five

I woke up in the early morning dark. I could never sleep until sunrise. The sound of Peter’s heavy, relaxed breathing filled the room from beside me. I closed my eyes, and listened.

There by the water hole

I came to drink.

I came into the undergrowth like a wren

hungry and small. You fed me, I drank.

The sun filters through

even on dense-leaf days and I wonder

about the time and the year.

Where are you?

Why have I come here, by the water hole, to drink.

There is stillness.

In my heart somehow there is no sound. No fear.

Crowding, crowding between sheets

of space and I feel warmth from the fire, from the water

boiling.

How are you?

Can you breathe in this dense, dark place?

The thunder never moved me before today.

I never drank the rain.

Something was wrong. Over his breathing and the fan and the traffic, there was a different pulse, different, I knew because I woke up every morning of my life in the Key. It began as a dim percussion.

“Peter.”

It wasn’t light out. The grey of dawn had barely begun. I sat upright, straining my ears to hear beyond what was usual.

“Peter.”

My body was tense. I could feel every muscle. I wanted too much to be silent: damn him for his heavy sleeping!

“Peter.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I think it’s started.”

“Oh, god.”

“No,” I said. “Not here.”

We dressed quickly in the shadows. We each stuffed a pack. We kissed, locked the door, and left. A whirring joined the melee: copters. The Key is easily traversed in any direction; walking to the Uni from our house takes less than 30 minutes. We took it at a trot. The crescendo increased steadily as we went, a wave edging toward us from the direction of the lock.

“Are they voices?” Peter asked. I shook my head.

Personnel had acted quickly. The Uni campus was already barricaded and it took a lot of security questions to get us through the gate. Protocol assigned us to our room, but I took Peter’s hand and led him through the crowd and we walked straight into the Tern.

This was a fascinating place and if I hadn’t been so narrow-focused I would have taken more time to appreciate the architecture of this hollowed-out room, built below the yard and accessed down a narrow flight of so-old red bricks. I looked around the space, unimpressed by the smooth round walls like a badger’s den. There should be thirteen. Alan, Cora, Roger, Meagan, Sara, Keven, Aaron, James, Mary-Franklin, Sasha, and Miles. Where was Emer? Where was Tess. The ground shook, and I fell, hard, and there was blackness. When I came to, Peter was grasping my hand and Milo sat on the floor with his head hanging over his knees.

There isn’t much air in the Turn, not good air anyway. It’s old down here and stale.

Everything is cold, smooth surfaces.

I sat up slowly with Peter’s help and asked what had happened.

“Some sort of blast,” he said. “At the northwest gate.”

I asked him what they expected of us.

“For now, stay here,” he said. “I have to go.”

As Peter stood up to leave, I held tightly to his hand, not letting go yet. He looked down at me and I remembered him: tall, lean, and dark, the face of a throne.

“Peter,” I said.

“I love you, Theo.”

“Me too.”

I followed his shape through the low-lit cavern and up the narrow steps. When I turned away, Milo’s eyes were fixed on me.

“We’re not ready.”

“No,” I said. “We are not.”

We stared at one another in silence for a moment and I thought his eyes would open up and flood the Turn and drown us all.

“Milo — ” Theo thought he could read everyone’s minds.

“Don’t.”

“Milo, listen.” When James spoke it was always a surprise.

“What?”

“We’re going to find them.” That was Cora, with her trademarked tone of mild disinterest.

Of course the others wouldn’t have thought of abandoning Emer.

Milo looked at the faces surrounding and felt distant, a space apart. He didn’t care what they’d come here for, he didn’t care what they were building. Perhaps he’d never cared about those things at all.

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