“You really think it’s me?” Jeremy asked in a small voice. Marina nodded dumbly, blinking hard against the tears.
“I’m so sorry” she gasped, her arms moving as if to embrace him from across the room. “It has to be you though, Jeremy. It happens every time you go to sleep, and only when you go to sleep.”
“I just thought that’s what it’s like for everyone. I didn’t understand the fuss.” He hid his face in his father’s chest and cried. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to do it.” Marina rushed across the room to join their embrace, kissing her son’s hair, holding her family close. But Daniel pushed away from her slightly, pulling Jeremy with him as if to protect him from her.
“Of course you don’t!” He lowered his head so that he could easily look into the boy’s eyes. “I’m not sure I believe that it is you. But I know you would never do this on purpose. You’ve done nothing wrong.”
“But you said people were dying!” Jeremy protested.
“I did, and they are. It’s just that half the world misses the daylight that it would normally get while you’re asleep. It’s changing the weather because nothing is getting to warm up on one side while on the other it never cools down. There are a lot of worries about food and about insects and wild animals, but it is not your fault.” Daniel emphasised this last, looking deep into his son’s eyes as he spoke but Jeremy was not convinced, he argued with them, trying to understand. If this wasn’t his fault, why had they been fighting? And why did they say that the time went missing while he was asleep? Jeremy stood, small and shaking in his Batman pyjamas, as he tried to take in what his parents were saying.
It was Marina who answered his questions. Daniel just watched, rigid with anger and misery, unable to deny what she was saying. When Jeremy announced that he was going to take himself off to the police station, it was Marina that shouted out and objected.
“Jeremy, you can’t go!” The boy screwed up his eyes and fists and shook his head.
“No. I heard you telling Dad this is more important than I am. If I can do something about this I should just do it.” He stuck out his chest as he spoke and tried to control his breath which was coming in hard sobs by now. He kept clenching his jaw, forcing his face to stay rigid but failing to hide his fear.
“No, sweetheart, you shouldn’t.” Marina said gently, tears running down her own face as she stroked his fringe out of his eyes. “I’ve thought about this long and hard and I’ve been keeping a diary for weeks now of all of this.” She ignored Daniel’s outraged yelp and ploughed on. “You and your Dad need to go. You need to get somewhere safe, away from people and hole up. Don’t tell me where. I’m going to destroy all the pictures of you that I can find and all traces of who you are. Then I’m going to turn myself in. Between the diary and my DNA, they should be able to get what they need without you. We need to get ready quickly. You should go tonight.”
This time Daniel grabbed her, shouting out in objection, but she ignored him. “It has to be me.” She told him. “You’re stronger than I am, and fitter too, he stands a better chance of survival with you. Without that it’d all be useless anyway.”