Tagged: children

Unicorn

Dear Planet Earth,

“Hey, Exterminator.”

I looked up from my cold rice and beans to see Rachel‘s deceptively angelic face staring back.

“Don’t call me that,” I said.

“Why not? It’s a cool name.” She sat down on the stool across from me. “When I was a kid, I wanted my mom to change my name to ‘Unicorn,’ but she said that was stupid.”

I almost asked that ten year old when she thought she stopped being a kid. I almost asked her where her mother was.

“Look what I got.” Her eyes lit up and she reached inside her shirt. She pulled out a long bullet hanging around a dog tag chain. “It’s one of their bullets. Santiago put the holes in it for me.”

I went back to eating my gruel, tried to avoid looking at the giant projectile.

“Oh, and you can have your book back.” She pulled out the copy of The Time Machine from her messenger bag and slid it toward me. My father used to read it to me every night. “It was kind of boring.”

I laughed, weakly. “Compared with reality, yeah, I guess so.”

She abruptly stood up and saluted me. She had other errands to run, more adults to vex.

“Bye, Exterminator.”

Strength is the outcome of need, my father would read to me. Security sets a premium on feebleness.

Miracles/Stories

Dear Planet Earth,

Sometimes all you need in life is some fried chicken and someone to call you “friend.” I was lucky enough to have both yesterday.

Karter, Maria, and I had a nice talk all through the night about the miracle that we’re all still here. It was a dark hotel room and a mostly dark conversation, though I am happy to report that they are very much an “item” now. They told me about the horrors they were put through in the labor camp. They worked sun up to sun down, building those strange towers with all the pipes — Karter thought they were some sort of power generators because of the heat they gave off.

At night, they all slept together in a large underground cavern. They could feel the red, glowing eyes of the mole people watching them as they slept on the rocky earth, and those same eyes greeted them as they awoke each morning. They carried rifles as big and alien as those towers.

Maria told me a story about a small child who slept near her each night and always cried about food or his mother. His whimpering grew softer and softer each night until one day, he wasn’t there. She didn’t have to ask what happened to him.

There were more stories — stories about the starvation, the beatings, the executions — but we tried not to focus on that. We tried to focus on the miracle. We justified our feelings of regret, shame, and loss by affirming our shared experiences as humans, allies, and above all, friends.

And then we went down to the kitchen and scored some fried chicken.

Ryan

Dear Planet Earth,

It was the first day in a while that Perry hasn’t come by to dispense fatherly advice or spread the Good Word about the mole people. He’s been trying to interpret passages for me from A History of the Inheritors, the ancient manifesto of our underground overlords. It’s all bullshit, and I’ve told him as much since he started his temptation to bring me to the dark side and join him so that we may rule the galaxy as father and son.

I did have another awkward conversation with my gruffy gaoler to make up for Perry’s absence. He dropped off my usual gruel at the usual time, and I asked him, “What’s your name?”

He looked through the window suspiciously.

“Why?”

“It seems important,” I said. “You feed me everyday, recharge my laptop, clean my bedpan. But I don’t even know what to call you.”

His gaze eased, perhaps understanding the bigger conflict on my mind.

“Ryan.”

I nodded.

“Well, nice to meet you, Ryan.”

I briefly considered offering him my hand. He was about to go, but I stopped him with another question.

“You have any kids, Ryan?”

“Look, pal, this ain’t the Marriott here. You’re not a guest and I’m not your friend. Any issues you got with The Big Guy are between you and him.”

He stormed off after that, leaving me with a half-full bedpan and dreams of a paternal relationship I never knew I wanted.

Paparazzi Boot Camp

Dear Planet Earth,

It’s been a long time coming, but Halston and Karter finally gave us some training with rifles. I’m surprised how easy it really is to use these things. Granted, we only got the most basic of basics in the hour-long crash course, but it’s still clearly unnerving that these weapons — created exclusively to kill people — can be used by ten-year-old girls.

“I got it! I killed him!” Rachel shouted with glee. The scattered remains of Justin Bieber’s head blew over the edge of the hotel.

“You sure did,” Karter said. He grinned mischievously and yelled, “Some of you got a real knack for this.”

I narrowed my eyes on Jennifer Lopez, pointed my weapon on her iconic legs, up to her perfectly sculpted chest, just under her pink lips that defined pouty.

“That’s right, man. Just below the chin.” Karter came behind me and matched his own line of sight with mine. “Let the rifle do the work for you. Let it move just –”

CHKTKCHKTKCHKTKCHKTK!

I coughed, rubbed my shoulder, and waved away the thin layer of smoke before me — only to see a perfectly intact Jennifer Lopez staring right back at me.

