Friday, October 24, 2014

A story

She was lying in a shallow ditch in a damp hole in the earth, cut off from her comrades, shivering in the dim light of the full moon.

The attack had come quickly, like she'd read on Twitter. One minute she'd been running across the grassy hill behind her family's home chasing her little brother, the next she'd been running for cover, fire raining down from the sky, the smell of burning buildings and scorched earth choking her.

She still didn't know where her brother was. She lifted her head gingerly to peer across the rim of her ditch, expecting a hail of fire at any moment. The fire did not come. A few meters in from of her hiding place she saw one of the insectoid exoskeletons that seemed to have been damaged in the fierce battle ensuing after the attack. The exoskeleton was rocking back and forth, emitting occasional sparks and jerking intermittently.

She ducked back down, gripped by a deep desire to finally encounter the adversary, to learn the purpose behind the incomprehensible attacks. But she was afraid. So deathly afraid. An icy fear was trickling into her bones, freezing her in place. She started to shiver uncontrollably. "I'm too fucking young for this shit!" she thought to herself.

Back in fifth grade, there had been that swimming course. She'd had to jump from the high spring board. High up above the water, she'd perched, shivering, gripped by some primal fear, unable to give a name to the nameless horror rooting her to the spot. She'd barely heard the shouts of her gym teacher, or the taunts of her classmates.

She had jumped after all. She still couldn't put into words why. But she had.

As soon as you'd let go, things were in motion, and there was nothing you could do any more. Looking back, the instant of decision hadn't been as hard as she'd imagined. From there, everything else had followed naturally.

Now she remembered the feeling of that moment. A short impulse was all that was needed. The next second she was sprinting across the hill torn open by countless impacts. What had been a softly undulating, grassy slope was now a smoking expanse of brown earth, making her stumble as she sprinted towards the twitching alien machine.

She slid down next to the hissing, jerking wreck that had been the one of war machines laying waste to her village. She had to know. She had to know why. Why all this destruction? What was the reason? She pulled herself over the mangled war machine until she came face to face with the occupant. Its eyes flickered in her direction.

She tried to find the words to ask what she so desperately needed to know. "Why—"

It cut her off, spitting a sequence of hissing and clicking sounds. A small box next to its head squawked the translation.

"Actually, it's about ethics in journalism."



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