“To think that they used to say that we were the weird ones,” Aleph laughs as he and his brother look out to the city that they grew up in.
Stretched out in front of them is the city of Ellendawn, a city better known as ‘the City of Lights.’ According to the stories, the town first got its name from the breathtaking sunrises that once graced the landscape. There was supposedly a natural eternally rose gold hue to the light that was, as rumor had it, quite lovely.
But that was years ago, long before the meek colony swelled into a massive city. As the city grew, the ambient light from the countless structures began overpowering the beautiful lights that the world once boasted. In time, clouds rolled in and it was rare that anyone could see any rays of sunlight through the thick cloud cover after that.
Thanks to the clouds, the cityscape became very dark, so people started using even more lights. After several years someone got the bright idea to install some rose gold lights across the city to replace the romantic lighting that the local star once offered for free.
“Well, I still think you’re weird,” Feivel shrugs before he lets out a stifled laugh.
“That’s fair,” Aleph chuckles as he tears his eyes away from their hometown—he hoped for the last time. Spinning around on his heels, the gravel path crunches and grinds underfoot. Taking a deep breath, Aleph announces, “Let’s go.”
“So, where are we going?” Feivel asks nervously as Aleph marches away from town.
“East,” Aleph answer simply as he fixes his eyes ahead. He didn’t dare to turn back around and risk seeing the home that he was leaving again. Part of him feared that he might turn to a pillar of salt if he did. If that happened, he would then be stuck on this planet forever. A more reasonable part of him feared that he would lose his nerve and decide to go back to the familiar home he knew, even if there was nothing left for him there.
Just a week earlier the Coalition had killed his parents. They tried to convince Feivel and Aleph that their parents were caught in some sort of accident, but Aleph knew. He knew because it was all his fault. Not only that, but he saw it. He saw everything.
Just a few hours before his parents were killed, Aleph asked his teacher what it meant to be part of a Resistance. Aleph had wondered what his parents had been talking about for years and there was one word that came up time and time again. Resistance. He didn’t know what it really meant, nor did he know what his parents might be resisting. As far as he knew, at the time, life was good.
But now he knew.
His parents were hoping to strike back at the Coalition government, one known for its harsh treatment of its people.
Unfortunately for him, Aleph didn’t know any of this at the time. Instead, he foolishly trusted those who assured him that they had his well-being in mind. Following that childish thought pattern, he went to a person he trusted to give him all the answers he needed because they had in the past. It only seemed reasonable that a teacher would be prepared to answer a seemingly random and harmless question.
Aleph chokes as emotions rise up into his throat. The sensation feels a lot like his shellfish allergy that made his throat constrict as it swelled shut. Coughing lightly, he tries to play it off like he is simply choking on the dust from the underused road. For his brother’s sake, he would maintain a strong front.
“How long are we going to be gone?” Feivel asks weakly from behind Aleph.
Shaking his head, Aleph answers, “We’re not going back. We can’t. Not now, not ever.”
“But what about our home?”
“Forget about our apartment, it’s gone.”
“What do you mean? I can still see it.”
“It doesn’t matter, we can’t go back.”
“Because the people in charge killed mom and dad.”
“But… they told us that there was an accident and that’s what happened.”
“How do you know?”
Images of the events that led up to Aleph’s parents getting killed flash before his eyes and a lone tear breaks away from the confines of his eye where he had been trying to keep it. Swallowing what feels like a large grape, Aleph tries to find the words to answer his brother.
Aleph had been hiding in the bushes outside of the ground floor of his apartment building doing what anyone his age would be doing—killing bugs. He had tried to convince Feivel to join him in his efforts against the tiny invaders that would always end up sneaking into their home and stealing what little food they had sitting around. It was all part of his noble mission. Despite these efforts, Feivel was more interested in watching some program on the Holo-Port. Feeling like his brother had disgraced the family name, Aleph marched out to quell the invaders on his own.
