The snow-covered houses along the dark, quiet street appeared to slumber like their inhabitants, resting up for the next day’s adventures. Sleeping birds rested their tiny heads under spread wings to keep out the winter chill. Even the trees stood like silent, still guards, perhaps meditating on their long years of service while their sap slowed in a well-earned hibernation.
Kendra jerked up like a marionette immersed in blackness. Her heart thudded against her chest. She cocked her head and listened. One of the boys was snoring. Other than that, she couldn’t hear anything unusual. She blinked in puzzlement, then sighed and leaned back against large, welcoming pillows.
A chair scraped across the floor.
Kendra sat up again and kicked Bala’s foot under the covers. “Wake up!”
Bala stirred, licked his lips, and moaned.
Kendra offered a full arm wallop on his blanketed body before she slid out from under her warm covers. She reached for the lamp. Click. Click. Click-click-click. Damn!
The faint hissing of a breather helm slithered through the house.
“Bala, if you want to live through the night, I suggest you get up. Now!” Kendra pounded Bala on the chest.
Bala leapt out of bed in one fluid motion and promptly fell to the floor with his foot tangled in the sheets. “Oweee, oooh, ahhh.” He regained his balance and fluttered to his dresser where he pulled forth a dented, second-hand Dustbuster and a flashlight. As he aimed both the gun and the light at the door, it flew open.
Two enormous Uanyi entered the bedroom. Shocked hesitation cost all. In a flash, one intruder lunged forward, knocking Bala’s weapon to the side and crushing him in a decidedly unfriendly hug, while the other Uanyi thrust Kendra into a corner.
Enraged, Bala fought back, kicking and punching, in a vain attempt to reach Kendra.
Changing tactics, the Uanyi flung Bala like a toy onto the bed, where he slapped, punched, and shook the man until Bala’s teeth-rattled, and he finally stopped struggling.
Kendra screamed. The children wailed from different rooms in the house.
At the sound of heavy, clomping steps, the two Uanyi jumped away from Bala’s groaning form and stood at attention.
An enormous Ingot strode into the darkened room. “Enough. Next time, maybe. Just finish the job.”
The two Uanyi then proceeded to do a fair imitation of trolls having temper tantrums, breaking everything in the room, including the windows and walls. The Ingot merely folded his bulky arms and watched, his eyes gleaming.
Kendra struggled to the door, begging to be allowed to go to her kids, but the Ingot sent her sprawling back to the corner with a swift kick. The other intruders grunted in exertion as they continued their thorough devastation.
Unseen intruders smashed their way through the other rooms, forcing panicked groans from Bala; “Oh, God, oh God,” his whole body curled up in pain.
After an eternity, the intruders couldn’t find anything else to break. The Ingot raised his arm and waved carelessly. “Done. Let’s go.” He led the others out of the bedroom and headed toward the front door, which hung by one twisted hinge. Clomping noisily down the steps, they mounted waiting scooters.
The houses, birds, and trees frightened into eerie silence acted as if they had heard nothing.
Bala slowly uncurled and slid to the floor, weak with shock-shivering pain.
Kendra scrambled from the room and was met by an onslaught of sobbing children. She knelt and hugged them, crying, calling them each by name. “Rachel, sweetie, you hurt?” Kendra took a screaming baby out of the girl’s arms. “Barni? David?” She rubbed the little boys’ tear-stained faces. “How about you, Seth?” Seth clutched a whimpering three-year-old and mutely shook his dark, curly head.
Her eyes widened in fresh terror. “Veronica?”
Bala thrashed his way into the hallway and limped to the last bedroom, calling, “Veronica!”
Streaky tears streamed down Kendra’s face as she and the children slowly hauled themselves en mass towards the last bedroom. “Oh, God, no…please, not one of my babies….”
Bala sat huddled on the floor with a small child cradled in his lap, his arms encircling her hunched form. She buried her face in his chest, as he lay collapsed against the cracked wall. “She was in the closet, hiding under luggage. She’s… okay.”
Kendra fell to her knees, all the children crumpling with her. “Lord, save me now, save me.”
Swallowing against the pain, Bala rocked his shivering child. “He—just—did.”
With a trembling finger, her face contorting in agony, Kendra wiped tears from her baby’s face. “Not from this hate.”
At the first light of dawn, Clare dashed across the muddy, scarred lawn, jumped the porch steps two at a time, and banged ferociously on the front door. She hopped from foot to foot as she waited, peering through a cracked window into the living room. “Oh, God! Oh, God! Please—” Shuffled footsteps pinned her to the floor. She braced herself, ready to rush in.
The broken door complained feebly and was shoved aside.
Bala stood there, his black and blue face testifying to his current state of health. One eye had swollen shut. He gripped the doorframe for support.
