by Sandra Hall
I don't have to do this, she told herself for the eleventh time since sun up. All I have to do is open that window, step through it, and climb down that big old tree. I can be down the road before anyone can say boo.
"You about ready yet?" It was her grandmother checking on her again. "Venita?"
"Give me a few minutes, all right?" She stared at herself in the full length mirror as she had been doing all morning.
"Girl, I know you're ready..."
"Granny, please. Just give me a break so I can get myself centered."
"Centered? What the hell is that? Look, you got five more minutes, then I'm getting Earl. You hear me? You know nobody ain't playing around here.
"Yeah, I know being sacrificed ain't no game," she said bitterly and let her first angry tear fall down her drawn face.
"Like I said, you got five minutes," Granny yelled through the door, then trudged off swearing to herself.
"Old bitch," Venita grumbled before turning back to her reflection in the tall oval mirror. "All right then, what's it going to be?" She had already packed a bag three weeks ago, just in case. But where could she run to that the family couldn't trace her? Other people had resisted and disappeared. Lancaster had promised to help, but she hadn't seen him in over a month. "I'm not marrying some extraterrestrial, that's for certain." She went to the window and looked down at the lawn. No one was about, except for Purvis. Whether he would bark was anybody's guess for he was as untrustworthy as his masters. If you could say such a dog had a master. "I know that hound will bark. Besides, I might fall and break my neck. Oh man, when did I become so cowardly? Why didn't I just refuse in the first place?"
"Because you were scared like any other seventeen year old girl."
"What... Who is in here?" Venita spun around scanning the room. She knew damn well she had locked the door and she should be alone. Hurriedly, she checked the bathroom. Finding the room empty, she checked the closets and looked under the bed. "I must be cracking up," she said as she sat on the edge of the bed. "Sounded just like somebody was talking to me. It's bad enough having to deal with those aliens without hearing ghost sounds."
"You aren't cracking up."
"Who- where-" Venita's eyes followed the sound of the voice to the mirror. "Oh hell no." She rubbed her eyes, not believing her reflection was still standing in the mirror frowning back at her. She ran to the window and opened it then began to climb out, reaching for the nearest tree limb.
"Get back in here before you kill yourself." She kept reaching out. "I'm not a ghost, just a hologram."
"A hologram from where? What do you want?"
"There isn't time for questions. Get over here if you want our help. I'm only doing this for Lancaster. He seemed to think you are worth the risk."
Seemed to? Did that mean he was dead? "What happened to him?" Venita pulled herself from the window and approached the hologram in her mirror. "I depended on him." He wouldn't turn her over to someone she didn't know she could trust.
"He's with the Elite Force doing battle against the Dukelons. He could be almost anywhere in space."
"Was it his idea to go?"
"He saw his duty, Venita. Do you see yours?"
She looked down at the wedding dress she wore. It once belonged to her mother and Granny before that. But they had chosen their own grooms and didn't have to honeymoon in space.
"If only we had listened when they warned us," she whispered mostly to herself. "But we all thought when they mended the ozone and healed the rain forest that they were a gift from God giving us another chance to do this planet right." Instead they had colonized and used humans to further their scientific research that was always harmful to humans. She looked up at the hologram and asked, "What do I have to do to get out of this mess?"
"Marry the Dukelon."
Marry an alien? Venita had seen what became of humans when they finished using their bodies. "I'm not giving birth to any experiments!" She backed up from the mirror. Was that person really from the Elite, Or just a ploy to lure her into the farce willingly? The Dukelons still wanted humans to believe they were here to help in return for a place to live.
"Do you think I am insane?" No, she wasn't here to help. Lancaster didn't send her such a person.
"If you married one of them they will have to take you to the mother ship."
"Not going to happen."
"So, all you really wanted was to get out of this mess your family bestowed
upon you. You don't care about prosperity, or the future of this planet."
"I do want to help, and I do care. But marrying one of them and going into space isn't helping me. Who is going to help me in space?"
"The Elite is out there. Human and alien. We need people on the inside, and the mother ship is as inside as we can get. A new young bride is the most unlikely to be suspect of anything."
"I don't get it." Venita shook her head. She wasn't a trained spy or soldier. "What the hell can I do?"
"Just get married and go with your husband - and wait."
"For whatever you are instructed to do. Most likely, we will be able to use their own technology against them."
"Yeah, but what about me? I don't want to be stuck out there."
"You won't be the only agent. Elite members are already aboard the mother ship posing as loyal Dukelons."
"And I'm supposed to trust one of them?"
"What choice do we have really, Venita? Unless we commit to all out interstellar war, we have no real hope. No one wants a war, and most humans don't even believe the Dukelons are malevolent. Those of us that are knowledgeable have a duty-"
"Don't say that! We aren't out of options."
"True," the hologram said. "You have no reason or obligation to help the cause. Lancaster simply wanted to rescue you. I on the other hand thought he knew what a brave woman was."
He thought she was brave? And saw her as a woman? All at once her heart felt like it was glowing inside her chest. He wanted to rescue her and meet her in space! I can do it, she thought. "How long will he be out there?"
"As long as he's needed, you know that."
"Do you expect him to return?"
"No, and neither does he. You have to decide what you are going to do. My time here is growing short.
"Venita! Unlock this door, or I'm gonna break it down." It was Uncle Earl as promised. "You hear me?"
"I hear you, you old bastard!"
"I better see you downstairs in two minutes," he threatened then stomped on down the hallway.
"What do they really look like?" Venita faced the mirror again.
"Somewhat humanoid, but from what I've learned you won't have to mate with it. It's done in the labs."
Was that supposed to ease her mind? "If I go, should I hope to return?"
"I wouldn't count on it," the hologram answered bluntly. "Nor would I count on running into Lancaster."
She wasn't counting on anything. Just hoping like hell. "Did he really send you?"
"Yes, he did." Then, "Are you accepting the mission?"
"Just tell me what to do. I'm ready," she said going to the door. If there was just the smallest chance to see him again, she had to take it.
"Just go through with the wedding for now. You'll be contacted aboard the ship. If you are successful the Elite Force will make every effort to rescue you before the ship is destroyed. Do you understand?"
"Yes." She knew he would come, if he could. "Thank you," she said unlocking her bedroom door. Now, there was hope for the world. And just maybe for the chance to see his face again. "Lancaster," she whispered and boldly stepped out into the hallway.
An independent novelist who lives and writes in her southeast Missouri hometown. She dabbles in historical westerns, paranormal, and adult contemporary love stories.