“Jesus,” Randall whispered nearby. Directly in front of him lay the stiff bodies of Stephen Spielberg, Nicole Kidman, and Audrey Hepburn. “Well, keep at it.”

A few yards away from him, Maria stood over Denzel Washington and Johnny Depp’s obliterated figures. She examined the areas that were once elaborate eye sockets and nasal passages.

“Die, motherfucker!” screamed Rachel. And Samuel L. Jackson’s intimidating frame toppled after a few deafening clicks.

Karter put a hand on my shoulder. “You got this, man. Don’t overthink it.”

I tried not to think of anything, tried to push away the memories of everyone I’d lost and everything I’d never have. Parents, friends, college, career — only dreams now in a world the mole men have turned into a hopeless nightmare.

CHKTKCHKTKCHKTKCHKTK!

I scanned the globs of wax that once looked like Jennifer Lopez and grinned.

Rumblings

Dear Planet Earth,

The rumblings are coming less often now. But they’re still there, keeping us up at night, reminding us of our impending destiny.

I shouldn’t be a pessimist, though. I shouldn’t believe that after everything I’ve been through, I’m finally going to die curled up into a ball in the back room of a brightly lit RadioShack. It was just a few hours ago I told Rachel that we’re going to be okay.

“We’re going to be okay.”

“How do you know?” she asked. She had those eyes, those ten year old eyes that you’d think are so easy to lie to until you actually do it.

“I . . . I just know. Trust me. When you get to be my age–”

“You’re only sixteen.”

“I know,” I said. I took a moment to catch my breath, to not scream “Shut it!” on the top of my lungs. “When you get to be sixteen, you get these . . . gut feelings. And right now, I have one of those. I have a gut feeling that we’re going to get out of this.”

She stared at the ground, said “OK,” and walked away.

I’m not a pessimist. I’m not an optimist, either. I’m just a sixteen-year-old with terrible indigestion.

Innocent Eyes

Dear Planet Earth,

My sources tell me that we’re probably going to be bunking at the library here for at least another week. The general’s scouts may or may not have seen the entirety of Fort Kross reduced to smoldering rubble. If mole people are out there with crazy snake drills that can tear apart trucks in a matter of seconds, maybe we don’t want to try to leave.

On the upside, I am feeling slightly more accepted in our rag-tag group. Today I even had an awkward conversation with the little wretch — aptly named Rachel — who stole my laptop. She’s not so much of “wretch,” as she is just another ten year old girl who mistakes her own annoying questions for adorability. Maybe she’s eleven. I’m not good with ages.

“What’cha doin’?”

I peered over the top of my computer to see the source of the inquisition, then instinctively clutched it to my chest after recognizing who it was.

“I’m not going to steal it,” she said. “I know you’re not one of them now.”

I relaxed my grip and continued my work on the laptop. I could still feel her watching me.

“My name’s Rachel. I’m sorry for stealing your computer.”

There was at least a minute of her big, blue eyes on me until I broke.

“My name’s Scott. I’m tired of getting fake apologies from kids for stealing my stuff.”

I glanced up quickly to see those innocent eyes fill up with moisture. I saw another scared child, unsure and unprepared for whatever’s coming next.

“I’m looking up more information about this book.” I picked up The Time Machine.

“I know that one,” she said. “I saw the movie.”

“It’s a little different,” I said, trying to keep the snobbery in my voice as low as possible.

“Can I borrow it when you’re done?”

I examined her face again, her ridiculously large eyes now devoid of any proof of prior conflict. I chuckled.

“Sure.”

She said I could borrow her Harry Potter book.

Sticky Fingers

Dear Planet Earth,

We’re not alone. I’m not just talking about the mole men, either.

My laptop went missing three days ago, and since I usually keep it closer to me than my own family jewels, I naturally assumed someone from the group stole it. Accusations were made, tears were shed, and widows and children alike spat in my lunches. Mind you, this is right on the heels of me being the number one suspect in the car graffiti mystery.

Just when I had exhausted every friend I had left here, some soldier went exploring around the library and found the entrance to a hidden attic above us. He found twelve famished people huddled in a corner. They were Anne Franking it (too soon?) up there since we arrived, apparently unsure if we were mole people or their homeless henchmen. Of course, that didn’t stop them from sneaking around at night to steal food and my precious laptop.

One of the little girls posted something on the blog. The keys are all sticky and smell like peanut butter.

Most of them seem to be kids, the few adults are still being debriefed in a study room right now. They’re eating like they haven’t had a decent meal in weeks, and they keep giving us suspicious glances, as if at any moment we’ll pull off our human masks and start shooting to the rhythm of our own maniacal laughter.

Someone’s going to have to tell them soon that I’m the only one who’s supposed to be despised here.