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Sea of Crises

by Rudi Dornemann

On the news, the replay: L5 station exploding again, ring after ring opening into flame.

Behind me, Ivan threw clothes into a bag. In the doorway, Jill looked down the stairs her friend Sue had just run down.

Ivan shouldered me toward the door and nudged Jill through it.

From the empty apartment, we heard official confirmation: the moon had started targeting earthside cities.

The car met us as at the ground floor. The people from the fourth floor were loading their kids and an antique lamp into their van. Waving, we glided away fast.

We asked; the car told us the moon would rise in twenty-three minutes.

We were OK, we figured, as long as we stayed away from cities. No reason to think this, except then we could do something. As if surfacing from the deepening night, the evening's first star appeared.

Ivan thought we should turn the radio on, hear the latest. Sue said no use getting all hyped on information.

We left the radio off.

Hours, the three of us rode, tense on the over-upholstered seats. The car gave us the random wander we'd asked for-- industrial park cul-de-sacs, interstate frontage roads and ruler-straight deep-country state highways. Past fire-gutted grain elevators, through all-night truck stop diner/adult bookstore/discount firework shack minimall parking lots, down aisles of tall old elms where the leaves were thick enough overhead we relaxed a bit, and realized how tired we felt. Then we remembered the miracle of infrared and the blaze our engine must be making to distant watchers, leaves or no leaves.

By three, we were numb to worry. Ivan and I said OK when Jill suggested hacking one of the surveillance bands. We watched with watchers' eyes: everything alien, milk-colored, sharp-shadowed. A farmhouse our earthly eyes could barely make out framed four dim embers in what we guessed was the kitchen. Mother, father, child, gathered around the newsfeed. The fourth heat source-- a coffee-maker? And not far off, three smudges in the blurry lozenge of a car. We climbed around and traded seats, watching the screen to see if it really was us.

It was.

That spooked us. We turned off the screen, dimmed the controls, listened to wind-hiss and tire-hum.

If the moon sets and we're still here to see it, we told each other, we'll pull over and get some sleep.

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