I arrived in the colonial river valley during the dark of the moon. No fields had been harvested, and hunger stalked the people. Inside a church, I crept among the sick—their poor, oozing flesh. My hands ached to give comfort, but my desires were spider’s webs, woven with care but powerless against the force aligned against me.
The diseased of this era developed a new symptom of seizures before death. I noted the unfortunate occurrence and tugged a blood-stained quilt over a boy’s brow, saying, “I’m sorry.”
His mother wailed—oh, how children scattered a woman’s compass. I’d do
anything—was doing everything—for my child, whose life hung on my obedience to those who’d sent me.
In this era, the disease had gathered strength, gaining upwards of a ten-fold increase in revitalizations. I collected my samples while the boy’s gaze cooled. The mother wouldn’t mourn for long.
Shouts rang from a mob assembled outside; their crude torches licked the night.
When the boy’s limbs twitched and he revived, his mother would show him to the mob. A mother’s joy often exceeded good sense. The mob, eager for someone to blame for the abomination he’d become, would choose me, the stranger in their midst. Laws disintegrated like sugar in a downpour, then, and scythes meant for reaping grain instead would swing for me.
How long must I endure this torture?
Long enough to eradicate the carriers.
I clung to our scientists’ solution. Our future and my daughter’s life depended on staying the course, but acid seared my throat when I exterminated the colonial mother.
I arrived in the river valley, as scheduled, during the dark of the moon. The mighty waters drew industry to its banks, but no men piloted barges by night, and no women sorted goods by day.
Disease gripped the city’s inhabitants, accelerating in this era, despite my efforts. I slipped from brownstone to brownstone, gathering evidence for the scientists. A mother held her child and keened, plucking a tight wire inside me.
Wherever I walked and gathered samples, mourners hissed, “Death Angel.”
The dutiful angel embodied her name.
In my present time, the spaceship’s burn sputtered phosphorus, a surgical separation between the dark of the moon and Earth. The engine’s rumble pounded against my chest—go go go. The vessel raced away from our blue marble and the stumbling, screeching things filling it from sea to sea.
The rocket sped toward hope, and I should have been glad. I’d been a runner when I was young, and when my legs tired, the saying was a bear had jumped on my back. After eras of failed interventions, I carried a bear-sized burden. Documents from pre-renovated history suggested we’d healed naturally. What if I’d refused to allow scientists to rewire me into a time-skipping freak of nature?
A diseased specimen swayed from the darkness, its child stumbling behind, and my daughter’s image pierced my heart. I set aside my suspicions.
Earth belonged to the screechers now.
The dark of the moon lay upon the valley of the new world where the ship landed. The Goldilocks climate welcomed humanity’s remnant. I awaited the scientists who’d eagerly shook Earth’s dust from their boots.
The towering vessel hyperventilated gray swirls. Faces pressed against thumb-sized windows stippling the ship’s exoskeleton, and an exit hatch ignited, breaking the seal.
Thrills darted fishlike through my belly, the same as when my daughter had occupied that little tank. My puppet masters pushed her forward, and the fish scattered.
Children were a joy, but they were neither logical nor durable, considering my daughter’s stumbling gait.
“We’re where we’ve always belonged,” a scientist said. “You performed brilliantly. If not, our people might still lack the will to inhabit the stars. As for you and your daughter—we’re sorry, but you understand.”
Stopping the disease had never been the goal. My knees buckled; darkness loomed. Jackals used me to shape a dreadful outcome and now expected me to shag off.
Mother’s hands that had ached to comfort all those who’d suffered awakened. Shoving the screeching creature back onto the ship, I stepped inside and blew the hatch—
—and delivered wrath, Death Angel style.
Ara Hone writes speculative fiction. Before that, she climbed grain silos to admire sunsets, joined the military when it wasn’t cool, and survived a sales career. She adores a great TV series and editing stories for Orion’s Belt. Her best advice? Drink coffee daily. On Twitter @rhondaschlumpb1 and www.storychops.com