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Breaking Away

There was a time when I had a home. It was beautiful, tranquil. But then the Broth erupted from the earth and every tribe coveted it. The flames of civil war ravaged our people; its fumes intoxicated our souls.

Five more warriors have fallen. The Alliance starship is coming.”

Shoko stood in the darkness before the messaging station, his head bowed low.

Many fled to the forests in terror the day the Alliance descended over our village. The Envoys were awkward creatures, moving clumsily on articulated limbs, gesturing with their short, hinged appendages. They did not move with the graceful flow of my people. How their race had conquered Space, I would never know. They entered Shoko’s hut, and I followed.

“This ridiculous war is proving much more dangerous than you imagine,” the Captain of the Envoys hissed. “The Abaddon have discovered you are at battle and are coming to harvest the planet of all Broth. Let the Alliance help you. Let us put an end to this war. Together we will activate a shield to protect your people, your planet.”

But Shoko rippled. “We cannot halt what has already begun.”

“You are battling over a resource you may share!”

Shoko lifted his gaze. “They have no right to extract Broth from our territory.”

“Don’t you see that’s mad?” the Captain yelled. “The Abaddon battleship is coming! They have reaped every planet they come across! Destroyed every civilization! Let us help you!” She pounded her brittle fist against Shoko’s wooden table. “The invasion is coming! They have sensed the stench of war and are preparing to plunder your remains. In a matter of months they will be upon your threshold! You must do something to protect your people!”

Shoko’s lithe skin rippled. “We shall pray to the Spirits and they will protect us.” He stood and left the hall.

The Envoys jumped to their feet, their giant heads swaying, their articulations popping and creaking, their movements mechanical, unsupple.

“There are no Spirits!” the Captain cried out. ”Your war will be your death!”

It was condemnable blasphemy, I know; I was watching it all unfurl from between the shadows. The Envoys then spoke to each other in their native tongue. I listened for a few moments, trying to guess what they could be saying, and slipped out.

That discussion had taken place many turns of the globe ago, and since their arrival the Envoys insisted on staying. They installed their spacefaring metal home on the outskirts of our village and often came and spoke to us. Nobody wished to follow their commands, for our fear of Shoko and the Spirits was much greater. Weeks passed, and the war thinned out our numbers.

The Abaddon were approaching.

Nuv the Servant was in the communion hut, whispering to Shoko. As I chose a seat, the hut began to fill with my fellow villagers. The ceremony would begin at the first crimson light of dusk.

Nuv lowered the carved idols from their perches and carefully handed them to our Leader. He polished each with tender grass shoots until they were cleansed. Then we passed our Spirits from one villager to the next until they had all been caressed by every one of my people. The icons were returned to their stands, now coated in the oils and scents of my tribe.

Silence hovered over us. Only the intermittent hum of Nuv the Servant accompanied our meditation. Soon, we flowed out of ourselves and into one common entity. An entire village, sharing the same thoughts, the same devotion.

Except me.

I could only think of the Captain’s words, all those turns ago.

Your war will be your death.

The Abaddon battlecruiser was hours away.

The Spirits were delaying their response.


With growing dismay, I could feel my faith retreat. My body rippled. I tried to control my fear, but my concentration had already been broken. Slowly, silently, I crawled out of the hall and abandoned my people.

I found the Envoys in the field near the village, preparing to leave.

“An emissary!” one of them shouted upon seeing me approach.

“No,” I answered. “I am alone. The village is praying to the Spirits, but the Spirits will not respond. They have never responded.”

I could not decipher their expressions, although I could feel tension linger in the warm evening air. The Alliance vessel reflected the vermilion gleam of the evening sky.

“There isn’t enough time to shield you. Your Leader would not end the war… and now the Abaddon are upon you. We only have a few hours. We must evacuate. Will your people come with us?”

“They are praying for a godsend.”

“We are the godsend!”

Silence. The sky darkened.

“I know. I will go with you.”

The ascent into space was terrifying, but worse was the image of the Stygian Abaddon ship looming over my small, humble green planet. The Envoys insisted I did not watch, they tried to pull me away from their many screens, but I stayed. I needed to share the last breaths of my home. The battleship grazed the atmosphere and a single white beam emerged from its bottom. It traveled down to the planet’s surface, made contact and spread in a terrifying wave to envelop the entire sphere.

At that moment the Alliance ship came alive with millions of overlapping shrieks. I could identify the dismayed cries of the evening pearl finches, the bellows of the ember boars and the sighing of the forests as they bowed to their demise. I heard the cries of my people, the cries of my village, my friends.

The Captain spoke sharply over the cacophony and an Envoy touched a button on the wall which made the noise vanish. They all turned to me. We gazed at each other in silence.

It was the silence of death, the quiet that accompanied missed opportunities. What could have been and was not.

It was the silence of my people.


Nadine Ducca Deharbe is a translator and English teacher. She has published various short stories and is now working on her first science fiction novel, Making Time. Although she has just come back from a month-long vacation, she still thinks it wasn’t long enough.


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