Clare jumped forward and squeezed him in a hug. “Oh, God! Bala, it’s worse than—”
Kendra’s groan called from a back room. “No visitors, please. The place is a mess.”
Bala managed a strangled, “Just Clare, honey. Go back to sleep.” He stepped aside, releasing his neck from her suffocating embrace and gestured toward the living room. He shifted the door back into place, limped to his broken couch, and braced himself. With one hand, he flourished a mocking bow. “New decorating scheme. Disaster original.”
Clare fought back tears. “How can you joke at a time like this?”
“It’s either laugh or cry and my eyes hurt, so I figure—”
Clare paced the room, her hands clenched into fists. “I’ll get her; I promise. I’d like to wring her thick, flabby neck with my own hands!”
Bala slumped onto the broken couch. It tipped at a precarious angle. Ignoring the danger, he rested his head on his hand, leaned back, and raised a swollen eyebrow at Clare. “Who, exactly, are you planning on strangling on my behalf?”
Clare stomped around the room, groaning at smashed family pictures, tendrils of shredded plants, ripped curtains, and all the mind-numbing destruction. “I can think of two.”
Bala rubbed his chin, and it started to bleed. “Aww, darn. I thought I stoppered all the leaks.” He tried to heave himself off the couch but fell back with a pained squeak.
Clare ran to his side. “Stay put. What do you need?”
Bala pointed a nervous finger down the hall. “In the bathroom, the cabinet was left intact. Missed it in the dark, I suppose. Sloppy of them.”
Clare scurried down the hall and bumped into Kendra with a shriek. “Kendra! Oh, Lord!”
Kendra waved Clare down the hall. “Bandages to the right. I’m just going to order something to eat. Can’t fix meals in this—looks like a couple hurricanes came through.”
Clare’s eyes widened in alarm as if Kendra’s sending a message would drain her last vestiges of strength. “No, let me! I’ll call. I’ll take care of everything. Just go sit with Bala. His chin is bleeding.” Proof enough that the universe tottered on the edge of an abyss.
Kendra shrugged one shoulder and nodded her acceptance. “Sure. Fix everything.” She rotated a limp hand in the air. “Play Fairy Godmother—long as you want.” She stumbled down the hall.
Clare dashed into the bathroom. A moment later, she scampered back into the living room, brandishing a bandage. “Here, I’ll just wrap your—” She stared.
Bala lay crumpled into Kendra’s embrace. She rocked him like a baby.
Clare’s eye filled with tears, and her lips quivered.
Kendra stared up through dry, vacant eyes. “Don’t start.” She peered down at Bala’s blood-caked chin. “Let him sleep. He’s been watching over us since this whole—insanity—happened. The Interventionists came, did their thing. Amazing the house is still standing.”
Clare slid to the edge of the couch, bracing one hand on the wall to keep it from falling over. “Why didn’t you call me?”
“Bala didn’t want to wake you in the middle of the night. Told ‘em to wait till morning.”
Clare shook her head. “Idiot. I’m supposed to be called first. I could have helped. Plus, I need fresh evidence. He knows that.”
Kendra shrugged. “He wasn’t thinking too clearly. Having your head bashed in and your family terrorized does funny things to a man.” Kendra smoothed Bala’s disheveled hair. “Look, you said you want to help, well, then go ahead. Order something. We need to eat, no matter how sick we feel. And then you go ahead and get these—” Kendra’s voice dropped to a shaky whimper.
Clare fell to her knees and knelt at Kendra’s side. “Don’t let them get to you—not on the inside. Please. Hang on to the Kendra I know and love, the one who hasn’t a mean bone in her body.”
Kendra stroked her husband’s head. “My kids wouldn’t agree.” Kendra leveled her gaze at Clare’s teary eyes. “But I won’t let this happen again. We’re gonna protect ourselves. No one had the right to terrorize us. God! We’re human beings!”
Clare rose, sniffed back impending tears, and started tapping on her datapad. “As soon as I get some food on your table, I’m going to call everyone I know to see that your family is protected.”
A child called from the back room. “Maaaa-ma!”
Kendra sighed and laid Bala’s limp form gently on the couch. She smoothed his hair away from his eyes as she called back. “Coming, honey.” She straightened and gestured vaguely in the direction of the kitchen. “Sounds good. But please don’t lay anything on the table just yet—it’s scattered all over the floor.” Rubbing the small of her back, Kendra limped out of the room.
Clare faced Bala and knelt by his slumbering side. Her voice lowered to a husky whisper. “We’ll get them, Bala. Promise.”
I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
A new chapter every Tuesday and Thursday.
Science Fiction Novels
Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg
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OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF