The next few hours were a blur of action and confusion. They cut and spread plastic bags along the frames of the doors and windows, then would tape them tight into place. All the while the house creaked and groaned with the wind blowing hard against it.
It grew darker and darker and at one point Allie stood by the window her head cocked as the sound of thunder. The wind made the falling snow look like it was shooting out the side of a snow blower. While they worked around the frame of the house, a sour, burning smell seemed to leak through the crevices. The three of them reflected on it briefly. It smelled like a rotting fish had been dropped into a gallon bucket of bleach. It stung and smelled awful.
The storm wailed, but did not make up for the daunting silence in the rooms they worked it; as a result they talked about different ideas for what had caused the explosion. It was the biggest point of discussion the three of them shared. None of them had ever heard of a biological weapon of this sort, causing a wintry climate change. It seemed too advanced for a terrorist attack. What did it take these days though to get a hold of a weapon of mass destruction, and simply set it off. An all out nuclear attack from another nation though, like North Korea or Iran seemed more likely. What was its purpose though? To destroy a city, or cities, and simultaneously destroy all American agriculture forcing the nation to starve and rely on another nation just for food? That seemed like an attack a wealthier developed nation would come up with, such as China or Russia. With some guilt and bitterness they tolerated the idea it could have been an American weapons that had malfunctioned somehow and this was accidentally done to themselves.
Every possibility they came up with had the same ending attached: How could we know? How could we know?
Kelsey and Allie's shopping spree had given them plenty of grocery bags to pull apart and tape over all of the window frames and door frames. An entire roll of the plastic sleeves raided from Albertsons was used to drape and tape against the doors, like giant plastic curtains.
As they had worked they found themselves growing uncomfortably cold; it was a gradual cooling that caused them all one by one to stop what they were doing and grab a sweater. Heavier clothing and the motions of sealing up the house kept everyone feeling more comfortable. When they stopped to check on Danny, her skin was covered in gooseflesh. They pulled out a couple spare blankets and wrapped her as warmly as they could from the neck down.
It was hard to say how long they had worked taping up the doors and windows. It was dark outside, and no one had a working watch or clock. As Dwayne finished with taping down plastic sleeves on the basement door, Kelsey and Allie began to work on the grocery carts still sitting in the middle of the living room. Kelsey expressed right away that while there was a lot of food, it needed to be preserved as best as possible and they had to strictly ration what and how much they were going to eat as well as what needed to be consumed first before it spoiled. The teenagers were quick to agree, but also quick to admit they were starving. Not having a clock did not fool anyone's stomach; it had been hours now and Dwayne and Kelsey had not eaten all day. Allie admitted she had eaten a bowel of milk and cereal before going to the retirement center.
She followed behind Dwayne and Kelsey into the kitchen as she felt long tears trickle down her cheeks. She could not help thinking again about her own parents. She did not say anything while they wrapped vegetables in plastic sleeves and tied them shut. She wondered how much food had been in the fridge back at home. The bread was double wrapped and quickly set in the fridge while she thought about how her small house outside of the town only had a well, and how the huge quakes may have destroyed the pipes or the entire well itself. The canned foods were set in the cupboards and stacked on the counter underneath. Her thoughts went back to how there had been hardly any milk left in the carton when she set it back in the fridge. She had not wanted to use it all because if she had thrown it away her mom would have told her to buy more at the store while she was in town. She probably would have gone to the Albertsons.
Her eyes were burning, and she felt her throat constricting. She sobbed once put her hand to her mouth as Kelsey turned from the cupboards to see her face.
"Oh sweetie," Kelsey said softly as Allie's shoulders slouched and she sobbed again. Kelsey wrapped her arms around the girl in a motherly fashion and murmured soothingly in her ear.
Dwayne came up the stairs as the two were hugging. She broke from Kelsey clearing her throat and smiled sadly before turning for the living room. Kelsey and Dwayne shared a worried glance as he followed her into the living room. Allie was studying the face of the comatose woman.
"She's been like this all day," Dwayne said, making a point to not watch her rub her eyes dry with the back of her sleeves. They stung, more than just from salty tears.
"It's not like she just passed out. Her eyes are open," she finally replied.
Dwayne was shaking his head, "I've talked to her and yelled at her. I've tried pulling her hair. I slapped her once, you know, to try and make her snap out of it. It's like she's in a coma."
Kelsey had walked in and frowned at the prospect of Dwayne slapping a catatonic woman. Of course he was just trying to wake her up with all of the usual methods, but she did not like it, none the less.
"How do we wake her up mom?" he asked looking at her.
Kelsey only shook her head. "I'm not a nurse. Smelling salts maybe? If we had any. I don't know what would shock conscience back. But hitting her won't help."
Dwayne did not reply. Instead Allie offered, "We could splash her with some water? Maybe make her drink some?"
"She would surely choke. We're… we really aren't equipped for the kind of help she needs."
"She isn't getting it anywhere else." Dwayne replied.
Kelsey took a deep breath and set her chin against her chest. "I'll think on it. See if I can think up of something to do for her. I don't want us to hurt her any more by moving her around. Maybe she just needs time to reset and she'll come back on her own. It was, quite a shocking sight." Her own memory of the mushroom cloud rising into the sky sent shivers down her spine. She had been panicked, of course, but more for her son, than herself. In that panic, she had been seized by a determination to do whatever was needed to protect Dwayne. She could not bare to think about what would have happened if she had frozen like Danny.
The three of them stood chilled in the living room turning to look through the large main window, covered in sheets of plastic. Allie wrapped her arms around Dwayne and pressed her face against his shoulder, again fighting back tears as she thought of home.
The sky had grown nearly black now and their late spring day had turned into a cloudy winter night. They could not see far through the plastic and dark, but the falling snow made looking out the window like looking at a static TV.