She remembers the day he moved from his office to the sleeping pod. It had been just another normal day—or normal as a day when the world was ending could be—and she had come by his office at the usual time to give him his meds. Only he hadn't been there. She'd searched everywhere she could think of, growing more and more worried by the minute. Where could he ibe/i?
After almost an hour of frenzied searching she'd heard him singing to himself in one of the actives' bedrooms. At first she'd seen nothing when she'd stepped inside, but then her eyes had focussed on the tuft of yellow hair poking up from one of the pods.
"Topher? Is that you?" she'd called to him. His singing had stopped and his head had popped up.
"Hello!" he'd said. "I've been waiting for you. Quick, over here!" and he'd gestured frantically with his hands.
She'd made her way over to him slowly. "Topher, what are you doing down here? Why aren't you in your office?"
He'd shaken his head and flicked his hands at her. "I wanted to be away from the machines. They make such big iwhizz, whizz/i noises. And look what I found!" He'd chortled and grabbed her hands. "Look, we can play hide and seek! We can hide here and they won't never find us. No, no, sir, they won't think to look here and we can hide and be safe. Be safe. We want to be safe."
She always hated it when he got like this, so she'd knelt down and slipped into the pod with him. He'd brought a few things with him from his office; his blanket and pillow, a box of crayons and a bar of chocolate.
"Are you staying here forever, then?" she'd asked.
He'd nodded. "Yup. It makes me feel safe."
"Oh, sweetheart," she'd said—sighed really—and she'd leaned over to pull him into her arms. He'd already started drawing on the walls, she'd noted as she looked around the pod. "So what's this?" she'd asked him, pointing to the picture on the wall. It was of the earth, all green and blue, but there were angry red markings surrounding it. A stick-figure man with blond hair was drawn off to the side, his hand pointing towards the earth.
"The world's burning, going down in flames, and it's my fault, all mine, mine alone. I caused it. I pushed the button. Now I watch it burn."
She'd sat frozen, eyes transfixed to the image on the wall, while he'd babbled on. Then she'd recovered herself and patted his hair. "Of course it's not your fault, sweetheart," she'd said. She remembers the lie feeling heavy on her tongue.
He'd shaken his head again, fervently now. "It is, it is, it is. It's all mine. Just mine."
She'd been unsure of what to do. She knew he blamed himself solely for the downfall of the world, and she had no way of letting him know that it wasn't just him. But then her eyes had fallen on his box of crayons. Slowly, she'd picked one up, feeling the weight of it in her hand. She'd hesitated only a second before leaning over and beginning drawing. When she was done there was a woman beside the man. It wasn't much, but he might be able to understand it. "There, now," she'd said. "Not just yours. It's my fault too."
He'd stared at her, his eyes wide and unsure. His gaze had shifted to the altered drawing, and his fingers had reached out to touch the woman she had added.
"You too?" he'd asked, and she'd nodded. He'd smiled then. "The both of us."
"Yes," she'd said. He'd reached for her and she'd held him tightly and rocked him back and forth until he fell asleep, but her eyes never leaving the picture on the wall.
So now she sits beside him in his pod, her arm around his waist and his head on her shoulder. It's too easy to hide from the world down here. She can forget everything she's done, everything she's caused. She can pretend all's right in the world, that it's still how it used to be.
She stares at the wall in front of her. The drawing's long gone by now; hundreds of newer ones covering it. But she can still see it clearly, too clearly. The child-like image that held too much power, showed what they'd done too simply.
So they'll sit here in this hideaway they've built together, hiding from the world that they know they'll have to face eventually. She'll hold him close and he'll grip her too tightly, but all she'll see is the world that the two of the caused to burn.