“No! Wait! Get away from them! No!”
Mary raised her ray gun, shooting at the creatures, but she knew, ultimately, that it was futile, even if she didn’t want to admit it to herself.
Her oldest, Lyra, wasn’t even recognizable as human anymore. She’d only knew that the pile of bloody meat was her because of the necklace.
The damned necklace. A few days before they had left for Elysium, Mary, in a state of euphoric bliss, had bought her children gifts meant to be a memento of New Albion (after all, it was the city that they were born in, and who knew when they were coming back?) Lyra had been so happy when she’d gotten that necklace. She’d always loved shiny things, after all.
Now, the design was barely visible, covered by bodily fluids as it was. With a strain of effort, she tore her eyes away, and towards her other children, not injured nearly as badly. Maybe, just maybe, there was a chance that they could still be saved. The other Voodoopunks were driving off the angels, leaving her free to rush to their side.
“Bryant? Natasha? Ly-Lyra? Please still be there, please, don’t leave me. Please! I’m so sorry, I should have done better, this is all my fault. You can’t be gone, you can’t be. No, please, there must still be something I can do! No!” She was gasping for breath, tears leaking out of their eyes like they hadn’t since her husband had died. She rocked back and forth on her knees, clutching her babies to her chest, They were still warm. She could almost pretend there was a heartbeat, that she’d hear a giggled laugh at any moment, that it was tears staining her dress and not blood.
“Mary! You gotta get up! There’s no time! Come on, we have to get back to the base!” came a call and a shaking of the shoulder, dimly filtering into her consciousness and cutting off a primal scream she had only realized she was making by the absence of it.
“What’s the point, Yasser? Everyone’s dead already. They were all I had to live for. This, all of this, is just delaying the inevitable.”
“Yes, yes, and we can talk about that later, when we’re back in the base.”
His eyes darting around, he continued, “Look, Mary, either you get up and come back with me, or I’m going to sling you over my shoulder and carry you back myself. We already lost three people today, and I don’t want to lose another one. So, what do you say?”
“Just leave me here, let me get eaten by the creatures. It’s what I deserve for not being able to protect them, for bringing them to this hellscape in the first place.” Besides, even if she had wanted to get up, she didn’t think she could. “Please, just go.”
All of a sudden, Mary felt herself being lifted up off the ground. She tried desperately to keep hold of her babies, to not fail them this last time, but to no avail. Her fingers slipped through and she was being carried through the alien wasteland, never to see them again.
By the time they’d reached the base, Mary was practically catatonic. She barely registered the worried look on Yasser’s face as he placed her in the cot and as she drifted into unconsciousness.
She woke up to the blue haze of light that drifted around everything. She looked over at the cot next to hers, Bryant’s. He was a bedhog, always sprawled out under the blanket. He wasn’t there. He’d probably woken up before her. She and her kids tended to be on the same day-night cycle, but it was hard when there was no day and no night to regulate it. He was probably somewhere else in the base, but she should go and check on him just to… calm… her
The thoughts, the memories from yesterday, rushed back into her head all of a sudden, the overwhelming nature of them causing her knees to hit the floor with a sickening thwack.
No. He was dead. They were all dead, because she wasn’t quick enough, wasn’t vigilant enough. She’d never see them again, never hold them again.
They’d never deserved this. If there was any justice in the world, her children should have been safe and happy in New Albion at this very moment, playing with friends or going to school, learning about history, maths, complaining about strict teachers, not learning how to clean a plasma rifle or how to shoot with a broken arm.
When she’d looked into their eyes, she’d seen people so different from the children they had been before she’d stupidly, hopefully, rushed into the house with a foolish smile on her face and a cry of “They did it! They finally did it! Pack your bags, everybody, we’re going to Elysium!”
Everything had seemed so perfect in that moment, but now it was tainted with the bitterness of their naïvity. Even this loss of their childhood wasn’t enough. Mary let out a bitter laugh. When was anything ever enough, after all?
She felt bile rise up in her throat as she realized that her babies wouldn’t even get to have a proper burial, instead getting mauled again and again as the creatures came upon them until there was nothing left but viscera scattered across Elysium. They never allowed them to retrieve bodies, said it was too dangerous.
She was alone now, would always be alone. She’d stopped believing in an afterlife (or at least a good one) after seeing the horror of it for herself.
Her fingers drummed a beat on the gun holstered at her side, as her awareness of the present started to fade. She was openly weeping as her mind flickered through memories of the past, when they were all together and happy. A life she had ruined through her own selfishness. Mary trembled as she sat there in the chaos of a life half remembered and which would never be seen again.