Gretchen lay awake staring straight up into the darkness, praying the door would open. Never had he gone out at night for this long, and she knew if he had been taken they would come for her next. She fought the urge to put their emergency plan into motion. Just a little longer, she thought, as she began to pray more vehemently.
Forty minutes later she heard him open the front door and slip into the apartment.
Tension and worry surrounded him as he walked into the bedroom. Gretchen sat up in bed.
“What happened?” she blurted. “I thought you’d been taken for sure.”
“It may be only a matter of time,” he said as he undressed in the dark. “They’ve got new drones in the sky, ones that work no matter the weather or time of day. It’s too risky now, we’ll have to leave tomorrow night.”
“Did you deliver the package? Why not leave now? Why wait?” Her voice rose several pitches as she spoke.
“I delivered the package. You and I both know it is safer to leave tomorrow. If I don’t log in for work they’ll come right away. If we leave tomorrow at rush hour we can be to the western edge by the time I am supposed to log in. That should give us enough of a head start to get across the border.”
She couldn’t argue with the logic, though every fiber of her body told her they should leave now.
A warm morning breeze blew through the open window, carrying the sound of children playing on the street below. Just as their boy had done years ago. Gretchen plunged her hands into the warm soapy water and looked at the pictures of the granddaughter they’d never met in various stages of life above the sink. The damn war, thought Gretchen, the source of all these troubles.
Several years ago the corporations had succeeded in taking over the government, causing a civil war that had cleaved the country into two separate nation states. Their son, distrustful of the regime, had fled to the Western Territory where a new democratic government had been established. Gretchen and Hennery, believing the lies the leaders had told, had decided to stay. Almost immediately the new Eastern Territory government had closed all roads twenty-five miles from the new border and enacted unprecedented surveillance laws. Now pencils, pens and paper were things that children in the Eastern Territory saw only in history books and museums. They learned to write on tablets. Everything was computerized so that everything could be monitored.
The street below was suddenly silent; the only sound was the curtains rustling in the warm breeze. Gretchen pulled her hands from the water and wiped them on a dishtowel as she walked to the window. The street was empty except for three large black vehicles at each end of the block. Her shoulders fell as she turned and walked down the hallway, stopping to unlock the door and leaving it slightly ajar. No need for them to wreck a perfectly good door, she thought as she walked into Hennery’s office. Light flooded the room. Hennery turned from the window looking at her with worn and tired eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
Wrapping her arms around him she buried her head into his chest. He wrapped his arms around her, kissing the top of her head as the sound of heavy boots filled the air.