‘The Exile Gate’
by Duo Radon
The breeze was gentle and the sunshine plentiful this November afternoon in Johannesburg. Tania Bekker stood solemnly on a ridge overlooking the charred remains of what had once been a surreal setting: an alien refugee camp turned war zone. Now, four years after the bloody skirmish had finally separated human from Prawn, the resilient African bionetwork was beginning to reclaim the spoiled land and green things were well rooted everywhere. But in spite of nature's tenacity there would always be scars, and no one knew that better than the woman who pensively scanned the corpse of District 10, searching for answers she knew she'd never obtain.
"Hey! Anyone home? C'mon, what's the hold up?" Hendrik goaded warmly, though he was well aware of the reason his wife had fallen behind. "Thought you were hungry....."
"I am. I just wish we didn't have to walk past this," Tania swept a hand towards the District below them before she turned to meet her husband's eyes. He was a good man...kind, understanding, and undeniably handsome; statuesque in build with fair skin that contrasted sharply against smooth, raven hair. Hendrik Bekker was very much the sort of man a causal observer might expect to see paired with a tall, beautiful blonde. But he wasn't her first, and the circumstances that had torn apart her previous marriage were those no human on Earth could ever have foreseen.
"Hey, this is your favorite restaurant," Hendrik projected, quite familiar with her very special sort of emotional baggage.
"I wanted to go to my brother's braai..."
"Ugh. Your brother's a pig," Tania scowled with far too much sincerity.
"Granted. But lunch would've been free," Hendrik smiled at her, and Tania couldn't help but return the smirk. In truth, she never would have persevered through the turmoil surrounding her without Hendrik's support, and she loved him for that if nothing else.
In an attempt to shed the shackles of longing, she sidled up next to him and hugged his arm sweetly. "I'm sorry, dear. Let's get going..."
As the couple ambled towards the café, Tania made a concentrated effort not to look back over the District. Her gaze she could control, but her thoughts would always stray back to Wikus from time to time. There were, after all, so many questions unanswered, and so little resolved. Everyone assured her that he was dead. Even if, somehow, he'd survived the transformation and melded into the throng of aliens, he surely couldn't have outlived the conflict three years later. Wikus was no warrior. He wasn't even an athlete. He was a gentle soul unfathomably corrupted by invading monsters...so much so that he would become the world's most infamous traitor, a man who had not only betrayed his family and his country, but his very species. At least, that was how the world viewed him. Tania refused to allow the popular opinion to settle within her; instead, in secret, she liked to entertain the possibility that maybe Wikus had survived long enough to disembark with the Prawns. Maybe even now, he was residing on a strange alien world, living a simple and peaceful life, his thoughts lingering over her just as she would remember him....