Twins, opposed

Two girls stood, side-by-side, under the canopy of broad leaves that still dripped with the early morning dew. One was bright as the newly risen morning star; the other was her opposite, in every way.

The light sister’s rosy mouth was pursed in thought. Her pale hands were clenched at her sides. She stared at the infant before her, cradled in a foreign metal, bathed in light from a tiny pulsating fallen star.

“What do we do with it,” the golden-haired sister asked of her darker half, her voice musical and light. “We can’t just leave it….”

Black eyes flashed at the bright girl as the ebon-skinned girl considered the situation. The dark sister moved forward, her booted feet silent in the soft loam of the forest floor. She stopped when the blue-tinged infant’s eyes flew open. The raven-haired girl reached slender fingers toward the pulsing light, now dying from its long exposure to the crushing weight of the world.

“What are you doing,” the lighter girl screeched. “Leave it alone. It’s pale, like me. I claim it.”

The black-eyed girl turned her head and gazed at her sister. An eyebrow arched in pointed question, staying long enough to make the other girl blush.

Silently, the darker girl slid her hands under the baby’s body and she lifted the child from the cradle. Without uttering a word, she turned away from her sister and slipped into the forest.

“Wait! You can’t take it. It’s mine!!!”

The dark sister grinned to herself as she ran from the wail of her sister. Behind her, she could hear the cracking and shattering of the evidence of the baby’s arrival. The golden-haired girl’s rage was palpable.

The baby, a boy, opened his mouth in a silent giggle. His skin, exposed to the dim early light of the forest, began to darken. First, it deepened to the color of the sky, then to the indigo of mountain flowers, until finally, it settled into the deepest navy.

The dark girl smiled and pulled the child closer to her chest. If she could hide the child, keeping him safe from sacrifice, perhaps, her people stood a chance to survive the light.

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She…?

I turned the body over, after making sure the techs had all the pictures and samples they wanted. But just in case, I made sure to be careful, leaving intact as much of the crime scene as possible. This wasn’t my first murder.

The face revealed startled me. I wasn’t expecting to see someone I knew. Especially someone I wasn’t supposed to know. I stepped back quickly, to collect myself and stop my racing heart.

“What’s up, Bob?”

The junior detective on the case strolled up behind me, his voice much too jolly for a homicide cop.

“Nothing. Had a late night, last night. Guess it’s catching up to me,” I replied. I didn’t want Hughes to know the truth. It might cost me more than my job.

“I was talking about the stiff,” Hughes said. “But alright.”

The younger man pushed past me to peer down at the pale face staring lifelessly from the ground. He raked the dark hair out of his face and shook his head.

“Damn shame, you ask me,” Hughes sighed as he sank into a squat next to the flame-haired dead woman.

His head turned and he peered at me, his chocolate eyes turning black in the dim light of the alley.

“She was a beauty. Copper-penny hair, sky-blue eyes, porcelain skin, not a single flaw,” he said. “Did you find any ID on her?”

I shook my head. “Hadn’t gotten that far. Just got her turned over when you popped up.”

“Well, you’re lead on this, Bob. Want me to do the basics, then you can pick up the heavy lifting?”

Again, I shook my head, “No. I’ll take it all. You’ve got that new kid to take care of, right? Why don’t you just worry about that? I can handle this. It’s basic. Plenty of evidence.”

Hughes grinned at me. He jumped up and strode over to clap his slender hand onto my shoulder.

“Thanks, Bob, I appreciate that.”

Hughes slipped past me, but I still hadn’t moved when he paused.

“Besides, Bob, it’s just an android. Not like it really matters who took it out, right?”

A civilized battle

Cannons sounded from the next valley. The booming echo washed over the crowd standing still and silent at the edges of the forested floor. The moon, yellowed and pale, slid over the edge of the ridge across the way. With the next boom, the people rushed across the open valley.

The eerie silence of the group was maintained during the mad dash. No children cried, no stragglers were admonished to keep up, and no leader shouted orders. All the usual night prowlers were absent and even the wind died in the trees.

Not a soul stopped when the mass reached the far side. Every person scrambled hand over hand and foot over foot up the pine-needle covered slope to the top of the ridge. A slight pause at the top, then it was a silent plunge to the next valley floor. Just before they broke out onto the cleared bottom land, the group stopped dead.

The cannons, two valleys behind, now, continued to send echoes chasing the crowd, but the sound was distorted, seeming to come from several directions. Many eyes turned to the north, along the valley floor, while still others peered across to the west and the towering mountain cliff that rose sharply above the valley.

