I could her my siblings’ voices clearer and clearer the closer I got to the top of the stairs. Sera’s eyes bugged out when she saw me and she quickly made her way over to me.
“Vali, do you know what’s – ”
I shook my head. “No, she won’t say.”
Seraphina sighed, looking over to our brothers who were literally in a fucking fight. Her eyes widened and she ran over to them, screaming, (well, not extremely loud screaming, but screaming for Sera) “What are you doing?”
They all turned to look at her before Ethan pushed Jackson away from him with a glare. “They’re trapping me in the house!” He whined, looking up at Sera.
“Ethan…” Sera started, but he kept going, cutting her off.
“I wanted to go outside cause I left my toy out there but Jackson and Grayson said I couldn’t cause we can’t go outside anymore, but that’s a lie!”
Sera looked like she wanted the floor to come and swallow her whole, but she started talking anyway. “Actually, uh, we aren’t allowed to go out of the house right now.”
Ethan’s eyes seemed like they were about to pop out of his head and he looked around quickly before staring at Sera and starting to scream. “The world’s ending, the world’s ending!” He ran around in circles screeching at the top of his lungs as the rest of us just looked on in shock. He finally stopped screaming after what felt like ten minutes but was actually two, sitting down on the sofa and starting to cry.
Oh shit, this is bad. Of course the first thing a ten year old thinks is that the world’s ending. “Uh, the world’s not ending,” I yelled and everyone’s heads turned towards me.
“It’s not?” Ethan asked quietly.
“Nope, definitely not,” I replied, not knowing if that was a lie or not. I mean, the world ending actually like kinda made sense and all, but at the same time, it didn’t. That just sounded like a typical fifth grade explanation that made a teensy bit of sense but really had no logic. Kids are weird.
“Guys, come on, let’s go to the playroom,” I heard Mum say from behind us. Thank Watcher – I’m sure they know how to deal with a kid who probably still thinks the world is ending.
The boys all ran over, following Mum and Mom, while Sera and I walked behind all of them. Mom slid up a few more seats near the sofa before sitting down on the sofa next to Mum. They sat there whispering for a few seconds while the rest of us just looked around in silence.
“So,” Mom started, pausing for a second, “the world is not ending. There’s just some – uh – not so good people out there right now, so we’re just staying inside to be safe.”
I raised my eyebrows, glancing at Sera. Obviously, mom was dumbing it down for Ethan because the rest of us – probably even the twins, they’re twelve – could handle her talking in a less babyish way. ‘Not so good people?’ Really? Come on, even just say bad guys.
“Are we gonna die?!” Ethan screeched, eyes widening. And, that is why mom has to say it the way she does. He’s such a baby.
“No, of course not! Everything’s going to be fine. Now, boys, where’s that new game you wanted to show me?” Mum replied quickly, while Mom brought Sera and I out into the hall.
“Okay, so you two are old enough to know what’s really going on,” Mom finally said, sitting down on the sofa staircase.
Sera glanced at me and I shrugged, looking back to Mom.
“What is it?” Sera asked her, sitting down cautiously.
“Well, I’m sure you both know that the world is freaking out over capitalism and socialism again,” Mom started, and Sera & I both nodded. This was about that, wasn’t it? Oh, shit.
“There are some people that really, really don’t want this area to become socialist – you know, some are even saying it will be communist, but that’s not true – so, um, there’s been a threat,” Mom finished softly, looking at both of us.
Wait… what?! A threat? An actual, honest-to-goodness, ‘imma kill you and your family threat?’ I didn’t even know people still did that – I guess they do – but seriously? Are we safe just sitting here in our house? Should we go to like, a secret location? Or does that only happen in spy movies? Life is crazy shit – I never thought this would happen, it didn’t even cross my mind, but, of course, I didn’t think I would have four siblings or be a virgin at seventeen or have politics slowly invading my life, so there’s that.
“Mom… are we safe?”
“Yes, yes, we’re safe. There are people doing drone surveillance of the area to make sure nothing happens, but until we know who made the threat and that there’s no longer a threat, we have to stay here,” Mom replied quietly, pausing before looking down and whispering, “I never meant for this to happen.”
The three of us sat there for what felt like forever, the sound of my brothers’ game and their enthusiastic screams the only thing that kept it from being complete silence.
“Don’t worry too much, okay,” Mom sighed, cracking a smile, “you’re free to go.”
I stood up quickly and Sera stood too, but more hesitantly. She looked back at Mom before going down the hallway to the playroom. I closed my eyes for a second, starting to go back to my room when I heard Mom’s voice speak.
