This works as a one shot, but if I get enough feed back, I could go on with it :)
I do not own Falling Skies or the characters. Nor do I profit in any way.
I Think My Name Is Ben
I think my name is Ben, I'm not sure; I haven't heard it spoken in so long. There's so much that I think I remember from my life before, but I'm not sure any more how much of it is real and how much I've made up. I remember reading books, a lot of books. It seems like such a long time ago, but I'm not sure about time anymore either. I remember a family, I think. Brothers and a Dad, I remember a Mom too, but I try not to think about her so much, it gives me an aching that I can't explain, and then the Skitter keeps me closer, trying to make the aching stop. I can't really let my mind dwell on any of them for long before I'm drawn back to what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm quickly pre-occupied with the task in front of me, walking.
We have been walking for a long time now. I feel the pull on my thoughts, a mental stroke, almost as if someone is trying to join me in my head. I keep my eyes straight ahead and let the walking consume me, for now. The Skitter turns and looks back towards me. They have us all walking in a single file, following the Mechs. I 'm near the middle of the line and he could be looking at any of us, but I can feel him looking at me. It's not like when you have a feeling someone is staring at you and turned to catch them in the act, this is different. He is looking inside, checking to make sure I'm really with them, there, and not wondering back into memories. I do that more than the others, I think. The other kids, some boys, some girls, seem to have no problem letting go of what they were, but I still struggle with it every day, and the Skitter knows that.
We had been collecting scrap metal from the city ruins. I'm not sure how long we've been gathering and carrying. It seems like a long time, but time doesn't seem to register either, it's strange how that feels. I don't remember much about the time in between the harness being put on and then going to work. I know there is time missing. I know my memories are vague and hazy. As each day passes I worry about it a little less, but I still try to find the thoughts I know have been stolen from me. I know they are aware I'm still struggling, and part of me feels bad, I don't want to disappoint them. They are trying to help me though. They don't get angry. When the other kids in my group are ready to move to the next stage, they don't send me with them, they hand me over to a new Skitter, to a new group of kids. It's happened three times now. This time, they have put me with a group who are moving away from the city in search of more metal, materials that they need. I'm not sure how I even know why we are walking, but I do. I know we have to gather more scrap metal and we need to go where there is more of it.
These are things that have never been told to me, but I know it. I also know when any of the other kids are thirsty, or hungry, or tired. I know when the Skitter leading us is worried, or happy or sad about something. I feel for him, I want to keep him happy, he's nice, and I like him. At night, when I'm feeling a longing for the Dad I can barely remember, the Skitter pulls me closer to him and I can feel him in my head. One day my mind wondered onto thoughts of chocolate, and minutes later, the Skitter was walking up to me with a candy bar in his hand. He handed it to me and let me stop working to eat it. I know that I used to think of all Skitters as monsters, but I also know if the Mech had been watching us closer I never would have been given the treat. I know that if the Skitter had been caught handing me a candy bar he would have been punished. He's not a monster; none of the Skitters has been anything but protective and gentle with me, with all of us. I feel connected to the Skitters who have looked out for me.
Again my mind is pulled back into the present, into the task of walking, staying in line. I know I have to stop thinking about so many things; it could get the Skitter staring at me into trouble. If the others knew about it, he would be punished, and the Mech was close enough to pick up on my thoughts and relay them to the others. I concentrate on the line ahead of me, on lifting my feet and moving forward. I'm not tired, though we have been walking for hours. I never get tired anymore. I can work for hours non stop, I can carry heavy loads in my arms that even Hal wouldn't be able to carry. If Hal could see me now, what would he think of me?
Hal, who was Hal? I know Hal, he was an ass most of the time. He didn't like having me around much. A brother, he was one of the brothers I think about. He played sports and he always had a girlfriend. I used to want to be like him, but I couldn't be. I was too uncoordinated, too clumsy. I preferred reading books, and imagining myself as a different person. I was a geek, a nerd, whatever label you might pick, it didn't matter. The girls didn't like guys like me. So I tried to make him suffer, the way I felt I suffered. Deep down I loved him, I know that. But I always did something to piss him off. I am different now. I am stronger than I was before, and I can work for hours without even knowing it. Time is nothing though, no matter what I am doing. Yeah, maybe now Hal would be impressed with what I can do.
