February 26

Heliocentrism

(February 26, 1616 — Church authorities forbid Galileo to teach his heretical theory that the Earth travels around the Sun)

 

“We must never speak of the Sun.”

Janine slowed to allow her daughter’s small legs to keep up. They had been scavenging for food, and had lost track of time.

With luck, they’d reach their shelter before the transition.  Before the pack creatures emerged from the shadows, mouths foaming with rage, weapons raised.

She knew they had no scruples about harming a child.  Janine had seen them trap a nine-year-old boy, a year younger than her daughter.  Their dark cloaks flapped behind them as they circled ’round their victim and moved in for the kill.

“I think we will be safe,” her daughter said. “In the sky, I can still see — ”

“Hush, Emma.”  Her daughter fixated on the Sun, as if their whole world revolved around it, as if it answered all questions.  Janine knew better.  The pack was getting more bold:  thinking ahead, striking early.

She heard footsteps in the distance, the flapping of cloaks.  She wanted to hurry her daughter, considered dropping the sack of scavenged food to lift Emma in her arms and hurry over the hilltop.  Instead, she reached back with one hand, practically dragged the girl along with her.

Their shelter appeared in the distance once they’d crested the hill.  “Run, Emma.  Pretend it’s a race.”  She turned it into a game, to distract the child.  Emma’s legs moved faster, and their momentum brought them to the iron gates around their property.

Janine released her daughter’s hand, to retrieve the key from her pocket.

But the key wasn’t necessary.  The padlock was already open, the secure chains dangling loose from the bars.

“They’re inside,” she said.  The door to her family shelter opened, and several cloaked figures stepped out.

Behind them, another group of pack members appeared at the top of the hill and began a slow descent.  Dropping the sack of scavenged food, Janine grabbed her daughter’s hand and drew her close.

On the ground, something wriggled within the sack.

Wooden stakes and mallets emerged from beneath cloaks.

Further in the distance, the sun began to rise.