Mark Rookyard


Revan was in bed when the spaceship arrived. The ship was two years late.

He lay in the dark, staring at the ceiling and wondering what sound had awakened him. A Klik-Tik was pulling at his bed sheet, its long fingers hard and cold. Revan pushed the creature away and swung his legs out of bed. Another Klik-Tik had pulled out the drawers of his dresser and clothes were strewn about the floor.  It ignored Revan when he went to the window.

The sandy hills were dark silhouettes in the night and the welcome banners hanging across the barren road were tattered. The other habitats and solar generators and bio-spheres spread grasping shadows crawling across the road.

More Klik-Tiks were scrabbling in the dust, pausing every now and again, their elongated heads tilted to one side, before scurrying away on their skinny hind legs. As he watched, one Klik-Tik, little less than waist-high to a man, pushed open the door of the Beronan’s habitat and ran inside.

It wasn’t the Klik-Tiks that had woken Revan though, everybody on Litoka was so accustomed to their presence that they could sleep even when the Klik-Tiks were rummaging through their hair and picking at the pillows. No, there was something else.

The breeze ruffled the banner. ‘Welcome, Earthlings!’ the sign read, though now it was worn, the colours faded. The streamers hanging from the Beronan’s habitat were now little more than dangling pieces of string flapping in the breeze.

Revan sighed and looked at the moon. It was large, and the clouds were black as they drifted across its dusky pinkness.

And then he saw them. The burning blue and red lights of the spaceship hovering in the night sky. Revan froze, watching the ship descend. The lights glowed brighter even than the stars scattered across the sky, and the ship was bigger even than the Town Hall his father had built when he first arrived on the planet.

The Earth ship glided down, elegant and bright and slow in the red-tinged darkness of the night. They were here. The Earthlings were here. Revan felt a strange tightening in his stomach and an emptiness in his heart.

He turned away from the window and nearly fell over a Klik-Tik picking at the strands of the mat that served to shield his feet from the cold stone floors. The Klik-Tik blinked at him once with black bright eyes.

Another Klik-Tik had pulled the drawer of the dresser open and was rummaging through his underwear. Revan knocked it aside and sat on the bed, touching Lerin on the shoulder. “They’re here,” he said. “The Earthlings are here. You need to get Hanna.”

Lerin rolled over, rubbing at her eyes, her blonde hair awry and her arms bare. “What? Who’s what?” She looked at him from half-open eyes.

“The Earthlings. They’re here.” The saying of it made him feel sad, almost resigned.

The Earthlings.

From Mother Earth.

A place his mother and father had told him of often enough. They had spoken of towers that soared into blue skies with white clouds, of holo viewers and computers that could control the weather.

Revan would sit on the hillside and look at the stars and think of that far-distant planet where his parents had been born. Now they lay quiet and still in a dusty grave on a planet on the edge of the realm of man.

The Earthlings were here.

“Seriously?” Lerin rubbed her eyes and blinked again. “The Earthlings?” She sat up. “Is Hanna awake? We need to tell the others.”

Revan nodded and moved a Klik-Tik aside with his foot so he could get his clothes.

The Earthlings were here.

He wondered why the thought filled him with more than a little dread.







There were more than a hundred of them waiting for the Earthlings to emerge from the spaceship. More than a hundred, shivering in the early light of a cool Litokan morning.

Tattered banners and torn streamers hung from windows and poles to welcome the strangers from home. A home none of these hundred had ever seen before.

The spaceship had dark windows and the metal was silver, spattered in dust. Smoke steamed from it, curling into the thin morning light. Already three Klik-Tiks were scurrying about the ship, prodding and poking at the landing feet, scrabbling up to peer in the windows with black eyes.

Revan smiled at Lerin and held her hand tight. She was nervous, he knew. She held Hanna’s hand. They all were nervous. Not a one of them had been born on Earth, but all knew of its majesty.

The birthplace of mankind.

He felt ashamed of the dusty planet they called home, of the habitats they had all been so proud of. He knew the others felt the same. They had all heard of the soaring towers of Earth, of the cars that floated in the sky. Everything here, from the squat habitats to the little bio-spheres seemed small and pathetic in comparison.

The door of the spaceship sighed open. Steam coiled into the air and white light spilled from the spaceship. Lerin held his hand tighter as a man led six Earthlings down the steps. He looked at the people gathered before him. He was tall, perhaps over six feet, and he had pale blonde hair brushed to the side and his blue eyes stared coldly at them all from over a narrow nose. He watched a Klik-Tik scurry past before speaking.

“People of Litoka, we welcome you to the domain of man. Earth loves you all.” He held a small black box in the air, no larger than the fist of a child. “We bring you word from your descendents, and we bring you news of your homeworld.” The words of ritual spoken, he turned to his fellow Earthlings and nodded once.

A brief pause, and then all the Earthlings smiled, all of them in the same red uniforms. They came to the Litokans smiling and with arms extended, shaking hands and sharing a few words here and there.

Revan watched them all, these people from home. Seven of them, seven Earthlings, or should he even think of them as such? Weren’t they all Earthlings? Wasn’t he an Earthling?

He pushed a Klik-Tik aside with his foot and watched the banners flutter in a wind that stirred the dust on the roads. A Klik-Tik pulled on a flapping streamer, looking at it in its long-fingered hands.

Welcome, Earthlings.







Revan watched a Klik-Tik pulling at the laces of his dusty boots as he sat in the box room of the Town Hall. He would be the last one today, the last one to watch his message from home. More than a few people had come from the viewing room dabbing at red eyes, or pale with…with what? Shock? Hurt? Loneliness? Sadness?

The Klik-Tik scurried away on leathery legs when Revan nudged it with a foot. He folded his arms and crossed his legs. Who would send him a message from Earth? But then, who had sent old Frank one? None of the Litokans had been born on Earth, all of them now were second or third generation. And yet Frank had come out dabbing at his eyes like the rest of them.

Revan sighed and watched another Klik-Tik coming cautiously into the room, its skinny forearms holding onto the door with its three long fingers. Was it the same Klik-Tik he’d sent running away? Impossible to tell, they all looked the same. He sighed again.

“Nervous?” Revan looked up to see one of the Earthlings come in to the box room, the pretty one with red hair and hard cheekbones. She stepped around the Klik-Tik and leaned against the wall.

“Should I be?” Revan smiled and wished he was standing, he didn’t like having to look up at the Earthling. Another Klik-Tik had pattered into the room, picking at cables piled against the wall.

The Earthling smiled and folded her arms. The uniform was tight on her body and her hair looked thick and needed a wash. “I’ve been doing this for over five hundred years now, I’d say most people are nervous when we get there. Especially those later generations. That’s why we do this, to remind you who you are. Where you’re from.”

“Who our masters are,” Revan said. The Klik-Tik tip-tapped back outside as the cables fell around it. Revan was glad of the excuse to stand up. He stacked the cables back against the wall, his back to the Earthling.

“I suppose that too,” the woman said. She spread her hands. “How many of you are here? A hundred? A hundred and fifty? And what generation?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “You’re here on this dusty rock out in the middle of nowhere, spinning through the blackness of space. A few people clinging to this shithole trying to maintain a shitty existence. Isn’t it good to know who you are? Good to know there are people who love you?”

“How many people have you run that speech past?”

The woman grinned, but before she could answer, Jen came out of the viewing room, dabbing at her eyes, her cheeks pale and blotchy.

“Next.” The leader of the Earthlings waited in the viewing room.

“So, who do you think will be waiting to talk to you from Earth?” the woman said.

“I have no idea,” Revan said as he walked into the darkness.



Revan sat on his porch on a red-tinged night. He rocked back on his chair and looked up at a thousand thousand stars. He could hear Klik-Tiks scurrying on the decking around his habitat, and tried to close his ears to the sound.

“What you thinking?” Lerin came behind him and draped her arms around his shoulders.

“Not much.” Revan held her hand against his shoulder. “Just looking at the stars, wondering if there’s anybody like us out there looking back at us.”

Lerin smiled against his ear, looked up with him. The stars were golden, some white, some seeming almost to blink. “My dad used to tell me you could see Earth up there, he’d choose a star and point to it and say that was where Earth was right there, that there were a billion people just like us on that little speck in the sky. And then he’d tell me of all the wonderful things there.”

Revan closed his eyes and remembered the face of his nephew on Earth. His, what was it? Great-great-great nephew? Had told him of the wonderful life on Earth, of how great mankind was in his achievements. His nephew had been of about the same age as Revan when he recorded that message. He would be dead now. A hundred years it had taken his message to get here. All those wonderful things he had told Revan of would be even more wonderful now. Or would they even be there at all? Perhaps they had crumbled to the ground. Revan sighed and watched the stars blinking overhead.

“She’s pretty, isn’t she?” Lerin said.

Revan blinked and looked at her. “Who?”

“Jesa, the Earthling with the red hair.”

“Is she?” Revan looked back at the stars. “I hadn’t noticed.”

“Makes you wonder, why would a pretty woman like that want to give up her life and everyone she knows to travel the stars. You know she was born over five hundred years ago? Everyone she knew, all her family, everybody, will have died hundreds of years ago.”

A Klik-Tik scrabbled up onto Revan’s lap and tried to slide a long bony finger into his pocket. He knocked it down with the back of his hand and shrugged. “Is it so different to what our parents did? They gave up their lives and families to come to this dusty rock. At least, Jesa, was it? At least she gets to leave and see new worlds. Our parents were stuck here.”

“We’re stuck here,” Lerin said and sighed in his ear.

“This is who we are, Lerin. This is Hanna’s home.” Revan gestured to their daughter playing with a friend in the road, to the rolling hills silhouetted in the darkness, to the squat habitats and generators and solar stations. “This is us. This is home.”

Revan squeezed her hand. “Did those vids of Earth make you think that was home? Did you think that’s what we are? Imagine if we went there now, the noise and the chaos and the lights and the computers and blinking screens and holo viewers and flying cars.” He laughed at the thought of it. “We would go crazy in a day.” He looked at the Earthlings’ spaceship, black in the distance. A Klik-Tik was climbing up onto its wing.

“You think so, do you?” Revan hadn’t noticed the Captain of the Earthlings walking past. “That’s how you think you would be on Earth?” His blue eyes looked dark in the redness of the night.

Lerin unlocked her arms from around Revan’s neck and came to sit next to him.

“That’s how I felt when I watched the vid,” Revan said.

The Captain leaned on the fence that separated Revan’s habitat from the street. “Never forget what you are,” he said. “I’ve seen it, people, humans, living on distant worlds, they can forget what they are. Degrade themselves, fall into savagery and barbarism. That’s why we do what we do. We travel to remind people who they are, that Earth still loves her children however far away they are. We bring messages to show you the wonder of your race, to remind you to always strive for more, to make Mother Earth proud of you all.”

A Klik-Tik scrambled up Lerin’s chair and started rooting through her hair. She ignored it, entranced by the Captain’s words.

“Of course,” the Captain said. “Some aren’t so pleased to hear our message. Some would rather they forget where they come from, begin life anew, so to speak.”

“Why would that be?” Lerin asked, leaning forward. The Klik-Tik fell off the back of her chair and scrabbled to its feet, climbed through the open window of the habitat.

The Captain shrugged. “Power. Some gain power on their new world and want to keep it, want their subjects to forget Earth, forget who their true master is.”

Revan felt as though the two of them were looking at him. “I have no power here,” he protested.

“Well, the others do come to you for advice, they look up to you,” Lerin said. She wrapped her cardigan tight about her. Something fell over in the habitat, the sound of breaking glass and a Klik-Tik came hurrying out of the door, its jaws opening and closing like a fist as it ran out into the night.

“What are those things?” the Captain asked.

As though in answer, another Klik-Tik came out of the door. It looked exactly the same as the previous one.

“Klik-Tiks,” Revan said. “My father named them when the ship first arrived here. He was just a boy and he said they made a clicking and ticking sound with their jaws. The name kind of stuck.”

“I haven’t heard them make a sound,” the Captain said, watching the road. Three more Klik-Tiks wandered about, some picking at dirt in the road, others climbing walls or opening doors.

“No, neither has anyone else,” Revan said. “I don’t know, it could be the way their jaws open and close like that, it looks like they should make a clicking sound.”

“Yeah.” The Captain didn’t sound altogether convinced. “How many of them are there? They seem to be all over the place.”

“Nobody knows. Their burrows are out there in the hills.” Revan pointed out to the brooding black hills in the distance. “They have holes there, you’ll see them running in and running out, and they all look exactly the same, never even seen any of their young or anything.” He watched one now, running across the street, its leathery legs double jointed and its forearms half the length of its legs. “They’re harmless enough.”

