Challenge #02571-G014: Seeing to Need
They were 10 years old when the incident happened. Hiding in the woods to try to escape the abuse they endured in the orphanage, they'd come across an unusual sight. Half-buried in the ground was .... something. They didn't know what it was, exactly, but the three outside the object sounded distressed. They went to the three and found them to be not much taller than they were and they were like very large birds. The problem had been the ship, for that is what the beings explained it to be, had been caught in a storm and they'd had to land for emergency repairs. The beings though they'd be safer if the ship was somewhat hidden in the nearby dirt cave only to have the cave collapse and the beings couldn't dig out, they were not strong enough. The youngster thought for a long moment and asked the beings to wait. About an hour later, five children followed the first youngster carrying buckets and shovels. They'd snuck the supplies out of the garden shed while the abusive staff were having their annual poker night. By this time, most of them were far from sober.
While it took several hours, and a few rest breaks, the kids managed to help the beings dig out the ship and the beings were deeply grateful as they completed the repairs. The kids being there, for that, also was a boon as the kids, together, were strong enough to hold panels in place while they were permanently secured. With the help of the youngsters, the ship was repaired in record time. The beings then asked the kids what it was that they'd like in return. The youngsters, aged 10 to only 6, had only one wish. To leave this orphanage where they endured constant times of hunger and often were struck. Indeed some of the kids still sported some fairly large bruises. The beings nodded and said for the kids to be patient.
Not too long after this incident a much, much larger craft showed up. -- Anon Guest
Everyone wanted to adopt babies. As soon as you cleared four years of age, the chances of being adopted plummeted like a rock into a pond. Tae and Ollie knew this, they knew they were more likely to age out of Foster Care than get adopted out of it. It was a fact of life just like the fact that foster homes were generally shitty places run by horrible people that viewed every kid who lived there as a paycheque. Neither of them could point to the day they learned that the world was cruel. It was just another fact of life.
Just like huddling in the lee side of a boulder in the old abandoned quarry and hoping that the Old Man didn't find them this time was a fact of life. Just like holding their breaths as they held each other and listening to hear if his hollering was getting closer. Just like knowing when to run centred around how much the Old Man stank of cheap alcohol. This was, however, the first time that there were other small life forms huddled in the old quarry under the negligible shelter that one of the overhangs loaned them.
They looked like birds, but no bird on Earth had claw-like fingers extending from their wings. No bird on Earth had a head that big, nor such expressive eyes. No bird on Earth held on to another like Tae and Ollie held each other against the threat in the rain-soaked afternoon.
"Fine. You wanna stay out! Stay all the way out! You're locked outside tonight!" The Old Man stomped away, cracking branches under his heavy, ass-kicking boots. Going hungry and cold for one night was way better than what the Old Man would do to them if they came in while he remembered why he wanted to hurt them. They had a better chance during the breakfast rush, when they could fill their empty bellies with the rest of the scrambling kids.
Relief from their relative safety turned to curiosity about the birds. They were roughly the same size, but definitely more fragile than Ollie, who was scrawny and had numerous medical issues. Tae could tell. After a while, it became a skill to pick out which ones were fragile. Tae signed herself up as their bodyguard, as did two or three of the larger kids in the home. They knew -intimately- what the Old Man could be like and threw themselves in the path of his fists. Therefore it was no surprise that Tae wanted to protect these strange little creatures, too.
In a place like Foster Care, it pays to have packaged food items in every pocket, and to wear extra layers. So it was little more than lunchables and kiddies' breakfast bars, but it was still food. These critters looked more cold and lonely and lost than any of the Breakables in the Home. Tae was very careful, just like she'd be careful for the youngest of the Breakables. Slow, measured steps. Gentle, singsong tone. Using the word 'just' a lot and making no sudden moves.
They were aliens. They were clearly aliens. If the Old Man got them, he'd turn them over for the highest bidder. That is, if he didn't somehow kill them by accident. Tae knew it like she knew how to tell if a new kid was Breakable. Therefore, she had to help them however she could.
When they flinched away from her, she crouched where she was. Doing everything she could to not appear threatening. She took out a breakfast bar that was basically rice puffs and marshmallow. Opened it and broke off a piece. She showed them that it was food, and offered them the rest on an open palm.
It was fully night by the time the bird-people showed Tae and Ollie their ship. It was mostly buried in the remains of a dirt cave that had always been one good sneeze away from complete collapse. The rain turned it into the mud and, evidently, the ship squeezing in there for concealment had been the final straw. It all came down and these two birdie Breakables were the only ones who got out. There were more birdies in there.
Tae looked to Ollie, who understood. He was going to sneak back to the Home and get anyone who could to come and help. Sneaking out after the Old Man fell into a drunken stupor was relatively easy. Someone with nimble fingers could even steal the keys and unlock the door for Ollie to creep into a warmer bed.
While Tae waited, she moved mud. Old sticks from the scrubby forest floor helped her move rocks and lumps of rusty clay. for the rest of it, she used her hands. It took what felt like forever but a small stream of fellow bodyguards and some of the little ones arrived with tools. Even play shovels and tiny beach buckets could help move mud.
One kid of about ten couldn't free an entire space ship. A host of a dozen kids could dig most of that out of the mud in half the night. More than enough for the bird-people to come out and help.
They took off before dawn, and all the kids went back to the Home knowing that they had done a good thing. No matter what kind of nonsense the Old Man pulled some time after dawn? They had all stopped him from hurting more who were clearly Breakable.
For a month, it was if it never happened. Everything returned to the routine of keeping up appearances whilst avoiding or deflecting the Old Man's wrath. Then... another ship came. They came and, one by one, evacuated the Breakables and their bodyguards from the Home.
Tae went last, making sure everyone was not afraid. These bird-people were friendly. They had food and a warm place to be and would not -could not- hurt anyone. When she got there, she found out that they had far more than any of that.
They had families who wanted them. All of them. Nobody would ever be in fear of their guardians. Every single one of them would fight and die for their new families... even the Breakables. Even though it would prove to not be necessary.
[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / rdonar]
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