The ships were leaving.
A loud siren wailed, calling for the last of us. There were only a few families left and we had to hurry. We had to run.
The Arum were here.
“Daemon! Dawson!” I screamed and clutched Dee against my chest. She sobbed into my neck, wrapping her tiny arms around me as black shadows flew overhead. Please let her not remember this. Please let this just be a bad dream. Something exploded in the distance and a gust of hard wind hurled toward us. I stumbled as Dee buried her head, clinging tighter. Her father ran alongside, squeezing her brother’s hands, dragging them across the gravely lot. The boys were young and couldn’t run as fast, but if we didn’t make it to the docks, the ships would leave without us. And they wouldn’t come back.
We’d be on our own.
Another explosion and the siren wailed louder—faster—filling the darkening horizon as black clouds raced overhead. Oh God the Arum were here. And the ships were leaving. Now.
“We’re not going to make it!”
“We’re going to make it!” I cried and squeezed my daughter against me. “We’re all going to make it!”
Something slammed into me and Dee was no longer in my arms. She screamed and then cried and every ounce of fury rose inside me. My body shook, my need to protect my children overtaking all rational thought. Daemon and Dawson whimpered from somewhere and I pulled myself to my feet. It struck again before I found balance.
I don’t think sssso…
I couldn’t breathe. The Arum clutched my neck.
But I could see.
Dee had rolled only a few feet ahead. Her brothers lay sprawled on the ground next to her, coughing.
My heart stopped.
Dannon lay just a few feet from the boys, his light flickering. If the Arum wasn’t gripping me, I would’ve collapsed. How could I do this without my husband? I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. But his brightness was quickly dimming. It was nearly out. Nearly gone. If we could get to the ship, he might—
The Arum squeezed my throat tighter.
“Sssstupid luxxen…” he sneered. “There issss no point. Death awaitssss you…”
I clawed at his grip but it was useless.
“Your husssband wasss firssst… next issss your children… and you shall be lasssst.”
Fury rose again, igniting something fierce. Something dangerous. Dannon’s light finally quieted and part of me died with him. How would I be able to do this? But then I understood: we wouldn’t all make it. There were too many Arum and without Dannon’s help, our children’s survival depended on me. I had to save them. I had to give my life in order to protect theirs.
It was the only way.
“Mommy?” Daemon whimpered.
“Kill the boyssss…”
Darkness erupted, casting an illuminating light from my body. The Arum lost his grip and stumbled back as I levitated, fury pulling me from the ground. I’d never possessed this power before. Never felt this hatred. But with my husband’s death and my children in danger, something inside me broke. Clicked. Ignited. And I could see it all: the black wave of Arum racing toward us, hungry to feed, to kill. The lights of neighbors, of friends I’d known and cared for, dimming in the distance as screams and pleas of help stung the air. And the last ship was slowly rising.
Anger like I’d never known coursed through me.
I would not let my children die here. Not by the Arum.
Not like this.
Blackness swarmed us, bringing an icy chill that had Dee, Daemon and Dawson crying beneath me. The Arum were hungry to feed. I was hungry to kill.
One flew toward me and I blasted him back, sending him screaming into his brothers. Another came from behind and I slammed him against the ground, inches from my sons. I clutched his neck as I’d had mine clutched and gripped it until it broke. Rage swelled inside, demanding to feel death again. I needed it. Needed to feel something else die under my fingers; needed to kill something, to destroy it as my home and planet had been destroyed. Dee stopped crying and stared at me. It was as if she’d never seen me, as if I was some monster she’d never known but would always remember. She inched closer to Daemon and Dawson.
Another Arum flew for us and I blasted out a shock wave, halting the encroaching army.
“Daemon, Dawson, Dee—listen to me,” I landed on the ground and gathered them close. Dee froze under my touch and my heart splintered. “The last ship is leaving. You need to be on it.”
The boys looked to the disappearing vessel. Dee continued to stare at me.
“You’ll make it. I’ll get you there but you have to promise you’ll never give up,” I held their faces as tears began to spill. “You are all beautiful and wonderful and strong, and your father and I,” I looked into their bright, shining eyes, “we’re so very proud of you. You’re going to do wonderful, wonderful things in the future.”
“You’re not coming with us?” Dawson sniffled.
“It’s the only way you three can make it. Daemon,” I turned to my oldest son who straightened at his name. “Take care of your brother and sister. I’m counting on you.”
He nodded, the weight of the request bearing down on him.
“I’m going to launch us at the ship. I can’t make it all the way so you three will have to use as much of the Source as you can. Project yourself once your feel me let go. Boys, help your sister. The three of you have to make it.” They nodded, fear plaguing their eyes. “Remember how much your father and I love you. We will always be with you. Always.”
Cold descended again and I knew this was it.
“Are you ready?”
The boys nodded. Dee was in shock.
Wrapping my arms around my children, I felt the Source race through me and blasted us off the ground. We shot through the freezing darkness and up toward the lit ship. It was still hovering overhead with the latch open as the last few lights fled onboard.
The Arum swarmed us, feeding off my energy. I grew weak quickly, feeling myself fade. My light was dimming—I wouldn’t last much longer. We were halfway to the ship but the kids wouldn’t make it the other half. Not by themselves. Pulling every last ounce of energy and willpower, I summoned the strength inside myself and hurled us further, faster. They’d make it. I would make sure of it.
The Arum ate away at me as I sought the ship. I grew dizzy, faint, and my sight began to go. I was being sucked dry, feeding hungry swarms of the enemy who destroyed my home, my life. With a final push, I looked at my children; my three beautiful children conceived from love and made for so much more. This was it. This was the last time I would see them.
“Goodbye,” I whispered as their fingers untangled from mine.
And then I fell.
Fell through darkness, fell through cold, all energy and life sucked out of me as this body crumpled and broke. Glimpses of life flashed; images of childhood and falling in love, of delivering Daemon and Dawson and Dee, of seeing their beautiful faces for the very first time. And through the haziness and pain, through near unconsciousness and possible delusion, three little lights traveled upward.