“Be that as it may,” the Captain said, standing straighter and rolling his shoulders. “I hope you folks don’t forget one of the core directives from Earth.”

“Which one would that be?” Lerin asked.

“You’re tasked with studying all alien life on your new worlds, and sending the data back to Earth.”

“Aren’t we the alien life here?” Revan asked.

The Captain smiled. “I’d rather not split hairs at this time of day. Whether you love her or not, Earth loves all her children and it is for your safety that the directives are in place.”

“But they’re harmless, mindless creatures,” Lerin said.

“Are they? Do you know what lies underneath those hills out there?” The Captain didn’t wait for an answer before walking off into the night, three Klik-Tiks watched him from the shadows, their eyes bright and black.







“Shit!” Revan dropped the metal sheet and grabbed his arm. The corner of the metal had cut deep into his forearm, through his shirt, and the blood was already blossoming.

“You okay?”

He looked down from his ladder and saw Jesa watching him. She had Ian there with her, another one of the Earthlings. “I’ll live,” he said. His arm was throbbing. He grabbed the hammer and came back down the ladder. The sun was low in the sky and already it was getting cold.

“You need a hand?” Ian asked. He was a tall, hard-bodied man with a narrow forehead and black hair swept away from his face.

“No,” Revan shook his head. “No thanks, I think I’ll call it a day. Lerin will be getting tea ready.” He threw the hammer into the back of his cart.

“How’s that beautiful girl of yours?” Jesa asked. The Earthlings had been on Litoka for three months now. Although they helped with the repairs after the storm and did their fair share of the farming and general repairs to the habitats, they still seemed apart from the Litokans, they still ate and slept on their ship which seemed to dominate the town, looming over it like some avaricious predator.

“She’s fine.” He looked at Jesa. She was paler, her red hair thicker, not quite so pretty. “How’re you, anyway? You look tired.”

Jesa touched a hand to her temple and smiled. “It’s nothing. Just the headaches. We’ve all been getting them.” She shrugged. “How about you folk, you haven’t been getting any? You never hear anybody complaining about it?” There was a curious intensity to the question, her eyes bright in the fading sunlight.

Revan bit his lip and pulled back his sleeve. The cut was bad. Deep. The skin looked white around the wound. “No, no, I haven’t heard anybody complaining about headaches.” He wiped at the blood with the cuff of his sleeve.

“Here, that looks bad,” Ian said, taking Revan’s hand and pulling a needle from the pouch on his belt. Revan tried to pull his hand away, but Ian held it firm. “It’s okay, it won’t hurt.” He inserted the needle into Revan’s wrist and cold relief shot up the length of his arm.

He flexed his fist. The pain was gone, and the bleeding was already slowing. More wonders from Earth. He smiled. “Thanks,” he said. “Can’t you use that for your headaches?”

“We tried that,” Lerin said. “It didn’t work. That’s why we wonder about them, about the cause of them.”

Two Klik-Tiks paused in the road, looking this way and that, the shadows of the habitats and the radio tower stretching across the road like grasping fingers. Three more Klik-Tiks emerged from the tower, scraps of paper clasped in their three-fingered hands.

“They’ve started coming back out then?” Lerin said.

The storm that had shaken the town had sent the Klik-Tiks to scurrying back to their burrows in the hills, waiting the storm out as the winds blew and the dust spiralled high into the air, ripping at doors and roofs and windows.

Revan shrugged. “It feels strange when they’re not here.” He watched a Klik-Tik climb into his cart and start rummaging through the tools. The tools were old and worn, the very same tools that his father had brought from Earth.

Ian ran a hand through his hair. “You never think you’re too trusting of them? What do you know about them, really?” He shook the cart and the Klik-Tik stopped its rooting, looking at him for a moment, its black jaws opening and closing soundlessly before it jumped from the cart and ran away, its little forearms swinging.

“They’re harmless. We’ve been here for fifty years now and all the Klik-Tiks do is hang around us, maybe steal something every now and again, but that’s it.” Revan picked up the handle of his cart. He wanted to see Lerin and Hanna.

The Earthlings looked at him, both of them pale, both with dark rings around their eyes.

