When War Approaches

The World has been split into 26 countries labeled Country A through Z. Country Z is mad at the new generation, and they are determined to kill everyone under the age of 18. Country Z, who recently teamed up with Country Y, is now taking over the world, and Anderson's home is next on their kill list. -- Entry for The Dark Light Competition --

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1. One: Blushes

I wake up to no alarm. It's rather strange. I've had an alarm since first grade, but I am sixteen now and waking up to silence, to walls that were once vibrant, to a life that has become bleak. I still feel like jumping out of my bed, putting on my uniform, and, well, going to school as a school girl would, but that's not how my life is anymore.
     My country, Country T, has made an agreement to postpone all education until everything with Country Z has calmed down. I have to admit that Country Z wasn't the wealthiest country before all of this started. The way their people are treated is horrible. A long time ago, Country Z was rich with a population in the billions. Now those people have dropped like flies, and only the strong and hard make it.
     You see, they want to kill everyone under the age of 18 on this side of the world. Everyone else, except Country Y, think they are lunatics. Country Y made an alliance with them about five or six months ago. All the children in those countries are presumably dead; along with, of course, the people who died and are dying of starvation.  It's scary, but I believe in my country's military.
    I stretch out lazily and swing my legs over the side of my bed. My bare feet hit the cold floor and grip it as I stand up and exit my bedroom.
    "Hey, Mom," I say while stifling a yawn and walking into the kitchen. I sit down on the edge of our wooden table and observe my mom for a moment.
    "Morning, Anderson. I made you some toast, and once you finish it, can you get our rations for this week?" she asks, looking at me for a second before returning her eyes to her work.
    "Can't John or Emily do it?" I ask.
    "They're young. Let them sleep." I sigh and grab the toast. I brush my long black hair, put on my bra, and grab our ration card. I can't believe this is my new normal. I miss the dull school walls, the sweet school girl kisses, and I even miss the homework. I hope this war will end soon. Sure, I have a boyfriend - Adam, but the country has also banned us eating alone. It's 'a threat' they say. I don't know who we are harming, though. He is, however, coming over to my house tonight. He has five siblings instead of just two, so I can see why he constantly wants out of the house.
    I arrive at our local store and show the friendly man our ration card. It states all of our names and ages: Jack Barclay - forty-six, Christine Barclay - forty-five, Anderson Barclay - sixteen, John Barclay - thirteen, Emily Barclay - five.
    "You get five and a half cups of rice, 6 cups of milk, one and three quarters a loaf of bread, one and three-quarters of a pound of produce, three and a half tablespoons of butter, seven supplies of your choice, and two pounds of other items. Here is you the receipt and your card. Grab your choice items and come back to get your mandatories." You can tell he says the same thing over and over again to dozens of customers.
    I get a few tomatoes, blueberries, and two bananas for the produce, and noodles, sauce, and coffee as our other.  I  also get John a straw hat, Emily a hair brush compact,

Dad a razor, batteries for myself, and mom told me to get a small radio that comes in a little box that I will use for my art supplies. I go over to the counter. He checks what I got, and puts it all into two large bags.
    "Thanks," I tell him as I head back to the house. When I get through the door, Emily and John are awake and sitting at the table,
    "Supplies!" they both shout. This is the best time of the week for them and  me too.
    "What did you get? What'd you get?" Emily insists.
    "I have," I say slowly as I get into the bag with the supplies, "one razor for dad," he has just come in, so I give him a kiss on his scruffy check and hand him the razor, "a straw hat for you, John," I put it on his head, and he smiles widely, "a mirror with a brush for Emily, batteries--"
    "What are the batteries for?" Emily asks with gleaming eyes.
   "A new radio!" I fumble with the box for a little bit because I don't want to break it and pull out the small shiny radio. Everyone is so happy because we know the food won't

