Prompt: It has been five days and they still haven’t arrived.
It has been five days and they still haven’t arrived.
I sit on the wraparound porch, weathered by decades of storms, spiral winds from the south and icy blasts from the north wreaking havoc on the flimsy shelter we call our home. I watch the horizon, past the fields of our farm that haven’t yielded a full crop in a decade, past the barn that collapsed into a pile of smoked and rotten wood after the fire, and am amazed at the shimmering beauty of the sunset as the warm light glides and dances through the diamond dust that has destroyed our atmosphere. The mines in the east have long since failed, the miners dead, the equipment buried in the collapse of the earth, but still the glistening dust from their ravaging of the planet suffocates the air and the people breathing it.
I watch the horizon in the direction they retreated, remembering them melting into the sunset, promising to return immediately with medicine far more capable and advanced than anything we have ever seen.
I rock, slowly, the creak from the old, wooden chair on the old, wooden porch making a slow, sleepy rhythm in my mind, and I remembered when they first came, first descended from the stars in their glowing machine, tall and pale and strong. They were peaceful, and took out a small box and when they spoke I could understand them, and I told them of her sickness, of her cough, and they looked sad and promised they could help. They said they had medicine. They said they could heal her. They said they would be right back.
That was five days ago.
There are so few of us left. We had resigned ourselves to die, here, in our homes, scattered, desolate, destroyed, the fading light of a smothered candle. But they came. They came with their spaceship and their medicine and their promises and they made me hope and if she dies I will kill every single one of them.
I wipe my face and stand and walk, my steps labored but not as labored as my breath, inside. She is lying on the couch where I have brought her to rest and to read. She is so tiny. Was she always so tiny?
“Papa,” she smiles, and coughs, and red stuff comes out of her mouth and she’s dying and I’m scared and being scared makes me angry but I smile and sit on the floor next to her and stroke her head.
“Did they come back?” she asks. I keep smiling, my heart on fire in my chest, their promises in my head.
“Not yet, love,” I say. “You can wait a little longer, you’re doing fine.”
“I don’t think I am,” she says, and smiles that little smile of children who know they are smarter than you think they are.
“Nonsense,” I say, and want to tickle her, but it will make her laugh, which will make her cough, and she’s lost half a lung already.
I don’t know why I blame them. I don’t know why I am more angry at them than the diamond miners who ruined the world, or the people who demanded the diamonds and encouraged the diamond miners to ruin the world, but I am. Perhaps it is because they are still alive. Perhaps it is because I was okay with dying and they took that away.
She only has one small, grey, limp antenna left, the one right in the middle of her forehead. It rises and waves a weak little wave and I laugh and it makes me sad because I know I will never laugh again.
“Tell me the story of the humans,” she says, and buries her face deeper into the pillow.
Humans, I think, and I know she is dying, and I know I am going to kill them.
“They came from a long, long ways away,” I say, stroking the one antenna down, down, letting it rest, as she closes her eyes and rests on my voice, “with their giant spaceship.”
“What did it look like?” she asks, and coughs again, and it’s violent and bloody and I cry but I don’t wipe away the tear or the blood.
“It was beautiful,” I say.
“Like me?” She grins.
“Oh, no, nothing like you,” I tease, and she whispers a little laugh. “You are far, far more beautiful.”
Her breathing is shallow and they still haven’t come back.
“It was big and shiny and glowing and….”
I can’t continue. Her breathing is so small. She is asleep.
I kiss her forehead and hold her hand for several minutes before the last antenna falls to the ground. I grit my teeth and kiss her again and pick it up and stand and walk outside to wait.
It has been five days.
When they return, I am going to kill them.