“Mike, you need to come downstairs and watch television.” Eh? Television, what the fuck I want with that at this hour. The voice at the door belongs to my mother, I can already tell by the tone that she is not going to let sleep return. The strain on the word need bleeds through the door to what was my brother’s room some nine years ago.
Before both of us grew up and moved on into the world.
“What?” Grumbling, I roll over and mutter something that I want to say louder but will not because even in this day and age there are some things that you do not say to your Mother. “Why?”
“Just come downstairs.”
“Something happen?” Cole. All I can think of right now is the Cole or something like the Cole. Some of my brothers and sisters now mangled somewhere because of policy decisions on which I am officially ordered not to have an opinion.
“Sort of, you need to watch television right now.” Again the urgency is readily more than apparent, almost palpable.
“Okay, okay, hang on.” Rolling out of bed, I pull on a pair of surf shorts and a T-shirt that reads in large blue letters across the chest: Our Lady of Perpetual Inebriation Catholic School. “Jesus Christ, Ma. You’d think the world was coming to an end or something.”
“Cut it out.” She says as I throw the door open and walk down the stairs toward the living room and television. “Not right now, okay?”
Our somewhat neurotic, clingy and oddly brilliant Bernese Mountain Dog Sophie sits at the bottom of the stairs, tail wagging away and very happy to see me awake. She barks quietly, letting me know that this is good that I am awake and now able to pay attention to her.
“Sophie dog. Sophie, Sophie, Sophie. C’mere, lemme hold your nose. Good girl.” I gently latch on to her nose and let go, for some reason I am the only member of the family that she will tolerate this from. “Let’s go find out what Mommy saw on television that made her all upset, huh?”
‘You are the older one. You throw snow for me in the winter. You feed me treats when Mommy is not looking. You disappear for months and come home smelling like other places that I have not been. I miss you when you are not here.’ Wagging and half-barking, she leads me into the living room. ‘Mommy is upset, maybe sad right now, but I am a good dog. Fix her. She is always happy when you are here. I am happy when you are here too, maybe you can stay longer this time?’
Seven minutes ago, byproducts from the reaction driving the star at the center of our solar system produced some photons. These particles, traveling in both packets and waves, exploded from the furnace and sped toward Earth. They were polarized and filtered, bounced around, jostled and then finally slammed into a building. They then bounced off of the building, moved some thousands of feet where they were collected, focused and digitized by a camera on top of another building.
That signal was pumped into a room full of people who I will never know, fiddled with slightly and then sent packing again. It bounced through some satellites, miles of cables, through some filters, then out of a wall socket in this house and into the tuning circuit of the television before me now.
The tuner picked the signal apart and turned part of it into electrons which were fired out of a electron gun at the back of the device only to slam into a phosphor coating on the inside of the tube. The impact causes the surface to fluoresce and emit photons, which travel across the room to several pairs of eyeballs.
‘Now you are curious, maybe upset too.’ A pair of these eyeballs belong to Sophie, who does not understand the image of a burning building on the screen but instead is able to fathom that now is not the time for tail wagging. She stops moving across the kitchen area, pads carefully to where I am standing in front of the television and gently nuzzles my hand with a damp nose. ‘You too are upset now. Play with me, do not be upset. Angry is bad, I am good.’
“…some kind of accident. Initial reports seem to indicate that an airplane…” An airplane hit the building? Is this like in forty-something when that B-17 flew into the side of the Empire State Building by accident?
Little gray shape.
Moving. Flitting across the screen.
We are trained to know what aircraft look like. We are trained to take a split second image or moment and make a decision based on what we see. When you spend years learning that people may live or die based on your split-second assessment of what is going on in a given situation you become quite adept at this process.
“…something, some kind of explosion…” I am moving across the room, nearly stepping on Sophie in the process. My Mother has not seen this version of her son before, this is not the child that she knew and raised. This is someone, something else.
Fingers dial as rapidly as possible, six one nine five four five number number number number. The voice on the other end picks up and smoothly rattles off: “Aich ess ell forty nine duty office this is a non-secure line may I help you sir or ma’am?”
“Hey, it’s Yurei. I’m on leave in New Mexico. Do I need to find a plane?”
“Hey dude.” Steve says. “No recall right now, stay where you are. Got a phone number I can reach you at?”
“Yeah.” I rattle off some numbers. “The first one, the five oh five area code, yeah that is the one here and then the second one is my cell. Call the cell first and the other number second. They close the base yet?”
“I think so, nobody knows what the hell is going on. Hey, hang on a sec.” Steve sets the phone on the desk where I can hear a muffled statement from the Squadron Duty Officer about the base gates now being closed. “Hey, still there?”
“Yeah. What’s up?”
“SDO says that they’ve closed the base. Smitty and Pat and them are downstairs arming one-eleven and one-twelve.”
“Yeah, they got fifties and Hellfires down there. Doing patrols off the coast.” The gravity of this action is lost on neither of us.
“Shit.” Not the most erudite thing that I have ever said, but it pretty much sums up what I am thinking.
“Yeah, everything’s all fucked up.”