The thought of an old farmer hiding children underground popped into my head, and I had to have a reason why (Oops! I guess that’s a spoiler…) In “Burial Details”, Earth is invaded by aliens intent on keeping the human population in check by removing those capable of reproduction.
Here’s the Blurb
Be sure to bury your charges deep.
An old farmer scraping by after the Sahrian invasion buries his most precious treasures to hide them from the aliens’ “salvation”. Read between the lines to discover the “Burial Details.”
And Here’s Today’s Excerpt
I empty a shovelful of dry dirt into the hole. It doesn’t thud on top of the pine box anymore – now it’s just the sound of dead earth on dead earth. I’m most of the way done, so I stop and lean with my shovel against the gnarled oak to catch my breath. At my age you’ve got to pace yourself.
I’m amazed I have any more sweat in me. I can taste the salt of it dripping across my lips. It stings my eyes and blurs my vision along with the glare from the sun, too bright and too hot from the Sahrian invasion. I pull the rag out of the back pocket of my overalls and wipe some of the sweat away, but more takes its place. If I’d had my druthers, I wouldn’t have waited until now to bury her, but I didn’t get to choose the time her body would be available – no more than I could the other two.
I’m burying her none too soon; Across my barren, dried up fields I see the old Kroger grocery truck trailing a plume of dust as it barrels down the road outside my fence. Mayor Junius always could keep a schedule – even if he couldn’t be counted on to keep his word, the damned Sahrian collaborator. Well, he’s not taking my grandkids today.
Lyle, stop lollygagging and get back to work – that’s what my dear wife Gracie would have said if she were still alive. Part of me wishes she was, but, really, I’m glad she ain’t. It would rip her heart in two to see all this, our Lily gone, and now them coming for Lily’s kids. I scoop the last few shovelfuls into the hole as I hear the truck grind to a halt on the gravel where my drive ends about a hundred feet behind me. I look at the three little graves side by side – Peter’s and Jill’s markers are already in place, but I have to get Sally’s from where I left it by the well. I should have brought it over earlier, but there’s nothing for it now. I trudge across the dead soil to where her bronze plaque is laid alongside the well’s lead cover plate – thick enough to block any radiation from getting to our water source. I check to make sure it’s locked down good and solid – can’t have anyone who doesn’t belong getting into that hole. No one but a kid could fit in there, but I need to keep them safe.
I grab up Sally’s plaque and cradle it in my arms as I turn around. Junius, wearing his official business suit and hat, is helping the county clerk, Ms. Smithers, down from the truck. She’s not near as old as the two of us, but still well past child-bearing years, or the Sahrians would have taken her to one of their ships with the rest long ago. Main thing about her now is the clipboard, and I feel as ready as I’m going to be for that – until a half-dozen of the Sahrian lizards crawl out of the back of the truck and I nearly drop the plaque. I hadn’t expected them to come along – the panicked part of my mind starts eyeing the door of the storm shelter that’s buried just beyond the well, but they’ve already seen me. I need to remain calm and not draw attention there.
“Whatcha doing, Lyle?” Junius asks like this is just any other day.
I finish lugging Sally’s marker to the grave and let go; it makes a final sounding thud like a dead churchbell when it hits the dirt.
“What’s it look like I’m doing?”
He walks up alongside me and reads the three markers.
“Jeez, Lyle, all three of them?” he asks. He at least has the decency to take off his hat. “What the hell happened?”
“Why don’t you ask your friends?” I ask. “How many of us have died from their plague since they came?”
“They’re not my…” he begins, but then he glances over where the Sahrians are keeping their distance by the truck and doesn’t finish. “You should have let us know.”
“Well, I’ve been a bit busy,” I say.
Ms. Smithers never takes her eyes off her clipboard. “Lyle, you knew we were coming for them today,” she says.
“How could I not?” I ask.
Junius pulls a handkerchief from his front pocket and dabs sweat off his forehead.
“Dammit – think about somebody else for a change,” he says, almost in a whisper. “You know how this is going to make me look.”
I want to tell him I don’t care what it’ll make him look like, but one of the lizards is doing its creepy sidewise approach toward us. This one is a little bigger than the others and has that funny split crest on top of its head – it must be the boss. It’s holding one of those electric whips like the bosses do, and I don’t want any more time or trouble with them than I’ve already had. Instead I cough; I hope Junius catches on and backs off. He looks at me funny, then notices the Sahrian and clams up.
“Is there an issue?” it hisses to Junius when it’s about five feet away from him.
It has its left hand over his precious nostrils. They say the Sahrians have an overly developed sense of smell, and that they cover their noses to try to muffle the impact. I think they do it to demonstrate how they can’t stand the stink of us.
“No. No, Sahr Thransil,” Junius stammers. “Well, I mean, yes. The children scheduled for salvation have died.”
Salvation – that’s what the Sahrians call it when they remove young and fertile humans from the pitiful, irradiated wreck they’ve made of our planet since they beat us down. They called it Salvation when they took David and my sweet Lily and left me to tend their kids. They say they’re doing it to save our species – to keep us from dying out. Not sure I want to know what they’re being saved for. They’re not interested in old folks like me.
Sahr Thransil stares at the plaques on the ground. There’s something behind the lizard’s red irises – deep in the black slits that pass for pupils. I would like to see some hint of compassion, or even some inkling of humanity. But then, it isn’t human, is it?
“When did this happen,” it asks.
“This week,” I say, and I point at each grave in turn. “Monday. Tuesday. This one died last night.”
“Your plague, damn you,” I say.
Good! I see Sahr Thransil’s eyes flash. I can’t keep it from knowing I don’t want them here, but at least I can cover why.
It looks at Junius, who’s working hard with his handkerchief to staunch his sweating. It wrinkles its nose and covers it closer.
“Have you confirmed this?” Sahr Thransil asks Junius.
“Confirmed what?” Junius asks.
“Are their bodies buried here?”
“I just now found out that they died,” Junius says.
“Scan them. Now.”
Junius shrugs his shoulders like it’s no skin off his back. He motions to Ms. Smithers, and she heads back to the truck. He keeps glancing my way like he’s trying to read me, but I don’t trust him, so I’m not letting him in on anything. Besides, I knew they’d bring a scanner – it’s standard operation for them, especially since people started disappearing their kids – it uses some kind of radiation to find them in their hiding places. I just stand there avoiding the lizard’s eyes.
“You would be surprised how many people try to hide their children from Salvation,” Sahr Thransil says. “Or perhaps you would not be surprised.”
Will the scan reveal Lyle’s deception, or will he manage to pull it off? “Burial Details” is a science fiction short story, and is available at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
The story is also included in the collection Just Some More, And Yet Still Even More Things I Could Get OUT OF MY MIND:
Smashwords (50%-OFF with coupon code ZH72N – that’s only $2.50 for twenty stories!): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/816158?ref=NoTimeToThink
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