Remains of a War
“Today is the twenty-seventh of March,” my mother’s kind soft, bird-like voice, “You know what that means.”
“Yep, it’s our little Ellie’s 4th birthday,” the confident, strong voice of my father.
“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday to Ellie, happy birthday to you.”
“Come on, sweetie, blow your candles.”
“Don’t forget to make a wish.”
“Ugh, oh god. Elina! ELINA!”
“Ellie, ELLIE, Get up!”
“GO, ELINA, GO!”
“Come on Ellie. We have to go,” how she could keep her voice this calm, I don’t know.
The screen goes black. That was my only memory of my mother and father. My fourth and last birthday with them. I could remember my father being buried under an enormous amount of rubble. I remember being separated away from my mother in the huge crowd when we tried getting out of our home. The only home I ever knew in my 15 years of living, 11 of which were and are in a floating piece of metal. In space. Above what’s known as Planet-E, our planet. Who are they kidding? Who actually believes that we used to live on that huge, dull, grey rock?
There are almost no colours at all, except maybe for the blood of our army and the durmies. There is an extremely small and rare amount of what they call ‘natural plants’. Wooden sticks stuck to a bigger wooden stick. They’re ugly, I don’t know how they almost share the name with our plents. The teachers told us that once Planet-E was covered in something known as ‘grass’, wide threads of a green material that feels like plastic. I was also told that there were once loads of naturals plants and trees. The wooden things found on Planet-E are the remains of trees, but at some point, the trees were also covered in green plastic-feeling things, but much wider than grass; leaves. All of Planet-E is covered by huge, deep craters left by bombs, and sometimes -in the extremes- flires.
I remember living in the neighbourhoods in our lovely house, it was something only rich people could afford back then. A green space of land floating in space equipped with everything you might ever need, houses, a school, parks and supermarkets. I even heard that some of the neighbourhoods had cinemas and amusement parks. We were supposed to go to one of those amusement parks. That was before the whole neighbourhood got targeted by bombs. Everyone lost someone they loved that day, parents, siblings, children and even pets.
And it’s all because of this stupid war. A war with no purpose, one started decades ago and continued only out of spite, greed and hatred.
“Move it, Ellie, stop being lazy and come downstairs,” that’s my best friend, Jacklinso AKA Jack AKA JC, “Ellie this is the month’s end. Get UP!”
“So what, Jack?” I mutter lazily.
“Moth’s end,” he said, “How many times does that happen?” I can tell he’s trying to calm down, he doesn’t want us to have an argument, especially since he’s going to turn 18 in a week.
Tears fill my eyes and my blood starts to boil, I can’t bear to lose my best friend in that stupid war. NO ONE EVEN KNOWS WHAT IT’S ABOUT! Tears roll down my rough skin and onto my pillow. I sigh, pulling my body out of the bed.
“Fine,” I say wiping my tears away.
“Come on, french fry,” he says putting his arm around my shoulder, “Wipe those tears away.”
Despite the swelling hole in my heart, I laugh at the familiar nickname. It has been with me ever since I came here. I had only turned 4 and was very miserable about losing both my parents. I wouldn’t eat for days. Jacklinso once saw the childcare worker trying to feed me. It was french fries she was trying to feed me, and when JC saw that I was as skinny and almost as pale as the french fry, I earned the life-long nickname. I never minded it though, and I always laugh when he calls me that.
We go down the metal stairs, my legs feeling heavier with each step I take. As we enter the dining room, I remember that I hate everything in this ‘orphanage’. All the rooms, including this one, are very small considering the dozens of children living here. It either smells like sweat or rust. Everything is made of cheap metal. All the walls are grey and there are absolutely no decorations. There aren’t even any windows.
I sigh as I follow the smell of sausage and eggs, “Guess it’s the same breakfast, huh?”
“Ellie just sit and get done with breakfast,” he says stuffing an egg in his mouth, “I have a few metal pieces. I can get us candy.”
“You’ve got metal pieces?!” I shout before I can stop myself.
