I'll Be Back Soon

When a mysterious man encounters three children one afternoon, he thinks he is there for one reason only: to kidnap them. After an exciting interaction, he'll have to decide between what his heart is telling him to do and what society is telling him to do.

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1. I'll Be Back Soon

I’ll Be Back Soon               

 

I looked down in between the aging wooden boards of the bridge. Beneath, a creek giggled its way over rocks down the spine of a forest. My bare feet reached the grass on the other side of the bridge and I crossed a large yard into the next. The sun shone brightly in my eyes; I was losing time. I looked down at my watch to see how much time I did have left, not able to see any of my body at all. Oh, right. The suit’s working.

    I entered a new backyard that ran down a grassy hill back into a creek at the bottom. At the top was a wooden deck and a small house overlooking the slope. The lawn was strewn with trees. One large oak in the center of the yard had leafy plants encircling it, and hanging from an outstretched branch, a swing. This was the place.

    Just when I thought I should get going (it was much too quiet), the back door to the little house swung open. Children’s lighthearted laughs and squeaking voices traveled down the hill. Three heads of shining blonde hair bobbed down steps that led from the deck to the yard.

    The shortest and chubbiest of the three, a girl about five, passed up her brother as she jiggled the last few steps down the hill. She plopped her squat self onto the wooden plank held together by thick, rough, twisted strands of rope.

    “Push me!” She squealed to her siblings.

    “No, let me swing!” Her older sister, with a watermelon shirt on, whined trying to squeeze in next to her plump sister.

    “There’s no time for that, we have to get to the treehouse!” The oldest brother, with small square glasses, announced. He ushered his sisters across the lawn to a small wooden structure that I hadn’t noticed before. I crept my way over to a tree just next to the little hut. It wasn’t exactly in a tree, but definitely a house. It was very square, and had little steps leading up to a surrounding deck. As the kids hesitated a moment on the deck before entering, and I noticed a black wooden bear in the corner of the deck that towered over the children. It had a wooden fish in between its claws. The chubby girl stared up at the figure with cerulean, round eyes, a look of wonder, as if it was scary, yet somehow she knew it was friendly.

    I crossed to the front of the treehouse to peer inside. The children were crouching beneath the angled roof on a wooden bench that marked the edge of the small room. These are the kids. Should I report to headquarters now or wait? G.R. told me to keep him up to date, but if I leave now to report an update I might miss something. I’ll just see what happens. The kids were discussing something of importance.

    “We need to kill the evil tomatoes today, once and for all!” The oldest brother with the glasses was saying. “Let’s plan a sneak attack. Abi, you’ll go from the left. Kate, you enter from behind.”

“Left. Got it.” The watermelon shirt girl, Abi, repeated, nodding her head.

“Hands in,” The older brother instructed placing his hand the center of their small triangle. Abi and Kate placed their stubby hands on top of their brother’s. They broke their hand pile on Kate’s count of three and one by one filed out of the treehouse. While Abi and her brother were already headed for a small vegetable garden on the far edge of the backyard, Kate stopped at the edge of the deck and looked back at the wooden bear.

    “I’ll be back soon,” she whispered to the bear with a raspy child’s voice. Then she jumped straight from the deck, over the steps, to the ground and jiggle-ran after her siblings. I followed quietly behind Kate to the vegetable garden. Growing in a wooden box of dirt were young tomato plants growing in vines up sheets of chicken wire.

    “Assume the position!” The brother yelled. They all took their places around the planter leaving one side unattended. “Attack!” At the cue, the children went wild. The boy with the glasses was flailing his arms as if he was throwing imaginary spears at a small bunch of tomatoes. Abi had fistfuls of grass, that she angrily uprooted a moment before, and was now throwing it at the plants in a believable rage. Kate was just standing with her fat fists on what would be her hips if she wasn’t a blob, and sticking her tongue out at the baby green tomatoes. This fiasco of “killing the evil tomatoes” lasted for a few minutes, and I started to lose interest.

