The Leafern Colony

by Allison Mansfield © 2003

It started out with fifty of us. Scientists and our families. And about a hundred troops to forge our path. God, we thought it would be so easy.

The troops died out early. We watched their demise on live video feed from the relative safety of the base camp in which we had been left. My daughter had clutched my arm and begun to weep. She had been engaged to Nicholas, one of the soldiers. They were expecting a baby. I tell you, there’s nothing worse than the sound of hearing your own kid weeping, I don’t care how old they are. Wanting to take away their pain but knowing it’s impossible, that this is so far above any of us, that nothing anyone can ever do can fix this.

There are only about ten of us left now. I had to listen to my daughter weep for six days straight until they took her away. Now I sit in my cell alone and listen to my own pathetic weeping. Funny how I thought I’d heard all I could take of my daughter’s cries, and now I miss them more than anything else in the world. Those monsters seemed so interested in her softly rounded belly, their rough hands running over the protruding flesh.

I knew she would be butchered, like the others. And still when I think of the hunger in their eyes when they looked at her, at her belly, at her goddamn baby, I begin to blubber like an infant. Hard to believe it was only a few weeks ago that we were still on Earth, only a few weeks ago when she knocked on my door and I saw her there, standing hand and hand with Nicholas.

“Daddy I want to come with you,” she’d said. God, could I have ignored her beauty? How could I have spent a single second of any day not thinking she was the most amazing thing on Earth? How could I have taken her presence for granted?

I’d hemmed and hawed about it. I knew most of my coworkers were bringing their families, but they had wives and small children. I was a widow with a grown daughter, and god help me if I didn’t think she’d be better of on Earth.

“Nicholas is going to volunteer for Deep Space Peace duty,” those shining eyes of hers.

I never liked having my daughter date an army man, always figured she’d get her heart broken. But Nicholas seemed like a good guy, real devoted to her. He’d proposed to her a day before she found out she was pregnant.

“We can have a wedding on the new planet!” Her voice, trembling with excitement. “And I want to raise my son as the first true citizen of Leafern.”

Leafern. The name we had given the planet seemed so innocuous, so innocent. We knew there were other inhabitants, aliens, if you will, but we thought we could coexist.

It was a peaceful invasion on our part, driven by necessity. The Earth was overcrowded, still able to support life, but in desperate need of reinforcements. When we discovered Leafern, a planet that had somehow existed in shadow for thousands of years, we were amazed at the Earth-like conditions. Oxygen, water…all of the elements we needed were at our fingertips. And we thought we could coexist with whoever lived there.

The troops left us at camp and headed out into the world, treading lightly on the springy, lush grass. Strange birds chirped overhead, their sounds at once alien and beautiful. My daughter kissed her Nicholas for the last time.

It was the last truly beautiful time I will ever remember. Only hours later we sat, a pathetically defenseless herd of fifty, our eyes burning into the blurry television screen. They were getting torn up. The aliens were small but ridiculously quick, darting around with fangs bared and claws extended. The man wearing the camera on his helmet had his head neatly lopped off, and the camera fell, tumbling down a hill a bit before coming to rest on the bloodied field.

Their guns wounded but did not kill. One hundred soldiers fell on that field, and not one alien fell beside them. By the time the screen flickered out, my daughter was gripping my arm and letting out a horrid, keening wail of pain and grief and everything in between. And then they came into the camp, too quickly for any of us to even think of running for the ships. They came into the camp and killed who fought back, taking with them those that didn’t resist.

And now we sit, waiting to die.

For my daughter’s sake, I hope her end came quickly. I hope she closed her eyes and saw her Nicholas standing there waiting for her. I hope she’s holding her baby in her arms right now. I hope they remember to wait for me, so I don’t have to make my voyage alone.

x x x

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