Originally written in April of 2011…

Allen ran as fast as his feet would carry him through the tall grass of the open plain. His lungs burned as he tried to breathe in and out, but he knew he couldn’t stop. The message he was carrying was far too important, and his enemies were far too close for comfort.

It was late afternoon, but the dark clouds building in the sky stopped the sun from shedding its usual amount of light. Allen couldn’t remember how many hours he had been on foot, he just remembered that, earlier in the day, his horse had been mortally wounded. He had to leave her behind and go on alone. He didn’t have time to mourn the loss of an animal that had carried him through countless adventures. His horse had been like family. Now she was gone.

He had been acting as a messenger for the Resistance since he was 14. At first, he was expected to carry small notes from town to town, hiding in plain sight under the noses of the alien race that had dominated the globe so many years ago. Now that he was older, Allen’s experience gave him the opportunity to deliver documents and packages from one end of the continent to the other. His name was spoken with the deepest respect among the leadership in the Resistance.

Allen knew who to trust among the alien race, who called themselves Ythnians. Humans called them Howlers. Anyone who heard the Ythnians native language would understand why. Allen had made friends among the Howlers. Not that any of them would admit to finding him to be a valuable member of the human race; the people of Earth were far beneath them. But he had proven to be useful to several influential members of the new ruling class. This gave him access to things that no one else in the Resistance could dream of seeing.

Now he had seen something that he almost wished he hadn’t seen. Purely by accident, while running an errand for an Ythnian council member, he witnessed an argument that could spell the downfall of the alien rulers. The only problem that faced him was who to share this information with. There were small pockets of freedom fighters all over the world, but the real leaders of the Resistance, well, they were a little better hidden.

Allen knew where to find them. He just hoped he could reach them before the Howlers found out exactly what he had seen and overheard. When he didn’t return to the councilman’s quarters in D.C., they would quickly become suspicious. But he had to risk it. The sooner he got his start, the better. He mounted his horse and took off, riding hard away from the city.

When the Ythnians arrived, they claimed to come in peace. They claimed that they would share their own technological advances with the people of Earth. The humans let down their guard. A population of 7 billion was cut in half in less than a week. In less than a month, the Ythnians had installed their own brand of global government. By the time Allen was born, there had been a lot of change to the way that people were expected to live. The biggest change for humans to get used to was the ban on all technological advances. Oh, the Howlers were still able to pilot their ships and use their advanced weapons to keep people in line, but the humans were no longer allowed to use machinery or electronics of any kind.

Allen was aware that his horse could never outrun a Howler scout ship if one were sent searching for him. But he had to try. He had never ridden this fast before. He knew his life was at stake. He knew the fate of mankind was at stake. His mind was racing so fast with all the possibilities that this future could hold that he didn’t even hear the sound of the alien blaster before the shot took down his horse.

He tumbled to the ground. He hit hard, but picked himself up. For a split second he looked back at the horse, but he knew it was no good. The horse would be dead already. Allen took off again, this time on foot. He had to keep running. The scouts, as predictable as they were, would stop to check on the horse first, before attempting pursuit. The aliens, he knew, never left anything done halfway. That was their first mistake.

If they stopped, it gave him a few extra minutes. He wouldn’t be too difficult to track, as hard as his feet were hitting the ground. But he had to keep moving. He couldn’t worry about covering his trail just yet. Not when he had so much ground yet to cross.

He couldn’t very well just walk up to the front door, give the secret knock, and then just waltz inside. He was still being followed by a group of very gifted trackers. He began covering his tracks as best he could. When he was pleased with the job he had done, he moved off to the side and sat low in the tall grass. He prayed that the storm clouds would open up, that the rain would help to wash away whatever trail he was unable to get rid of. But the rain didn’t come.

He breathed shallow, watching carefully as the Howlers moved silently through the grass. They were no more than 20 yards from his position, but he could tell they were getting confused. He knew that they had lost his trail. He was beginning to feel some sense of hope. Allen wasn’t ready to relax, but he knew that if he waited this out, he would still have a good shot of making it out of this alive.

And then the electrified net fell over him. In a crackle of electricity that mixed with the noises of the overhead storm, Allen lost consciousness and fell to the ground.

Feature Photo by Samantha Fortney on Unsplash


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