“Don’t forget we travel the worlds to help the children of Mother Earth,” Jesa said. “Think of your daughter, Revan. However you feel or think, we are all human, we are all the children of Mother Earth. Earth is our home, all the rest,” she picked up a handful of dust and let it fall. It billowed away in the breeze. “All the rest is alien. We can help you while we’re here, but we can only stay a few more weeks, and any word we take to Earth will take a century to get there.”

Revan watched the two Earthlings walk away to their spaceship. It crouched in the deepening red of the night. Out of place on this dusty planet.

He saw another Klik-Tik squatting in his cart, looking at him from black-bright eyes. Or was it the same one as before? They all looked the same. It opened and closed its mouth at him and Revan sighed and batted it aside with the back of his hand.

Lerin and Hanna would be waiting for him. He pulled the cart and the wheels creaked and the dust puffed about his feet.



Revan was tending the bio-pod when the shooting started.

A hushing sound, almost like an intake of breath, and light bloomed on the cracked window.

Another blaze, and this time someone was shouting. Shouting and swearing.

Revan ran inside. Lerin and Hanna were asleep. Hanna’s mouth was open, Lerin’s yellow hair bunched against her cheek. He pulled the curtain to one side. The street was dark, the habitats looking dark and brooding. The spaceship dominated in the distance, hunched and hulking, green lights dotted along its length.

“Bastards!” someone shouted. Another flash of the quiet light. “Bastards!” Someone else was shouting now, a woman’s voice, shrill and fearful. There was the sound of someone running, the sound of something falling and landing hard.

“What is it?” Lerin stirred on the bed, looking up at him. Her hair was stuck to her cheek.

“Nothing. Go back to sleep,” Revan said. More shouting. Arguments now.

When he got outside, the moon was high in the sky, a giant ball of pale red, and the stars were golden and small.

“Revan, where have you been?” Gill was the first to see him, a small man with wiry hair and large ears. Gill was the oldest of the second generation Litokans. “It’s the Captain, he’s gone crazy, he’s killing the Klik-Tiks!”

“What? Why would he do that?” Revan heard the laughter then. A harsh, guttural sound.

“He’s lost it,” Gill said. More people were coming out of the habitats now. Some in nightshirts, some with hair sticking to the sky. “Been shouting something about getting out of his head.”

Another flash of light from out near the Earthlings’ spaceship. “Wait a minute,” Revan said, and he ran back into his habitat.

“What’s happening?” Lerin said. She was up now, running hot water into a jug, her nightdress creased around her legs.

“Nothing to worry about. See to Hanna. Keep her safe.” He ran into the bedroom and grabbed the gun from his bedside table. His hand was shaking.

More whispers of gunfire from the street when he got outside. “Bastards! Get out of my head, bastards!” The Captain was screaming now, and plasma fire was hushing in the night.

Revan ran past Old Gren’s store. Three Klik-Tiks lay dead on the road, their wounds steaming into the cool of the night. He ran on, the lights of the habitats around him flickering on, windows and doors opening.

There was already a crowd forming near the Captain, twenty or so people, the Earthlings among them. Jesa was talking to him, reaching out to him, but the Captain ignored her, levelling his gun at a Klik-Tik standing further down the road, its black eyes bright and uncomprehending. One pull of the trigger and it fell back dead, more Klik-Tiks wondering about went to it and prodded it with long fingers, mouths opening and closing.

“That’s enough, Kirin!” Jesa said, desperation in her voice. She looked pale and tired in the red light of the moon, her red uniform clinging to her hard body.

The Captain held his head, the gun pointing to the sky. “Can’t you feel them, Jesa? I know you can! Argh, they’re here in my head! It hurts so much!”

The Klik-Tiks had left their dead, and were now wandering about the road, some going to the habitats, some towards the store, others scrabbling about the steps of the bio-garden.

Revan hurried to the crowd. Couldn’t the Klik-Tiks see what was happening? Were they so mindless that seeing their own dead didn’t warn them?

The Captain screamed, a long anguished cry, and he shot twice, lighting the crowd in a garish, quiet glow. Two Klik-Tiks fell dead, and the others paused in their wanderings, looking about with black eyes before shuffling to the newly dead, long fingers pointing and jaws opening and closing.

A few children in the crowd were crying, almost screaming, hugged quiet by mothers and fathers.

“That’s enough now.” It was Ian that spoke. Even the Earthlings had had enough of the murder. He tried to grab the Captain’s arm, but was batted aside by an elbow.

