Two men miss the signs of a disaster.
|Sirilak had high silver boots and a fat silver pen she loved to tap. If either men had bothered to look, her white skirt had silver sparkles and her white underwear was embroidered with silver rabbits. They bothered, and were bothered more when they saw her silver bra. The bra wasn't as obvious, though. Ron actually pushed out his chair to make sure. Jack pressed his glasses so hard to the bridge of his nose his eyes began to cross.
"You met Chung's wife, yet?" Ron whispered. "Where is he anyway? He really can't leave his daughter here."
Ron meant it was freezing and he was becoming more distracted by the flush and goose bumps between Siri's ivory legs. The break room was the only place in the building visitors were allowed. It also had the only wired computer in the entire place. Still, it was in the same complex as the control room and, hence, kept well below chill.
"It's fine," Jack said. "Chung said it was a school thing. Sirilak is writing a paper on alternative energy. She might need to interview you, Ron."
Jack meant 'interview' him. He crossed his legs at the thought. Ron gulped and sat back with his coffee.
The girl looked around at the mention of her name. She had been studiously designing something. Jack barely noticed. Neither did Ron because every fourth tap, the pen had a mind to bounce out of reach behind her. "Silver rabbits," Ron thought. "Tricks are for kids."
Jack puffed up. "What did they do for 9/11. Like on campus?" He deflated. Waited.
Sirilak cooed. She took a pose of deep thought and rolled her bulbous pen across her bluing lips. "Not too much."
Ron's face hardened like he'd been smacked by a bible. "You kids are too carefree. You should see the security we had to put in place."
"Oh, I know," she replied. She fingered the visitors' pass just until it settled mid chest. "I went through the big scanner." Sirilak bit down and tensed her face. A rose hint spread over her cheeks.
Jack was beside himself. He uncrossed and crossed his legs again, this time in obvious agony at the effort, like a child who had broken a vase but didn't want anyone to know.
Ron, determined not to abuse his superhuman vision, stared through the panel of glass on the break room door. Through the slit over Sirilak's exposed shoulder, Chung's Beetle passed the bay windows across the hall.
"Chung must be ready to leave." Ron said. "He just pulled up. Sorry we weren't more useful, Siri."
Sirilak's face peeled into a blinding smile. "Oh, you're sweet. I stole a pamphlet and can get everything else online. No worries." On her last word she managed to drop the pen again. Jack, a true gentleman, dived for it, nearly planting his face in the jeweled eye of a soft silver rabbit.
Sirilak leaned toward her pen, and still facing away pushed herself up in an arc over Jack's head. Jack fought to not look up. He backed away and apologized for being clumsy.
"There he is, the dog." Ron motioned to the door as father and daughter locked eyes.
Chung walked in dragging his feet. He wasn't handsome or tall, exactly what you'd expect out of an aged Chinaman. Chung shuffled up to his daughter and gave her a quick hug.
"Thank you so very much for watching my Sirilak." Chung smiled at his trophy. She curtsied and headed outside. "You did not need to both stay! My apologies for the inconvenience." He practically bowed.
"You're going to have trouble with that one." Ron started.
"Crazy trouble." Jack finished.
"Oh. She is a good girl. No problems. I must get her home, now. Zài jiàn. Goodbye, friends."
Chung followed his daughter out without closing the door. Ron chanced standing, sneaking a look down his trousers. Assured, he rounded the conference table and headed for the entrance.
"What the hell is this?" Ron asked, staring at the floor.
Jack joined him at the front of the room. "Silver?"
The line extended out the door and made a right the way Chung had come. Jack stepped outside. "Whoa. The line goes all the way down the hall to the control room!" He looked pleadingly back into the break room. "What is this?"
Ron traced a finger along the tile, to the base of the conference table, up the leg and to a silver square taped underneath, numbers and a familiar name stamped across its surface.
The building started to whistle, constant and rising like a train coming to station. Knocks, pings, growing to a roar. Light switched red; lit the hallway in a mix of sun and exit signs; played eerily on Ron's bent frame. Ron thought to stand, his shoulders tensed; "Trouble," his back said.
Mark spun. The air left him. He wordlessly watched swaths of landscape lift and be brushed aside. The wide glass became honeycombed, blinding light refracting from a million little holes. Mark's eyes crossed again. Skirts and silver stars. A school bell rang in the distance.
Special thanks to Evertrap for wonderful editing.