Content copyright © 2019 Robert Jack

Mother gently took the toolbox out of Father's trembling hand and touched his pale cheek. “You saw them again, didn't you?” The sadness in her voice was laced with condescension. She still didn't believe him.

 

Father didn't say a word. Of course, he didn't have to. We could all see it in his gaunt features, in the way his eyes kept darting to the windows at every sound. He closed the door and engaged the locks with care, the few that were old and the many that were new. He stood, adding his own diminishing weight to the strength of the bolts, until Mother called him to dinner.

 

After another long, wordless meal, everyone slipped into their usual roles. Mother busied herself with the dishes, then set about reorganizing the cupboards that had already been reorganized the day before. My brothers and sisters tumbled through the house, occupied by the childish games in which I had only recently lost interest. And Father sat quietly by the heating vent, waiting for us all to go to sleep. Tonight I would find out why.

 

It was half past midnight when I heard Father unlocking the door downstairs. I rushed to my window and slipped outside, feeling icy currents play with my hair as I hurried to keep up. He finally stopped in the valley behind our house, staring upward. Even from a distance, I could see he was scared. “Tell me you see them,” he said.

 

I moved away from the rock I'd unsuccessfully hidden behind. “See what, Father?” I said, coming up beside him. I stared into the inky darkness, but saw nothing.

 

“There,” he said, pointing his long, clawed finger toward the waters above.

 

At first I saw nothing, but when I looked away, I caught a brief impression of a light in the void. I tried again and found that it was too faint to see when I looked directly at it, but by keeping my eyes fixed behind, I could follow its movement across the sky. “What is it?” I asked, feeling the fins rising on my back.

 

Miles above, a fishing trawler was headed back to port.

 

Copyright (c) 2015 Robert Esckelson