The Ships Come Tomorrow

Three Cheers and a Tiger ~ Gold
Liz Mierzejewski


“We can only choose one.” He said it like they had too much fruit.

“What? No no no no that can’t be. Certainly they know we have three—”

“Raena, the rules are very clear…” Thomas turned to hide the fact that he was wiping his face. He coughed a shaky cough.

Raena smoothed her skirt with her sweaty palms.

Thomas paced, careful to keep his faced turned, stopping just once to punch the neutral wall. He hissed and licked the knuckles for relief. A shadow at the door made them both turn.

Noah’s slight frame belied his fifteen years, but the look on his face betrayed them. “I— I just wanted to say…” He looked for clues in their faces. “…I think Skye is up.” They hadn’t moved. Noah turned after waiting, like he was leaving a watercolor.

Raena began crying again. Thomas slipped around her to follow Noah to the baby’s room. He could hear Noah and Zoe entertaining little Skye and his stomach fell to his shoes. Zoe’s puppets were deep in conversation and Skye was delirious with laughter.

“The ships are coming and we’re taking you all! Ha ha!” chirped Puppet Bird.

“Come with us! To a beautiful sky far away!” sang Puppet Kitty.

“Skye!” squealed Skye. She clapped and bounced in her crib.

Zoe saw her father in the door and ran to him, grabbing him about the knees. “Daddy! When do the ships come? We want to go.”

“Daddy, up! Peeeeeze!” Skye had her arms stretched out to him.

Thomas swept up Zoe and gathered Noah into his arms, over the crib, with Skye bouncing and hugging. He pinched back his eyes hard and tight.

“Up! Up!” demanded the baby.

“Soon, Zoe. Tomorrow. The ships come tomorrow.”

The Loading Zone was a riot of noise and families. Many more people were denied entrance, forcing their fingers and pleas through the chain link fence. Barbed wired along the top sported trophies of those who tried and lost in climbing over. Raena was carrying Skye, who was speechless in the chaos and nearly choked her mother about the neck, so tightly did she hang on. Raena spotted a neighbor, one she hardly knew, but he had no children. He had a beautiful woman at his arm, one Raena did not recognize.

“Thomas, over there. There’s Albert Diehl. No, with the blonde. Go ask him, please. Oh, God, please let him say yes.” She pulled Zoe over to her and gestured to Noah to hang close. She watched her husband go over to Albert, but the noise and crush made it impossible to hear a thing. The men’s heads were close.

“Mom?”

“Yes, Noah.”

“Why aren’t they letting everybody go? I thought we could all go.”

“We will. Don’t worry, hon, we’ll go.” She pulled him over and kissed the top of his head. Raena did not want to think of what would happen to those left behind. She saw Thomas making his way back, eyes narrow. “What did he say?”

“No deal. There’s no deal, the bastard.” He paused. Looking at the girls, he handed Zoe over to Noah for a brief second and with them occupied, leaned in to speak more plainly. “He wants you. And Zoe. I told him to—”

“Tell him yes. We cannot leave them here, Thomas. We simply can’t. He can have me and he’ll change his mind about Zoe soon enough. She’s only five, for God’s sake. Tell him yes, and help me find another.” He walked back, broken, but Zoe was now safe.

The crowd was forcing its way toward the platform and they were going to have to board soon. All other families were a solid three, with children being passed around for favors or bondslaves. No one was left to take another, none they could find. It was their turn.

“Only three,” stated the guard. His artificial voice matched the lack of warmth in his frame.

“This man, Diehl—he’s on your list—is taking one of them. The baby is very small. She takes up no space at all,” said Raena, smiling at the face she wasn’t sure could even see her.

“Only three. We will choose one for disposal. The small one is undeveloped and disposable.” His arms began to reach for Skye.

“No!” screamed Thomas and Raena together and they backed down the ramp, against the press of those frantic to board. The children gripped onto Thomas and he pulled them out of the current.

Raena clenched her teeth against her fear. “I will not leave my children for the Arrival. Listen, Thomas, I will stay. Diehl will take Zoe, or he thinks he will, but you do what you can to keep her. You take the other two. I am staying.”

Noah grabbed onto her sweater, eyes so wide he seemed cut. “No! Mom, you can’t do that!”

“Mom? Where are you going? Who is Diehl?” Zoe was frantic.

“Raena, that’s ridiculous. I will stay.” The platform was loading the last few. Diehl was impatient and would soon board with or without them.

“Rock, paper, scissors.”

“Wha— what? Are you crazy?”

“Now, Thomas. Rock, paper, scissors.” She began the game, pounding her fist into her palm.

Thomas fought back the tears as he followed suit. He threw paper. She threw scissors. Thomas smiled grimly. She always threw scissors.

“I win. Take the children,” said Raena. She was walking backwards, pulling Skye off of her, passing her to Noah.

“You won, Raena! Get on that ship now. Oh God, Raena, please go now!”

She shook her head, tears falling to her shoulders, never taking her eyes from the little ones.

“I won, so I choose. I love you, babies. Be good, listen to Daddy.” Her words were nearly unintelligible. The ramp was all but empty and a guard pulled Raena to the fence as her family fled.

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Liz Mierzejewski is a middle school science teacher in Connecticut. She splits her time between crying uncontrollably and drinking tequila, which she makes in her basement. Being too old for American Idol, she channels her talents into writing whenever she has the time. An avid reader, she sees all the mistakes of other more successful authors, and refuses to sacrifice her gift just to become famous. Her husband and three teenage children work hard to gaslight Liz every waking moment, so she is not even sure of her own name, and generally refers to herself in the third person. E-mail: mizem55[at]yahoo.com.

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