It was 7am and they were eating breakfast. Cheerios if you care. It’s not important, but maybe you’re the type of person who inexplicably links favorite foods to stores of empathy, I’m not here to judge you, I’m here to tell a story. Eating breakfast in and of itself wasn’t unusual for them, the unusual bit was that ‘they’ consisted of three when they’d ordinarily have been made up of four. The fourth was still around, roughly one story up, second door to your left.
The problem you’d find if you wanted to go there yourself was that the staircase, more case than stair, was missing stairs 3-9 and 2 didn’t look like it was like to live through whatever the day had to offer in way of activities. But even if you had managed to get up the stairs the left part of the room and no small part of the house directly beneath it had been blown a kiss by long range ordnance. The resulting cavalcade of bone and brick had left the house structurally unsound and poor Number 4 with several pieces of structural wood puncturing his shoulder, chest, and tibia and absolutely no way of getting in or out of what had once been a moderately comfortable bedroom.
They didn’t know that last part. Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t stupid. They presumed Number 4 was dead, but they didn’t know, which lent a silent, oddly cheerful energy to the room over dry cereal and stale beverage. Number 1 seemed the most nervous about it, standing as she it ate, carefully picking her breakfast from a soft-edged plastic plate while glancing furtively through a mostly soot stained kitchen window. Number 2 was less concerned, letting his mind consider the newly liberated pipes that had managed to puncture their way through the ceiling as he fed himself from a fist full of cheerios, pushing them through the spaces between his fingers one at a time like some silent industrial reaper. Number 3 sat in the chair opposite Number 2 sipping a 1 to 1 concoction of red wine and tequila that he sardonically referred to as a Suicide Sangria.
The sun was half clouded and it would be another 20-30 minutes before the other bodies around them shook off the vibrations of the night and start-stumbled into the rovings and duties that had been assigned them. If they waited much past that The Three of Four would be stuck here for another night, but the house had rejected them and to stay past that would be inviting no shortage of trouble. Going was a foregone conclusion to a question too stupid to even be asked. The question was where. And where was a wide place, filled with the flora and fauna of a billion other questions just overbearing and pedantic.
Well, 20 minutes, maybe 30. That was time. Not a lot, but they’d squeaked by on less. Often on dumb luck, but dumb or not the luck was theirs and here that counted for something.