Eyes in the Night

The valley was over the next rise. That was what she kept telling herself. All she had to do was keep her family moving for a few more miles and they would be somewhere where they could stop for the night. It would never be somewhere they could stay forever, the past had seen to that. There were no such places left in the world. Not with the seeking eyes.
The children were slowing down. They always slowed down when the sky began to darken, when it was the most dangerous to stop. She picked up the youngest child and held her close as they moved into the trees. Cover was good. Cover made them harder to spot from above.
They had been promised water and food, and the promises held true for once. A river stretched out across the bottom of the valley and fruit hung from the trees. The children ran forward now, eager to taste the sweet fruit. She looked to her exhausted mate and he smiled wanly. They would have to make a shelter as quickly as they could. Stone was the best, but wood would work if it had to.
“No fires. Remember the rules.”
She said it from habit. Even the youngest knew the rules of the night by now. Never venture out of cover. Never stand on a height. No fire, no light of any kind. The older children gathered as much fruit as they could and dragged it to the shelter. They would feast in the dark but they would do it together in safety.
As the night wore on, she stayed awake. Not that she wasn’t tired, she simply couldn’t sleep. What if it hadn’t been enough? What if something had betrayed their presence? Then, like every other night that she could remember, she heard the humming overhead as the seeking eyes passed them by. Only then was she sure they were safe. Only then could she sleep.

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Modern Writer

“Ash?”
The brunette seated at her writing desk looked up, blinking confusedly at the woman standing beside her.
“Did I fall asleep?”
Melanie laughed and set the steaming mug of tea down beside the stack of handwritten pages.
“You did, love. How goes the writing?”
Ashley winced and then leaned against Melanie.
“Ever considered the idea of pulling teeth without novocaine? I’m about there.”
Melanie paused for a moment and then started laughing.
“That’s graphic and descriptive, love. What’s wrong?”
Ash gestured broadly at her typewriter.
“It’s the love interest. I just can’t write this…man. I don’t know what she sees in him.”
Melanie picked up Ashley’s notes and looked them over with a critical eye.
“Have you considered cutting him? Stop trying to write that story and write the one I know you want to instead.” She tapped the page. “What about this woman? She seems more like your heroine’s type.”
Ashley gave Melanie a sad smile.
“You know my publisher will never go for that.”
“And why not? It’s almost 1970! It’s a modern world out there. And it’s not as if we don’t exist.”
Melanie set the notes back on the desk and brushed her fingers across Ashley’s cheek. Leaning it her touch, Ashley closed her eyes.
“You’re right. I’ll need to outline it again and-” She yawned and then laughed. “In the morning. I’ll redo the outline in the morning. Let me drink my tea and we can go to bed.”

Trousers and Rebellion

Elizabeth and Caroline both leaned out the windows of their second story bedroom and watched the Regulars march down the street.
“Mother said they might station a soldier here in our house.”
Caroline nodded once to punctuate her words and then looked back down into the street.
“Lina, that would be silly. Where would they sleep? Our house is just big enough for us.”
Elizabeth was three years Caroline’s junior, and those years were evident in her words now.
“Sarah said the soldiers took her parents’ bed and put them all in the garret. Like servants.”
“And they stood for that?”
Caroline pulled her sister in and pulled the shutters tight.
“What can they say, Betsy? Regulars haven’t exactly been respecting our rights as British citizens for some time now.” Caroline flopped onto the bed with a dramatic sigh and looked up at her younger sister. “It’s as if the Magna Carta doesn’t even exist.”
“That’s ridiculous, Lina. His Majesty would never tolerate that sort of thing. This is probably just the fault of those rebels I heard about.”
Sitting up quickly, Caroline stared at her sister in surprise.
“What have you heard? I’ve… I’ve been reading their writings and I think… I think-”
“Treason, the lot of it.”
Elizabeth glared at her sister and Caroline’s mouth hung open for a long moment.
“What?”
“Treason. They’re rebels, Lina. Rebellion is treason.”
Caroline looked away and didn’t respond. She was, however, decided in one thing. She wouldn’t be telling her sister about the trousers and shirt hidden in the clothes press or about what she was planning for this evening after all.

