It is so strange, this feeling, it is so hard to describe. I felt relieved, but tense; joy, but sorrow; proud, but disappointed. All of these feelings were like a whirlwind in the pit of my stomach and they increased when the ship drifted closer to planet Earth. As unfortunate as it was being in the wrong place at the wrong time, it was still incredible at how much I had accomplished: inspiring the slaves with my singing, resisting the tight hold of the Yautja High Elder Commander Melnyk and against all odds, regained my freedom. I had learned that even in the most horrible of situations, good things still managed to peak its way out—Nadar– ian’ah, Xeenan, Za’Becc, Sor’an and Al were living proof. We all relied heavily on each other for strength and reassurance. In a way, we have become a close, segregate family. But now that I am going home, it was hard to accept that I will never see them again.
I had every right to feel these emotions, I just never imagined it so happen fast. The one month that I was away from Earth felt like a year. I had experienced so much on the Yautja Homeworld and I have become more appreciative of the things that I have been blessed with: food, clean water, clothing, shelter. It was amazing how much of these things I took for granted, how there were so many things I did not need, yet I would sometimes behaved like I could not live without them. I would not put this experience on anyone; no one deserves to be treated without dignity or freedom. But it would benefit others if people would listen to my story and take a moment to think of all the good things they have in their life; one can never know how lucky they are, until what they appreciate in life is taken away.
I gazed at the Earth before me, sitting in one of the large chairs on the bridge. Sor’an unbuckled himself from his seat and came to my lap, his skinny body snuggling close. He knew we would soon say good bye, as did the others, but we did not say a word. The ship cruised to the other side of the planet, well out of the U.S. TURAIS’ visual. I could not help but wonder if Commander Melnyk had figured out what happened and I had no doubt that once the ship regained full control of their systems, they would send out a search party for me. But I did not ask Narar–ian’ah exactly how much time was left before the ship regained control, mostly because I did not want to know the answer. I kept my mind focussed on the present.
Nadar–ian’ah pulled a switch and I sensed the ship descend. My stomach lurched at the sudden drop and Sor’an hugged me tighter when the spacecraft shuddered in the atmosphere. The sun became engulfed in clouds as it began to set. It would be dark soon, but with the ship’s cloaking it would not matter if we came in broad daylight. I gathered Sor’an in my arms and walked to the front of the ship, looking through the window. The ship broke through the cloud cover and flew over the vast continents surrounded by the blue ocean. I could just make out large mountain ranges and seas that scattered across the giant islands. I felt a sudden surge of anxiousness in my stomach as I stared at my world below me. The familiarity of the planet overwhelmed me with happiness.
“Where do I go Dakota?”
Nadar–ian’ah’s voice snapped me out of my trance. She had displayed a large holographic image of the Earth appeared behind me, almost taking up the whole bridge. I looked at her questioningly.
“Touch the area where you live,” she said.
I touched the continent of North America and the image focused on the two countries. Smiling I tapped the image two more times until I saw a very graphic, areal view of my city. It did not take long for me to find the road that lead to my acreage.
“There!” I cried, “that’s my home!”
The Elder nodded, typed in the co–ordinance and the ship descended even further. I held Sor’an against my hip as I watched the earth become closer, the sun slowly disappearing behind the clouds. The ship gently flew over rolling hills and lakes that dotted between golden plains and emerald forests. The closer we got to the earth, the more I could see the lights of the cities begin to turn on as dusk approached. I pointed out the window.
“Look Sor’an, can you see those lights?” I asked.
He looked at me, confused of what I had said, until Nadar–ian’ah translated. He squinted his eyes and shook his head, replying back in his garbled language. The Elder was gracious enough to be our mediator while she navigated her spaceship.
“I see bright blotches. Is that your home?”
“No, it’s a neighbouring city. I wish you could see the lights, they are like stars in space from up here.”
I finally saw the lights of my city; I could see the familiar freeways and roads zip by as the ship continued on its course towards the open prairie in the north. It was not long until I could see my family’s acreage. The property was marked by a thick line of birch and elm trees that surrounded all four sides of the field. In the east corner was the large pond that held families of frogs, garter snakes, geese, ducks and Red Wing Blackbirds for as long as I could remember.
“There it is!” I cried.
The Elder nodded and made a sharp U–turn. The ship descended near the back of my house and right beside the vegetable garden. I could see the back deck lights come on as the sun set lower behind the line of trees. I put Sor’an down and made my way to the back of the shuttle, when I suddenly stopped. How will my family react when I arrive on their doorstep? What was I going to say to my friends? I looked over my shoulder and saw the rest of them come up behind me, except for Nadar–ian’ah. They did not say anything, but their faces gave them away. They did not want to say good bye and neither did I.
We waited at the rear of the ship until the Elder came back, holding a black cloth bag in one hand and she pulled a lever to lower the ramp. I stepped out first and the others followed until I stopped. The urge to run to my house was almost too much to hold back, but after closing my eyes and taking a deep breath I turned around and confronted my friends. Al was holding her older brother’s hand while Sor’an stood between Becky and Nadar-ian’ah, like nervous soldiers before a battle. There was an uncomfortable silence between us, save for the crickets that were just beginning to sing. I felt a cold ball form in my stomach as I opened my mouth to speak.
