Out of Darkness
by Fran Piper
“Schoolteacher!” The man I call the Butcher steps out from the trees, tosses me an AK47. Clouds obscure the moon and my last hope. The Butcher has the darkness he needs.
He came to the school, the brave rebel leader, recruiting my students.
“No,” I said. “They are too young.”
The Butcher sneered. “Why listen to your schoolteacher, when he will not fight for you?”
“All right,” I said. “I will go tonight, if you leave the children alone.”
But the Butcher has already won. Killing, even at gunpoint, I would be no better than him—so I will refuse, and he will leave my body piled with the other corpses. Then he will have the children anyway. Some of the Butcher’s troops are former students of mine. They hang their heads as they greet me; they know why I am here.
We follow the Butcher into darkness. I trip over roots, am lassoed by creepers. But when I fall, someone catches me.
We leave the trees. A miracle—the cloud is breaking up; we stand in the spotlight of the full moon. The Butcher is enraged. He turns on me and raises his gun, but his men step forward. The Butcher looks at them; they stare back, hard-eyed. For a moment he is still. Then he strides back into the forest, and we follow.
Just for tonight I win; the children are safe. As the trees swallow us, I turn and salute the moon.