Better Late than Never

The flight controller blinked, staring at the anomaly coming in on the radar towards them. It looked like a small plane but there weren’t any of that size class on the schedule for today. She looked to see what the identification information was and realized nothing was being transmitted from the plane on the usual bands. Double-checking the equipment, she noticed a signal coming across a radio band they hadn’t used actively in decades. 6210 kHz was an unusual frequency to be broadcasting at, enough that she switched her headset over.
“This is Tower. Do you copy?”
A female voice, sounding relieved, met her ears.
“Was starting to think no one could hear me. I’m a little late coming in and starting to run low on fuel. I don’t suppose I could land here and refuel?”
There was an empty landing strip that would be able to accommodate the little two engine craft. It would just take a quick adjustment in the system to keep it clear.
“What is your callsign? I have you on radar but no information.”
“KHAQQ. What’s radar?”
That had to be a joke. Of course, the pilot knew about radar. Everyone knew about radar. But… KHAQQ? Something about that callsign was familiar and it tugged at her mind.
“Runway 5 is clear for you. I’m lighting it up now. Come in with a northerly heading and you’ll be fine.”
“I see it.”
The little plane turned and began the landing approach. That was when the tower got a good look at it. Two engines with propellers, a plain silver exterior. One of the men in the tower took off his glasses and scrubbed at them on his shirt before putting them back on.
“That can’t be…”
All eyes fell on the plane as it came to a smooth landing on the tarmac.
“Thanks for guiding me in. Don’t suppose you could tell the Navy we’re here and clear? There’s some boys on the Itasca supposed to be looking out for me but I lost them hours ago.”
“KHAQQ, this is Tower. What is your airplane model?”
There was a long pause before the same female voice answered, somewhat slowly as though she thought it was a stupid question.
“Electra 10E Special. Why?”
The two flight controllers look at each other for a moment before speaking into the radio once more.
“Amelia Earhart?”
“That’s me. Expecting someone else?”

The City of the Sun

She sat in the bed of the truck as it raced down the smooth road. She held tight to the boxes packed in tightly and looked up in wonder as they approached the city they’d all been promised they would call home. Towers reached up to lovingly caress the sky, formed all in stone that polished until it shone. One, the central spire, was such a brilliant gold that it seemed like the sun itself, settled onto the earth to give praise unto itself. The city itself had been named Memphis by the ancients, and that was the name it still bore. She watched as they passed by the honor guards at the gate with their leopard spotted shields and smiled as she saw children playing in the streets. Her mother opened the little window in the back of the cab and yelled back.
“You remember what I said, girl. You see the Pharaoh, and you get on your knees. We’re lucky to get a place in his city so we have to show our proper respect.”
“Yes, Mama. I’ll remember.”
The window snapped shut again and she turned her eyes back to the city spread out before them. Would they really have to give so much deference to Djedkare now that he was Pharaoh? Wasn’t he still her cousin? Mentuhotep closed her mismatched eyes and shrugged. She would just have to wait and see what the future would hold.

Our Secret

The cabinet meeting room was utterly silent as the members all stared at their President. He leaned back in the chair comfortably, looking for all the world like a man asleep. Other than one rather large detail: his face was open in the middle a very small furry creature sat at a set of controls. It looked out at the room with wide, surprised eyes and a hand hovering near a button it very much hadn’t meant to push. Then the laughter began. The Vice President was doubled over the table laughing so hard that it sounded like hissing. He raised his head at last and reached to remove the device that disguised his nature. For a moment, his skin flickered and then he revealed the pearly scales below. Double-lidded eyes blinking slowly, he looked around the room.
“Alright, tell the truth. Is anyone here human?”
One by one, disguises were removed until not a single human remained in the room. Skins lay discarded over chairs and devices sat powered off on tables. The furry creature commonly known as the President was the first to speak, looking at his three-foot tall, gray Secretary of the Interior.
“Roswell?”
The gray alien groaned expressively.
“That was us. Our craft malfunctioned when exposed to the atmosphere of this planet. It took years to figure out why.”
The reptilian Vice President looked down the table at the seven-foot tall, hairy, ape-like Secretary of Defense.
“Bigfoot is a hoax, huh?” he asked in an accusatory tone.
The Secretary of Defense puffed out his fur, appearing to double in size.
“We consider that term to be quite insulting.”
“Alright, here’s the big one.” crackled a creature made of pure energy who served as Secretary of the Treasury. “Kennedy?”
Head down, the Vice President slowly raised one scaly, clawed hand.
“That’s our bad. The humans did really get to the moon though.”
For a moment, there was quiet, then the Secretary of State tilted their head to the side, bat-like ears quivering.
“What now?
It was the exceptionally tall, blonde Secretary of Education that spoke, her metallic armor rustling oddly as she stood. Her eyes were an ethereal glowing blue as she surveyed her fellow cabinet members.
“We carry on. None of our missions are compromised, I trust, and the All-Father would be most vexed if I returned home now. This will simply be our little secret.”
There was a chorus of agreement before another gray alien, the Secretary of Energy, spoke up.
“What about the Attorney General? He’s not here.”
The creature riding in the head of the President scoffed.
“Him? He’s human.”
The Vice President smiled though.
“Don’t worry, though, we’re scheduled to replace him with a clone later today.”

