Thanks to everyone who has been reading along, commenting or giving feedback on the previous chapters of Lacunae – it has really helped me focus on the task and keep writing! 🙂
And so onward, to Lacunae: Chapter 6!
If you missed Lacunae: Chapter 1, you can go right back to the beginning and read it HERE.
Mount Ludlow had been spewing out the contents of Earth’s stomach for over eleven hours. Eleven hours, twenty-three minutes and forty-two seconds: Cooper’s pedantic mind was clocking the precise length of his house arrest, imposed on him for reasons he neither believed nor fully understood.
Since his mother had woken him, Coop had dealt with his sister’s expected meltdown, telling her that taping any gaps around doors and windows would be a step too far. He’d called work, concocting an excuse for not being available for his shift, hoping that the vague line of ‘personal issues’ was private enough to prevent Vaughn from digging deeper.
Remembering his mother’s parting words, Cooper had phoned his friends: Trent refused to leave his own home after Cooper gave him an abridged version of Professor Bradford’s concerns but Max had offered to come over in a bid to rescue some sanity. However, multiple calls and texts to Jenna went unanswered, a typical demonstration of her feeling wronged.
The eruption was making headline news on every channel. Along with Iris, they had watched the reports in fascination at first, viewing aerial images of liquid fire pouring down the mountainside in deep, glutinous rivers that were seasoned with a constant supply of hot rocks raining down from the vent. Interest turned to shock as interviews from St. Austen’s detailed the injuries of those who hadn’t made it out in time. The Bradford children knew their mother would be under immense pressure.
In one segment, the local news anchor, Ben Danton, was giving an overview of work being conducted by the research team and Max pointed out his friends’ father in the background, looking harried as people rushed in and out of shot, passing him documents to analyse or radio calls to answer.
Yet, despite the frantic events unfolding in Harrington and Romanside, the view outside Cooper’s house was calm, making it more difficult for him to comprehend why they needed to stay put.
Gazing across the garden towards open farmland, he could just make out a billowing cloud in the direction of the mountains, the only greying tinge to a blue horizon. He presumed it was the ash and debris being emitted from the volcano that had caused Harrington International to suspend flights for the day, but from this distance, it looked unassuming and harmless. A tiny storm that raged over its own turf.
As for the doom-laden weather front, it had passed over without event several hours earlier. The heavens had darkened, producing low, quiet rumbles but Verdura had been on the fringe and only a spattering of rain made contact with the ground.
The greater storm was the one growing inside Cooper. He was restless, pacing back and forth like a caged predator in front of the patio windows and checking his phone constantly for any update from his parents or his casual girlfriend.
He needed to get out.
“I’m going to Jenna’s.” Cooper wasn’t expecting a response to his decisive plan but thinking aloud had alerted Iris.
“What? No, no, no…why? Dad said you can’t go out. What about the smog? And me?” The taper was lit, ready to explode his sister’s anxiety again.
“Look…” Cooper gestured out the window, “…there is no smog. It’s a beautiful day, has been a beautiful day and we’ve been holed up inside for hours just because Dad got over-protective. For once.”
“Yeah, but what about the…you know…erm, research?” Max had laughed when Cooper told him what his father suspected would happen. But his mood had become more subdued after seeing the footage from the disaster zone.
Cooper’s eyes flashed, his head giving a quick, almost imperceptible shake of warning. He’d kept the information he’d given his sister to a minimum, focusing only on what the news was reporting, not the ludicrous ideas from their father.
“Like I said, Dad was being over-protective. The sky hasn’t fallen in, no birds have dropped dead mid-flight and everyone is still breathing.”
“Hmm, suppose. But if you step outside the door and your skin starts bubbling, you’re on your own!”
A sudden flashback to dreams from the previous night. Cooper pushed the images out of his mind.
“You coming then?” He already had one foot inside his Converse.
“Hellloo! Have you both forgotten I’m here? You can’t leave me!” Iris’s indignant interruption was still laced with a fearful tone.
“Why don’t we all go?” suggested Max. “A change of scenery will take our minds off things ‘Ris.”
She didn’t correct his use of her name, as she recoiled back into the sofa, her petite frame shrinking further.
“Nope. I’m not going anywhere. At least one of us likes to listen to our parents. Dad will go mental.”
“Oh for God’s sake Sis, I’m telling you, it’s fine. But suit yourself. Jenna’s clearly in a mood with me, might as well add you and dear old Daddy to that list too. C’mon Max.”
Max didn’t budge. “I’ll stick around here for a bit, if ‘Ris wants me to? Just until your mum or dad gets back.” He looked to the wide-eyed waif sat beside him.
Cooper was surprised that Iris didn’t have a sarcastic retort about her independence for once. Instead, she just smiled at his best friend.
“Okay, fine. Whatever. I’ll try to smooth things over with Jen, then drop by Trent’s. Maybe go to Sphinx later, as planned?”
“Sure. Text me when you’re ready to head out.”
Cooper looked at his sister. “Don’t bore him to death, will you? And don’t watch too much news, you’ll only make yourself worse.”
“You know you’ll be in serious trouble when Dad’s home?”
Cooper shrugged. “What’s new? Right, wish me luck out in the wild, I’m going. Catch you later Max, enjoy your time with ‘RIS!”
He smirked at his blushing friend, after emphasising the last word and set off for Jenna’s.
Credits: All words copyright of Aloada Bobbins. Image from YouTube.