118: Sandra


She sat on her bed, staring at a small cylinder in her hands.

Her daughter was asleep, but her anxieties were horribly awake. She had pulled the object from its hiding place and had been about to use it, until she actually saw the thing. Since then, she had merely sat and stared down at it.

Gold-plated, and filigreed with silver wire and encrusted with tiny gems, it was an expensive gift from her uncle, given many years ago, and it was one of the most hated objects in her life. During her marriage, it had always remained hidden in places Jack wouldn’t look, such as in her personal articles. He was such a principled man, he would never root through her underwear drawer.

She hadn’t taken it out in years, yet she had never dared part with it.

She twisted the cylinder and worked it apart, pulling out the small scroll of parchment nestled inside. Unrolling it, she passed her eyes over the alien characters that few people on Earth had the ability to read.

For her daughter’s sake, she had to consider using it. For Jack’s sake as well, if he still lived. She studied the scroll carefully, and wondered how long it would take before she followed the instructions it contained.

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She dropped the scroll on the bed, next to the cylinder halves, and went back to staring at it.

Roy had kept her up to date with what he knew. He told her that only one path led out of the fire from the place Jack dropped his radio. He had received help from the mysterious beings he and most Earthers called ‘spooks’, and vanished with them.

Spooks were no mystery to her. Although she had never left Earth in her entire life, she had an education in alien matters that Jack could never have imagined. But she had put that part of her life behind her and pretended she wasn’t the heir to unspeakable evil.

Jack had brushed against the unearthly in his job before, several times. Nothing comical like what had happened to Roy, who had encountered a ‘spook’ who could only have been a Xi, but Jack’s previous encounters had been just as ultimately harmless. He had been lucky.

Jack’s last brush had not been harmless.

The abductions had been in the news for months, with girl after girl vanishing without a trace. The pictures of the girls had scared her into wondering if her own people might be involved… because every one of those girls looked very much like an Alwarzi.

Are my people behind the fire?

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Do they have something to do with the kidnappings?

Would my uncle admit it to me, if he were involved?

She stared from the middle of the bed at the vanity mirror above her dresser.

Normally she would see a woman of ageless beauty. People usually mistook her as her daughter’s older sister, a woman perhaps as young as her early twenties. She was a blond-haired, blue-eyed masterpiece, the aesthetic ideal of her people. It was egotistical to say it herself, perhaps… but she knew it to be true. 

But tonight, only a confused and frightened girl staring back at her. The sinister past that she thought she had escaped had returned to complete the destruction of her crumbling life.

The questions kept tumbling out of her heart, forcing themselves upon her, one after another.

Did they take him from the fire?

If they did, what have they done with him?

Did I sentence him to this fate when I divorced him?

Above all, one question kept coming back to her, no matter how many others she asked.

Will they come for me, next?

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