Jana's War

by Lazette Gifford © 2001

Cold crept through the walls, around the windows, and past the doors, leaving a trail of ice like an invasion of unwanted summer ants. Frost from Jana's breath made pretty, lacy patterns against the single, un-boarded window pane. She could sit there for hours and stare, tracing designs until her mind lost itself in the intricacy of the tiny bands of ice. She could forget about the cold when she stared so intently. She could even forget about the hunger.

The war always found a way of intruding even into her deepest trance. On this day, just before sunset, she felt the old brick house shake, and heard the rumble of Chapo craft not far away. She didn't want the aliens to come any closer. She didn't want to see their writhing limbs, or look into those gray-on-gray eyes again.

And yet she stayed. How much farther could she run?

The ground shook again...

Wake up, wake up... It was only her own voice in her head, but it finally worked. Shaking, she fumbled in her pack for food, but there was only a single hunk of hard bread left, too frozen to even bite off a piece. She shoved it inside her jacket, cold against her skin. Her fingers brushed against the laser pistol in the holster at her side, a reminder of the war. Lost war. The army gone. There were only the ones like her left, the few who had survived.

Run. Run now. The ground trembled. The Chapo would be here soon, pushing easily through the pitiful human resistance.

I should go and fight, she thought. I should go out and fight the enemy instead of running. Not very many humans have laser pistols, and nothing else will stop the them.

But to fight, she would have to face them again.

Give the weapon to someone who will fight. Give them a chance.

Her fingers grabbed the grip, trembling at the thought of loosing it. She couldn't give it up, her only chance against them.

Run. Her legs protested when she stood, stumbling toward the door. The empty house was strewn with lost pieces of someone's life. Jana had seen enough such places that even the discarded money no longer drew her attention. She did find a nice, hand-sized metal cup. Whoever had dropped it was a fool.

There were toys, left by the back door where parents had obviously torn them from children's hands before they ran. Jana picked up a doll and sat it on a shelf by the window. Maybe the girl would come back. She'd be happy to see her friend waiting.

That was the only moment of sentimentality Jana allowed herself. She went out into the snowy yard and headed straight east over the fences and through the allies. She didn't look back as the ground shook, the enemy closer and closer.

There was, she knew, no going back ever again.

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