Marina was in the kitchen peeling vegetables and muttering to herself when the phone rang. Her husband brought it through, and passed it to her with a kiss as he asked if she was sure she didn’t want any help. She shook her head, waving him away.
“Just keep Jeremy entertained” she told him and then mouthed “Who is it?” as she took the phone, smiling faintly when he twisted himself into the grotesque figure of a pantomime witch.
“Happy Christmas Mum!” She laughed with a brittle cheerfulness. Her smile slid as she stood, listening. Daniel stopped on his way out of the kitchen and turned to look at her.
“Ok… No… No, we haven’t seen the news… Yes – yes I think it happened to us… Look, hang on a moment, just let me…” Marina reached past the pile of vegetables and switched on the radio. She changed channels as soon as she heard music playing, scrolling through to Radio 4 and then turning it up.
“… ask again for everyone to remain calm.” the smooth, professional tones of the reporter began mid-sentence. “As yet there is no credible explanation for the phenomenon, but the most likely seems to be that it is a case of global mass hysteria. Governments around the world appear to be moving quickly in an attempt to discover…” the reporter continued in the background as Marina and Daniel froze in place, staring at each other, pale and open mouthed. After a long moment Daniel shifted position, shaking his head like a lion with fleas in his mane.
“See?” he asked with a tight laugh “I told you I didn’t spike your coffee!” His giggle bordered on hysteria for a moment and he turned his back on his catatonic wife, breathing deeply and grasping at the doorframe while he tried to steady himself. Behind him Marina slowly started to wake from her shock. Looking around the kitchen as though she had never seen it before she moved slowly, picking up her peeler and fumbling with a carrot briefly before banging both on the counter. She stood, rigidly braced with both fists on the counter, her feet splayed, her head down. Fighting for control. The sounds of Jeremy playing in the living room intensified as his efforts to rescue the world from malevolent aliens reached their inevitable climax.
“He’ll be through in a minute.” Daniel observed as he finally crossed the room to take his wife in his arms. Burying his face in her dark hair, he kissed the top of her head closing his eyes as she cuddled into his chest.
“It doesn’t seem to have bothered him at all.” Marina’s voice was small but full of wonder “He’s such a little toughy.”
“I don’t think it affected him. He would have been asleep anyway and the excitement of Christmas would carry him through the tiredness easily enough.” Daniel pulled away slightly, tipping Marina’s chin so that she was looking into his eyes. “Do you want to get some sleep after lunch? I could look after him for a while and then take my turn to get a rest later?” Marina pushed at him with an angry exclamation but he pulled her in tight, looking intently into her eyes. “Sweetheart, if this is as big as it sounds, there is nothing that we can do about it. What good will we do panicking now? We might as well just look after ourselves. See what they say once they have a better handle on it, and decide what we are going to do then.” He shook his head again and then picked up the phone.
“Hello?” he asked it tentatively, listening briefly before hanging up. “She’s gone.” Marina nodded stiffly and turned back to her vegetables.
“Fine. Well, get back and look after Jeremy or I’ll never get the cooking done and we’ll never get to catch up on that sleep we lost.” Daniel looked thoughtful and opened his mouth to speak but she stopped him. “Seriously, I don’t think I could cope with any more right now. Let’s just pretend it never happened, can we?” He watched, helpless, as tears streamed down her face while she attacked the carrots. Eventually he left the room.