Be scraps and that we can wear things or use things that aren't so worn out. I look around. Mom is putting the batteries in the radio, John proudly wearing his hat, Emily is brushing her hair, and Dad has disappeared today.
    A memory comes back from before the war. Of sweet dates, flat screen TVs, monotonous homework, and books that I hadn't read a thousand times over. Good memories, but, somehow, I can't imagine life being back to the way it was within my lifetime. Poor Emily won't remember her time at school or going to a grocery store. She will remember rations, radios, and waking up late.
    The day drags on like any day would. We garden, help Dad with the animals, and relax. Even though it has been nine, maybe ten months since

school was canceled, it still feels like a book that I'm living. About two months ago, I got a wrist watch that I love. I tend to the horses, and give myself thirty minutes to prepare for Adam's coming. I put on my nicer shirt from before all this started and some clean dark jeans. I pull some of my hair up with a barrette and put on some lotion and chapstick on.
    Sooner than I thought, there is a knock on the door. I swing it open, and his lean frame is leaning on the door frame.
    "Did I make you wait too long?" I say with raised eyebrows.
    "Hey to you too," he says with a quick kiss.
    "Eww," says Emily from behind me. I smile and lift her up onto my hip, "Hey, Adam," she says with a smile.
    "Hello, Emily." I put her down, and she runs off -  probably to tell my parents that he is here,
    "How was your ration day?"
    "Good, we got a radio."
     "Awesome! Can we please listen to it. I don't know any news." His eyes turn soft, "Or, you know what, I want to listen to music."
    "I have a CD of the top 100 hits of all time..."
    "You're the best. Really."
    "Would you like to move from the doorway, so my parents don't think we're making out or running away."
    "True," He says. He grabs my hand and pulls me into the dining room.
    "Hey, Adam," my mom says with a sweet smile. I think I am really in love with him. I feel like we could spend the rest of my life with me.
    "Mrs. Barclay, I need to stay over at your house tonight. My parents are taking Collie, Ben, Ally, Thomas, and Skylar to their yearly doctor's appointments.
    "Sure. You can sleep in Anderson room, as long as nothing happens, but why aren't you going?"
    "I'm healthy, and they need someone to stay home. It is only 20 miles away, but that is a long walk."
    "Sure is. Anderson, can he split your rations?"
    "Yup," I say gladly, "Are you ready to listen to some music?"
    "Yes," he says as we head to my room, "I haven't listened to any in months." At this point, I have put the CD in the radio.
    "My favorite artist of all time," I say with a pure smile. It is a little bit scratchy, but it's worth all the money in the world for the look on Adam's face. He has short brown hair, blue eyes, and I can tell he hasn't used his razor ration. There is a gentle acoustic intro, and as she sings the first word, he opens his eyes.
    "Our Song? By Taylor Swift? It's such an old song, but I still remember the lyrics. Come on, sing with me?" He pulls me up, and we join in at the chorus:

Our song is the slamming screen door,
Sneakin' out late, tapping on your window
When we're on the phone and you talk real slow
'cause it's late and your mama don't know
Our song is the way you laugh
The first date: "Man, I didn't kiss her, when I should have."
And when I got home ... 'fore I said amen
Asking God if he could play it again

I've heard every album, listened to the radio
Waited for something to come along
That was as good as our song...

'Cause our song is the slamming screen door,
Sneakin' out late, tapping on his window
When we're on the phone and he talks real slow
'cause it's late and his mama don't know
Our song is the way he laughs
The first date: "Man, I didn't kiss him, when I should have"
And when I got home ... 'fore I said amen
Asking God if he could play it again
Play it again

Oh, yeah...
Oh-oh, yeah.

I was riding shotgun
With my hair undone
In the front seat of his car
I grabbed a pen
And an old napkin
And I wrote down our song

