:)(: Paart Wun
Brad can recall some of what the world was like before Earth’s makeover. He remembers ground rattling booms, loud, darting pitter-patters, hiding in dark places, and his family. He misses Emmy, his father and his older brother Stan. He doesn’t miss constantly living in fear.
The war started out small in South America. The Russians backed South America’s dictator, Diego Fuentes-Corridori. The North American President, Marik Yurack, gave orders to invade South America for breaking the Universal Peace Treaty of the United Nations of the World. Storming into Guatemala at 3 a.m. on a Sunday, the Russians and the South American military tried to take the country by force.
Many years before Brad existed, the “United Nations of the World” was formed. The U.N.W. is different from the U.N. in that there’s no need to promote peace, security, and international cooperation because there is only one nation. When it was formed, suddenly the president of each country became a combination of a governor and senator. They were, daresay, “governor-generals” to the Chief of the U.N.W., who was the Head of the United Nations of the World. Regional presidencies lasted 8 years and the presidents could be elected to a second term, but as Chief of the U.N.W., one could only serve once for a term of ten years.
The U.N.W. system seemed easy: one Judicial system worldwide (among the U.N.W.) and law offenders were punished to the fullest extent of U.N.W. Code.
Europe suggested the concept of the U.N.W., while Canada, America, Russia and several African countries helped form it into a reality. As the years passed, the rest of the world’s nations joined the U.N.W. The world was then divided into ten parts: North America (Canada, America, Mexico, and Central America), South America, Europe, Russia, Australia (and New Zealand), United Asia (All Asian countries on the Asia continent except Russia), North East Africa, North West Africa, South East Africa, and South West Africa.
Each region was sort of like a state. Each region enforced the U.N.W. Code differently because of cultural differences. As long as a citizen had clearance, they could travel and live anywhere.
Three religions dominated the U.N.W.: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Religion wasn’t the reason for the violence. People were responsible for the violence; they had a hard time adjusting to the one world order. Religious leaders were screaming that the world was coming to an end. They weren’t entirely wrong.
Diego Fuentes-Corridori had overthrown South American president Alejandro Vasquez and made all of South America independent from the U.N.W. He said he would liberate the entire world from Satan’s spawn, Sean McClurrie, who was the last Chief of the U.N.W. Diego started his revolution invading North America Territory, and by liberating Guatemala and making it a part of his kingdom of freedom.
First, there was a North American draft. Anyone healthy from age 18 to 28 and not an only child was shipped to boot camp and then flown into a war zone.
The Russian President, Kryl Chausovskaya, agreed with the South American dictator and also joined the kingdom of freedom. Europe and U.A. invaded Russia in an attempt to overthrow Chausovskaya, but Russia was prepared. Across the world everyone suddenly wanted freedom. Regions were either defending themselves, or fighting to be free.
Diego and Kryl were each desperate to win. Biological warfare was the next step. A super flu bug killed 30 percent of the world’s population. Famine broke out because the crops were also contaminated by biological warfare, which brought the population loss to 50 percent.
A few years after Brad was born, bionics were brought into the game of war. Soldiers were getting wounded and there wasn’t enough time or enough people to train recruits. A Northern American scientist, Dr. Marquis Tate, developed bionic limbs, thanks to his research in chemical genetics and a love of animatronics. Somehow he created synthetic organic material equipped with smart technology. An armless soldier got his arms back and they felt just the same; with a few tweeks, they were invincibly strong.
Brad was five the day the world changed. He and his family were with a group of other families just as terrified as they were. They were hiding in a building only days away from ruin. They had to travel through a zone of destruction, walking over and climbing on and under debris. Brad had been dirty for some time, but journeying through this made him even grungier, covering him with pasty dust from the cold, prickly sharp pieces of rubble. Wires and cables were loose, hanging from the ceiling and seeping through the cracks in what little of the walls were left as well as in the cracks in the rubble.
Brad’s dad said they were somewhere in Tuck-son. He remembers him saying that they had to continue to head south. Brad was tired. He had trouble walking since the searing, shiny pebble of a bullet pierced him, injuring his left leg and leaving it pulsing with pain.
It happened a few nights before in the cool desert. They accidentally walked into a battle zone of U.N.W. soldiers and K.O.F. soldiers. K.O.F. soldiers fired at the civilians to piss off U.N.W. soldiers, and U.N.W. soldiers fired at K.O.F. soldiers to protect the civilians.
Brad’s dad was a doctor before the war; he prevented Brad from dying, but he couldn’t take away the pain. Stan had been a good big brother. He carried Brad on his shoulders because Brad’s dad was too old.
U.N.W. soldiers found them hiding. There were five families in all. The U.N.W. soldiers offered to help them head further south. They all agreed to go, but first they needed to find a place to sit and rest.
