by J.F. Jenkins
Chevelle Donahue thought going into work would be just like any other boring day at the mall. Sure, there was her annoying co-worker Wicken Sanders, and a promotional visit from teen heartthrob Timber Hudson, to watch and keep her entertained. But who was she kidding? Working retail was lame no matter what happened.
A terrorist attack changes everything – an attack from aliens of all things. The patrons are given two options: comply or else. Complying means giving in to a new set of rules and changing her entire life. “Or else” means she has no chance of going home again.
She must figure out the truth behind why the aliens are holding everyone hostage. In doing so, she risks her chance at freedom – but by the time she learns what’s really happening, she might not want it.
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I looked between the two guys standing between me and the doorway, wishing I could read their minds. They were both so quiet and I hated it. Earlier they each had rather strong opinions of what to think. Now there was nothing? Did I have to make the decision for all of us? I wasn’t sure if I could handle that kind of pressure, let alone live with the consequences.
But I wasn’t left with much of a choice.
“I guess we turn ourselves over,” I said quietly, my face half-buried into the large hippo’s synthetic gray fur.
Timber nodded, his shoulders hunched up around him, and he rubbed his arms slowly. His gaze hardly ever left his phone. The light bouncing off his eyes revealed a glistening of tears. If that wasn’t the look of defeat, I don’t know what was. Wicken was the exact opposite image. He remained confident and poised, his gaze strong and determined. The only hint that he might have been afraid was the slight shaking of his hands.
He looked down at me. “You don’t know what they’re going to do to us.”
“I know what will happen if we don’t agree to their terms, though,” I said softly. “Escaping is futile, not following instructions sounds dangerous. I personally do not want to die.”
“And you’re assuming they won’t mass execute everyone or pick us off one by one until their demands are met,” he snapped. “I think I like my chances better with escaping.”
Timber held his phone over his watch. “We have twenty-five more minutes to decide. Ten if you want to include time to walk down to the main entrance. I’m personally going to go along with them. I’m with her.” He pointed at me. “I’m not ready to die yet.”
“Then I guess this is where we go our separate ways,” Wicken said. Again, he looked as if I had betrayed him or something. There was a sadness in his tone laced with anger. His gaze met mine and for a moment his strong composure faltered. “Last chance, Chevelle.”
I shook my head, tears pooling in my eyes. “I’ll never make it. I’ll slow you down. I’ll be the reason you can’t get away.”
His hazel eyes closed and he reached over to hug me. Then he whispered in my ear with a shaky voice, “I love you.”
My gaze met his and I didn’t know what to say in return. Part of me was wondering if I even heard him right or if I imagined him talking in the first place because the words had barely been audible. When the sadness in his frown increased, I knew he had actually said it. He pushed his way past us and toward the back door.
“Wicken,” I whimpered. “I…” Felt the same way? Loved him too? None of that seemed right, though my heart did have a special fondness for him that I didn’t understand. We’d gotten close enough through all of our time together.
He waited in the doorway, waiting for me to finish my thought.
“I…s-same. Please be careful so we can talk about this again.”
Bio: J.F. Jenkins lives in Minneapolis Minnesota with her husband, son, and two cats. She graduated from Bethel University in 2006 with a degree in Media Communication with minors in both writing and film. When she is not busy writing, she spends her free time playing games, reading, and spending time with her family.