Home of The Brave [[ON HOLD]]

[STARRING YOU! YES YOU!]

You wake up to a world that is vastly different to the one that you fall asleep to. There are no 'adults' - everyone over the age of 25 has suddenly disappeared.

It's a teen-eat-teen world out there. Some people are creating new countries - new teen led clans. You and your friends become involved in a clan conflict, wanting to unite the new 'adults' and teenagers together. However, some mysteries have popped up around the globe.

Can you find out what's happened before they take you too? Time's ticking.

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4. the beginning: iv

iv

The walk back home is sluggish, and you can feel everyone’s energy slowly drain as you head towards your house. You jingle the keys a bit, gaining some attention from some of the people in your group but you smile apologetically. Heads turn back to their own conversations or their own daydreams. You open your door, and hold it open for everyone else to walk through. Theo guides the crowd to your living room, seeing as she seems to know your house better than you know yourself.

“Over here, guys.” Her voice is soft, perhaps because she knows that the panic is still strong in the air.

You’re determined to not let the panic overwhelm you and your house, so you did your best to calm the trembling teenagers as they walked into your house. Even if you can slowly feel the panic in your knees but you try your best to keep yourself from collapsing into a ball of tears.

“First left as you travel down the hallway.”

As you turn around to lock the door, you feel a tap on your shoulder. You turn around, expecting to see someone of your height but a cough comes from below you. You peer down, realising that a petite girl is staring at you with watery eyes.

“Where’s ya loo?” She quietly asks.

“Down the hall, and it’s this little brown door on your right.” You say with a smile.

Your smile is shaky, yet she doesn’t seem to notice. She just simply turns around with a nod and heads in the direction you pointed out. As soon as you see her ponytail sway side-to-side, you let the smile drop from your face. Your face thanks you, and you finally feel like you can breathe properly. As if not smiling happily deflates you out of all your feelings.

“Hey, are the snacks in the cupboards?” Theo’s voice rings through the hallway.

“Like usual.” You raise your voice slightly, so that you can be heard above the quiet murmur of the TV.

You walk into your living room to see that some people have already made themselves at home. Carina is sitting on the arm of your sofa and her legs are intertwined with the very straight-faced Asian boy. She’s talking happily amongst people, but even you can see the shakiness in her hands when she high-fives someone. Her other hand grasps onto the Asian’s boys hand, and he doesn’t seem to mind but you can see his eyes darting to her and back on the TV, over and over again.

You dump your bag on the floor, along with some people’s belongings. Others carry it with them, clutching the strap tight as they sit uncomfortably on the sofa, neatly tucking themselves into one corner. You wonder whether they too can feel the nervousness in the air, the wobble in your throat as you greet them.

Some don’t meet your eye, choosing to look down at the floor for the most of your conversation. Your voice falters a bit but you try to remain cheerful but your conversation partner doesn’t seem to be enjoying your conversation.

“Sorry, what did you say your name was again?” You ask, hoping to reignite the conversation again.

The boy looks at you closely and somehow you feel like all your flaws are written on your face. He murmurs, “It’s okay, you don’t have to keep talking to me if you don’t want to.”

His voice is deeper than you expected, but you hide the shock on your face. You sigh, letting your body relax. “I’d rather keep talking to you, to be honest.”

“Fair enough.” He pauses, furrowing his dark eyebrows. “Ben.”

“What about Ben?”

He laughs, although you can feel the emptiness behind it. “My name. My name’s Ben.”

You want to kick yourself, but you settle for the nervous laugh instead. “Oh sorry, my name’s-”

“I know who you are.” He says simply, meeting your gaze once again. “You’re the leader here.”

Your eyes bulge out of their sockets. “L-l-leader?” You stutter.

“Do you not watch the way that people look at you? Even your friends. People are starting to look to you for answers and you have to be ready for that responsibility.” His voice sounds a lot older, a lot wiser but you put it down to a trick in your imagination.

The sudden weight of everyone’s wants and fears suddenly dawns on you, and your spirit feels heavier than you did before.

“But I didn’t do anything remotely…leader-ish!” You argue, defensively.

You don’t realise how loud your voice is, and it’s starting to gain attention. You look around, suddenly feeling self-conscious, realising that everyone’s eyes are trained on you. You open your mouth to say something else, but you close it, scared to embarrass yourself any further.

“You did come up with the idea of being in groups. That’s kinda like a leader.” Someone says, joining in with your conversation.