“SHUT UP,” Jack whisper-shouts, “Yes, in gun training they give whoever shoots best a metal piece,” he whispers.
“Woah, that’s like the only thing that’s good about going to...,” I sigh, “To war.”
“Hey, I’ve been thinking, since I’m going after a month or something,” he takes a pause, I can tell he’s considering what he’s about to say, “Maybe we can do something, you know, troublesome.”
“Omg, yes! We definitely should-”
“Don’t!” he warns, “Don’t get too excited. I’ll change my mind.”
I don’t blame him for warning me. Bad decisions are made whenever I get too excited. Like, really bad. We once almost got cast out because of me. Even though living here is awful, being cast out is even worse.
“You know, I’ve been thinking about the name of this place,” Jack says, “‘P.O.C.F.’ I want to know what the F stands for,” he swallows his food then continues, “They always tell us that ‘P.O.C.’ stands for ’Protection Of Children, but they never mention the F.”
I snort at that and JC scowls at me, “Hey, they aren’t exactly ‘protecting’ us. It’s just really ironic ok?”
“Be grateful that we aren’t fighting on Planet-E,” he takes a pause, rolling his eyes, “Yet.”
“Great, now you ruined my mood,” I sigh.
We eat in silence when an idea hits me, “JC, what if you don’t go fight?”
“What do you mean?”
“Like, what if you refuse to go or run away or something?”
“As if me saying no will change anything. It’s not like we have a choice. And I obviously can’t run away.”
“Why not?” I groan, “I’ll come with you. We can go anywhere.”
“Anywhere, Ellie? Yeah sure, let me just pack my bag and we can go wherever we want to go, literally, because we’re in space remember?” he sits back, “We won’t survive seconds outside this box.”
It’s then that I realize I haven’t even seen any place outside our metal box. In school, we learned that there are thousands of metal boxes, all of them numbered. Our box is numbered 915. We were told that all the boxes are the same exact copies of each other, except of course for the farms and factories and so on. I feel dumbfounded for not noticing before that there is so much to do out of this stupid metal thing. The thought makes me want to set fire to the whole place or wreck it. Maybe we can go to an abandoned building and cause chaos. Like the library!
“Hey JC, you said you wanted to see what the F stood for, right?”
“Huh? I mean, I was just wondering.”
“Let’s go to the library and find out then,” I gush.
Jacklinso stops eating and squints at me, chewing his food slowly while questioning, “What are you up to?”
“Nothing. Nothing harmful.”
He still squints at me and I put on the most innocent face I can muster.
With a sigh and a regretful expression, he says, “Alright, after we eat. BUT we will go nowhere other than the library... and the store.”
“Yes! Thank you, Jack!”
I gulp down the rest of my breakfast and go wear my ‘going out’ clothes. As soon as I’m done getting ready, I go and wait for JC at the exit.
“Let’s go, El.”
“Someone’s looking fine. How did you get these clothes, Jack?” I inquire about his very good looking sweater.
“Combat training has its perks. Oh, you know what? Maybe we can get you a new hoodie since you like them so much.”
“That’d be nice, I guess.”
We start heading to the door and JC opens it when I hear her voice. I can’t stop myself before my eyes roll and my lips forge a scowl.
“And where are you two going?”
I internally groan. ’sarn it! Madam Bindles, our caretaker, the sweetest woman in the world. Why does she have to be so nosy? It’s the month’s end and it’s none of her business where we’re going.
“Toablome, where are you and Lizank going?”
“Just going to the library,” he smiles sweetly, “And the candy store, I mean the market. The candy store in the market. That’s all. I promise.”
“Well, you know when the curfew is. You better be here before then by at least,” she looks at her watch, “By ten minutes.”
“Yes of course,” JC says as he pushes me out of the door.
I quickly run out with a confused look on my face, “Why’d she let us out so easily?”
“Dunno, maybe she feels pity because I’m leaving in 30 days” JC states with a shrug.
“Well, let’s not waste our time thinking of her. The last one to the market is a nincompoop!” I shout as I quickly take off.