I'm sure they're not a threat. Their ships probably need to be that big to travel so far across the stars and the spaces between. They don't mean them to look so dangerous.
They must be friendly. You wouldn't be able to build such things if you couldn't work together as a society.
Of course you're not a burden to me. You're my wife, and I love you just as much as the day we married. I stay because I want to.
Yes, you're right. I can see how the ships look like the black skeletons of birds, burned and splayed across the sky. No, no, it makes sense. I just had to squint my eyes first to see it, that's all.
We've not surrendered! It's just--it's an agreement to work together, for the betterment of humanity. They're going to help prepare us for galactic civilization.
They'll not make us leave home for the camps. I won't let them. We won't need to go.
I know you couldn't manage without me. I need you too. Really! You'll never be without me, I promise.
The camps are for the best. It's just more efficient this way, and we need to learn to be a little more efficient for when we're out in space. We'll be looked after better in the camps, I promise. I know it doesn't look friendly with all that fencing and steel, stones underfoot and glaring light from the monitoring ship above, but they wouldn't want to harm us. We're working together.
Just hold my hand and walk forward and it will all be okay.
They've not stolen Megan, no! She volunteered. I don't know where you heard that rumor of people being taken prisoner.
She'll be fine. They've taken her to see their planet, like an exchange, that's all. She's living a better life now.
Go back to sleep, my love, my lover. I can't hear any noises outside. You must be dreaming them.
I'm not leaving you, I promise, I promise. I'm just going to visit Megan. I'll be back before you know it.
You'll be fine without me.
You'll be fine.
Little white lies can be told with the best of intentions but still make the world a worse place, for one person, or for everyone. Or both. Sometimes you shouldn't pretend everything is fine. Sometimes you need to trust that people can face the truth.
This story nearly carried some harmful implications about mental health; I wrote up an apology, along with some thoughts on causing offence versus perpetuating harm, in a blog post.
Update, January 2018: Brandon O'Brien gave this a gorgeous review at Strange Horizons, and I might be a little teary reading it.
All content (text and images) is © Matt Dovey 2018 unless otherwise noted.
2-column layout based on design by Matthew James Taylor.