A depraved blessing, p.7
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       A Depraved Blessing, p.7

           D.C. Clemens

  Chapter Seven


  It was no longer an image confined to a detached display and separated by thousands of miles. The vast expanse instantly disintegrated into nothing. I was now beholding something truly alien, a megalith no one on this world had any chance of understanding. Curiously, fear did not conquer my consciousness. A peculiar kind of hope seized a part of my sensibility as I imagined all the opportunities that could arise if our interplanetary visitors were, in actuality, benevolent. Time was imperceptible for some number of moments, but I could not bypass it for long when I recognized I had to return to what was familiar, or attempt to save what remained of it. Turning my body to go, the corner of my eye picked up something originating from within the ship. Hissing out from the openings the leg supports created when they withdrew from the drill, something resembling a grayish steam was mixing with the lower atmosphere. The gusting wind led this unidentified mist across the city.

  “What did you see?” my mother asked me when I had walked in, obviously enlightened about the cause of my sudden departure.

  “One of those Towers landed outside the city,” I told her bluntly, understanding that the days of living in subtlety were over.

  Liz rushed into my arms and avidly embraced me. Then, entreatingly looking into my eyes, she said in her most pressing voice, “Roym, we have to leave!”

  I knew other minds would conclude that very same conviction. “The roads will be impassable in an hour,” I said. “Wake Dayce up while I get the van ready. Mom, hurry and get your things.” Liz followed my instruction straightaway and hurried in the direction of Dayce. My mother, on the other hand, didn’t appear to have heard a word I said and stood with her feet nailed to the ground. Her eyes stared expressionless at the wall. “Bethma!” I shouted at her. Of all the times I wanted her to be still and silent she inopportunely elected this moment to be so. She turned her eyes to meet mine. “There’s no time. Go!”

  “What do I do?” she asked meekly.

  “Get your things!”

  “All right,” she said blankly, finally unclasping herself from the floor.

  To the general inhabitants of the house, I yelled, “Five! We leave in five!”

  Before this point, I did not think my mother thoroughly understood the gravity of the situation we were in, and she was now having trouble translating coherent thoughts into fluent actions. My internal clock was running at full speed and I couldn’t let time slip away fruitlessly, even to help my insensible mother escape the partial trance that overtook her.

  I packed the van almost to capacity, having to occasionally remind myself to make room for three other occupants. Much of our provisions, like gas cans, water, and food, had been previously packed and were expectedly waiting to be transferred into the van, making it easy to load everything quickly. I also siphoned extra gas from the other car, endeavoring not to leave one necessity behind. In that moment I believed I would have dug a mile into the ground if I knew there was fuel underneath and I was promised enough time to excavate it. The only belongings missing were my mother’s. I was anticipating needing to go through an argument with her to get her to leave half the things she brought, but when she appeared, she only carried a couple of half-filled boxes with her. Now I definitely knew she wasn’t herself. She looked as if she recovered some of her self-possession, but still did not say a word. If I ever considered time a luxury, it was here, and I willingly snatched the two boxes without tempting to stir her. Liz momentarily arrived to the scene with Dayce. He was still more than half asleep, merely following where Liz’s hand took him, which I was grateful for since I did not have the ability to calmly explain to him the situation.

  I opened the garage gate again to commence the impending journey, letting in the crisp morning light that indicated the sun’s impatience to emerge from its characteristic rest, though the richness of the foliage I smelled before did not come with it. I couldn’t help but notice the activity of some of my neighbors. They were either imitating our current selves by preparing to leave or were watching in wonder, as I had done, at the city’s center. When everyone was in the van, I made sure nothing was neglected before I reversed the car. My memory surveyed itself, but I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t already done, so I drove into the street. Anything I left behind would have to remain, for it would be too late to turn back.

  Everyone held their breaths during the early stages of the drive, worried we might not escape whatever fate the alien Tower had in store for us. Luckily, we appeared to have been ahead of the masses, as the roads were by no means as congested as I guessed they’d be. Most looked to be endeavoring to return home after, no doubt, seeing the recently arrived ship in their initial drive for work. It was also probable that many were not yet aware of what had occurred in the early morning, giving my family a fortuitous head start. Liz was in the passenger seat looking out the window, so I could hardly see her face. Her thoughts must have been wandering fiercely in her mind, but exactly what they were, I could not predict. I glimpsed at the rearview mirror to see Dayce still drowsy in the arms of his grandmother. He looked so tranquil; I wished then he could remain that way until all of this was over. My mother, remarkably, looked almost as serene as the child she was holding. She was tilting her head against Dayce’s and her eyes were closed, but I knew she wasn’t sleeping. How could anyone who knew what laid in the skyline? I needed to know precisely how much she had recovered herself, so I was forced to upset the silence we were all enduring.

