Nothing like waking up at the butt-crack of dawn to find your mother standing over your bed holding a thermos, moldy picture frame, and plastic bust of Albert Einstein.
That wakes me up, fast.
This whole thing is a shocker because for the last year, Mom’s been doing nothing but staring out the window, hoping my older sister, Luci, will come home. Such a disaster. Back in 2611, Luci ran off with her high school beau, Josiah, saying they wanted to start a new life somewhere that wasn’t Western New Massachusetts. For the record, I don’t blame my sister for leaving. Mom isn’t exactly the poster girl for stable parenting. And Josiah is a nice enough guy. You know, in the way that vanilla is a nice enough flavor.
That said, Luci only left us a quick note on the kitchen table the day she took off. Since then, my sister hasn’t sent us any word. Mind you, this is the same Luci who couldn’t go six hours without talking to Mom. Now, twelve months go by without so much as a peep? That’s not Luci.
Long story short, Mom and I are both pretty worried.
We just show it in different ways.
Mom holds up the bust of Einstein and stares at me wild-eyed. She doesn’t say anything, but that’s pretty typical. After Luci left, my mother’s routine has been pretty predictable.
Bed to window.
Window to bed.
A little eating.
Not much sleep.
But now, Mom’s out of her chair with a vengeance. Plus, she’s even wearing one of her old lab coats from her researcher days. The frayed insignia of “United Americas” is still visible on her pocket protector. We’re not even supposed to know the name of the United Americas anymore, let alone save themed clothing. My high school teaches us that the only government that’s ever existed are the sickos in power today: the Righteous Command and Ultimate Authority. Mostly, we call them the Authority.
So what’s Mom doing in her old lab coat? Tons of scenarios skitter through my head. Most of them end with Mom getting trucked off to a mediprison. The Authority strives for purity in all things. Any signs of what they call mental weakness, and the Authority declares you an enemy of the state, and you disappear.
At this moment, the words total panic pretty much sum up my life. “What’s wrong, Mom? It’s four a.m.”