Four by three

A bead of sweat trickled down Susannah’s creased brow, and she caught herself trying to find a ‘clean’ patch of t-shirt to wipe it with. There wasn’t one. The cell was so warm and muggy it might look to an outsider like it was filled with steam. Didn’t people pay money to go in saunas? Madness. Susannah flicked the offending droplet off, earning a glare from Mrs Reiner.

“How long do you think we’ve been in here?” little Andy asked for possibly the fiftieth time.

Mrs Reiner glanced at her wrist, only to remember again that her watch had been confiscated.

“Too long,” Susannah muttered. With a grunt she hauled herself up to her feet, and started to sweep her hands across the plastic walls, feeling for any interruption to the smooth, opaque walls. “There must be a way out.”

“I thought we’d discussed this,” Mrs Reiner said with annoyance, “We don’t think it’s a good idea to start looking for escape routes-”

The heat and exhaustion fused inside Susannah to form charged, reckless anger.

“No, we didn’t. You did. Because you’re scared. Or maybe you’re not scared. Maybe you don’t care what happens to all of us. We might die in here! But hey, as long as no one makes a fuss-”

Andy held his hands over his ears, whimpering.

“Don’t be facetious,” Mrs Reiner hissed, standing up as well. Her knees trembled as she straightened, unaccustomed to standing without help.”Stop this. You’re scaring the boy.”

I’m scaring the boy? Hello, we are trapped in some kind of bubble, and you want us to sit here and wait for the air to run out-”

“You’re being ridiculous now, I didn’t say that.”

“Stop fighting!” Andy wailed.

Susannah and Mrs Reiner looked at each other, and sat back down either side of him.

“I don’t like sitting around here anymore than you do,” Mrs Reiner said, with patience this time. “But we have to be careful, given we’re in a situation where we don’t have all the information. I’m the oldest, and while I appreciate you’re not a child, I do feel a sense of responsibility for you and Andy both.”

Susannah opened her mouth to protest, but Mrs Reiner continued.

“So, let’s review, shall we? We might have missed a clue.”

“Fine. I was at college. You were at work. Andrew was at home. All normal. And then suddenly we ‘woke up’ here.”

“Yes, ‘here’ being a totally sealed room, four paces by three, which has no doors or windows. Question mark over the air supply, although we’ve been here for what feels like a couple of hours and no one seems to be suffering from oxygen deprivation.”

“All of which may be related to the UFO thing on TV,” Susannah finished, “Or may not. But just in case this is some weird alien observation thing, you think we should behave…”

Andy hugged his knees.

“I want to go home,” he said in a small voice.

“I know, dear,” Mrs Reiner replied, “We all do.”

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