    We bust out laughing at the memories and just lay on my bed in bliss. Mom calls us for dinner, and it is pretty good. We eat chicken in pasta with a little bit of bread and chopped of tomatoes. It tastes good compared to the end of the week. I don't have as much as my siblings, but I;m happy to spend time with Adam. We've been together for a little over a year, and it  has been amazing.
    We listen to the news in the living room after Emily has gone to bed. They say Country Z has made it all the way to Country V, but they are being slowed down. Adam and I leave them to listen around midnight. We get under the covers on opposite sides of the bed. He's slept next to me before, but it still feels weird. 16 years of being alone, and suddenly someone is there. He rolls over on his side, and I do the same.
    "Do you ever worry about the war? I mean If they came here, we'd be killed."
    "Nice bedtime story, but, honestly, yes." I look down. I don't know why I'm embarrassed. It is scary having a death order over your head,
     "I haven't told your parents yet, but my grandmother has a farm in the county. If Country Z ever does make it here, we'll go there. You, me, and all of our siblings. I don't want anything to happen to you." I can't believe what he is saying. Leave?
    "Yes, I would go," I say,
    "Thanks." He rolls over on his back again, and I snuggle up by him, "I love you." I close my eyes,
    "I love you too." I lay there for a while, and I don't know exactly when I fall asleep.
 I wake up the next day pretty early, but Adam isn't there. He usually sleeps later than anyone else I know claiming that only a kiss can make him get up. I stretch and hope that he is still here. The house is  quietly as I go into the kitchen. Adam, Dad, and Mom are all standing around the radio with its volume on low. They're talking, and Mom is crying.
    "We'll have to give them all our money, and--" I hear my dad say. He always brushes his hair right as he gets up, but right now it is ruffled, and he hasn't shaven either.
    "Dad?" I interject.
    "Oh Anderson," My mom says before she runs over and hugs me. I don't know what's happening, but I feel my eyes prickling and a sinking feeling in my chest,
    "Adam, tell me what is happening." He folds his lips in and sighs before answering.
    "Remember what I said to you last night?" I nod, "Well Country Z and Y groups are a little more than 20 miles away. They're killing all they kids they see, and we, all 9 of us, are going to go." I'm numb for about a second, but then I feel the energy in my veins.
     "Do I need to wake up E-Emily and John?" I manage to ask.
     "Yes," my dad says when the others don't, "Adam is going to get his siblings, sell their ration card, pack up, and get all the money he can. We will do the same, and when he comes back. You will go to the store before heading to a farm. Mrs. Kurt will bring you supplies." My mom nods, and then they leave, to get the ration card and money presumably, and Adam and I are left alone. He comes up, says nothing, but hugs me. I smell his clean clothes that won't be this clean ever again. I go into the kids room. What will I say?
    "Good morning, little boy and little girl," I manage to muster a smile, "We have to go somewhere pretty soon without Mommy and Daddy, so I'm going to help you pack."
     "An adventure?" John asks.
    "Yes." I pack John first. I tell him to choose one fun thing to put in the bag. He wants a deck of cards from a few months ago. I pack his reading book, two shirts, a pair of pants, a pair of shorts, three pairs of underwear, and a coat. There is a little space where I shove one of his small blankets and a tiny bear. I think he knows why we are going.
    Emily is more cheerful than the rest. She wants to bring the brush and mirror, I pick a dress, a skirt, one pair of shorts, and one pair of pants along with two short sleeves and three long-sleeve shirts, and four pairs of underwear because they are smaller. There is also a little space left in hers as well, so I put in her blanket.
    I dress them in shorts and a t-shirt and stuff one pair of socks in each pocket. I smile as warmly as I can and tell them to wait in their room. Now, it is time for me to pack. I pack my art box, extra batteries, a flashlight, a large water bottle, feminine produc, three long sleeve shirts, three short sleeves, one pair of jeans, leggings, a pair of shorts, five pairs of underwear, and three bras. I put on a pair of pants, and a soft, but thick, t-shirt. I put about 50 hair ties in one pocket, and a compact brush and socks in the other. I put on my straw hat and get ready.
    My parents are waiting in the kitchen.
    "Listen very carefully, Anderson. Sell your, Emily, and John's ration card space. You'll get a fair amount of money along with what we have, which isn't much. Adam will be back soon. You have to walk a few miles before you can ride the rest of the way. Adam will lead you. Get food, batteries, water bottles, and everything money can buy. Mrs. Kurt will pay for your food after that. Get stuff that won't go bad. Okay?"
    "Okay." My brain is working over speed. Adam walks in with his five siblings all with little backpacks. Skylar walks in first. She has red hair, blue eyes and is 13. Next comes Thomas, who has Adams hair, green eyes, is tall, and is a little younger than Skylar. Ally is the youngest at 8. She has freckles, dark brown hair, and blue eyes. Ben is Skylar's fraternal twin, but her also has red hair, though it is darker than, and blue eyes. Collie lags behind Adam. She is his clone, curly hair, deep blue eyes, and the same lean frame. I always tell him he has cloned himself as a girl to which he always blushes.

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