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It rained for half the days of the year. The heavens seemed to open up, and water flowed as if it was being poured from a bucket. The lower lands flooded, and everyone had to live on the tops of the mountains that poked their heads out over the water surface. For the other half of the year, the sun beat down so hard it drew large cracks through the ground. In both seasons nothing could grow—it was either too wet or far too dry. During the hot months, it was almost impossible to live on the top of the mountains. It was always far hotter there than anywhere else. There were ways around these things, or there would be no one to tell you this story; this is the story of survival.
I ran as fast as I could down the hallway from the weather station to our family’s communication station in the main room. Coming around the corner into the main room, I just about ran into it, I was going so fast. My two younger brothers, John and Clark, were playing with the practice disks in the corner, they looked up at me with worried expressions on their faces. People rarely ran anywhere in the heat. Even in a cave with a cooling system like ours, the extraneous heat produced by running was seen as a strain on the system. I fumbled through the disks scattered in front of me, looking for the one with my mother's name on it. Finding it, I carefully pushed it into the slot to begin communicating, holding my breath as the display ran through the connecting systems. The word “Connecting” flashed on the screen in front of me, and for a moment I let myself breathe, almost being relieved. As the word flashed in front of me, I realized that I heard a faint beeping noise. All the air in the room seemed to disappear. John and Clark looked up at me form their toys with terrified expressions on their faces. Without a word, we all began frantically searching the cave for my mother’s disk receiver. I ran into my parents’ room and quickly searched the dresser in front of me. After what seemed like an hour, but was in truth only minutes, I heard a frightened squawk from one of the adjacent rooms. Following the noise, I found young Clark pointing at our mother’s disk receiver sitting on the kitchen table. I walked forward, a knot of dread forming in my stomach. Sitting on the kitchen table were both of my parents’ receiver disks with a note reading, “Just went for a walk, didn’t want to be disturbed, be back soon.” The writing was rather messy but the only thing that would cause them to do something so stupid would be alcohol.
My heart fell through the floor. Although both my parents were very intelligent people, they could sometimes make very stupid decisions. My mom was the best weather specialist on the planet. She should have had some kind of an idea of what was about to happen. My dad, on the other hand, was the chief communicator for below ground communications. Why did they have to pick now to be this stupid? After the shock took hold of me, I realized both of my brothers were watching me from behind, and at this moment I was in charge.
“Go get everything packed right now. I know mom and dad aren’t home, but it's that time again.” The looks on their faces told me that my façade of calm and okay had failed, but nontheless they did as I had told them. I took a deep breath and slowly walked back to the communication system. I picked up the disk for high command weather division and switched it for my mothers disk. I typed in the authorization code I had watched my mother do every year, and waited with my heart though the floor and my lungs empty.
“High Weather Command, this is a secure channel. Please state your name, division, and reason for communication.”
Without hesitation, I answered, “Henly Stanleys, weather division, incoming weather systems.”
There was a pause on the other end of the line, before the voice responded, “Please hold.”
I had some idea of the conversation that would be going on at the other end. It should be my mother making the call—she was the Chief in Charge for watching for the rain cycles in the atmosphere. I was just the student, and even though I was about to finish my double degree in both communication and climatology, there was no reason for my mother not to be making the call. By the time my brain had gone though every plausible reason the weather command had for not believing me, a much more recognizable voice spoke over the communicator.
“Henly, is there any chance we could speak to your mother? This would have more credence coming form her.” It was the voice of the Chief of Weather Command. Although I didn’t know his name, he had come to talk to my mother several times.
I took a deep breath before I spoke through the communicator. “Sorry but my mom and dad went out for a walk, and they left me at the weather station. I can send you the data if you would like.”
The pause on the other end of the line was only for a moment before the booming voice of the Chief said with complete certainty, “Begin the transfer now.”
I could hear muffled voices of disbelief at what he had just said. As far as most of them knew, he was making an incredibly large decision based on the words of a teenager. ( I was 21 but sounded much younger.)
The booming voice sounded again, this time much angrier, “Did I stutter? This is one of the few decisions that I make, and I have made it, so follow through.” He wasn’t yelling but almost yelling would be a good way to put it. After a large amount of shuffling, a calmer and much quieter version of the booming came over the disk saying, “If you could pass over the information as soon as possible, I will also inform the Safety and Security Command that your parents are out. They should be contacting you; your parents are invaluable to this planet.”
“Thank you so much, Sir. I will be waiting for their communication, out.”
