I write character-driven dark fiction.
What do you do?

“Run! Run as far and fast as you can, and hide — don’t look back! Go! Go now!”

They were the last words my mother ever said to me. She shouted them just before she sprinted out of the house, out into the open, screaming and flailing her arms as if mad with fear, running in a zig-zag pattern. I knew what was doing; even at eight years of age I understood what she did.

She was attracting their attention. She drew their strange eyes to her, eyes large and round and as bright as the sky from which they came. She attracted their attention and drew down the wrath of the Sky People upon herself.

For me.

Her spectacle caused them to turn their abnormally long, thin faces to follow her motion, some of them pivoting somewhat ponderously on their flat, one-toed feet, their single, thick toenails glinting in the sunlight, putting their backs to the house where I crouched, silently crying and watching my mother run. One of them, it must have been the leader but I could not tell one from the other of them, so similar to each other did they look to me then, stretched forth a long-fingered hand, calling something in their strange language. Two of these beings appeared and pounced; with a final scream, this one lacking any artifice, my mother fell, tumbling to a stop in the dust.

Knowing I could not save her, could do nothing to her captors with my eight-year-old limbs but flail helplessly and draw laughter upon myself, I did as my mother had told me, as her sacrifice demanded of me, and I fled out through the back of the house. I leapt from a low window and ran, legs shaking from the force of my silent weeping, into the trees behind our dwelling. Sliding beneath a bush like I’d seen dogs do to escape the heat of day I hid from their pale, over-large eyes. From my place of concealment, feeling a terrible coward, though I knew there was nothing else I could do, I watched as the Sky People captured and herded my friends and neighbors into the belly of their great Ship. I watched as they closed the great door, destroying any hope I had of my mother’s last-instant dash for freedom, and of her coming back to me. I watched until their huge Ship moved away, silent and smooth, watched until it dwindled into the distance, shrinking from a huge vessel to a dot, then to a speck, and was gone.

That was more than ten years ago, though it seems to happen fresh every day within my head, a terrible pantomime I can not ignore that plays out in the great vault of my memory each dawn. It was in my head as I tried, long and hard, to rebuild my life. As I moved to a different place. As I made sure that each house in which I lived backed on to trees rather than being open all around. It was in my head every day as I readied myself, as I prepared.

Prepared for the return of the Sky People.

Preparations not made in vain.

I awoke one morning to the sound of screams, sounds of terror both near and distant. I strode to the door, peered out into the dawn to find the great ship was back from beyond the sky, blocking out the sun as it loomed from the East. The Sky People stood in the open, skin waxy and pale, like grubs beneath an overturned log, their weapons flashing and crashing and knocking down my friends and neighbors as if ten years had disappeared in an instant and I was but eight years old again, cowering in safety while the woman who raised me, who loved me, ran and limped and squawked like a mother bird leading a cat away from her nest.

But I was no longer the child I was, could no longer afford to lie in safety as others faced danger for me. I turned to face my wife, who stood with fearful face and staring eyes, holding our daughter, the light of my life whom I call Little Pretty because it makes her laugh.

“Go,” I said, pointing a trembling finger. “Out the back.”

“What?” she said. “What are you saying?”

The words came, words my mind’s ear had heard every day until they seemed a curse, and I heard them again as I said them, two voices twining as one in my heart.

“Run! Run as far and fast as you can, and hide — don’t look back! Go! Go now!”

I sped from the door in a zig-zag course, screaming my way here and there as I waved my arms like a man insane. Unlike the wordless screams of memory, my voice bellowed curses and threats until I caught a flash from the corner of my eye and something struck the side of my head like the fist of an invisible giant, and I fell, tumbling to a stop in the dust, and knew no more that day.

I woke in the dark belly of the great ship, surrounded by friends and neighbors but also people I’d not seen before, some not speaking any language I knew. I searched the great room, looking for my wife and daughter, calling out for Little Pretty again and again, but they were not there to be found.

I wonder if they stood on the treeline, as I had, watching as this great vessel become a mere dot, and then less than a dot, as it began its journey across the sky and beyond the sky, to the home of the Sky People.

I wonder if I will find my mother once more, when we reach the place I’ve heard our captors call “Ah-mur-ee-kah”.

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