You open your mouth and close it again, finding it hard to argue with that logic. It’s not as if you don’t want to be a leader, but you’re just wary of the responsibility it accompanies. You know that everyone’s frightened and feeling panicky, but how are you supposed to help other people when you can’t even help yourself?

You feel your chest constrict, and you find it harder to breathe all of a sudden. The weight of everything so far is affecting you heavier than you expected, and you no longer can meet the eyes of the people around you, let alone Ben.

“Excuse me.” You excuse yourself, finding your way through the maze of feet and bodies to get to the exit.

People sense the panic emitted from your body, and move out of your way before you can even say the words. Someone places a concerned hand on you, but you shrug it off with a shaky smile, trying to convince them that you’re okay. You make your way to the bathroom, hoping that nobody is inside it. Your wish is granted, and you’re relieved to find your bathroom empty.

The click of the lock allows you to finally crumble, without feeling the eyes of everyone on you. You find yourself on the floor, not minding the sudden shock that the cold tiles give you. The only person who could calm you down was your father, and he was nowhere to be seen. The thought of your parents strikes a painful pang in your heart and you can’t help but feel the heaviness settle once again in the pit of your stomach. You’re exhausted, and there’s no more strength for you to pull yourself up out of this rut.

People are starting to look at you for answers.

What if you didn’t have the answers? Why did it have to be you? Why not anyone else?

The soft sound of someone sobbing pulls you out of your thoughts. You unlock the door and keep the door ajar so you can peek outside. You spot the source of the noise at the end of the hallway, huddled in a corner by themselves with their head under a blanket. You wonder why nobody has approached them yet, that is, if they’ve seen them before.

You open the door slowly, and approach them as if they’re a spooked animal, destined to run at any time. The sobs have gotten softer, as if the person has sensed your presence. You crouch down to their level, and the person finally reveals themselves to be the girl you saw earlier. Black tears are drying on her face as she blinks slowly at you.

“Are you okay?”

Clearly not. You regret it as soon as the words come out of your mouth. Still, the regret must be written on your face because the girl smiles at you, despite tears still running down her face.

“I’m fine, I’m fine.” Her voice is much softer than you expected it to be. She wipes her face with the back of her hand, not seeming to mind when a black streak appears on her hand.

There’s a heavy weight in the atmosphere as her laboured breathing continues. You sit beside her, bringing your knees up to your chin, and looking around the hallway. Your parents weren’t big fans of plastering their family photos on the wall and they definitely didn’t trust anyone who had “pretentious quotes” stuck on the wall.

‘You can’t trust a person who has Love, Life and Happiness planted on the wall.’ You remember your mother complaining, with a wine glass in her hand.

“It’s hard, I know.” You say the first thing that pops into your head.

You can feel the gaze burning into the side of your face, but you can’t seem to lift up your head and look back at her.

“How do we know that everything’s going to work out?” Her voice cracks mid-way through her sentence, and you finally look at her.

She’s not looking at you anymore, but instead she’s looking towards the ceiling. You notice the catholic beads on her bracelet and part of you wonders whether she’s praying to God, hoping that He’s playing some sort of cruel joke.

“We don’t.” You figure that it’s probably better to tell her the truth rather than hide from it. “But this doesn’t mean that the world should stop. It keeps on moving, and so should we.”

She stares at you, almost for the first time. Her eyes scan your facial features and you almost feel uncomfortable, but you realise that you’re the first person that’s spoken to her since she’s got here.

“I can’t promise that it’ll be okay, because I don’t know if it will.” You stand up, and offer a hand to her. She takes it straight away and pulls herself up. “But I hope it will, and for now, that’s enough for me.”

She nods solemnly, but she’s no longer crying anymore. Instead, there’s a steely sense of determination expressed on her face, to at least get through the day. One step at a time.

“Thank you.” You can tell she means it, and she even gives you a small smile. You return the smile and tell her that people are still in the living room.

People are starting to look at you for answers.

You think about what Ben said before and how the weight of it all suddenly dawned on you. You still don’t think of yourself as a leader, really you’re just a victim of circumstance. It’s really not your fault that your brother decided to call you and put you in the spotlight.

You wander over to your packed living room with the girl and the lively chatter almost overwhelms you. Theo throws you a look but you return her look with a smile. You don’t want your friend to worry more than she is, you’re not that type of person.

Everyone seems to be having one big conversation, and you see the girl from before happily joining in. It’s almost as if what happened earlier was just a dream but you know better than to ignore your gut. You laugh along with some of the jokes but one thing is always going to be in the back of your mind.

You need to find out what happened to the adults and fast.

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