Awareness broke slowly. Kaelyn lay flat on her back, surrounded by softness and warmth. If it weren’t for this, she felt like she would spread out and melt into a puddle. She knew she was waking up because her right arm stung.
Sounds reached her ears. Far away was the twittering of birds. Nearer was a series of rhythmic thumps – footsteps. She opened her eyes. It was all shifting light and color. She tried to sit up, and pain flew up her injured arm. She couldn’t help but cry out.
“Mom! It’s Kaelyn! She’s awake!” a man’s voice called out. That voice sounded familiar. That was Ilex’s son, wasn’t it?
“If you’re not going to help her, finish cooking breakfast,” Kaelyn heard Ilex reply. Kaelyn sat up, gritting her teeth against the pain, but the dizziness sent her toppling into Ilex’s arms. “Easy, Kaelyn,” the rancher told her. “How are you feeling?”
Kaelyn’s vision cleared. She saw Ilex’s round face, and a wardrobe standing against the opposite wall. She realized that her bed was actually a couch. “Where am I?” Kaelyn asked. “How did I get here?”
“We heard gunshots last night.” Ilex told Kaelyn how she had gone out to investigate, saw the Yellow Falcons fleeing down the road, then found Kaelyn unconscious and bleeding. “I brought you home and patched you up as quick as I could. Thank god, you’re alive. But what happened to you?”
The pale faces of the others stood vividly in her mind beside the memory of staring down the barrel of Coltan’s gun. She knew what she saw. She could not deny what had happened. And once her arm healed, she would have scars to prove part of it. But at the same time, she couldn’t believe it either. Slowly, she gave Ilex the only words she could find. “There was a lizard dog. It attacked. I had to kill it.”
“Should’ve recognized the bite marks.”
The rest of the day blurred together for Kaelyn. She ate breakfast with Ilex and her son around the low table in Ilex’s living room. Afterward, Ilex’s son went into town to get the doctor. He showed Ilex how to properly bandage Kaelyn’s arm then set it in a sling, saying something about bone fractures. He forbade Kaelyn diving until it healed. Ilex insisted that she stay on the ranch in the meantime. Kaelyn was grateful for the hospitality, but she wasn’t looking forward to the impending boredom. Hopefully, she could convince Ilex’s son to let her pitch in.
One week later, Kaelyn made the trip to Ville herself. The Solis morning service was already underway by the time she reached the church. Music escaped through the half-open windows. The congregation sang about hushing the law’s thunder and quenching the flame of Mount Sinai. Metaphors like those made church impossible for Kaelyn to understand.
The thought of sneaking into the service crossed her mind. Maybe no one would see her if she slipped in the back. But Andret would see her, and he would say something. Kaelyn did want to talk to him, but that was the only reason she was here. Her nerves won in the end, so she found a tree to wait under.
Behind her, Kaelyn overheard a couple of bartenders opening up the tavern. One asked, “You know it was a Blood Serpent scout who shot him, right?” They must be talking about Coltan.
“Yeah,” the second bartender replied. So Coltan was shifting blame onto a rival gang. Did he not want to mention the others either?
“Well I heard that he and the Falcons are gearing up to go after them.”
“Really? Who’d you hear that from?”
“Kaelyn,” a familiar voice said. She looked up and instantly recognized Andret in his white Solis robes. “You know you’re always welcome to join us,” he added as Kaelyn quickly stood up.
“Yeah, I know,” she answered.
“I’m glad to see you on the mend. I would’ve visited if the doctor hadn’t refused. Though he was the one who first told me about the attack. You were in good hands, and I was spared a load of worry. God is looking out for all of us.”
That’s what people are calling what happened at Lake Mitchell last week? An attack? “I actually want to talk to you about that. But not out here. So, when you have a minute.”
“I have one now.”
“But don’t you…?” Kaelyn looked around and didn’t see anyone standing nearby. “Wait. Where’d everyone go?” And why didn’t Kaelyn hear them walk past?
“Off to lunch, probably. We were a small congregation this morning. It is mid-summer after all.”
“Right. Sure. Okay.”
Kaelyn and Andret went inside the church and sat in the last pew. Then she told him the true story behind her injury. “So it wasn’t the Blood Serpents?” Andret asked part way through.
“No, no, no. Definitely not,” Kaelyn answered. “You remember that light sword I found?”
“It was the people who made it. The others.”
“You mean – the aliens?”
“Yeah. If it wasn’t for them, I would’ve died that night.”
Andret was silent and wide-eyed as Kaelyn finished her story – how the others saved her from Coltan’s bullet. Finally, Andret said, “They’re alive. And they’re still here.”
“What should I do?” Kaelyn asked. “What if they attack us? Coltan saw them too. What if he tries going after them?”
“I doubt that last part. He’s already lied to the entire town. And if the latest rumors are true, he’s going to extreme lengths to maintain it. I wouldn’t worry about him until he threatens you again.”
“And the others?”
Andret sat still for a minute, not saying anything. At last, he answered, “I don’t know. I don’t think we can assume anything for now. We just have to wait and see.” His eyes met Kaelyn’s. He gave her a reassuring smile – the kind of smile Kaelyn remembered her father giving her whenever she got scared. “Let go of your fears, Kaelyn,” Andret told her. “Return to Lake Mitchell as soon as your arm has healed. Dive. Life will go back to normal. I promise.”
Kaelyn didn’t like that answer, but Andret’s promise came true. The next day, the doctor cleared her for diving. After a few days of work, Kaelyn fell back into her old routine. The memories of that night never left her mind. She doubted that they would ever fade completely. She still kept her ears alert for the shimmering sound the others made when they disappear and reappear. She still scanned the horizon for unusual glows. But the consequences of that night, whatever they might be, no longer scared her.
©2019 Joyce Lewis. All rights reserved.