It amazes me how, whenever I seem to run low on inspiration, the Universe provides. This post is my entry into Theresa Oliver’s writing contest based on the following image. Please check her out on Facebook and don’t forget to let me know what you think of my short story. Thank you!
A Mother’s Love
“Captain, I’m telling you, there’s nothing here,” the scout informed his superior over the comm link. His voice was steady, but his eyes darted nervously, searching the sparse landscape for movement. Suddenly spinning in place, he pointed his drawn energy weapon at…nothing.
His skin crawled. He felt as if there were eyes upon him every second he was on this barren chunk of cosmic rock. But he had found nothing to indicate there was – or ever had been – anything alive on this dwarf planet.
“You sure, Winston?” The crisp voice of Captain Joquani reverberating from the link startled the scout.
Winston Kessel jumped. This reaction, melded with embarrassment and his unease, intensified his already deep loathing of the planet. “Yes, Captain. Of course I’m sure. There’s no structures. No water. The scanner’s not picking up any life signs at all.” This last part Winston delivered through gritted teeth because it wasn’t entirely true. The scanner had indicated something, but…
“All right,” Joquani’s voice dripped with annoyance, “get back up here on the double, Kessel. No point in wasting any more time on that emergency beacon if there weren’t any survivors.”
Winston’s relief was palpable. “Roger. On my way.”
He felt a hand on his shoulder. Winston instinctively squawked a curse and struck out, delivering a lightning quick blow that would have seriously injured whoever had touched him…had anyone been there. The sensation of being watched grew more vivid in conjunction with the stiffening of the baby fine blond hairs on the back of his neck. A warm puff of air, akin to the breath of a lover, caressed his right cheek. He winced, knowing nothing was there, but feeling a presence just the same.
“I’m going now,” he mumbled softly and he felt an instant ebb in his sense of foreboding. The bony fingers dancing a jig up and down his spine did not evaporate entirely, but Winston no longer had the burning desire to claw free of his own skin. He walked the short distance to his shuttle – his steps measured, his back stiff – opened the hatch and climbed inside as indifferently as his overworked imagination allowed.
The scanner is malfunctioning, he told himself for the hundredth time. Alia is not here. It’s crazy.
Winston buckled himself in, worked through the checklist as quickly as possible, and blasted off the desolate dwarf planet without a backward glance.
* * *
Alia Kessel stood near the edge of the rocky precipice – her long black hair and deep navy dress undulating in the soft breeze of her son’s departure – and exhaled a sigh of relief tinged with regret. As she watched his ship retreat over the sandy ocean into the somber blue clouds of the alien planet, Alia allowed her form to slowly fade once again into the ether, satisfied that Winston would now be safe from the true denizens of this planet – creatures so alien that they did not even meet humankind’s definition of alive.
A single tear glided down Alia’s right cheek as she whispered, “I love you, my son. I will watch over you always.” A heartbeat later, she was gone.