Again I'm pulled back to my task, walk. Walk. Walk. I can feel the Skitter in my head, directing me to maneuver around a car in the middle of the roadway. Keep in line, don't stray from the path. There is work to do; we have to reach our destination so we can start scavenging for scrap. It was important, and if we didn't get there on schedule, if we didn't reach our quota in the time allotted, our Skitter would pay the consequences; my Skitter. I had to keep my mind on what I was doing; I didn't want to see anything happen to my Skitter. I'd been with him for a while now, and I was closer to him than the others I'd been with. There was a connection with him that I hadn't been able to make with the others, but I'd made it with him. The connection makes it easier to let go of the memories that continue to burn their way into my thoughts.
I hear a stream to my left. Water sparkling in the sun, glinting at the corner my vision with shimmers of gold draws my attention. I think before I turn towards it though. I can't look. I have to walk. But I let my eyes flick towards the sight, I can't help it. I can see the water; the rocks speckled through it, at the bottom a deep embankment. As we grow closer, we are directed closer to that bank, to walk in the browning grass, away from the obsolete cars lining the blacktop. This will give us a chance to walk in the shade of some trees ahead, out of the heat. I feel that we will stop for water further down stream, since some of us are thirsty. We will all drink.
Closer to the bank it's easier to shift my eyes towards the water, to see it, and try to remember being close to something similar, with fishing poles; listening to Matt complaining that his stomach hurt, Matt, the other brother. I miss Matt and a pang hits my chest. I push it down, ignore it and blank my mind before my Skitter turns to look at me again. I can't let myself think about my brothers, or my Dad. I can't let them into my head. They could be dead for all I know. I had waited for Dad to come for me, at first, but he never did. I half knew it wouldn't happen, though I wished for it. Dad had to fight just to find food, and I couldn't expect my being taken to be a priority. Matt couldn't take care of himself; he had to be looked after. Besides, how could they possibly know where to find me?
I try not to think about the view I was allowing myself to take in, at least not in a way that my Skitter could feel what I was doing. The sound of the water and the feel of the whole scene somehow gave me some comfort. Then I see the brown head peeking up over the bank, and the eyes…. I know those eyes. I know the voice that drifts on the wind, barely audible, as I pass so close. I look straight ahead now, trying to ignore the sound, "Ben?" I can hear it, a name. A name that feels familiar, one I've tried to hold onto for so long but am close to losing. What if I'm imagining it? What if I'm finally starting to lose touch with reality? Not that my reality in the past months could be considered normal. No one's reality is normal anymore.
Hal's head ducks down again just as my Skitter turns back to look at me. I look at him, directly at his eyes, and I know that he knows. He should do something now. He should stop us all and go after the person hiding along the tall bank, but instead he gives me the look of understanding, and I know that the presence of one person hiding down the bank does not matter to him. He knows that I will remain with my line, I will walk on, and I will do what is expected of me. No one will follow; no one will come after me. My time for rescue is long past.
Still I wait, as the distance between me and my brother grows. I want to hear him yelling for me, running after me. But then I remember, Hal never liked me much anyway; and Dad isn't with him, he's probably with Matt somewhere, protecting him. It's just me. It's up to me to survive on my own. It's up to me to adjust, adapt. That's what my Skitter wants me to do. He wants me to be happy with him, he wants me to feel like a part of his family; I am a part of his family. I just need to let go of a life that can never be brought back. I have to accept that. Its just fact and it's illogical to hope for something that can never happen.
Still, as I walk in time with the other kids, staring straight ahead, concentrating on the work that lies ahead, I strain to listen for the sound of that name again, the name that I have already forgotten in just the past few moments, however faint it may be. It never comes.