“Vali, come back.”
I turned around, walking back until I could see my mom again. “What?”
“I know you have an opinion on this. You have an opinion on everything,” she replied softly, pausing, “so…do you hate me?”
“Hate you?” I repeated, inadvertently. Did my mother seriously just ask if I hated her? I mean – no, I don’t like what’s happening, and I do hate that I’m wrapped up in it when I didn’t ask to be – but do I hate her? Part of me would like to say yes, because it’s annoying and shitty that all of this is happening because of her but at the same time, I can’t blame her, can I? Can I?
I took a deep breath, closing my eyes as I sat down next to her. “I don’t know.”
She nodded, not as mad as I figured she would be. She didn’t look mad at all.
“I’m sorry, you know. I know this is affecting you more than the others because, well, high schoolers talk. And yes, your sister is also in high school, but she keeps to herself more so it affects her less. She doesn’t have people that would like to use this against her or anything like that.”
I nodded slowly, brushing my fingers across the sofa.
“And your brothers… well, kids don’t talk – and many don’t know – much about politics. It’s all more of a joke to them. They might laugh at a few things their parents said without really knowing what it means, stuff like that. Sure, there’s probably some arguments in middle school, but they still don’t know what it all means and many don’t really care. When I was a kid, communism was literally a joke. That’s what it was. We didn’t know what it meant – all we knew was that it was apparently bad, and in turn, socialism was also a joke. Obviously, we learned what they were as we got older, but then, we didn’t really know.”
“It’s just like, annoying. It’s messing up so much stuff and people are going crazy. And I’m just stuck in it!”
“Vali… you know, I thought for a while about this – if it was the right thing to do for everyone. But the thing is, we’re really lucky. We have everything, and some people have nothing. That’s not okay. It’s immoral. People shouldn’t be dying of hunger in this world, in the twenty-sixth century. When I was growing up, my family had almost nothing but I was lucky enough to be able to go to school and get a decent job. It shouldn’t be about luck. Please tell me you understand.”
I closed my eyes, letting my breath out. “I mean, I do, but I wish it didn’t have to be you doing it all.”
She nodded, leaning back. The sound of my siblings’ game ending played in the background as she started talking again. “I know. At first, I didn’t even know if I wanted to. But someone has to fight for this even if nobody else will. People don’t like change – some people are even scared of it. And yeah, change is hard, but it’s has to happen to make the world a better place for everyone.”
That’s the thing. My mom is like, a really good person. She wants to make to world better! There’s nothing wrong with that, I just wish my friends and I didn’t have to be caught up in it. I wish all this could’ve already happened so we didn’t have to deal with it. But it doesn’t work like that. Ugh.
“Vali?” My mom asked, turning to look me in the eyes.
“What? I just – don’t know what to think right now,” I replied softly, standing up.
I blinked, not expecting that response, before nodding slightly and walking back to my room. Things were actually pretty chill for the rest of the day with for there being a fucking threat on my mom hanging over us. The boys played those Xbox Kinect games until we went to dinner, which I only know because I went in there to get my violin which I’d left there, and they were jumping around like crazy while their characters moved around on the screen. I played those with my friends or Sera when I was in like, elementary school or something.
Not having to go to school was probably the best part about this, because being stuck in a house (no matter how big) with my family is not my definition of fun. I mainly stayed in my room for the whole next day, playing songs on my piano for a bit and then talking with Emi and Aya over holographic video chat.
“Anyway,” Aya went on, “the – ”
Suddenly, the connection went dead, and I groaned, tapping the screen to try and get it working again. Then the lights flickered – once, then twice, before shutting off completely.
“You’re kidding,” I muttered.
I glanced around before going to look out the windows which was now giving off the only source of light in the room. I sped down the dark hallway, going down the stairs only to find where Mom, Mum, and Sera were. The faint light from the boys’ hallway and the clicking sound that I could hear as I walked closer made me realize my brothers were playing foosball.
“What’s going on?” I asked, pushing away the thought that there could’ve been an attack.
“To avert a technological attack,” Mum explained, “we had to shut off the internet, but we also accidentally shut off the electricity, too.”
“Oh,” I sighed, “will the lights come back on soon?”
“Yeah,” Mom replied, “but you are all going to have to find something not electronic to do now.”
Sera stared going off about some new science thing while I just sat there, looking around. I bet she has loads of things she can do without the internet, but all I’ve been doing this whole time is talking to my friends. Over the internet. And now, I’m stuck in a house with no internet, with my family for who knows how long. Great. Just wonderful. Exactly how I wanted to spend my first days being seventeen.