PART 4: "WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE"
From their shelter, the trio watched as the fireball grew larger and larger until it lit up their surroundings, turning night into day. Then it seemed to splinter into small fragments, which one after the other slammed into the earth with ground-shaking velocity.
The girl buried her face in Luke's chest. Her tiny body quivered in fear. The drop in temperature couldn't be helping, either. Luke squeezed her tightly, shielding her from the cold and the mushroom cloud of dust coming their way. He lifted the tip of his shirt collar so that it covered his mouth and nose, and motioned to Renaldo to do the same. Renaldo happily complied.
More lights detached themselves from the heavens and plummeted toward them. Most of these seemed to fizzle out before making landfall, but a few thudded into the ground beyond the dune, strafing the corrugated roofing of their refuge with shrapnel and debris from the impact zone.
"I'm telling you," Renaldo insisted through his makeshift ski-mask, "those are nukes. I bet China's behind it... No, wait, North Korea!"
"If those were nukes, we wouldn't be having this conversation," Luke pointed out.
"What do you make of it then?"
Luke still wasn't sure. Part of him wanted to hold on to the belief that this was all some horrible nightmare, but the gurgling in his empty stomach felt pretty real. As for Renaldo's theory that they were under attack from a rogue nation, well, Luke guessed that was a possibility that couldn't be ruled out just yet; but he had a feeling those fireballs weren't man-made. "I think we might be experiencing a meteor shower," he finally ventured. At least he hoped that was all it was. "I saw something similar to this on the Discovery Channel once. In a documentary I watched with my dad." Again, the grief threatened to engulf him; once more he thrust it back into the shadows.
The extraterrestrial bombardment continued throughout the long hours that followed, with wave after wave of these fireballs lighting up the sky and either burning out in the atmosphere or crashing into the nearby terrain. All he could do was pray that none scored a direct hit on their little hideout.
At some point Luke must have dozed off because he was startled awake by something soft poking at his nose. It was a tiny finger. It belonged to the girl. She pointed outside. Luke stuck his head past the edge of the corrugated sheet to take a look. Visibility was still low and there was no sun in the sky as far as he could make out, but much of the dust had settled and the horizon had gone from blood-purple to a milky ginger, which probably meant that it was no longer night. He listened, and heard nothing. This was a good sign. It meant that the aerial offensive had also come to an end.
Luke returned to the girl and sat beside her. Renaldo was still snoozing, and could, no doubt, sleep through World War III if Luke chose not to wake him. What he found almost amusing was the thought that Renaldo might indeed be sleeping through World War III.
The girl rubbed her tummy and gestured with her hand to her mouth, her lilac eyes wide and moist.
"I'm sorry," Luke said, "I don't have any more food. We ate all the mints last night."
The girl pouted her lips and looked away.
"Hey, you don't get out of it that easy," Luke said, gently. He figured she couldn't be more than three or four years of age. "I know you can talk. Forjooleye, remember?"
She looked at him but said nothing.
"My name is Luke. What's your name?" Luke and Renaldo had tried this line a number of times and had received only a curious, lavender stare in response. And it seemed he was being given the same treatment now.
He nestled against his bag and closed his eyes.
The same soft finger poked him in the nose. "Ay me."
"Huh?" Luke sat up.
"Ay me," the girl said again.
"Amie." Luke mouthed her name, trying it on for size. It was a good fit. She definitely looked like an Amie.
Amie smiled, timidly at first, but it soon erupted into a big grin.
Luke held out his arms, and she came to him. He leaned back against his bag with the girl resting her warm cheek on his torso.
Nice to meet you, Amie, he thought. Welcome to my nightmare.
(c) Copyright Eugene Gramelis, 2012