Patrick laid on his back on his cot, muttering and gnashing his teeth, staring up at the stick and thatch ceiling and dismembered dragonfly wing that dangled and twisted from the end of a thread of spider silk. He pulled his robes closer around him, trying to fend off the invading cold. His breath coalesced above him as the dawn light began to seep in through the open window of his sod house.
"Brother!" came a hail accompanied by hasty footsteps followed by loud knocking on his door.
"Go away!" yelled Patrick.
"They're coming! They've reached the northern boundary! We've got to go! Rise and put on your best shoes! Carry nothing so that we may flee and survive!" More knocks followed on Patrick's door.
"If they're at the northern boundary, then we have at least a half hour!" said Patrick.
"Don't do this again, brother! That half hour means we have a chance at surviving."
Patrick bolted up in a flurry of patched and worn fabric and opened the door. Cecil was on the other side, wringing his hands.
"Come now!" begged Cecil, pulling at Patrick's sleeve.
Patrick slapped Cecil's hand and shoved the door closed with a bang.
"Brother!" shouted Cecil.
"Make your preparations. I'll follow you when I'm ready. Don't let me hold you back in your mindless fleeing."
"Remember not to carry anything!" said Cecil. He waited on the other side of the door, glancing over his shoulder to the growing, bobbing lights to the north. After a dozen or so seconds he scurried off on the paths between the sod hovels.
Patrick stood in the center of the house, flexing his fists, and trying to will away a rising indigestion. He was already wearing his only pair of shoes and all his clothes. He looked at the row of books between the hearth and a large bucket. He looked at the photograph of his mother, in a chrome frame, pinned to the sod with four stout sticks. She stared back at him, from decades ago, smiling, with flipped hair and bowed nylon blouse.
"This is your fault you know," he said. He spat on the dirt floor. "We have nothing now. All the good things have been eaten up, and now there are just scraps. I won't let you blame me anymore."
He ripped the photograph from the wall and threw it into the ashes of the hearth. He breathed heavily through his teeth, glancing back and forth between the books and the bucket. He knelt down suddenly and shoved the books into the book. He heaved it up and carried it under his left arm. He pulled open the door and looked out upon the village.
Most everyone had evacuated. And old man waddled by, red-faced, holding on to a straggling toddler with a length of rope. A goat gamboled by, bleating. A pregnant woman in obvious labor struggled past. She shot Patrick a dirty look as she passed. The lights from the north razed everything in sight in stark relief. Patrick gritted his teeth and spat on the ground. He turned and started down the path to the forest. He ran past the stragglers, making sure that none of the books spilled out. He scrambled over the thorn bushes and jumped down the embankment to the freezing water. He waded through, shivering. He slipped on a stone and fell into the water, the bucket pressing down on his chest, submersing him completely. The current caught him. He turned over and the bucket rolled off. He struggled up for air, watching the bucket tumble away, spill it's contents to a wet demise. He reached out and hooked the bucket handle on his arm. He pulled himself to the bucket, hugging it, and it pulled him downriver.
"Patrick!" shouted Cecil.
Cecil fought through the thicket on the far side of the bank.
"Let it go!" said Cecil.
"No!" screamed Patrick.
"Take my arm!"
"You're too far away!"
"Let it go and swim back!"
"I'm not letting go! Not this!" screamed Patrick, before bobbing under.
"Patrick!" screamed Cecil frantically, searching.
The lights tore through the edge of the forest, casting long thin shadows that swept back and forth. Cecil froze. Metal legs plunged into the undergrowth. Cecil looked again for Patrick but saw no sign. He let out a plaintive cry and ran up the embankment and disappeared into the forest beyond.