Aleph spent a good hour killing the ants outside when his parents finally returned from work. They always came home at the same time on the same bus. Aleph was about to jump out of the bushes to surprise them when a large black truck pulled up beside his parents. Confused, Aleph resigned himself to watch what was happening. He had never seen such a scary looking car in his life, and he wanted to see if his father could vanquish the massive metal beast.
As he watched, several people in black outfits and masks hopped out of the vehicle and started asking his parents some questions. The outfits were all solid black except for a large red Coalition insignia on their backs and a smaller one on their shoulders.
It wasn’t long before his father must have answered one of the questions wrong because the people in black started shouting. That scared Aleph’s mom who tried running away from the scary people to get in the house.
And then they shot her.
Horrified, Aleph remembers the look on his mother’s face when she was shot. She was right in front of him when she was hit, so Aleph could easily recall every little detail. As soon as the gun fired, her face shown in surprise and her jaw dropped as her eyes went wide. That lasted for the briefest moment before a look of pain corrupted her face—the very face that Aleph had planned on getting his mother to make when he would have jumped out to surprise her.
Instead of a smile that would have followed her recognition of her son scaring her, Aleph’s mother’s face turned into one of terror and pain. Watching her face change was enough to send Aleph backpedaling further into the bush.
Once Aleph had his back planted firmly against the foundation of his apartment complex his focus shifted back to the scene before him. Laying on the ground in front of him was his mother who was lying in a growing pool of blood. Her eyes were fixed on the small tunnel that led into the bush where Aleph was hiding, and he had briefly wondered if she was about to tell him something.
The thought was cut short when his father started yelling. He had never heard his father raise his voice before, much less yell. Aleph remembered how he had covered his ears and resolved to remain absolutely silent. He couldn’t scream because he knew that he would be next if he did. They shot his mom when she screamed, so he feared that might be what got them mad. He wondered why his father was yelling because Aleph thought that his dad would know not to yell, if he yelled then he would be shot too. Sure enough, there were a few more gunshots and Aleph watched as his dad fell to the ground.
That was when the scary people decided to pick up his parents’ bodies and put them inside of their mean looking car. After just a few seconds his parents were gone.
It wasn’t until later that Aleph realized that the yelling had nothing to do with it. His parents were shot because his teacher told his secret to the scary people in black. This truth really became evident when he recalled how the people who shot his parents had mentioned the word ‘resistance’ as they shoved his parents into the car.
“Allie, how do you know?” Feivel repeats, using his nickname for his brother.
His lips quivering, Aleph stops and begins to tremble. Dropping to a crouch, he sobs, “I… I saw it! I—I saw everything.”
“You saw what?”
“I s—saw them k—kill mom and d—dad! It—It’s all m—my fault!” By now, Aleph knew that he couldn’t keep his cool anymore. It was all too much. After shoving every emotion down for nearly a week to keep anyone from suspecting anything, Aleph finally broke.
“You saw it? How was it your fault? What did you do?”
“I a—asked m—my teacher what the Resist—Resistance was… That’s what this was all about!”
“What’s a resist… resist dance?”
“I d—don’t know for sure,” Aleph coughs as his snot runs over his mouth, “But my t—teacher said that they are the bad guys.”
“Mom and dad were bad guys?”
“No, we knew them! They had to be good.”
“But how are the resist dance people bad then?”
“The Resistance,” Aleph corrects his little brother. Taking a shaky breath, he then fills his brother in on everything that he knew. As he explains everything, Aleph stands up and begins following the trail out of town once more. Once he is sure that he had said everything, Aleph announces, “And that’s why we are going to find the Resistance.”
“Why are they all the way out here?”
“Because I think they are weird like us. There’s no way they could live in Ellendawn if they were that different. We would have seen them by now if they were.”
“And then what?”
“I don’t know, all I do know is that they’ll take care of us because they knew mom and dad.”
Aleph and Feivel travel in silence for several minutes before Feivel weakly whines, “I’m hungry,”
“I know, I am too,” Aleph nods as he continues leading his brother away from the City of Lights. There were a lot of things that Aleph didn’t know right now, but he did know that he would never see his hometown again.
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