Emmy held Brad in her arms and sang him his favorite lullaby. She would rock side to side and Brad’s eyes would grow heavy. He would force his eyes to stay open so he could stare into her angelic brown ones. They were the most beautiful eyes he’d ever seen. They weren’t dull like other peoples’.
There was something different about Emmy. Stan knew that too. That’s why she stayed with them when Brad, his father and Stan found her. Soon after being together, Stan and Emmy became like Pavel and Lola, Chloe’s parents. Brad’s dad said many times that Stan and Emmy also reminded him of himself and his Felicia, the mother that Brad never knew.
Brad fell asleep in Emmy’s arms, as he often did when she sang to him. He woke up to the sound of roaring, savage men- more specifically- roaring, savage U.N.W. soldiers. Their eyes were purple and their veins rose on the surface of their skin. Their complexion was a feverish yellow. These soldiers didn’t use their guns. They attacked with their bare hands. They lifted people, two at a time, off the ground like ten pound weights and tossed them across the darkness into the land of destruction. With every thud, a clash of debri would sound and pieces of rubble would fly, scattering all over and crashing into more rubble, repeating the cycle again and again.
Brad heard a thudding in his ears and felt a pounding in his chest. He was horrified and struggled to catch his breath due to the smoggy air that was created from the pasty rubble dust. Brad looked around for Emmy, but didn’t see her. He tried to cry out for her, but his voice never left his mouth.
His eyes searched for anyone he recognized. Brad’s eyes quickly locked onto his father, who was roaring like a savage and using a pitter-patter machine to attack a U.N.W. soldier with more shiny pebble bullets. The pitter-patter pebble shooter didn’t work. The beastly U.N.W. soldier knocked the weapon out of his hands. Then the soldier grabbed Brad’s father by the neck and lifted him into the air. His face flushed red and he strained to breathe. He vigorously kicked his legs, fighting to break free. Frustrated, the soldier crushed his neck and the man instantly fell limp. Then the soldier tossed Brad’s father into the rubble.
Stan, in a rage, charged the same soldier. Stan caught the soldier off guard and grabbed the savage’s neck from behind. He trapped the soldier in a head lock and before the beast man could counter to break loose, Stan twisted his neck and released the soldier from his grasp. The savage soldier buckled to his knees and fell face first into a pile of rubble.
Brad cried for Stan; this time his voice actually left his mouth and Stan immediately directed his attention. He ran towards Brad to protect him, but while he was still a few feet away a fist burst out of Stan’s chest. Blood splattered all over Brad, who was crouched in a corner. Brad’s eyes leaked tears of horror and sorrow. Stan collapsed before Brad.
A savage soldier reached for Brad with his bloody arm. He picked Brad up by his head and easily lifted him into the air. He cocked his arm back and balled his hand into a fist. As he swung forward, a loud thunder crackled overhead and a fierce, brisk wind cleared the smog. The attack of crazed soldiers seemed to slow to a sudden stop. A shuddering shriek whistled among them. Brad felt his ears pulsing, and at some point, he only heard a rushing sound of whips of air within his ears. A bright light consumed them. The light oddly enough didn’t hurt Brad’s eyes, but he still couldn’t see anything or anyone. The light was instantly replaced by darkness, and soon after that, Brad blacked out.
…11 YEARS LATER…
Brad abruptly wakes from his slumber. Sweat seeps heavily from his pores, head to toe. He jerks forward and sits up, clutching the open-face book against his chest. He breathes short breaths, trying to relax. It’s still dark, which means he hasn’t slept long.
Brad closes the book and puts it under his pillow. He lies back down as quietly as possible, but it’s too late: when he turns to face her, she’s looking at him with her beautifully gentle brown eyes. His own eyes have just begun to adjust to the dark, but he’s close enough to her to see hers. She reaches out to him, and lays her hand on the side of his sticky face. Gently he removes her hand, and holds it.
“I thought we got rid of that?” She whispers.
“I couldn’t. It’s all I have left of them.”
“You have memories Brad, good ones, and you don’t need one like that to remember them. All it ever does is give you nightmares.”
“Not always,” He tells her, kissing her hand.
“Are you okay? Can you go back to sleep?”
“As long as you hold on, I can sleep peacefully.”
She smiles and pecks him on the lips, scooting closer to him under the covers. She still holds his hand as she turns to her other side. They are nestled so close that they can feel each other’s body heat and absorb the warmth comfortably as they drift off to sleep.