Without a sound, the group split in half. The children, twenty-six in all, set off to the north with a dozen adult caretakers in tow. None of them spoke a word.

The remaining adults, more than twice the number of the departing children, raced toward the mountainside. With clawed hands and bare feet, they began climbing the rough wall.

Less than halfway up the mountain, the silent climbers paused, listening. When the next cannon boom faded away, the people found their voices.

An undulating, wordless scream pierced the night, sending vibrations into the mountainside and back across the valleys to the cannoneers. The soldiers nearest the cannons fell to their knees, clutching bleeding ears as the huge metal monstrosities hummed with the scream. The soldiers behind the cannoneers rushed forward, to be knocked over, themselves.

On the mountainside, the climbers continued screaming. Ore-laden rocks fell in a steady rain around them, but the people pressed themselves into the solid certainty of the wall. One by one, the screamers fell silent. Then the ascent began again.

The soldiers, reeling from the vibrating screams, blinked through tears of pain and tried to rise. But the vibrating cannons moved among the crowd, tearing limbs from bodies and crushing any soldier still prone. When the sound-tremors finally subsided, barely twenty soldiers survived.

But by then, the children had come back.

Dread

(This is part 3 of a serial. The first part is here, and the second is here.)

I sat cradled in Mike’s arms for what seemed like forever, but was only about fifteen minutes. I was too stunned to cry. I wasn’t angry, either. I didn’t know what to feel. Or do. I waited for Mike to take the lead.

“Mike! Dee! You guys in there?”

The shout from our back door startled us from the couch. Mike swept to his feet and raced to the mudroom, where he met our neighbor, Charlie. I got to my feet while my brain tried to catch up on the situation. I heard Mike and Charlie talking in hushed tones, but I decided not to interrupt.

Instead, I went in search more supplies despite not knowing what might be needed and when. I was in the middle of deciding if we’d need blankets when I remembered to worry about my adult kids.

My son was fine, I was sure. He was a sensible-headed young man, living and working just across town. My daughter, though, was a flighty romantic, intent on changing her slob of a boyfriend into a respectable man. She also lived right across town, but I was afraid her boyfriend would convince her to do something stupid.

I dropped the blanket I was holding and went in search of Mike. I didn’t hear his voice from the back room anymore. I hoped he hadn’t gone far.

I was passing behind the couch when the front door, directly across the room, opened. I dropped to my knees and crouched, certain the robber had returned. Instead, I heard a familiar voice ask, “Is that you, Mom?”

My heart jumped into my throat then dropped back into my stomach before settling down. I stood up, sheepishly brushing invisible dirt off my clothes, and grinned at my son.

“I’m so glad you’re here, Coop. Do you have any idea what’s going on? Do you have your sister with you?”

Cooper laughed and opened the door to reveal Laura and my heart flip-flopped again. She pushed past her brother and jogged over to give me a hug.

“Hi, Mom,” my brown-eyed girl said. “John-John wanted to go to his parents’ house, and I told him to go ahead. Nowhere’s safer than with you and Dad.”

I opened my mouth to say hello but Mike’s voice interrupted, “Yep. And we’re going to Gran’s farm.”

Both kids turned, wide-eyed, to their father. My stomach lurched again, and not in a my-kids-are-safe sort of way. My eyes met Mike’s and I knew our much laughed-about emergency plan was finally happening.

“It’s not…,” I trailed off my question.

“No,” Mike laughed, “it’s not zombies.” He sobered up and continued, “I’m not really sure what it is, but I’m reasonably sure it’s not an outbreak of the undead. It might be invasion, it might be a natural disaster. Hell, it could be aliens. But we’re going to the farm, where it’s safer than in the middle of town.”

I nodded and gathered the kids into my embrace. After a hard hug and reassuring smile, the four of us gathered our supplies, along with some clothes, blankets and pillows and loaded up our cars for the short trip into the country.

 

To be continued…

Invasion

(This is the second of a serial. The first part is here.)

Our emergency stash, what we had, was scattered through the house. We hadn’t had a real crisis in ages. I grabbed the first aid kit from the bathroom, the flashlights and batteries from the kitchen junk drawer and piled them all on top of the dining room table.

I had just started filling a pitcher with water when I heard the front door slam open. I didn’t turn, but called over my shoulder, “Mike, did you find out anything?”

I heard a click, but the sound didn’t really register in my mind at first. I twisted the tap off and turned to the sound. The man standing in my kitchen wasn’t my husband. It wasn’t someone I knew from the neighborhood. The heavily built man was grinning at me, behind the dark handle of a pistol.

