The Eve of Wayward
It was the Eve of Wayward, first quaternary of their successful colonizing, when the shadows failed. Brighton knew it. He saw them fade before the tides ran out. He told his father, and his father nodded, but continued to watch the evening news on Link. He told his mother, but she was chatting with a friend and waved him off.
Up in his room, he stirred his fish awake, the Nocturnal Whites rising for the scrill he crumbled for them. Lying on his bed, he kicked his shoes off, then, on a whim, paled the curtain on the windows to watch the starshine. The stars were very bright tonight.
Brighton liked the stars. He was named for one — that one. His eye picked out his namesake at the tip of Sterndale’s Tupper. This time of year was the only time that constellation could be seen, and Brighton was extremely proud that he was named for the brightest navigation beacon of this side’s solar spring. While he watched the skies, he wondered at tomorrow. He’d never seen the shadows fade the way they had this tide run.
“You need to go to bed.”
Brighton turned his head to see his father standing in the alcove. “I know. I was just wondering-”
“Tomorrow’s school. You have your homework done?”
His father nodded. “I’m going to bed, and you should, too. Good night.”
Brighton listened to his father’s footsteps fade away. His father never scolded, never yelled. He just expected that he would be listened to, and Brighton always did as he was bid. But not tonight. He felt a happening that he didn’t want to miss. So instead of pealing off his clothes, flashing clean, and climbing into sleep, he lay upon his bed, fully clothed, and continued his study of the nighttime sky.
A long time later, he heard his mother’s footsteps as she came upramp and made her way along the hallway to his father’s bedroom. The house lights faded down, but, still, Brighton kept his vigil.
Somewhere in the middle of what should have been the GlowMoon’s rise, the sky changed. The GlowMoon didn’t come, but the stars grew dimmer anyway. The darkness became deeper, at least to Brighton’s seeing.
Sounds — the quiet hums and clicks that were the habitat’s climate controls shutting on and off — got louder. Brighton sat up. Something was happening. His eyes took in the time on his wallscreen. It was half past thirty-two — night’s deepest hour. Then he saw his Whites. They were spinning, their long veil tails drifting out around them, lengthening and shifting. Their gelspring water seemed to shiver. Mesmerized, he watched, his mouth agape.
Brighton didn’t see the glimmer trails that blew skyward, arcing up and over till the sky was laced and crisscrossed with their tracings. He wasn’t watching out his windows. Instead, his eyes were glued upon his pets who seemed to be dissolving into streaming sheets of sheer that filled their tank to overflowing, that tank’s fluid spilling over to drip, gooey, on the floor.
His ears picked up the sound of sirens, then, a thin, high wailing in the distance, far away. He jerked his head, sight straying to his windows finally. But there was nothing whatsoever there — no stars, no nothing. Brighton stared.
Past his ear, a whoosh. He jerked, ducking as something light and white grazed his forehead. It hovered, a sparkling cloud of thinnest fabric all around. Then it vanished out the window as if the span of clearfilm wasn’t even there. Three of them flew out, gliding past his face — his Nocturnal Whites, changed to something... different.
Brighton jumped up and reached his hand to touch the nearest window. His hand stopped on feeling flat solid. The windows were intact. “Dad?” he cried, or tried to. His voice came out a croaking whisper. He tried again. “Dad?!”
Footsteps in the hall. “What are you doing awake, Brighton?”
“Dad, my fish-”
“Brighton, go to bed.”
“Shh,” his father said. “Listen.” Then his father’s face changed. “Those are the sirens! ...Brighton, get to the scooter. I’ll get your mother.”
Brighton ran down the ramp and out the gainway to the launchport, his footsteps strange sounding to his ears. He pressed the switch that gaped the overheads. His ears popped. He stood there slackjawed. The world above was changed. Overhead was all just undulating shimmer, no stars, no blinking lights of the communication drones. Behind him, footsteps clattered on the pourstone. He looked back. “Something happened,” he said as both his parents came around the wallcurve.
“Get in,” his father urged, his mother already sliding into the scooter’s right front seat, the safeties slipping home around her body as she settled. Obediently, Brighton did as told.
They made it just about three kilometers before the air stopped. Angling off, his father piloted the scooter south, following the giant curve of shimmering gelspring walls. In an hour, they crossed the same noticeable landmarks three times over. “It’s a bubble,” Brighton said. “They put us in a bubble.”
“What?!” his mother said, her voice sharp, her frown worse. “Who are you talking about, Brighton?”
“Nothing,” he said.
His father circled back, aiming toward their habitat. He landed home, closing shut the overheads, then unbuckled and got down. He walked outside. Brighton jumped down and followed, standing near, but keeping silent.
“There’s no sound,” his father said, and Brighton nodded. An hour later, the first food rained down upon them from the sky — dehydrated fruit, some nuts, and a bundle of something that remotely looked like gelspring weed.
Copyright © 2008 by Aeros