I paused and let the disk go silent, then I sprang into action knowing the large number of things that would have to be done before our housing would be ready for the flooding. The fist thing I did was put the house communication system on open, allowing anyone to contact us, then grabbed both the house communicator as well as my own, not knowing which the Safety and Security Command would contact me on. Then I laid out a plan of things that had to happen. The first being: the information from the weather station would have to be communicated back to weather command. I paused and listened, hearing both the boys still packing everybody’s things away. I headed back down the long corridor to the weather station. The rather long jog back to the weather station left me with far too much time to think things through. Everything was about to change, the way it did twice every year. The only difference is that this change could kill you much quicker. As I walked back to the control console at the weather station and looked at the readings, I paused again, this time realizing the full consequences of the action I had just taken. But the data didn’t lie. The whole planet was going to flood again, as it did every 694 days. And it was going to rain for 347 days. The entire population of the planet was going to relocate to their flood housing on the peaks of the mountains, far above the caves that we all lived in now. And if I was wrong about any of this timing, then all the agriculturalists would lose valuable days of growing.
I closed my eyes and slowly counted to three, forcing myself to take that many deep breaths. I was right, I was looking at the information in front of me, and I knew I was right. It was going to start raining any time now, and the planet would take only a couple hours to begin flooding.
I sat down at my console and started the process of transferring all the data onto an information disk. While that was happening, I started moving all the stuff that had slowly accumulated there. Over the many months that both my mother and I had spent countless hours pouring over all the data that poured in from the weather satellites and other weather monitors, things just showed up and stayed. Just as I had finished loading all of our things into the cart that would take them back to the main building, the console beeped at me, the disk was ready. Throwing the last couple of things into the cart, I secured the lid and pushed it into the compartment that would whisk on a track it back to the main room, before turning around and sitting back down at my desk. I removed the disk from the slot it was in and carefully inserted it into the specialized carrying slot on my communicator. It would be difficult to get this information back out of the system after I shut the whole thing down. The process of doing this took longer than expected, either that or time felt like it was flying while the fastest I could move was a crawl. As soon as I was sure it had worked, I put all the final pieces into place and covered the window, forcing myself not to stare out at the open fields where my parents could be. Going out in hot weather like this was dangerous on its own, especially without a communicator. They had a silence setting for a reason. As I walked out of the station, I closed and locked the door to it, and as I turned around to do the same to the outside door, I had to stop, remembering that I would be locking my parents out. Taking a deep breath in to calm myself yet again, I started jogging back down the hall.
Upon arriving back at the main part of our living quarters, I went over to the communicator and started working on sending the information on the disk to Weather Command. I could see the display reading all the information about the incoming flooding, as well as the provided check list to prepare for the move. Looking around, I realized that the boys must have read this and had started packing more then just their own personal things. There was a small pile of boxes waiting at the bottom of the elevator door, waiting to go up. Once I was sure that the weather information on the disk was sending, I walked over to the elevator door, found the handle, and pulled it open. Walking over to the console, I put in the weather code for rain. I started piling the already packed things into the elevator. The trip was pretty long and the elevator could be told to empty itself of its contents when it arrived, then to head back down, making moving everything up much smoother. As the boys piled a few more full boxes in front of me, I filled the last bit of the elevator, closed the door, then told it to go up, empty itself, and return back down. Just as I started looking around for the other essentials to pack, the main communication station started beeping.
Walking over, the written message from Weather Command was visible, a simple thank you, with an added hope my parents come home soon. Like I had so many times before, I paused and forced myself to take several deep breaths.
“Are they going to be okay?”
The quiet shaking voice of John pulled me out of my head. I looked down at him and forced a smile onto my face. I bent down on one knee so I could be face-to-face with him.
“They just went out for a moment. We’re not sure where they went but there are a lot of people looking for them.” Realizing that keeping both boys busy was probably the best idea at this point, I tried to genuinely smile, saying, “Why don’t we make sure everything is ready both down here and up there for when they come back? Sound like a plan, little man?”
He seemed to pause for a moment before agreeing, “Okay, that sounds good.” He then turned around and ran off to find Clark—I assumed to tell him the new information.
Just then the communication station behind me started making the incoming call ring. Looking at the identification, it was the High Safety and Security Command. I pressed the buttons to answer the communication, my heart pounding in my ears.
“Henly Stanleys, we have been informed that your parents are missing. Please fill us in with all relevant details.”
I took a deep breath and explained everything that had happened, starting with spending my morning in the weather station to coming back and finding the note. The person on the other end was quiet and listened to everything that was being said. When I had finished talking there was a pause and I realized the other person must be putting all of this into some kind of file. They then began asking barrages of questions including, “Have they ever gone on walks before? If so, where to?” as well as asking if either of them was seeing a counselor or therapist. When it was all done, the voice finished with, “We will begin a search. Please communicate with us if they return or any new information becomes known. We will inform you if they are found, out.”