“Hello,” I stuttered. “My husband…,” I gestured toward the door.

The long-haired blonde grinned wider. “He’s busy. Tall guy? Buzz-cut and glasses? Yeah, I saw him. He’ll be a minute.”

I swallowed hard. I couldn’t help it, I looked toward the front windows. I knew I couldn’t see the car from my position, but it was instinct. Terror washed over me. I slowly raised my hands.

“What do you want,” I asked.

“Just your money,” he replied. He waved his gun at me, moving me back to the living room.

I walked to the sofa table and picked up my purse. My wallet held a little over two hundred dollars. I handed it to the gun-wielding maniac who snatched it from my fingers. His eyes searched the room and landed on Mike’s wallet, on the bookshelf near our bedroom door.

I nodded and walked past him. I stripped the additional hundred dollars from the black leather wallet and held it out to the burglar. He snatched that as quickly as the first.

“Now, if you’d be so kind, go into your room and lock the door. Count to a thousand before you come out. Then, tell whoever you want. I don’t expect the cops will worry much about me with everything else going on,” he said.

I followed his instructions. Mostly. I went into my room and locked the door, then I waited until I heard the back door close. As soon as I was certain the man was gone, I charged into the living room.

Right into the chest of my husband.

“Whoa, hold up, love. What’s going on?”

I couldn’t help it. I burst into tears. I told him what had happened, the tears running down my face making me even angrier than the encounter had.

Mike checked the doors and windows, making sure they were all locked and secure. He helped me gather up the rest of the emergency supplies, then pulled me onto the couch.

“Alright, bad news,” he said.

“Oh, I forgot. I’m just…,” I trailed off. He knew what I meant.

“I know,” Mike said. “We’ve got bigger things to worry about, though. I got a few bits of chatter on the AM band, but it wasn’t English. Sounded Russian.”

“That’s not good,” I started.

Mike hushed me, then continued, “It gets worse. It also sounded military, like a drill sergeant in a movie.”

He wrapped his arms around me. “I think we’ve been invaded.”

 

To be continued…

In the beginning

I don’t know when it started, not really. I think it was just before dawn. I remember going to bed around two in the morning and everything was fine, then. But when Mike got up for work, we had no power.

“We did pay the bill, didn’t we,” he asked me. He didn’t wait for me to answer. Instead, he went to the door and looked up and down the street. When he came back, he shrugged.

“Guess it’s the whole neighborhood.”

We tried calling our son across town, but the cell towers weren’t working, either, which also meant the phone’s data was out.

By that time, most of our neighbors were outside, milling around and whispering worries about what was happening. No one was truly terrified, but the concern was building. I joked to Ruth, the older lady next door, that if it was really something bad, we’d already have soldiers riding down the streets, telling us what to do.

I don’t think she found that funny, since she glared at me, crossed herself, and rushed back into her house. I decided to keep my humor to myself.

Mike slid up to me after Ruth disappeared and whispered, “Have you checked the radio? AM or FM?”

I nodded my head. Of course, I had. Right after we realized the cell towers were out. I motioned for my husband to follow me back inside. I grabbed my small digital radio on my way to the bedroom.

“I checked every station I know of, and there’s nothing. On either band.” I handed Mike the small device. “You might have better luck. Maybe some fine tuning? Or…,” I turned to look out the window.

“The car.”

I nodded at Mike’s astute guess. The car had a more powerful antenna than the tiny handheld radio. It was also easier to narrow down the wavelengths.

“I’ll go check,” he said. “Want to come?”

I shook my head, “No. I’m going to find our candles and other storm supplies. We might need them if this lasts long.”

“Good idea. Oh, and in case you were wondering, I’m not even going to try to get to work today. I think this is a good day to be sick,” Mike joked.

I smiled and nodded. I watched Mike’s broad shoulders slip through the front door and down the walk to the driveway before I started gathering our emergency stash. I hoped we wouldn’t need any of it for long.

 

To be continued…

ugh

Depression sucks.

Bi-polar depression is worse.

Mix those up with a wildly weather-variable month, fibromyalgia, stress, and house-falling-apart-issues and you’ll get to where I am. I don’t recommend it. At all.

I haven’t felt like writing in weeks, so I haven’t. I haven’t felt like painting. I haven’t done much of anything but hate myself. Oh, and cry. There’s been a lot of that. For no “good” reason, of course.

I think I’m moving out of it. Hopefully.

Maybe this short post will get my brain headed in the right direction. Perhaps, with a little hope and a boatload of work, I can boost my creativity and productivity to an almost acceptable level.

But depression sucks.