Beneath the Moon

Trent eased his twelve-year-old body into the moonlight. Somehow, the delicate blue light made him more aware of the need to be quiet. Without darkness to muffle his steps, every sound seemed to be amplified. That included his dog’s excited barking.

Slowly he closed the back door behind him, trying to turn the knob just so, to keep it from squeaking. Though the moon brightened the yard considerably, it still took several seconds for his eyes to adjust to the blue wash.

“Angus!”

Happy yips and playful grunts answered his call, and, surprisingly, the mutt came barreling around the corner of the house. Trent sighed with relief. The night before, it had taken him nearly an hour to get the dog chained up again. He’d caught hell for it from his mom and sister, both complaining about the racket, even when he tried to tell them Angus had been chained up before he went to bed.

Now he stood just out of Trent’s reach with one forepaw lifted, his nub of a tail wriggling frantically. Trent licked his lips and slowly crouched, reaching blindly for the chain.

“Come here boy,” he cooed. “Come here, please? Let me hook you back up so I can go to sleep, ok?”

Angus yipped and cocked his head, his mouth open in a wide smile.

“Please?” Trent grasped the chain. He still couldn’t figure out how the dog had gotten loose. This was the third night in a row.

The dog spun in a circle and continued to yap excitedly.

“Angus shut up and come here!

The dog whined, and was off like a shot into the woods.

Trent dropped the chain and tore after him. He already knew where the dog was headed: just over the crest of the hill that marked the end of the property, a quarter of a mile away.     He ran and ran, and the wet night air seemed to expand in Trent’s chest, until it was painful. He wished he didn’t need to breathe at all. But he kept running.

Angus disappeared over the top of the hill, just a handful of yards away, and Trent gritted his teeth to pump his legs over the uneven ground. Finally he gained the top, and looked down. There on the slope of the ravine sat Angus, looking quizzically back up at him, as though he wondered what took his human so long. And he wasn’t alone.

Trent tensed and his lips parted as he saw the tall figure. Darkness pooled around it, so that he could not tell its exact shape, or even what it was…it was just there, and Trent got the distinct impression that it was looking right at him.

He opened his mouth to yell to Angus, but shrank back as a tiny spheroid came whizzing out from behind the creature. A perfect ball of magenta light, it glowed and hummed brilliantly against the cold, stark hues of the night. The sphere screeched up the ravine and stopped a foot in front of his face, and Trent subconsciously leaned forward to bask in the warmth it radiated.

Its surface was constantly moving, so he couldn’t quite tell what lay underneath its aura of brightness. The light rippled smoothly, then wrinkled and coughed like white noise on a TV, before blinding him. Focused heat ran through him from the top of his head, down, down, and Trent’s eyes watered as he watched it, a focused beam of pink light that ran the length of his body until it reached his toes. Then with a blip, it suddenly recoiled like a maniacal tape measure. The orb gave a few contented beeps, wavered in the air for a moment, then looped down the ravine to hide behind the dark figure.

A bipedal. Satisfactory. Trent’s eyes widened, and he covered his ears, though the words hadn’t been spoken. The figure inclined its head to Angus, who just barked happily. You are free, we will spare your progeny. The dog yipped, and Trent gaped after him as it bolted into the underbrush, abandoning him. The figure turned towards him.

That won’t do you any good, you’re not really hearing me.

Promptly he squeezed is eyes shut too.

That won’t help either.

“Stop! Stop it!” All he’d wanted to do was chain his dog up and crawl back into bed.

Open your eyes.

Trent simply shook his head and bit his lip, willing himself not to cry. Almost-teenagers didn’t cry.

Open. Your. EYES.

His eyelids obediently lifted, and Trent stumbled backward a bit, as the figure had scaled the slope and now stood directly before him. It towered over him, and Trent fought to peer into the darkness shifting around it, like liquid smoke. Waves of it hung around a presumable head and shoulders, making the figure appear hooded. A wind disturbed its form, causing the darkness to recede and ebb. The moonlight seemed to dim, and Trent forced his eyes to adjust again.

“What are you…” he breathed.

Another sharp, static sound, not unlike that which the orb had produced, made his head ache, and the flesh on his arms prickle. He had the sudden hope that whatever lay beneath the figure’s hood, it remain hidden.

“What do you want?”

Silence.

He complied, clamping his mouth shut. The darkness was thicker now, frothing angrily, and he shifted uncomfortably as a shiver ran through him. Looking down at his feet, he saw tendrils of the blackness lapping at his ankles. Panicking, Trent tried to yell, but his mouth refused to open.

This will hurt more if you struggle.

No matter how hard he tried, his lips would not part, and the cold was traveling further and further upwards.

Mom… he thought as fiercely as he could. Mom!

She can’t hear you.

Screwing his eyes shut again, he thought with all his might. MOM!!!

The cold, prickling sensation made his knees lock, and Trent inhaled furiously through his nostrils.

This will only take longer if you continue to resist.

No…you, you don’t want me…

You have been deemed a satisfactory bipedal specimen for the purposes of our cause. Now desist.

Something writhed in Trent’s stomach, and he gulped as a wave of nausea hit him. He eyed the figure askance, trying not to look at it directly. The darkness made his eyes stream, and the light of the moon was negated by the figure’s encroaching essence. It was as though the night had been turned inside out, turned negative; what was light was dark, but what was dark just became darker.

I can give you something. Trent swallowed, furiously trying to think of something, anything, to bribe the figure with as the darkness shifted. Silence bore down on him. Maybe it was considering his offer.

A trade.

Trent swallowed, nodding. Yes.

More harsh beeps and static, and the orb reappeared, bobbing almost gleefully in the air. Trent stared into it, mesmerized.

Take my sister.

The cold abated slightly.

The irksome quadruped made a similar request. Trent paled, and his lip trembled again. He had little time to reflect on his dog’s betrayal, as the figure reached into his thoughts once more.

The specimen is female?

Trent’s heart hammered in his chest. …Yes.

The figure shifted, and the light sphere raced past Trent, back towards his house, taking the little warmth it provided with it. He blinked blearily in its absence, but only a handful of seconds crept by before the ball of light was back. It let out a cacophony of whistles, trills and clicks. A beam burst forth and projected upon the ground a perfect, pinkish image of Trent’s sister, sleeping fitfully in her bed upstairs. Then the image fizzled, and altered to become his sleeping mother. Trent shook his head vehemently, and tried to yell, but his lips were still frozen shut.

No, that’s my mom! Take my sister, not her!

The image of his mother clicked off, and the sphere chattered at the figure, before disappearing into its darkness.

The female specimens are satisfactory.

Don’t take my mom, that’s not what I said! Just my sister! Just her!

The cold was pulling away from him, like a tide drawing back into the sea.

You have been spared.

“No!”

The scream building up behind his lips finally burst forth from Trent’s mouth, and as the frigid hold on him lifted, he lost his balance and tumbled down the ravine. He winced as he scrambled to his feet and picked his way back up the slope.

His sister’s scream shattered the quiet first. Then a shriek from his mother, but the blue night had fallen silent again by the time Trent reached his house.

______________
© Andi Dobek 2015

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