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The Partisan

Rebecca Hodgkins is a freelance editor for hire and the author of five novels. Her short stories have been published in Edward Bryant's Sphere of Influence, A Fistful of Dinosaurs, Vagabond Vol. 1, three times in Daily Science Fiction, and in numerous other online zines. She spends her time between Colorado and an island off the coast of Texas. You can find her work on Amazon and keep up with her at rebeccahodgkins.com.

"You weren't there, you don't understand!" My wife screams at me from the bed. Her forehead is a war torn map of trenches when her brow furrows. "You don't know what it was like to run, to hide. The German checkpoints. Vous ne savez pas! Ils etaient des monstres! You don't know!"
I don't. All I know is, my wife is thirty-seven years old. She took Spanish in high school. She's never to my knowledge spoken a word of French until the past few days. She's never lived or traveled outside the U.S.
All I know is, there's a caravan of people headed for the U.S./Mexican border from Central America, and anyone could be hiding in it. Gang members ready to slice open children. Militant Muslims who will blow themselves up after hitting a strip club.
All I know is, she only sees the women and children, hungry, dirty, desperate. Fleeing a war, she says.
I can't talk to her about the caravan without her breaking into a language she's never learned, describing events she can't possibly have lived through.
"We can't be expected to take them all in," I try. "We have to turn them away."
"Like the Americans turned away the boat full of Jews?" She swipes at her face. "There is no difference. Aucun."
Another torrent of French, and I can only make out a few words. American pilots. Partisans. Checkpoint. Woods. Running. Guns. Dead.
I call my mother-in-law. "Has she ever done anything like this before?"
"Oh, yes. When she was a little girl. She always... she could see things. Before they happened, sometimes while they were happening elsewhere. I'll be damned if she wasn't right about a warehouse fire burning across town. That unnerved me.
"One morning when she was maybe four, she asked me what a point de controle was. I had to look it up. When I asked her how she knew those words, she told me they'd had to avoid checkpoints, to get the pilots to Switzerland. But they got caught anyway. She described how they died. How she died, shot in the back of the head and left in the woods. It was horrible. I can't explain why she said that. From then on, though, I'd catch her making little maps with barbed wire fences and talking to her stuffed rabbit about how they needed to escape. She grew out of it."
"Until now. What am I supposed to do?"
"I just ignored her histrionics until they went away. Try talking to her about happy things. Maybe she'll forget again."
I try. But it's hard to sweep a caravan under the rug. All the networks cover it, it's all over the internet. Clips of Mexicans giving them water bottles and candy bars. The military standing by, cautious but nonthreatening. The President making threats instead.
What really sets her off are the maps showing the caravan's route. Watching, she gets quiet, her eyes like round bullet holes. She scribbles in her day planner. Her own maps. I look at them after she goes to bed. Villages with French names strung along a border, pointy triangles for mountains, bunched cloud-shapes for forests. And checkpoints of course, circled in red.
Then the maps change.
Mountains remain. But the forests disappear. French village names change to Sweet Grass and Fox Crossing. Each checkpoint has a red leaf drawn next to it. The barbed wire fences circle themselves, surrounding rows of low buildings. Across these, she's scrawled, "refugees and partisans."
I look the villages up. Montana.
While she's at work, I spend the day calling psychiatrists, trying to get her an appointment. My phone blares twice, messages from the President. The caravan has broken through. Americans need to be on high alert for dangerous aliens. Anyone found helping them will be arrested and punished. There will be a curfew.
My wife should have been home an hour ago. I check her closet. Bare hangers where flannels hung. In the basement, the shelf with the tent and sleeping bags stares back at me, empty. Except for a note.
Once I translate the French to English, the note reads:
By now, I am long gone. Don't follow me, and please don't give me away. I know how this ended once. I suspect how it will end again. I love you, despite our differences. Maybe one day, you'll understand. I pray it won't be too late.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

Author Comments

This story is partly true, took an hour to write, and came straight from the heart.

- Rebecca Ann Hodgkins
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