Going Home

Gwen paced nervously as she waited for the knock on the door she knew was coming. Nessa would be there any minute with dinner. She would have a takeaway bag of their favorite Thai foods and that smile Gwen couldn’t say no to. Except that tonight she would have to say much more than no. Tonight, she would have to say goodbye.

She stopped her pacing for just a moment, leaning against the countertop to stare down at the roll of parchment that had upset the careful balance of her life. It had been a shock when it had appeared beside her bed in the night.

Bitterly, Gwen remembered so many years ago when she had been sent, sobbing, far from her home. It had been for her safety, they had said. They couldn’t guarantee her protection if she stayed. Now they wanted her back, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to go.
Scooping up the offending scroll, she looked one last time at the seal of her house and shoved the whole thing into a cabinet. If tonight had to be the last, then better it be a good memory for them both.

Vanessa knocked not more than a minute later, a smile on her face as she held up the bag.
“I got extra satay since you ate all of mine last time.”
“You’re the best, Nessa.”
Gwen closed the door, trying to figure out what to say and how to say it while Vanessa put the food on the table.
“Hey, Earth to Gwen.”
Vanessa’s giggle drew Gwen out of her thoughts and she looked up to see Vanessa holding plates in one hand and the roll of parchment in the other.
“What’s this, love?”
“It’s…that’s…” Gwen froze, staring at the scroll, then her shoulders slumped. “It’s a royal decree from my mother. I have to go home.”
“A royal decree?” For a moment, Nessa grinned, but slowly the smile vanished. “You’re serious. Oh God, you’re serious.”
Vanessa set the plates on the table and dropped into her chair, reading and re-reading the scroll. Then she set it on the table and looked across at Gwen, her face full of wonder.
“Tell me. Tell me everything.”
For the next two hours, they ate and Gwen told Nessa everything she could remember from those long ago days under the double moons. She told about her mother’s court and the civil war, about the death of her father, the rumors of assassins. Gwen didn’t notice when she set down her fork and didn’t pick it back up, so wrapped up was she in her telling. She painted a picture of words, drawing on every detail of her so-nearly forgotten childhood. She could see it all again from the slightly blue shade of the grass to the light grey sky with the single golden spire of her mother’s castle illuminated against it.
“The war’s over.” The words left Gwen’s mouth quietly, uncertainly. “That means I have to go home. Be the heir.”
“But you don’t want to.”
It wasn’t a question. It was never a question, but Gwen answered it anyway.
“I don’t want to leave you.”
The silence hanging between them in that moment was painful. Then Vanessa tapped the scroll.
“They said there would be a portal? To bring you home?”
Gwen nodded mutely and Vanessa soldiered on.
“You know how this stuff works. Would anything go wrong if we both went through?”

At the stroke of midnight, the portal opened in the throne hall as scheduled. This was the best time, during the conjunction of celestial objects that would put their material existence closest to that where they had hidden the Princess Gwynneth. Tonight, she would be coming home. The court tittered with excitement and the Queen leaned forward on her throne with eager anticipation. A shadow formed in the portal and a shape stepped through, followed closely by a second one. There was no mistaking the princess, even in tattered jeans and an old, oversized t-shirt. It was in her manner and her bearing. She bowed low before her mother and gestured to the woman who stood at her right hand.
“Mother, may I present my love, Lady Vanessa.”
The Queen smiled and nodded as Vanessa sketched a shaky bow. Gwen relaxed inwardly and reached for Vanessa’s hand. Now. Now, she was truly home.