More shots, and two more Klik-Tiks fell to the ground. The Captain screamed again, and he turned around, his eyes wide. He looked at the Litokans surrounding him, looked at the Earthlings, at Jesa tending to Ian on the ground. “Can’t you feel them?” he screamed. “Can’t you feel them in your heads?”

“Captain!” Revan shouted. He held the gun with both hands aimed at the Captain’s chest. “There’ll be no more killing.” He cursed the shaking in his voice, the treacherous heart beating fast enough to make his vision blur.

“What?” The Captain laughed. “You protect them? You protect those bastards? Can’t you feel them? Feel them in your head?”

The Klik-Tiks seemed to be everywhere; on the road, in doorways, in windows, on balconies, on rocks. Were there always this many? They stared mindlessly with black eyes, jaws opening and closing.

Revan blinked away the sweat stinging his eyes and tried to focus on the Captain. “Just drop the gun, Captain, drop the gun and we can all go home.”

“Home? What do you know of home? You’ve never seen it! You’re here with these creatures! You know they’re taunting you? Can’t you feel them taunting you?” The Captain was getting louder, his voice more shrill and he pointed the gun at Revan.

The gun was large, the barrel a dull grey metal. Revan pulled his trigger at the same time as the Captain. The Captain fell to the ground and the Klik-Tik next to Revan hit the floor dead.

“Shit,” Revan whispered, still holding the gun straight before him. “Shit,” he said again. He looked at the dead Klik-Tik next to him. More Klik-Tiks were shuffling over to them, unhurried and disinterested, jaws opening and closing as they stepped through the milling crowds of people shouting and swearing.

“Where’s Piros?” Jesa was shouting. “Someone find Piros!” She was ripping open the Captain’s uniform and the blood was steaming into the cold night air.







Revan tightened the bolt on the tower and looked at the Klik-Tiks scurrying about the road, picking at dust and litter with long-fingered hands, and wondered that he had killed a man to defend them. Had he really been defending them? There had been something horrific about their stupidity in standing before the crazed Captain.

“We’re all ready.” Jesa looked up at him from the bottom of the ladder.

Revan nodded and let the lid fall shut with a hollow clang. He slid down the ladder, the spanner still in his hand.

“Come with us, Revan.” There was almost a desperation in her voice. She looked pale and her eyes were rimmed with dark circles. She was still suffering with the headaches, as were all the Earthlings.

The other Earthlings would be in town trying to persuade the Litokans to return with them.

Revan shook his head and dried his hands with a rag from his back pocket. “This is our home. We aren’t Earthlings anymore than you’re Litokans.” He spread his hands, showing her the squat habitats, the rusted water towers, the solar generators. “This is us, this was all built by us and our parents.”

“But this place isn’t safe, how can we leave you here when it isn’t safe?” Jesa almost took a step back when a Klik-Tik scurried past, rushing from one mindless activity to another.

“We’ve been here all our lives and you’re telling us it isn’t safe?” Revan smiled. He laid the ladder on the ground, dust billowing about it. “Perhaps we’re more different than you think. I’m sorry about your Captain, maybe it was the stress of going through the cryo-sleep so often.” He saw Jesa’s eyes darken and paused. It would be better when the Earthlings were gone. There was a tension since the shootings, as though the whole colony barely dare draw breath. It would be good when things got back to normal.

“Kirin had been doing this for over a thousand years, seen more worlds than you can imagine. Helped more people, brought comfort to more people than you could conceive. You think he couldn’t handle a little cryo-sleep? What you need to think of is, have you ever had the headaches? Perhaps you’re so used to them you don’t feel them anymore. Did your parents ever have headaches?” A small smear of colour had come to her cheeks in her anger.

“Everybody has headaches sometimes,” Revan said. He put the rag in his pocket. He needed to check on the generator, the sun was already beginning to set. “It’s normal.”

“Not these, Revan.” Jesa sounded tired. “Not headaches like these. It’s like a droning, constant in the back of your skull. A droning, but just beneath it, it’s like something is whispering, so you focus on it, but then the pain just gets worse and you can’t turn away from it.” She took a breath. Klik-Tiks scurried here and there, stopping every now and again to look at a step, to poke at a door or to peer up at the sky.

