By Leslie L. McKee
Christopher jumped up, knocking their board game off the kitchen table. He turned toward his sister, Paisley. “What was that?”
She shrugged. “Sounded like it came from outside.”
Rushing to the window, Christopher tore back the curtain of their third-story apartment and stepped onto the balcony. The view made him gasp. Millions of stars punctuated a purple sky. Not blue. Not black. Purple. Grape-soda purple. Below, people ran everywhere. In the distance, smoke snaked up toward the clouds. Despite the chaotic scene, everything was silent except for Christopher’s heartbeat.
From his vantage point, he couldn’t determine what they’d heard, but one thing was certain: they needed to leave. Now. He and Paisley were taught if they ever saw a purple sky, they should immediately head to the tunnels.
Christopher grew up hearing stories about the Ancients coming back to take over the world. He’d always believed them to be just that: stories. Many who lived in the area, including his parents and grandparents, doubted the existence of the Ancients. Others claimed the Violet Light had destroyed everything centuries ago… and that the same light would one day signal the Ancients’ return to finish off civilization.
Guess they weren’t tall tales after all.
While his mom and dad didn’t believe it’d ever be necessary, Christopher was thankful he and Paisley had packed spare clothes and supplies… just in case.
“Paisley, we can’t wait for Mom and Dad. Grab the bags. They’d want us to go and meet them there.”
She hurried across the lilac bedroom, threw open the closet door, and pulled out their emergency luggage. At the doorway, Paisley lingered a moment until Christopher hurried her down the stairs.
Outside, they navigated through the frantic crowd. The haunting atmosphere sent goosebumps up and down Christopher’s arms, and his stomach roiled. The whole scene was tragic, in a way. Some people stared slack-jawed at the purple sky, while others appeared in a trance. A few acted like it was just another day. They must not have believed the legend.
Christopher saw his neighbors, the Nelson family, heading out of town. “Paisley, let’s follow them. They’ll know where to go.”
He’d heard about the tunnels for years. Everyone had. But he never dared to think about the destruction that may lie ahead of them. What damage would ensue from the Ancients’ return to Earth to reclaim their treasures? How much of the story is true? Will they really take over the world?
After walking for miles, they left the safety of the road and followed the others down a dirt path. They came to a dead end at a hillside covered in violets. Behind all the flowers, Mr. Nelson found the tangled entrance to the dark, winding caverns. A strange symbol—one that looked like a prehistoric rendering of a turtle—covered the middle of the rusty portal.
He pushed open the heavy metal door with a thunderous creak. Using his cell phone as a flashlight, he entered the dark tunnel, and the rest of the crowd followed.
But something on the horizon caught Christopher’s attention. An orchid beam glowed in the opposite direction of the tunnels.
“Come on.” He grabbed Paisley’s hand, pulling her from the entrance.
Paisley halted. “We’re supposed to follow Mr. Nelson.”
“I know, but… I can’t explain it. I think we need to go this way.”
The path twisted and turned in an odd geometric pattern. The forest rang with an unnerving silence. No crickets. No owls. Just Christopher’s own thudding heart, their shoes crunching on old leaves, and rushing water in the distance.
Ten feet to their left lay an enormous, smoldering metallic-silver object, heat still radiating from it. A craft of some kind. That must have been the source of the noise… and the smoke.
An unusual emblem glowed on its side—identical to that found on the tunnel door. The same symbol the stories claimed would usher in the return of the ancient creatures who had once ruled this valley.
Christopher tripped. Looking down, he noticed marble-sized amethysts covering the pathway. To the side were mauve-colored orbs, larger than any eggs he’d ever seen before. The ground shook slightly. Christopher surged ahead, an invisible force compelling him straight into a large clearing. “Stay close. Who knows what we’ll find?”
Pushing through the overgrowth, he stopped short.
Paisley gasped. “The stories… They were true! This must’ve been the Ancients’ dwelling.”
Huge lilac bushes created a border around the remains of crumbled walls, each one containing the same geometric shape they’d seen at the entrance to the cave and on the spacecraft. The ominous purple sky was now void of stars.
Christopher pointed at the rubble. “Man, if only these ruins could talk.”
Paisley mumbled, “The Ancients built false caves to live in and to keep their treasures hidden. This must be part of those homes.”
Christopher always imagined those ancient goldmines and priceless gems beyond measure. Now, here he was. Gazing at what could be the greatest find ever. After all, he’d already seen enough amethysts to make him rich.
Everyone else had headed into the tunnels like they’d been instructed to do. If he and Paisley had stuck with the crowd instead of following the orchid beam, they might not have made this discovery.
Paisley shook her head at the sight before them. “This is beautiful. Maybe the Ancients aren’t to be feared. Maybe—”
A dark shadow enveloped them.
An explosion drowned out Paisley’s scream.
Looking back, Christopher stared, dread filling him. A second mechanical vehicle, much larger than the first, had landed on the remaining walls of the ancient ruins, crushing them under its weight.
As the ground beneath Christopher’s feet rumbled, all around them the orbs cracked open.
Hatchlings broke free from their eggs, outstretched their wings, rose their heads, and pierced the air with vicious screeches.
One turned and headed straight for Christopher and Paisley. The rest followed.