Dale woke as engines outside his trailer shook him like a rock in a tin can. Even wrapped beneath the blankets, the throbbing air and brilliant lights – brighter than a midnight sun – bludgeoned him.
They were back.
Eventually, finally, the aural and visual cacophony dissipated. It was up and away and then gone.
It was almost silent.
Outside, Judith sat on the dark ground, legs splayed. In half-steps, Dale walked out towards her, his eyes darting around the empty expanse of desert land.
She still wore the same bathrobe she’d had on a week ago. She looked like a soft, pink ghost, maybe, frayed at the hem.
Dale took Judith by the elbow and she let him pull her up and steer her in, moving as though on autopilot.
Inside, Dale parked her at the fold-out table and stirred up a mug of instant coffee. Holding the cup in both hands, she raised and lowered it in mechanical repetition. Dale broke the pattern and took the cup away, however, when he realized that it was empty and that for the last five minutes he’d been listening to the porcelain clicking against her teeth as she kept going through the hollow motions.
“Do you remember anything?” He put his hand on her shoulder, but felt her constrict beneath.
“Just that there was a big bright light above me, like the sun but at night.”
He bit his lip.
“And that’s it?”
Dale withdrew, turning back to the kitchenette counter and letting his chin sink to his chest. Behind him, Judith’s chair slid against the floor.
“That,” Judith’s warm breath pressed against Dales’s neck, “and the knives.”
His back heaved as he lost his grip, gave up, and sobbed.
“That, and that you told them to take me.”