The Truth Behind the Flames. - *Movella of the Year 2016*

- - December 2016 - Story of the month- -Dancing. Flames are mystically dancing around me as they gradually begin to engulf my soul. How did I get here? How did my life fall to this? So much has led up to this moment of despair. Trapped beneath the rubble's hold, there is nothing that I can do to escape from the ever advancing flames. -- Cover by @Lady Panda --

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1. The Beginning.

Age Fourteen.

2414.

 

Bang. Bang. Bang.

 

Silence.

 

As I lay in my bed, drowning in sheets, I could hear the explosions around me. Their brief intervals allowed me to breathe but yet the echoes never stopped ringing in my ears - haunting my nightmares and plaguing my dreams.

This hell seemed to go on forever and I was helpless to stop it.

Although miles away, the reverberations and tremors could be felt even from where I lived. At night, the distant screams and blasts kept me awake as the suffering continued up until dawn broke and silence took its hold. And that was the worst part – the waiting. The quiet was filled with possibility whereas the noise served as a reminder and as a warning.

At least the noise didn’t trick us with false hope.

I had heard the stories and had been told the truth; over a million lives had been lost as a result of twenty years of meaningless bloodshed. At first, it had been a disagreement inside of the Military about how much power they should possess but then, as these things tend to do - it escalated.

Vocal members of each party vanished into nothing never to be seen again. Although I wasn’t alive at the time, I had read the articles and had read the books which detailed the events leading up to what we simply called ‘The War’.

It was meant to be a civil war but yet there was nothing civil about it.

People died and that was the reality of the situation. There was no point sugar coating it and there was no point denying it; war was evil and it was us – the civilians – who suffered the most. We were the cannon fodder and we were the soldiers who gave up everything for the greater good.

 In the beginning, the suspicion was covered up, but then the violence began and no-one could deny that something was brewing. Neither group took credit for it but tensions were running high as each party began to amass an army to destroy the other. There was little causing their quarrel but yet a single act triggered it to become a full out war.

One man and one bullet.

The leader of what was later known as the True Military was killed by a Rebel General. The actions and opinions of a single man were taken as an act of war as the armies descended to the battleground which for two decades housed only death and anguish.

No-one was winning, no-one would ever win, because there was nothing to win; the argument was long over and long lost; there was no goal and no endgame. The once peaceful lands which housed agriculture and life were now drowning in blood and bodies. Lives were discarded as their purpose was served and then next man climbed into the battle. Someday, this would all be a dark segment of history but for now, it was real – too real - and seemed as if it would never end.

I closed my eyes and listened to a moment of painful silence before the heartbeat of the battle started up once again and my mind flickered over to the battlefield.

How many men and women were dying as I lay here sleeping?

I swallowed down my buried guilt as I turned onto my side and slowed down my breathing. There was no point in worrying about matters that I couldn’t change, but still – I couldn’t help but fear the dangers that lay over the horizon. Within a moment, my fleeting life could be over and the war would continue to speed past.

As the sound of a door creaking open filled my ears, I let a faint smile cross over my lips as I sat upright and let the light flood into my eyes.

“Dad.”

“Helena.”

He smiled but yet it didn’t quite reach his eyes. Without another word exchanged between us, he moved over to the side of my bed and drew up an old wooden chair. It let out a pained grunt beneath his weight but neither of us had a chance to mention it as the next wave of explosions echoed across the horizon. Even beneath the blanket of darkness, I could see how tired my father looked and I could see the remnants of his nightmares etched into the skin of his forehead.

The war changed people and my father was just another example.

He’d sworn off violence when the war had first broken out, but now it was getting harder and harder to justify his decision. In his despair, he’d started to craft weapons to aid the war effort but he refused to make anything that was lethal. We’d lost friends and family to the bloodshed, but that was merely the reality of war; loss was the new normal.

 

Bang. Bang. Bang.

 

Silence.

 

Strumming his fingers in time to the beating heart of the battlefield, neither of us spoke because we didn’t need to. We were close because in the end, family was all that was left to cling onto; the darkness was moving in there was nothing that we could do to stop it. None of us wanted this life and now we were all just victims. None of this was fair but yet this was my life and I’d never really known any different. To me, normality was just a story and peace was merely a hope at the end of the tunnel. But the tunnel never seemed to get shorter and no end was in sight.

My father’s heavy breathing caught my attention as the thrumming of the explosions faded away into nothingness. Eventually, he placed a smooth metal sphere in my hands and watched as I studied his work. A cluster of coated wires led back into the body of the object after weaving themselves through the metal.

Eyes fixed firmly on my father’s work, I watched as he stripped the metal off of the object and showed me what was inside. Wielding a soldering iron mere hours before, he had fixed the wires and had created a weapon of war.