  “Thanks for waking us up, Mom. I’m glad you were awake.”

  After a short pause, she said, “I had a dream about you father. I couldn’t sleep after that. It was only five minutes later that the ship began to behave strangely. I don’t quite remember the dream, but… I’m sure… but I’m sure he was trying to warn us.”

  I didn’t know if that was the end of her story, but that’s where she stopped. Her voice completely failed her and she began to sob. She revived Dayce from his weariness, who was stunned to see her capable of producing tears. Liz must have felt the same way, as this was also her first time witnessing the event. Even I had scarcely seen her cry in front of me, not since the first few months after Dad’s passing.

  “Don’t cry, Grandma,” said Dayce, giving her a hug. “Daddy and I are being brave for you and Mommy, so you don’t have to be scared.”

  One of my packets of pride burst. I always knew he was strong, but this was the first time I saw him as an imminent leader. For Liz, hearing our fearless, if mildly oblivious, son’s statement, served to start her own waterworks.

  “You’re being very brave my little prince,” she said, adamant to speak despite her whimpering voice. “You’re doing a great job.”

  I hoped shedding tears wasn’t too contagious for the sake of my concentration.

  Our steady drive came to an end when we reached a highway resembling what I had expected the other roads to be; compressed to capacity. It was advancing, albeit, at a crawling infant’s pace. All the same, I imagined I was moving at light speed compared to how it would be a short time later. The Tower was directly behind us, and every turn of the tires brought less of its power to bear on our dispositions. Just as it disappeared from our sights, no sooner did our spirits reappear after a collective exhale of heavy air propagated through the van. The absent edifice almost made it seem like an ordinary day. We were simply caught in traffic, wishing to reach Liz’s parents in time for lunch. Dayce, now released by the arms of his grandmother and seated behind his own mother, sensed our freshly relaxed states and thought it suitable to return to his normal, curious self.

  “Are we leaving home forever?” my son asked.

  “We don’t know, sweetheart,” Liz answered, a small amount of sorrow escaping her. “We might have to spend a lot of time with your grandparents and uncle Orins.”

  I could not tell if Dayce either did not notice her heartache or perhaps he did and tried to cheer her up, for his own tone cha
nged into a more cheery manner.

  “I like Orins, he’s a sports guy,” he said. Knowing it was his job to keep our minds occupied, he turned to my mother and asked, “Do you like him, Grandma?”

  “I’ve only met him once,” she coolly answered him, “though, from what I could tell, he’s a very nice young man.”

  An unchallenging hour went by while the road ahead of us gradually became more spacious, letting us to progress at a pace I was more comfortable matching. No major city stood between us and Hornstone, and despite my mind not completely at rest with relentless questions entering unwanted, I was still soothed knowing that much. We could not resist learning what was happening outside our escape vehicle, but as neither Liz nor I wanted to turn on the radio, for Dayce’s sake, we obtained our updates through Liz’s phone. We found that one of the Towers had arrived in our capital, the second largest port city in the world, Iva, which was about 250 miles east from Hornstone. Additionally, the rest of the spawn ships had all resurfaced and were accounted for. Their reappearance wasn’t the only thing they all shared. Each of them had harmoniously decided to land outside a major metropolitan area, taking no heed whether they were in the wettest of climates or the hottest of deserts. I also learned I was not alone in my observation. Others had likewise perceived the grayish mist discharging from the Towers, but they were otherwise devoid of any other activity.

  Despite most cities not yet prompting mandatory evacuations, many people within sight of the ships decided to leave. The decision formed traffic jams miles long in most of the twenty-two areas affected. Poorer cities with underdeveloped roads had it the worst, but even updated roadways were barely moving above idling speed. One article declared that it was impossible to securely fit a vertical piece of paper between the tightly crammed vehicles. Although all the ships now seized new territory, there was not much discussion to retaliate by military force, since they did not show any outright aggression. After all, there were only a few unfortunate souls that were killed by the ships landing and no one wanted to provoke a more aggressive reaction from them. More sensible ideas were not making themselves known, so caution seemed to be the best option to take. There was uproar by some. Bloggers, television pundits, radio hosts, and anyone else who had an outlet were arguing for a preemptive strike of some kind. Of course, most originated from people outside the affected cities. Nonetheless, as long as practical societies continued to manage the military, their war mongering dreams would have to be realized another day.

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