Could he remember? Could he remember his father sitting on the porch steps, his head in his hands, groaning against the pain?


Revan shook his head. “It’s good that you’re going tomorrow. I hope that you can ease the pain when you leave.”

Jesa bit her lip. “I’ll tell you one thing, Revan. In my report, I’ll be requesting that this colony is terminated, that the planet be put under quarantine and investigations made. There’ll be more ships and they won’t be asking you as nicely as I to leave.”

“I’ll be long gone by then,” Revan said.

“Yes, but think of your children, your grandchildren.” Jesa squinted then, looking off to where Revan’s habitat lay, hidden from sight by the bio-gardens. “And what about the children, Revan? You ever thought of that?”

Revan felt a cold shiver of anger at the mention of the children. He swallowed it away and raised an eyebrow. “What about the children?”

“Well, how old is Hanna now?”

“She’s four,” Revan said, cautiously. He felt anger there, simmering. He thought of the Captain, raging and dying in the dust of an alien planet, and the anger quietened a moment.

“Four,” Jesa nodded. “Four. And there are other children that are older. Maybe a couple of years older. The Yokon boy must be five, six by now.”

“Look.” Revan ran a hand down his cheek. Was he getting a headache? But no, it must only be his imagination. “If you’ve got a point, I’d wish you’d just get to it. I’ve things I need to be doing.”

“None of the children are speaking yet. Shouldn’t they be talking by now?”

Should they? What age should children be speaking? He thought of the Yokon boy. He liked playing out in the street, looking at Revan quietly when he walked past. “They’ll speak when they’re ready,” he said, trying to keep the offence out of his voice. “It’s not like Earth here. It’s quieter here, I suppose they don’t hear as much talking as other children.” He was angry now, his head starting to hurt. He clenched his fists. “I better start on the generator.” He picked up the ladder and walked away, three Klik-Tiks scuttling from his path.

Jesa watched him go. “Think of them,” she shouted after him. “They won’t have a home anymore when we return.”



“Lerin?” Revan leaned in the doorway watching her wash the dishes. The sun was high in the sky and a warm breeze was drifting through the open window. The Earthlings had been gone for two standard months.

“Yeah?” Lerin didn’t turn from the window. She seemed to be watching something in the yard.

“Did your mum and dad ever have headaches?” He’d been thinking about Jesa. Thinking of her last warning. It had been a sombre affair when the Earthlings left, the Litokans glad to be rid of them and the Earthlings glad to be going.

“Hmmm?” Lerin still didn’t turn around. “I don’t know, I suppose so. Doesn’t everybody have headaches?”

“I suppose.” Revan folded his arms, watched her back move as she cleaned the dishes. Had there been a time when he’d hurried in to the bathroom and found his father bleeding from his nose and ears? The memory was fogged, clouded in the depths of time and the more he tried to grab it, the more it slipped from his mind.

“Why do you ask?”

“Just wondering,” Revan said. He’d been thinking about the droning Jesa had mentioned. Could he hear it if he really focused? If he stopped and closed his eyes and really listened? And wasn’t the whispering there? If he could just focus, close his eyes and focus and hear it. Almost like a strange language…

“Hey, come here and look at this.” Lerin beckoned to him with a dripping hand, suds falling to the floor.

Revan joined her at the sink. Hanna was out in the yard, Klik-Tiks running about, and Hanna scurrying with them. She found a stick and picked it up, looking at it with dark eyes, her mouth opening and closing in silence. She dropped the stick and moved away, finding an old doll. She poked at it with a finger, squatting in the dust, jaws working.

“Isn’t that sweet?” Lerin said, looking at him with bright eyes. “It’s like she’s playing with them!”

Lerin was right. It was sweet. Revan put his arm around her and she rested her head on his shoulder. And together they watched their daughter scurrying about the yard, poking things and opening and closing her mouth.

He wondered if the Yokon boy was playing in his yard with the Klik-Tiks too.







“Word From Home” © Mark Rookyard
Mark Rookyard lives in Yorkshire, England. He likes to run long distances and write short stories. His work has recently appeared in Metaphorosis, Third Flatiron’s ‘Hyperpowers’ anthology and Stupefying Stories’ Showcase.



illustrations © Fran Eisemann, photomipulations stock from the public domain — NASA, Russian Soyuz launches, pixabay, Wikimedia

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