Strange Clothes

I sat up on a narrow white cot. The room they’d put me in looked like every other part of the fortress: chrome walls, white ceiling, and a metallic floor. I had two big windows peering out over the tops of a thousand massive trees. I could see the wind rippling through them, but I couldn’t hear anything. It was stunning…and terrifying. It’s almost like they don’t want me to leave, I mused. I climbed out of bed and dressed in the clothes they’d left for me. I’d seen people in Donva wear the same white tunics and sandals, but I’d never actually worn anything like it in my life. I was accustomed to thick canvas pants and oil-stained shirts. The things in my room were too clean.

Darkness Between the Stars (Eaters of the Light Book 1) by J Edward Neill

Purposeful Confusion

We reached an equilibrium, she and I. She grew sharper and more like the old Cal, and I found a comfort with my life I’d never really known. I grew a beard, a long, long beard. I made dyes using the food stores and used them to paint images on my clothes, on the floors, and on the white crates in the storage pods. I dictated stories and journal entries into the Ring’s computer. Some were true tales of what I’d done, while others were complete fiction. I didn’t say during any of my dictations which stories were which. I rather liked the idea of someone finding the Ring long after I was gone and being totally confused.

Darkness Between the Stars (Eaters of the Light Book 1) by J Edward Neill

It Hurt to Look

After the fourth time reading it, I folded the letter up and stuck it under my pillow. It felt like something was missing. I’d expected to cry, laugh, or maybe a little of both. I couldn’t muster anything. All I really thought was that it might be the last time I ever heard from my mother. And I wasn’t sure what to think. I sat in bed for a time. With no Callista or sprites in my room, I wasn’t sure what to do with my morning. As the sun rose, my bedroom windows paled and the vast woodland beyond the glass came into focus. I hadn’t really paid attention to the fact that winter had settled over the mountains. The deep greens and dark umbers were gone, replaced by armies of leafless, skeletal trees standing on battlefields of snow. It was so unlike our valley outside Donva. It didn’t matter. I still thought it was beautiful. Maybe I suspected I’d never see home again, or maybe I dreamed of escaping into the deep, dark forest, but either way it hurt to look out the windows and know I’d probably never go outside.

Darkness Between the Stars (Eaters of the Light Book 1) by J Edward Neill

Should’ve Known Better

“Can I go to bed?” I asked. Mom nodded. Dad didn’t say a word. After I exhaled the biggest breath in my life, I slid out of my chair and padded down the hall. Like a robot, I brushed my teeth, changed into my pajamas, and made for my bedroom. “No stories tonight,” I called down the hall to Mom. “I’m tired.” I didn’t know what they thought. I felt bad for them. I loved my parents to pieces, but all the questions they’d failed to answer had begun to add up. They should’ve known better.

They’d done everything possible to make me into a thinker, a hard worker, a doubter of universal truths. And finally it had turned against them.

Darkness Between the Stars (Eaters of the Light Book 1) by J Edward Neill

Ominous Emotion

She tried to console me, but I wasn’t having it. I hunched over my plate, scooped up every bit of egg, and gulped down my milk. I didn’t feel all that hungry, but the long days in the fields had made me into an eating machine. I didn’t know many boys my age, but I figured I ate more than all of them. Even when I didn’t want to. With Mom still sitting there looking glum, I walked out the door. The morning was made of dark clouds, and the rumble of distant thunder matched my mood. I wasn’t angry or sad. I didn’t feel any disappointment in Mom or Dad. I felt an emotion I couldn’t place. The clouds and I were the same. We were dark. We were ominous.

Darkness Between the Stars (Eaters of the Light Book 1) by J Edward Neill

Just stand in the Cold and Breathe

Standing beneath the cloudless night sky, I closed my eyes and let all my thoughts drain out of my head. The cold didn’t matter. My hands didn’t hurt anymore. I didn’t worry that tomorrow we were expecting a visit from the GQO, the Government Quota Office, to assess next year’s harvest. And I didn’t care that I was late for dinner again, which Mom always borrowed Dad’s Look to scold me for.

I just stood there in the cold and breathed. To have a few moments alone felt indescribably good. I opened my eyes to look at my palms, and I smiled at all the cracks in my skin. I saw the moonlight rising behind one of the mountaintops, and I dreamed of what it might be like to watch the moon from one of the orbital stations a hundred-thousand kilometers above the Earth.

Darkness Between the Stars (Eaters of the Light Book 1) by J Edward Neill