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Danny's Dream by Leigh-Anne Burley

Danny hides under his blankets, scared of the howling wind and his parents' intense, constant arguing. Footsteps pound, and then the door to the study slams shut. Darkness creeps through the house as his mother, Barb, sobs herself to sleep. In the morning, Danny notices his mother's red-rimmed eyes, messy brown hair, and the wide-open kitchen window.

"Danny, your father left us late last night and isn't coming back," his mother says as she holds him close.

            "Where’d he go?"

            "I don’t know. He said somewhere far from here."

Danny yelled, “You're lying. My dad won’t do that!”

"It's not your fault, Danny. You did nothing to cause your father to leave and you can't bring him back. From now on, it’s the two of us."

The boy tears up and wonders who will toss the ball with him in the backyard and watch his games.

            “Finish your breakfast, and I’ll call the school to say you’re not feeling well.”

            Barb boxes up the rest of Frank’s belongings and takes them to a charity. Ignoring the dripping faucet, the abandoned wife lights cigarettes and drinks black coffee while searching for jobs in the want ads.

The terrified son dreams about his father’s bulky frame flying through the hungry window and worries he will be the next target for the aliens. He's seen his father watch documentaries on aliens starting human civilization and wonders if it's true.

Shiny tinfoil covers his baseball cap to ward off an alien abduction as the diminished child boards the school bus with his best friend, Jake. Danny's chest compresses in a vise grip, and he clutches the seat, resisting the sensation that an alien force is dragging him out of the window. He listens to his hammering heart as he stares out the halfway-open school bus window, smelling the exhaust. Closing his eyes, the frightened eight-year-old boy takes a deep breath to calm himself but knows impending doom is coming. Jake, his best friend, sees Danny's distress and asks if he's okay. When Danny doesn't respond, Jake nudges him, repeating his question.

            Danny speaks, his voice strained. "I'm fine," he says, but his words sound hollow.

            Seeing the fear in his friend’s eyes and the tension in his body, Jake asks, "What's the matter?"

Danny opens his eyes and recalls when he and Jake stole apples from Old Lady Hendrix's orchard. He got stuck under the fence and panicked; Jake yanked him out. The memory offers him a brief sense of ease.

           "I feel like I'm suffocating," Danny says, shifting in his seat. "It's like I can't escape."

Leaning forward, Jake asks, "What do you mean?"

Danny looks at the sky. He thinks he sees a cloud that looks like his father's face. "I don't know, but something terrible is going to happen."

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