Kids Will Be Kids
She woke with a start, shook off the remains of the dream she was having and habitually reached out and touched the wall. It felt warm. She sat up in the cot, looking across the annex to the kid’s empty beds.
Groaning to herself, she swung her legs off the cot and stood, stretching up until she felt her back click. As she walked across the room, she rolled her head from side to side and then rolled her shoulders. She felt a little better for the light stretches.
The kitchen bay was empty, as was the study bay. This could only mean one of two things: either the kids were down in the cool room or they’d gone outside. The doorway to the cool room stairs was dark, which meant the light down there was off. There was no way the kids would be down there in the dark because it scared them. So the little buggers were outside.
She fumed and stumped to the antechamber door. It was closed and the pressure seal was engaged. She flipped on the external monitor and dialled up the outside ambient temp gauge. It read 56 degrees Celsius. The time on the bottom of the monitor read 5:34 am. She swore to herself. She wouldn’t be surprised if broke 80 today. She used the remote to swivel the external camera around but didn’t see the kids anywhere.
She padded back to the sleeping bay and got into her suit. Her boots were in the antechamber. She walked back to the door, punched in the security code and the thick, heavy door popped open. A blast of heat tore through the gap. She quickly stepped through and pushed the door shut behind her. The door thumped as the locks re-engaged.
Her boots looked lonely against the wall. Usually, the kids boots would be scattered messily around hers. She slipped her socked feet into them and felt them lock onto her suit and seal. She stepped to the ladder and punched the code for the external hatch. Before scaling the ladder, she pulled the hood of her suit over her face. It molded with her features and sealed around her throat. She looked up the shaft to the brilliant spot of light at the top. The face-plate polarized panel set itself and she started to climb.
There were 68 rungs to the top and every time she climbed them, she would count them in her head. She stared at the wall behind the ladder, not daring to look down. Why they hadn’t optioned the annex with an elevator was still something she wondered about.
The shaft came out on top of a concrete pad. The ladder extended above the hatchway. She pulled herself up and stepped onto the pad. A pole with another keypad stood next to the ladder. On top of the pole sate the external camera housing. She quickly punched in a code and the hatch hissed and closed. Only then did she look at the landscape.
Dotted around were similar pads, all leading to identical annexes. She knew who lived in every one of them, although she rarely visited. The same could be said for them too. But the kids were different. They were usually satisfied with each other’s company but occasionally, hankered for someone different. Still, they should know better than to go out without telling her. The landscape itself could only be described as bleak. Rocky outcrops stood in the distance while the ground around this ’suburb’ was covered in smaller rocks and hard, grey gravel. There wasn't a tree, bush or any living plant in sight. She missed this more than just about anything else.
She still couldn’t see the kids. Now she was getting really angry. It didn’t matter how many times she explained to them, they didn’t get the inherent danger of being outside in daylight.
She caught her anger and laughed at herself. She had turned into her mother, with the exception of one thing. Her mother used to chase her out of the house when she was small, claiming that if she didn’t get out and get some sunshine, she’d never grow up properly.
Now, here she was, running around in the sun, looking for her children so that she could bring them inside. Sunshine these days was literally a killer. UV protection wasn’t sunblock anymore. The only way to protect skin was to wear a Smartsuit, like the one she was wearing. Her children had never seen a garden, had never felt sand beneath their feet or had swum in the ocean. They’d never seen birds or animals, except on vids, had never hiked through forests or even played cricket on a lawn.
She turned around and went back to her hatchway. With all the dangers around this new, burnt world, she’d forgotten that sometimes kids need to be kids. They would come home when they were hungry and she could have at them then. But for now, she’d let them play.