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ll fell silent. It was a strange sensation. An unnerving windy silence only disturbed by the gentle crackle of flames flickering from the scars of the war. An endless war or so it seemed.

Jenny peered through the glassless window of a house that had been long since occupied. She had hidden in the house, out of the way. The house was wasn’t hers. She remembered the family that once lived there: Two adults, two children - the typical. She didn’t know what happened to them, but she was thankful for the little food they had left in their wake.

Even though Jenny had lived in Christmas all her life, the land she saw outside of the window was far from recognisable. The landscape, as she remembered it, was nothing but a fading photograph once captured in the back of her memory.

She stared out into the carnage. She noticed a small stuffed toy bear smouldering, scorched and abandoned on the ground near to what used to be the nursery. The town she once ran around freely and without fear as a child lay to waist in front of her. The crumbling buildings, an array of strewn debris, bricks and blocks, clothing and possessions partially buried amongst the dirty snow.

Jenny wiped a tear from her face. It had made a crooked channel through the dirt amassed on her skin. She sniffed, wiping her nose on the back of her sleeve and decided it was time to move. She edged with caution towards the door; adjusting her long-bow hitched over her shoulder and around her torso. She has thought it surprising that the house had even withstood the bombardment at all, never mind the rackety front door. It wasn’t locked. Four wide untidily sawn planks stood vertical and were nailed to three shorter horizontal planks. Each horizontal plank hung from the crudely put together door frame by old hammered iron hinges. She gave a slight tug at the black iron handle and the wooden door creaked open with ease.

Creeping forward out into the open, Jenny readily looked around for any signs of life. As she ventured slowly forward, the loud clattering caused her to flinch into a startled jump. Instinctively, she quickly whipped the bow from her around her body with her one hand, whilst priming an arrow from her quiver in the other - ready. Realising the cause of the noise was merely the rackety door collapsing off its hinges behind her she re-gathered her composure. She smiled with relief and gave a cursing whisper. She thought it best for now to keep her bow and arrow drawn in case one of those aliens was still lurking in the smoky dark. She had once heard stories of large green armoured monsters, men eating plants and once, in particular, a snake-like creature that tried to possess the townsfolk of the village; infiltrating the dreams of the few and making them do unspeakable things. She was always quite conservative about snakes anyway as a rule, especially when she was told the snake had once controlled the minds of all children of the village school. It gave her the creeps to think about it. She began to tense and feel her spine tingle with a chill.

Jenny glanced towards the centre of the town. The main assault was concentrated there; the epicentre of the war. There was nothing but desolation. The old clock tower was in ruin; burning bright with an untamed blaze of oranges and yellows. Surrounding buildings blew black gulfs of smoke high towards a deserted sky. The bronze saucer ships and smaller drones had gone. Jenny hoped they had left them in peace.

She stared long at the dark night sky. The true beauty in the twinkle of stars had been nothing but a story her mother once told her. It was the first time she had seen them unobscured. It was a magnificent sight, she thought. After the burst of flame that channelled from the clock-tower, destroying the huge mothership, all the ships seemed to retreat from the orbit of her home. She guessed that must have been the moment that they were truly beaten.

Scanning the night blue sky, Jenny noticed a light burning incandescently like a star, high above the town. She gazed at it for a while. It too was beautiful. It burnt brighter than any in view. In fact, it seemed to be glowing even brighter, and growing larger over time.

She began to doubt that it may be a star. Is it moving? It can’t be moving. It is moving! Jenny’s thoughts began to wonder.

The star burnt brighter with intensity. It was starting to come closer and whatever it was, it was coming in Jenny’s direction.

Jenny turned and ducked for cover behind what was left by a scorched upturned wooden cart. She began to think that if it was a good idea. The integrity of the cart was diminished and was barely holding itself together. She waited anyway and peered through what was left of the charcoal spindles of the cart’s only remaining wheel.

She couldn’t believe what she saw. The object she once thought a star was definitely not a star. As it approached, she heard a noise. The noise sounded like a shriek. It wasn’t one of alarm but one of almost a fearful delight. It reminded her time she went sledging with her father. He would take her to the steep snowy slopes of the Whispering Peaks in the southern lands. She would scream all the way down, terrified by the speed or even fall but still she enjoyed every moment of the thrill.

‘Whoooooooooooooooooooooowhooooooooooooooooooo!’

To her amazement, she saw a man. Yes, she was sure it was a man. He rocketed through the air flailing his arms and legs wildly, whooshing past at an unbelievable velocity like a meteorite entering the atmosphere, he left a golden stream of glittery embers in his wake. She peered from her cover and watched as he disappeared into the dark Woods of Susurration.

Jenny emerged from behind the cart. She watched the trail of light gradually vanish through the tall trees of the wood. Listening carefully she could still make out the scream. However, the tone had changed and become less thrilled. The sound became more panicked.

‘Whoa, wait whooooooooooooooooooooooooooa! Aaaaaaaaaaaagh!’ The screams stopped with an almighty crash and the silence fell once more.
 
artwork by ANDY LAMBERT
used with permission
 
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