Last Daughter (992 words)

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Elenita

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You didn’t hear me scream.

You could have, because you were right there.

Right before I screamed you were there, behind the glass between us.

Then came the light.

Sometimes I see it again in my dreams. In my dreams I’m clawing at my eyes, scratching them out with a steak knife, anything to stop me from having to see that light again. But it always comes anyways.

White, bright, warm.

Terrifying.

When I wake up in the middle of the night with that scream ripping at my throat the darkness comforts me. I wrap myself in it and go back to sleep.

Black, cold, smothering.

Relief.

If only it would stayed that way.

I wonder where you are, if any of our things survived. Maybe your book of cut-and-paste recipes made it to some other dead planet, where forgotten skeletons are wrapped in the loose pages. Maybe my hairbrush is on some asteroid out there; maybe some other alien out there is wearing the shredded remains of the nightgown I made for you. It took me weeks and I had to remake it twice. My finger still has the scars from poking myself with the needle so many times.

To be honest I haven’t gone back to look through the debris. By now of course it’s been scattered but when I first landed and still had the pod I could have returned to look. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I was afraid to find a body I’d recognize; a billion people, there might’ve been hundred of millions of flesh and organs scattered everywhere. I couldn’t face that field of butchery.

Especially knowing a piece of you might be there.

I don’t know how many galaxies I went through or planets I passed through before landing where I am now; I kept my eyes shut as the pod traveled; even when it finally stopped I stayed inside with my eyes closed for hours, hoping the light I felt shining outside would fade. But it didn’t; and yet it didn’t obliterate me, it didn’t singe my skin. It was hot, but not too hot.

And it didn’t ring with your screams.

Eventually I climbed out and onto the ground of this new planet. I still don’t know what it’s called, I’m afraid to ask because then people will know I’m not from here. It’s similar to ours; the aliens here look just like us. The colors here are duller, though; the grass dries into a brittle brown, the sky is more gray than blue, and the sun sets in washed out tones of pale yellow and watery red.

I did find a place to live, a place given to me by the aliens make clothes. There are many other people living here, maybe hundreds, in little rooms stacked on top of each other. We all work in a big metal house that doesn’t have good windows for sunlight, but it’s quite easy to sew clothes here because they use machines that go fast.

Another good thing about this world is that they don’t have curfew here, they can stay out past sunset, eating and drinking together. They don’t seem to have rations here either, because every meal there are more than one kind of meat and vegetables. At first I used my hands to eat like we always did at home. They seemed to find it very funny but eventually they showed me how to use this pair of sticks to eat. And they always put so much food on my plate, as soon as it’s empty they give me more.

Sometimes when we’re drinking together they ask if I have a family and I want to tell them about you, but I always say no, no family, I’m here alone.

If you were here, would you still call me a part of your family?

I know you must hate me for what I did; it had to be done, though. How else would I have survived? When the fire spread to our house I knew there was no way we could outrun it. The only way out was the escape pod in the shed, but I couldn’t have you clinging to my hand. You were slowing me down, so I shoved you aside.

There was no time to explain. This wasn’t something the army could control or the government could handle. This was the death of our world that your father always foretold.

You started screaming and I ran from the sound, I ran as fast as I could towards the shed. After all I was the one who had the key, which I had picked up from your father’s body on the way.

When I jumped into the pod I could see you from the corner of my eye, stumbling towards me. I slammed the glass doors of the pod shut and tried to set my destination, my hands were shaking so much that I pressed the wrong buttons that set my pod off-course.

A minute before the pod blasted off you ran up to me and pressed your face against the glass. There was only room for one, though, you know your father had just built the prototype like that. You didn’t seem to remember that, though, you kept beating against the window, tears rolling off your chin. Just before the engines kicked into a roar that shot me away to safety I heard your voice.

You looked up, eyes swimming, and whispered,“Mommy?”

That’s when I screamed.

You didn’t hear me, did you?
 

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