Natie saw the Hand come down in the distance. Right into town. She gripped the branch she was on, eyes wide in horror as the hand began to move things. She saw the townhouse disappear into the sky. The Hand returned, but the townhouse didn’t.
What she had been told was to meet up with everyone else in the field when this happened. She would meet up with Mom and Dad and they would wait for the Cleaning to be finished. When it was, they would find their way home. But Natie couldn’t move. Her hands clung to the tree, as if afraid that leaving it and running toward the field would make her a big target for the Hand.
The Hand didn’t take people, she had been told. But the Hand didn’t take, as far as Natie was concerned. It was supposed to give them more food. More good things. It never took.
Then the Second Hand came and plucked Natie’s tree right out of the soil.
Natie screamed. She would have let go, but the ground seemed so far away. Her fear of falling outweighed the fear of being pulled up and up and up. She shut her eyes with a sob, feeling the air change as she kept coming up. Past the sky, into…