by Vashti Q. Vega
It began with the moon.
One evening I lifted my eyes to the skies, and the moon appeared to have doubled in size. After that, all sorts of curious phenomena began to occur. Everyone in town was in a panic.
Strange swirls of indescribable colors were seen in the night skies. During the day the sun shone blood red and colored the skies pink. It was as if something had transported us to a different planet overnight.
When I saw the ships in the sky, I knew it wouldn’t be long before they came for us, and I was right.
In the middle of the day, they came. I watched them disembark their ships, small groups at a time. They resembled men of diminutive stature with large heads. They appeared to waddle rather than walk. They wore weird metallic suits with respirators attached to their faces.
I rushed to my daughter’s side. She lay on the bed in her room, stared ahead at nothingness and wailed, as she had done for days.
My poor child. Her mind was not equipped to handle this invasion. I held her tight. I would not allow her capture. Who knew what these small creatures were capable of doing to her—-to us.
I pushed the barrel of the gun up against her temple to keep my hand from trembling. The cold metal did not stop her wails. Poor thing, her voice was so hoarse. I would extinguish the fire in her gullet.
I pulled the trigger. She fell on her side, her eyes still open wide, as if she could still see this nightmare. I shut her eyelids and finally gave her peace.
It was my turn. I’d convinced myself, like so many others in this town, that this was the only way out. I was the last to take action since I was taught to always have hope, but even those of us who always have hope had given up.
The priest took most of the townfolk. After his last sermon, the priest instructed the congregation to get on their knees and pray. While they were praying, the priest left the church and locked them in. Then he set it ablaze.
Pitiful man of God, his mind also handled the crisis poorly. He burned those people alive: men and women, young and old. He had invited my daughter and I to attend his last sermon, and I agreed to go, but my daughter was not doing well, so we stayed home and were saved from a horrific death.
I live a block away from the church, and I heard the screams and howls of the burning souls. I ran down the street and was met with a fiery inferno. The stench of burning flesh and hair made me retch. I released the contents of my stomach right there on the street. What did it matter? There was no one around to watch me. I saw the priest stagger from the back of the burning building. My stomach was tied in knots.
“Demons! The demons are upon us,” he shouted. “If you remain they will take your soul!”
“What are you talking about?” I gasped. “There are people burning alive in there!” I ran toward the church’s double doors. The heat of the blaze stopped me. I sobbed helplessly. Those were my neighbors. My friends.
“You have to burn! Otherwise the demons will take your soul. I burned them because the fire will purify their spirits,” he confessed.
My hands flew to cover my mouth upon recognition of what he had done. My legs faltered, and I fell to my knees. I trembled uncontrollably as the priest took steps toward me. I extended my shaky arms before me.
“Stop!” I screamed. “Don’t come any closer!” I made an attempt to get to my feet, but my knees buckled.
“My dear, you must not remain alive. The demons will take your soul,” he said, his voice eerily calm. He continued to walk in my direction.
“You’re right! I know I must die. I must tend to my daughter’s demise also.”
“What? Your young daughter is still alive?”
“Yes, she waits for me at home.”
“No, no, no!” The man of the cloth pulled on his sleeves and shook his head like a madman. “You must go to her! It may be too late already. The demons do not waste time. A young soul like hers is a prime target. Go to her! If her soul is still intact, take her life immediately and then take your own.” He took a lighter out and flicked it on. He bent over and put the small flame against the hem of his cassock.
I tried to scream as I watched the little flame spread and grow on the flammable cloth of his priestly vestment, but I opened my mouth and sounds did not leave my lips. I gathered all my strength and lifted myself off the ground. I wanted to run. Instead I barely escaped the wailing priest who floundered, engulfed in flames. I staggered past him, noxious smoke attacking my nostrils. The stench was so great, I could taste it.
The very next day, the little men came.
It’s time now. My daughter is gone. The entire town is gone.