“Soon. Soon.” Mr. Nercessian squinted and rubbed his temples. Josie held her breath and looked over at Franklin. He was still asleep under an afghan on the couch. It had been nearly an hour since he stirred. His breathing was slow but steady. Mr. Nercessian closed his eyes for moment. “How soon?” asked Josie. He reopened his eyes. She waited for what must have been two full minutes before prompting him, asking, “Have you ever done this before?” Mr. Nercessian stood and took a few steps towards the kitchen. “Yes,” he answered, “for my own husband.”
She heard him filling a kettle in the kitchen, and heard a siren from far away. Franklin clutched the blanket closer. Josie looked at him and then out the living room window. It was already dark, but a streetlight illuminated a few trees in front of the brick wall across the street. Something stirred the leaves among the base of the trees. It sounded like a stray dog, but Josie knew that was impossible.
Mr. Nercessian returned with tea. “Tell me about your husband," said Josie.
He sighed. “He wasn’t a very good man before all this began. We hadn’t been married very long. Like a lot of people, he tried to get used to everything until it seemed normal. Then we heard they killed his sister, a college professor. They just carried her off. Her husband, my brother-in-law, and kids disappeared soon after. We learned the resistance was protecting them, and my husband joined the resistance for a few years. They killed him right there, right across the street. His crew brought his body back to me. I’ve learned a lot since then. It doesn’t work if They touch somebody first.” He had spoken slowly. Josie had finished her tea. “They didn’t touch him. I made sure of that,” she said. Mr. Nercessian nodded and poured him another cup, explaining, “I know. I could tell that much. He wouldn’t be breathing again if They’d touched him.” A few hours passed. Neither could sleep. “Are you ready for the last part?” he asked. She nodded. “There’s a dog across the street, by those trees. Bring it here,” he instructed.
Josie put the regulator in her mouth and went outside. The air was always thicker at night, and it slowed her progress. And there, across the street, at the base of the tree was a small dog, with matted hair. Some kind of terrier-mix, maybe. It was hard to tell. She bent down and ran her thumb across her other fingers to call the dog. Craving affection, the dog climbed into her arms. A siren sounded again. This time closer. Maybe only a block away. She clutched the pup and ran towards the house. The air became thicker. The regulator wouldn’t be effective if it thickened much more. They appeared in the street. Mr. Nercessian came outside and yelled gibberish at them. They floated towards him. One reached out a hand and placed it on his shoulder. He collapsed. They disappeared.
The air lightened and Josie rushed to him, he was so frail that she could hoist him up with one arm. She brought him inside and placed him on the armchair. Josie starred at Mr. Nercessian. His face thin and tired. He must have known. The pup yelped, so she put it on the floor. She watched as the dog went over to Franklin, and licked the tips of his fingers. Franklin opened his eyes. He opened his mouth by no sound came out. Josie held his hand. The siren sounded again.
I’m a producer, writer and storyteller with expertise in digital, print, film, TV & stage productions