Her mother yelled, with a quiver in her voice, from the front room as she glared out of the window.
“Quickly Alessia! Leave the packing – we have to go now!”.
Alessia hated it when her mother yelled.
She wiped the moisture from her forehead onto her sleeve which still had a darker smudged patch of blue where it was damp from the previous wipe.
Rolling onto her toes to try and grab the final tin from the back of the cupboard, she twisted it towards her with the tips of her fingers. Ergh, Mushy peas, she thought.
“Alessia!” her mother snapped.
“Jane!” Alessia snapped back.
“We have to go” she said quietly.
Alessia chose her next remark carefully, knowing not to push her temper.
“Go where Mum? Where are we going to go?”
“The city… for pickups.” she said, full of false hope.
“Right, yes, the British government are really coming to the rescue. It took them over four years to even leave the EU! Our own Scottish government still don’t have independence…You seriously think they would be able to help us escape the end of the world?”
Alessia watched as her mother first stared at her blankly. She saw her body sag, as if all the purpose and importance had drained from her. She no longer had a routine or ambition for the future for herself, or her own daughter. All she could do was pray that someone, and apparently that someone was the government, was coming to save them. Her eyes began to glisten, and she tried to blink it away.
Alessia disregarded any guilt she had for frightening her mother with the dreaded apocalypse,but for all they knew it really could be it this time. She filled up a final water bottle and screwed on the top as water dribbled down onto her hands. She didn’t bother to wipe it before she put it in her hiking rucksack and then put another in her mother’s.
“Let’s go then,” Alessia said. She hid a groan, as she bent her knees while she bounced the rucksack onto her back.
Everyone else in Edinburgh had the same idea as Alessia’s mother. The Royal Mile was for the first time, full of anxious crowds waiting for advice and instruction. They had all received the same message over an hour ago: ‘Be ready to evacuate, pack only the essentials.’
Alessia had laughed at this when she first heard it. She thought, ‘the general public still wouldn’t know what that means, even after being told off for hoarding toilet roll in the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic’.
The hysteria increased and resonated throughout the crowd. They all knew the truth but chose to ignore it.
Alessia squeezed her mother’s hand and looked her straight in the eye. She waited for her to focus on her own. Alessia said to her, “we should head North.”
“Alessia. We should wait. They might come.” Then with some final hope she said with a mix of excited doubt, “The government might issue some more advice?”
“What’s left of the government you mean?”
“That’s not helpful. They might have cars, or lorries, or… or something. They can take us to safety”
Cars. Alessia had not seen cars since she was a little girl.
“Let’s get the bikes.” Alessia said. “The bikes, Mum-”
“-Jane!” she tested knowing it would grab her immediate attention. “We can get as far north as possible and then when we hear that the storm has hit the Channel Islands and then Cornwall, we can head up nice and high in the hills and hope for clean oxygen up there”
“But help might be coming.”
“Help who? The government? The Radioactive Russians? No. And if they do, where are they going to take everyone? The whole world is collapsing. Nowhere is safe.”
“Alessia, we have to hope.”
“I’m trying Mum. I have hope for the mountains. I’m hoping we can make it that far. I’m hoping there we can find a bothy or use the tent I packed and ration ourselves on what we have with us-”, even if that is slimy mushy peas Alessia thought, “-for as long as possible and hopefully make it through the next few days.”
“But what if help does come, and we miss it?”
“There is no help!” Alessia yelled. Those in close proximity to her pretended as if they hadn’t heard and their eyes adverted towards the skies. Alessia rolled her eyes at their ignorance but continued regardless; “When are you going to get it into your head that no one is coming to pick us up in a space ship and take us to another planet.” She paused, waiting for her to listen properly. “It’s too late.”
Alessia pulled on her Mum’s hand and dragged her silently back to what was once their home and pulled out the bikes from the garage.
After one final glance back at the anxious bustling on the Royal Mile, historically full of drunken happy folk, now full of hysteria, Alessia put her hand on her Mum’s shoulder and tried to reassure her that they were doing the right thing: “As much as you want it, there is no planet B Mum”.