“I…I’m not really sure where to begin,” I said, feeling very awkward.
For a moment I thought there was no point
of speaking. Nadar–ian’ah would be the only one to understand me, but I had to
“I would like to say thank you,” as I spoke I became more confident and stood taller, “thank you for everything you have done for me. I’ll always remember and cherish these weeks we faced together. I’m going to miss you all very much.”
Nadar–ian’ah translated what I said and the children ran right into me, hugging me so tight it was hard to breath. I struggled to hold back tears as I lowered to my knees and embraced them both. Out of everyone, the children touched my heart the most. They had been given a second chance to have normal lives. Becky approached and I let go of the children. She wrapped her arms around me and as she squeezed I could feel her bones press into me. She will probably never gain the muscle mass a female of her species should have, but I could tell by the strength of her hug that her body was improving from many years of malnutrition. Becky put her hands on my shoulders, looked at her right wrist and untied her bracelet. She took my hand and placed it on my palm, clicking and grunting. I did not need a translator to tell me what she was saying and I shook my head.
“No, Becky this was your mother’s bracelet. I shouldn’t have it.”
After a series of growls and clicks Nadar–ian’ah said, “She wants you to have it to remember her by.”
“I—” I looked back at Becky, gave her a smile and closed my hand. “Thank you, I’m honoured.”
She nodded her head and I could tell she was keeping a brave face. Xeenan was close behind her and I was not sure what to do. Even though we had established a connection, Xeenan did not seem like the type for a heartfelt good bye, so the first thought that came to mind was to put my hand on his shoulder and give it a firm shake.
“Good bye Xeenan, take good care of yourself and Becky.”
I expected him to do the same thing, but instead he went right in for a hug, his lean arms nearly lifting me off the ground. My body became tense from the unexpected embrace, but then I relaxed and wrapped my arms around his waist. I heard him growl in my ear and I recognised one Yautja word: Isha. Not once had he ever called me by a name and I immediately knew that our friendship was more meaningful than I ever thought possible.
The Elder spoke, “He said he will always remember your wisdom and courage and thanks you for giving him and his sister a second chance at a new life.”
I squeezed Xeenan tighter, breathing in his familiar musk. A few tears escaped from my eyes, but I quickly wiped them away when the male let me go. Finally, I went to Nadar–ian’ah who wasted no time in giving me a strong hug.
“I am honoured to have met you Dakota. I know your courageous spirit will bring you many good fortunes in the years to come.”
She let me go and held out the bag.
“Don’t forget this.”
I groaned, knowing full well that the giant rat skull was inside and reluctantly took the trophy.
“Where will you go now? What will happen to them?” I asked.
“I will return to my duties at the Citadel. Most likely I will be needed to calm the uproar from the escaped slaves,” she paused and glanced at my friends, “there are many remote places on my planet. I know of a very secluded area that they can make their home. My father took me there once; it will be a hard, but liveable life for them. You have my word of honour they will be safe.”
I smiled, “I know they will. Thank you Nadar–ian’ah.”
The area around me was now dark and a cool breeze was picking up. We all seemed to simultaneously feel that before it got too hard we should go our separate ways. The Elder filed my friends back to the cloaked ship, each one taking one last glance at me before entering. I spoke out once more.
“Good bye everyone and blessings on your new life.”
I waved and they waved back and I kept my eyes on the group until the ramp closed behind them. I jogged away from the ship as I heard the engines power up. The cloaked vessel shimmered as it hovered over the grass then in a split second it turned and silently took off into the star filled sky. I stayed outside a little longer, staring at the spot where the ship disappeared and began to think about the new life that lay ahead for the family. I was willing to bet they would build a lovely tree house in the jungle near a clear, blue stream with the children climbing trees and playing on the soft, leafy floor while Becky and Xeenan took romantic hunting trip together, and their days will end with peaceful nights of sleep. That was probably the corniest thing I had ever thought, but it was pleasant.
I looked at the black bag in one hand, the bracelet in the other and wondered about my future. By now, I’m sure the TURAIS will have gained back control of its functions and I would not be surprised if the army showed up on the doorstep any second. As for my career, it was probably out of reach now. I will never work for Weyland–Yutani Corperation again. But whatever happens to me, it could not be any worse than spending a month as a slave for the greatest hunters of the universe. If the Yautja could not break my spirit, I suppose nothing ever will.
I turned around and made my way to the house. I could see the warm glow of the inside lights as I step onto the veranda and rang the doorbell. After a few seconds Heather answered the door and did a double take, her eyes as wide as saucers. I waited for a moment and watched her mouth open and close, as if she wanted to say something but nothing was coming out. I could not stand the silence any longer.
“Hi,” I said and held up the bag, “I got you a souvenir.”
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