I walked over to the wooden plank that was the swing and sat down. This wasn’t as easy as I had thought it would be. I should’ve sprayed them when they were in the treehouse. G.R.’s gonna kill me now. I gently rocked back and forth on the swing, but quickly caught myself. I quickly glanced back at the Tomato Fight to see if any of the kids had witnessed the ghostly and mysterious swaying of their swing. Fortunately,  they were still engrossed in the attack on the small red plants. Close one. Okay, I need to make a move. Now.

Suddenly there came a cry that pierced the silence like a sword. It was Kate. She had somehow ended up sprawled over the side of the planter. She had a rhythmic way of wailing: she would scream and then fall back into three or four choked sobs, all the same length. Her musical despair continued as Abi and her brother hurried over to hoist her up of the wooden border.

“Kate, what’s wrong? Use your words,” her brother instructed, sunlight reflecting off his thick-rimmed glasses.

“Jordan, my—my knee!” Kate cried through another quarter beat of a sob. Abi quickly bent down to inspect her sister’s knee cap which was a waterfall of bright crimson blood. She started to blot the wound with her watermelon T-shirt.

“This is bad. Jordan, we need to get her up to the house.” Abi said with a worried tone. Jordan and Abi got a hold of Kate, Jordan’s arms linked under her armpits and Abi’s hands gripped around her ankles. They made their way back up the hill like a human hammock. I followed closely behind. When they got to the top, the children lowered the cripple onto a wooden bench along the edge of the deck, like in the treehouse. Jordan ran inside the little house, while Abi took a seat next to Kate. “It’ll be alright. Jordan’s coming with some Band-Aids. We’ll clean it up. You’ll be alright. Don’t worry. It’s going to be okay.” Abi rattled off these reassurances comforting herself more than she was Kate.

Kate’s wailing had stopped halfway up the hill and had been reduced to rapid breaths and sudden gasps. It was still on beat and her body rocked to her small percussion. Jordan came back a moment later, a box of Band-Aids in hand. He whipped out the largest one he could find and patched up Kate’s leg. By this point she was calmed down.

“No more tomato attacks for you.” Jordan said with a gentle smile and Kate giggled. This was supposed to be my shot. I had to attack now. Just do it. What are you waiting for? I needed a moment to think so I silently backed off the deck and turned back down the hill. I was headed for the treehouse. I sat, crouching in the thick silence. This was too hard. But how? Felt around for my invisible pocket and reached inside. I pulled out the crumpled piece of paper and read it for the hundredth time:


 

MISSION MINOR RALLY

Cadet 210743

Any children reported for rally in your assigned area must be sprayed, collected and brought back to headquarters before the last day this month. Any Cadet who fails to bring minors to headquarters will be beaten and removed of their position in the Emperor’s Army. You will be provided with a small pack that will hold all of your necessary belongings. The contents will include: an invisibility suit, 5 cans of Eradicating Spray and a small supply of poly fiber body bags. Good luck. The Emperor is grateful for your service.

 

No doubt the Emperor would have me executed when I didn’t return with any children. I formed a speech in my mind, that I would tell G.R. when I returned to headquarters.

These kids didn’t deserve to be abducted. They had worked so well in crisis and they care for each other. Plus, they have vast imaginations and know how to laugh. I learned this in one day and they’re too young too live in a world that’s too complex for them. Earth is a beautiful place for them to be living and there is a beautiful life ahead of all three of them that could be destroyed if we intrude.

How could I let down all of Headquarters? The future of our society depended on me taking these kids back to the Empire. But these kids needed to lead Earthly lives, without any disturbances. The right choice was clear to my heart, but my conscience was competing with it. I glanced back at the kids, walking back down from the deck: Jordan’s gleaming glasses, Abi’s bright watermelon shirt, and Kate’s abundantly chubby cheeks.

Satisfied, I exited the treehouse and before I climbed down the steps I whispered to the wooden bear, “I’ll be back soon.” When I reached the aging wooden bridge, I looked back over my shoulder at the kids. Abi and Jordan were pushing Kate on the swing, all smiles. I waved, knowing they could not see me and that they would never know I was here. As I crossed the bridge, the children’s echoed laughter trailed behind me.

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