But all the weapons in the world amounted to nothing unless they were properly used; an army was nothing if it did not pull together as a unit. At the start, both groups were in chaos. Reading the papers, more men had died on the first day alone than in the tenth year. Such a harrowing statistic would always haunt me as each day crept past. It was strange to me – the idea of peace – because I had known nothing but a life of war.

But someday, it had to happen.

Someday soon I hoped, and my father was trying to bring it closer.

Although I had never received an honest answer, I finally drew up the courage to ask the question that had been playing on my mind since the beginning; I had to know and I had to understand where my family stood. For so long, I was scared of the truth but now I had nothing left to lose other than my parents and my sanity.

“What side are we on?”

Both groups had done wrong and both had done right. A schism had formed at the heart of our society leaving us to choose between two armies that stood for nothing and yet fought for everything.

Our future was at stake and neither side would give in.

Thousands of lives were being wasted in a war that would inevitably end in a negotiation. The victims had become nothing more than numbers and the survivors were barely clinging on.

My family was among the few who didn’t join the fight. Even the most peaceful of people were desperate for this hell to end and even my father was crafting weapons of war instead of his usual tools of peace. He had been broken by the war like so many others but now had decided to abandon his morals and join in the fight. Twenty years of war and despair had driven him to stoop to a level that he had sworn to never fall to.

But I could hardly blame him; we were all struggling.

He let out a breath, considering his answer before meeting my gaze with a soft smile.

“The right side.” he replied with a glint of hope in his eyes. With a brief grin, he showed me the inner workings of his project. I wasn’t satisfied with his answer but every time that I asked, his response was the same.

The war had forced me to grow up and now I understood the world far beyond my years. Conflict was all that I seemed to know but yet peace was all that I ever wanted. I just had to get away before I gave in completely. When I was sixteen, I didn’t want to join the army but instead get away from this hell and find myself a new life away from the chaos.

Smiling back and focusing on his words, I couldn’t help but admire the enthusiasm in his voice. He seemed tired but yet his dedication and interest never wavered, not for a single moment.

He was striving to make a difference and I could appreciate that – as futile as it was.

“So, what do you think?”

“It’s good.” We spent then next fifteen minutes discussing how the machine worked with frequent laughs and smiles shared between us. I had been brought up learning about battle strategy and weaponry and had soaked it up like a sponge, preparing myself for the future that I knew was inevitable. I had read every book in my father’s possession several times and had studied each manuscript and blueprint until I could visualise them from memory. His arsenal was one of the best left and to be honest, there was little else to do. The outside world was too dangerous and the war was getting closer every passing day.

I had grown up in a war that was still raging and that had shaped me into the person that I was today. I loved to sketch and to create small devices using the scraps from my father’s lab. Sparing a glance at the radio on the corner of my desk, I watched on as the moon light ricochet off the steel frame and bounced back into the darkness of my room.

Placing his hand supportively on my shoulder, my father’s towering form didn’t seem intimidating but more comforting. I felt safe in his company- safer anyway.

“One day you’ll go out there and do something amazing. Promise me that, Helena. Don’t waste your life.”

I nodded as a smile lit up my face.

The sound of shattering glass snapped my from my joy. I was never satisfied with a world at war and when it ended, I would be among those to pick up the pieces. I didn’t delude myself in thinking that I would play a large part but I refused to stand by and watch my society crumble. When the war ended, I wanted to be there to see it.

Because it had to end. There had to be an end.

That was what I told myself anyway.

“I promise you, I will Father.”

With a nod of acknowledgement, he drew the covers up to my chin before leaving. Staring at the ceiling, I closed my eyes and simply listened. So many people were dying as I lay helplessly, doing nothing for their cause. I lived my life as they died in agony for no real reason.

There was no victory.

There was no honour.

There was no mercy.

There was only death.

Men and women had died as we were having our conversation. Six or seven soldier died in per minute with no aim and no goal. The figure had drastically fallen since the beginning of the war but that didn’t make it any less harrowing. The reality never escaped me. Families were being ripped apart as I lay down in my bed – waiting for sleep to claim me.

 

Bang. Bang. Bang.

 

Silence.

 

As I drifted off into the realm of dreams, I tried to block out all traces of sound; soldiers screaming and dying, bombs exploding and tearing lives apart. Ignoring the hell which lay just over the horizon, I pulled myself together and let a deep breath escape from my lungs.

“I promise,” If I tried hard enough, I could pretend to ignore the quiver in my words. “I will make a difference.”

And until that day, I just had to wait.

 

Bang. Bang. Bang.

 

Silence.

 

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