And with that, the communication went silent. I took yet one more breath feeling a little more hopeful, before turning around to help pack.
The boys had managed to grab most of the essentials, except for some of the things on the highest shelves. I went around with an empty box grabbing all the leftovers. Having finished the kitchen, I moved on to the main room. Walking over to the display shelf, I grabbed the first picture frame to put into the box without really thinking. I glanced at it before it went in, and was stopped in my tracks for what seemed the hundredth time today. The picture was the first one of the five of us together, all of us crowded around my mom’s bed at Medical Command, with baby John in her arms. It seemed like a lifetime ago, all of us together and happy, but I had to believe that we could be happy again. My parents should be coming home any moment. I put the rest of the pictures from the mantel piece into the box, and walked over to the elevator. There were only a couple of boxes there so I added mine to the small pile.
“Clark? John? Where are you guys?” After a couple seconds, the pattering of little feet greeted me from behind and John stood there.
“Clark went up with the last batch. Anything else left to grab?”
I looked around and couldn’t see much. I glanced at the timer on the elevator and found that we still had almost three minutes until it would be back down.
“Why don’t we both look around together, sound good?” I smiled at him, and extended my hand. He inserted his much smaller one into mine and we both started walking through each room of the cave. It seemed to take no time at all until we had checked every room and only found a handful of things that had been missed. Walking back to the elevator, we packed the remaining boxes into it, and then I smiled at John saying,
“You should go with this batch, then send it back down for me. I have to just do one more thing.”
“Okay, you have to get Mom and Dad, right?”
“Well, I am going to Contact the Safety and Security people and see if they have found anything, and hopefully they know where Mom and Dad are. But just in case, I need you to go up to Clark, so I know where both of you are and don’t have to worry.”
“Okay, but we’ll be fine without them. We have you, and you are much nicer.”
With those chilling words, he turned around went into the elevator and pressed the buttons to go up. The door closed and for a moment I had no idea what to make of what he said. I knew after I had been born, my dad had passed away during an attempted rescue during the raining time, and Mom had re-coupled. The new guy was Clark and John’s father. I had never liked him, and knew that at times he could be rather rude and imposing, but I had never seen anything happen. Then again, I was always sent off to watch the weather at the station down the hall, and with my education, it was easier for me to just sleep in the extra bed I had put there. There had been one or two times when Dave, mom’s new couple, had tried to get handsy with me, but being rather intoxicated, I thought it was a big mistake. Was there a chance that Dave had done something to the boys, and they had locked them outside? That seemed crazy.
Then I started putting pieces together. Recently, Clark had become very interested in the weather, wondering when it was going to rain again. He wanted to know the day I thought it would happen, and for the last couple of days, he had been asking me if today was the day, at first meal. Today I had said yes. All the weather signs had started to come into place, and I had been right. Today was the day. In contrast, John, the adorable little man, had become super interested in how the communicators worked. He wanted to know what all the buttons did, and if he could build one himself. I had spent the little free time I had helping him build working communicators just like Mom and Dad’s out of spare parts. He had just finished them a couple of days ago. I started desperately looking around for the ones he had built. They had been convincing enough that even my dad would have believed they were real. Walking over to the note in the kitchen, I picked it up and looked at it with a whole new perspective. The writing was bad enough one of the boys could have scribbled it.
I stood there in disbelief. My two younger brothers had managed to come up with a way to kill my parents. Looking more closely around the kitchen, I found Dave’s secret stash of drinks. The one newest drink that the boys had gotten him for his birthday was missing—the special kind that both smelled and tasted like water. If they had given him a bunch of that at breakfast, he would have no idea where he was outside and could have easily gotten lost.
Just then my communicator beeped and I answered it. It was the Safety and Security Command.
“Hello?” I tentatively answered.
“I am very sorry to tell you, Miss Stanleys, but we haven’t been able to find anything and the weather has gotten too bad to continue the search. Both your parents are considered missing. When you are settled in above ground, you will have to begin the paperwork of becoming your brothers' guardian, as you are now of age.”
“Okay, understood, out,” I answered them without really noticing. The boys would have been moved somewhere else last year had this happened and I wasn’t of age yet. Now that I was, it would be just the three of us; and with me about to finish my education, we should have a steady income. The plan was perfect, and it worked.
I slowly walked down the long hallway to the outdoor entrance, and sealed it for the coming weather. I didn’t think either of my parents would be coming home. Walking back to the elevator, I realized that I was now going to have to live the rest of my life with my brothers who killed their parents. How the hell are you supposed to prepare for that?