If you've been wondering what happened to Steven, Evie, and their kids after the events in "First Shocks," you'll enjoy today's story. For those of you just tuning in, you may want to read or listen to the two previous stories featuring the Reynard family: "Warning Tremors" and "First Shocks."
Audio versions of each may be found on my YouTube channel.
He hadn’t meant to scare the child. It was perfectly normal for an active, healthy three-year-old to get sick and tired of being cooped up in a run down old house and want to go outside. But as much as he wanted the same, Steven couldn’t allow it yet. Nadine didn’t understand, and neither did her brothers, who were growing tired of hearing her whine. So they’d tried to all sneak out while their parents were busy trying to cobble dinner together in a nonfunctioning kitchen. That’s why he’d yelled.
Nadine sobbed into her mother’s shoulder, and Evie shot him annoyed looks as she rocked and comforted the confused preschooler. Steven rubbed the nape of his neck and sighed.
“I’m sorry I snapped,” he said. “I didn’t mean to scare you, Naddie, but going outside right now would make you very, very sick.”
Nadine, who was starting to calm, shifted in her mama’s lap and turned sad, tear filled eyes up to her daddy. Her lip still trembled, and her forehead scrunched as she asked, “Why?”
Evie shook her head at Steven. While he understood her desire to protect the children’s innocence, he was convinced they needed to understand. They couldn’t be awake every moment of every day. The kids needed to know why, or they’d be looking for a way out of the cramped, boring, and weird smelling house for the next few days.
“Remember that big boom and weird cloud yesterday?” he asked Nadine.
“It threw a whole bunch of icky stuff in the air,” Steven explained. “You can’t see it or smell it, but some of that icky stuff fell back down outside.”
Nadine’s eyes got big, and she scrunched up her nose. “Yuck!”
Steven nodded. “We have to stay in here until the icky stuff blows away, or it’ll make us sick.”
“Oh.” The disappointment of a three-year-old sounded thick in her voice, but Nadine nodded and agreed with a sad, “Okay Daddy.”
She squirmed down out of Evie’s lap, and Aden suggested a game of Jilly and Jake. Steven grinned as Naddie clapped her hands and pulled an eye rolling Nathan along after Aden. “You can be Jake,” she said.
“Thank goodness for cartoons and big brothers,” Steven sighed as the kids disappeared into the back of the old house.
“How long’s that going to last?” Evie said. “The world’s falling down around our ears. Nobody’s going to be making cartoons for a long time.”
“Maybe,” Steven said. He sat down beside Evie and squeezed her tight. “Let ‘em play while they can.”
They sat there for several minutes in silence, listening to the children laugh and play. Evie curled into Steven’s side and lay her head on his shoulder.
“You okay?” Steven asked.
“A little queasy,” Evie answered. “This house isn’t much protection against radiation.”
“No,” Steven agreed, “but it’s something.”
“The food won’t last.”
“We were upwind of the blast,” Steven said. “If we can make it forty-eight hours, we’ll go west.”
Each story in this series is 500 words or less and is prompted by a first line taken either from a random first line generator like this one or reader suggestions like "Don't Forget Me." I much prefer working from reader suggestions over generators, but to do that, I need to hear from you.
If you have a prompt you'd like to see done, comment below, send it to my Tumblr asks, Tweet it at me, or leave a comment on any of the audio stories from this series. I'll screen shot it, write it, and post it for you.
You can also find the audio version of this story over on my YouTube channel.
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