A flashlight was switched on in the dark. The beam pierced through the night like an arrow, silent yet precise. It swept slowly over the bookshelf, lighting up a row of toy airplanes. The airplanes fell in the shadows once again as the glow cut to the bed. It located what it was searching for and stayed.
The light gathered around a face like a pool of liquid silver. It flickered back and forth, until seven-year-old Dylan Reyes blinked his eyes open.
"Get up," said a deep voice from the darkened doorway.
"Get up, Dill Pickle." The light slid down and landed on the comforter. "This is an emergency."
Dylan blinked a few times more, allowing his eyes to adjust to the sparkling specks of blue and yellow that lingered before him. He fumbled around his nightstand, pulled open the drawer, and curled his small hand around his own flashlight. He pointed it at the intruder.
"We have to hurry. This house is under the attack of aliens and we have to evacuate to the backyard ASAP."
Dylan started to giggle as he tried to rub the sleep from his eyes. "When did you come back, dad?"
"Shhhh...you're too loud." His dad moved in to lift him from the bed, laughing quietly as he did. "I just landed and now I'm taking you to safety. Please be quiet."
"What about mom?"
"We have to leave her," his dad said gravely, hoisting him up on one shoulder. "The tent is only big enough for two."
It didn't take his dad long to set up a tent in the backyard. Dylan crawled in after him, excitement bubbling around his stomach—or maybe that was just the cherry soda—as every other time when they camped out together, just the two of them. They loved the mom, but sorry, this was a father-son thing.
Dylan pointed his flashlight across the ceiling of the tent, to the stack of snacks in one corner, to the empty soda cans at the opposite end. On a night like this there were no more rules: no brushing teeth after eating, no going to bed at a reasonable hour, and certainly no limits on the amount of skittles he could have. This was, after all, an alien attack, and he needed all the energy he could store just in case the situation got out of control, just like the termite disaster last month or the mutant monkeys in spring. There was always some kind of emergency, a justifiable cause, and they absolutely had to evacuate and camp out.
The night was just beginning, but now that the sleepy bugs were completely chased away, his eyes were wide as he listened to his dad talk about his day. He was a commercial airline pilot, which sounded like an important job, but to Dylan, his dad was just an immature adult who made up dumb stories, took him on silly adventures and laughed heartily at the fart jokes he made.
When morning came and he was finally falling asleep, he heard his dad rustling beside him. "I love you, Captain Dill."
He nodded, too tired to say it back. Of course daddy knew, right?
Dads just know that kind of things.
cover made by Mads, who is fabulous x