Birdbox by Josh Malerman (2012)
The children have never seen the world outside their home. Not even through the windows. And Malorie hasn’t looked in more than four years. Four years. She does not have to make this decision today. It’s October in Michigan. It’s cold. A twenty-mile trip on the river will be hard on the children. They may still be too young. What if one of them were to fall into the water? What would Malorie, blindfolded, do then?
An accident, Malorie thinks. How horrible. After all this struggling, all this survival. To die because of an accident.
Malorie looks at the drapes. She begins to cry. She wants to yell at someone. She wants to plead with anyone who might listen. This is unfair, she would say. This is cruel.
She looks over her shoulder, to the kitchen entrance and the hall that leads to the children’s bedroom. Beyond the doorless frame, the children sleep soundly, covered by black cloth, hidden from light and sight. They do not stir. They show no sign of being awake. Yet, they could be listening to her. Sometimes, for all the pressure upon them to listen, for all the importance she’s placed upon their ears, Malorie believes they can hear her think.
She could wait for sunnier skies, warmth, more attention paid to the boat. She could inform the children, listen to what they have to say. Their suggestions could be good ones. Only four years old, but trained to listen. Able to help navigate a boat that will be piloted blindly. Malorie would not be able to make the trip without them. She needs their ears. Could she also use their advice? At four years old, would they have something to say about when was the best time to leave the house forever?
“Boy!” she yells. “Girl! Get up.”
The bedroom is dark. The one window is covered with enough blankets so that even at its zenith, sunlight does not get through. There are two mattresses, one on each side of the room. Above them are black domes. Once, the chicken wire that supports the cloth was used to fence in a small garden by the well in the home’s backyard. But for the past four years, it has served as armor, protecting the children not from what could see them, but from what they could see. Beneath it, Malorie hears movement and she kneels to loosen the wire that’s fastened to nails in the room’s wood floor. She is already pulling from her pocket the blindfolds as the two children look at her with sleepy, surprised expressions.
“Get up. Now. Mommy needs you to move fast.”
The children respond quickly. They do not whine or complain.
“Where are we going?” the Girl asks.
Malorie hands her a blindfold and says, “Put this on. We’re going on the river.”
I will be more than happy to answer all of your questions.