Chapter 18: Childhood’s End

Thort and his family returned home to Styg’s farm on the evening of the seventh day since they’d left. Thort wanted to put the bags away in the hay loft and get Lem to bed before going over to the house to let Styg and Marza know they’d returned. He went to open the barn door but it was locked. That was funny since Styg never locked a door in his house or the barn. Thort was worried in the back of his mind as he walked over to Styg’s house and knocked on the front door. He knocked another two times before he heard the creaking of someone descending the stairs inside the house.

Styg opened it finally, brandishing a shot-blaster. “You git off my property right now or I’ll blast you all, startin’ with your son and thin yer wife…”

Thort was dumbfounded. “Why are you doing this Styg?” he asked softly. “What did we do to deserve this? I told you we’d be back in seven days … You agreed … Here we are ready to work…”

Styg said nothing in response. He just slowly raised his weapon to the level of his right eye to take careful aim.

Thort stared at Styg thinking that someone had replaced him with somebody else who looked an awful lot like him, but that couldn’t be. It just didn’t make any sense at all. A long snakelike feeling of fear rose up slowly from the pit of his stomach. Something awfully bad was about to happen and if he didn’t prevent it, he’d never be able to undo it.

Thort shouted over his shoulder at Evanor to take Lem and run for that line of trees they had come through while he blocked Styg’s line of fire with his own massive body.

When his wife and child were safely out of shot-blaster range, Thort said to Styg, “I’m going too” and cautiously turned his back on Styg, picked up the bags in both hands, and started walking slowly toward the tree line. He could feel the shot-blaster pointed at his back as he walked away slowly. It was almost physical the way the fact of aiming of it dug into the center of his back … and then it did become physical, as Styg’s finger twitched on the trigger.

Thort was already half-dead when he heard the blast.

Lem whirled around at the clap of noise, in time to see his father collapse onto the ground and Styg recharge his weapon. He took Evanor’s hand and shouted into her mind, “Don’t think – just run with me to the trees!

Evanor was in shock and her mind did not work anymore.

Lem ordered her legs to run as fast as his, synchronized with his zig-zag motion as they nearly flew across the open field. Shots sang shrilly past their ears and kicked up hot clumps of dirt near their feet. Lem heard Styg recharging his weapon again.

They reached the tree line and Evanor almost collapsed, her legs wobbled so much. Lem helped her sit down with her back propped against a boulder behind the tree line, facing away from Styg’s property. Lem whispered in his mother’s ear to wait there for him to return. There was something he had to do before they could leave.

Lem rose slowly, quietly, from behind the boulder and scanned the field looking for Styg. Lem saw him at the edge of the field poking his shot-blaster between some bushes and trees a short distance away. Lem stooped low and moved behind the tree line towards Styg until he stood in front of him, scarcely two drac-spans distant. “I know yer in there,” Styg mumbled, “I’ll find you … just you wait’n see.”

Suddenly Styg shut up.

His shot-blaster began to move upward in short jerking motions until it was pointing at his own face.

Styg heard a child’s voice in the dark night, “Can you feel me inside you?” Styg nodded his head twice. The smell of hatred on Styg’s skin was replaced by the smell of undiluted fear.

Lem explained to Styg, “I am going back to Mother now… We will leave this sector… You are going to stay here until morning with the barrels of the shot-blaster in your mouth and your twitching fingers on the trigger. If you try to move or make a sound before morning, you will pull the trigger and that will be that… You will bury my father before the moon rises on the eastern horizon.

Lem backed away into the night and returned to his mother.

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Filed under Prose, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stories and Novels

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