…THE NEXT DAY…
Brad can feel the sun’s light dance on his eyelids. He takes a deep breath as he opens his eyes. The urge to stretch is fretting through every thread of his body, from his shoulders to his ankles. He sits up, reaching for the sky and stretching his upper body. Then, he stands, stiffening his legs and stretching his lower body. He dances like a goof as he wiggles his limbs, satisfying his stretching urge.
Everyone’s bedding is folded and piled in the usual corner. Brad picks up his pillow and tosses it into the corner by the only window in the large sleeping room. He takes his top cover and snaps it like a whip, flaring out as he brings it down. It flutters nicely on top of the padded bottom cover. Then, he folds both in half, then in fourths, and as always, he puts his bedding on top of the rest of the bedding.
Wait… Brad doesn’t know where his journal is. It was under his pillow or in his bedding, he would have felt it. Emmy…
Brad races out of the room and heads to the main room. The entire family is eating the morning meal at the table, except Emmy. Everyone is in their usual spot. Pavel is at the head of the table, and Lola is at the end of it. Chloe is sitting to her right and Raja is at her left. Honza is to Pavel’s right and Brad’s spot is open at Pavel’s left. Emmy should be next to Chloe, which is also next to his spot. Josef is in between the two love birds, Raja and Honza.
“Where’s Emmy?” Brad said, standing in the doorway between the sleeping room and the main room.
“Come son, have something to eat.” Lola says.
“It’s your favorite Brad! Hot oats with goat’s milk,” Josef exclaims.
Josef was born shortly after they ended up here. He was the first baby to be born here. Everyone knows who he is; he’s famous among the rest of villagers for some reason.
Brad loves any hot meal. Hot oats with goat’s milk is Josef’s favorite, so he thinks it’s everyone’s favorite meal. Brad can’t eat right now. He has to find Emmy.
“You need to eat now. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” Pavel says.
“I need to find Emmy. She has-,” Brad forgot what the book is called.
“Your father’s journal is in your basket,” Honza says as he stuffs his mouth with a spoonful of creamy oats.
“How do you know that?”
“Because Emmy said that’s where she put it. Now sit down and eat Brad,” Chloe snaps.
“Don’t talk to your brother like that,” Lola says.
Frustrated by Lola’s words, Chloe drops her spoon in her bowl of oats and stares at her mother. “He isn’t my brother. Honza and Josef are my brothers. Emmy and Raja are not my sisters! Now if you excuse me, I have chores to do.”
Chloe angrily stands up and heads for the door.
“You will not raise your voice in my house Chloe!” Pavel demands. “That was disrespectful-“ Chloe opens the door and she slams it as she exits, “-of you,” Pavel grunts irately.
Enough disrespect has occurred this morning. Emmy is probably out in the fields doing her work. Brad sits in his spot to eat. Everyone left at the table stares at him.
Chloe has always been a difficult person to be around, but she’s easier to put up with when she’s in love. Sam came to live with them before Josef was two. He was tall, charismatic, and in love with Chloe. They began courting a couple of years ago. A few months before Emmy showed up, almost a year ago to date, Sam disappeared. All of his things were gone. He left without saying goodbye. Chloe’s heart was crushed, and it has yet to become full again.
Brad understands how uncomfortable she must be, but he doesn’t understand what a broken heart feels like. Next to Josef, Chloe is the only single person in the household. Raja and Honza will be moving out soon once Honza and Pavel are done building the house next door. One day, Brad hopes one day soon, Pavel will help him build a home on the other side of this one, and Brad and Emmy can move out. Brad always feared he would live in this household until Pavel and Lola died, but even then the place would belong to Josef, their true-blooded son. Now, thanks to Emmy, Chloe unfortunately will die in this household as a single person.
“What?” Brad asks.
Everyone looks away from Brad except Pavel. Brad asks him, “What?”
Pavel smiles and shakes his head.
“What?” Brad asks again.
He doesn’t know what Pavel is thinking, but wishes he did.
“Nothing,” Pavel says. He continues to eat.
Brad quietly eats his hot oats with goat’s milk, that are now lukewarm. As he is eating, he thinks about Emmy: about her eyes and how good he feels when he gazes directly into them. He can hardly wait until mid-day meal, when he’ll see her again. After they finish eating, they’ll have some time to go to the creek. They’ll have a short contest to see who is the best at skipping rocks; Brad knows he’ll win, but he loves competing with her anyways, and who knows, maybe one day she’ll beat him. Nearly done eating, Brad had a small, but largely horrifying thought.
What if Emmy has left forever?
She isn’t like Sam. She would never leave Brad and not say goodbye.
Emmy would never leave at all.
Brad thought about skipping rocks with her at the creek again, and his worrying ceased.
“Would you like to help us build today Brad?” Pavel asks, rising out of his chair.
Brad would love to. He wasn’t done eating but Pavel and Honza were. Brad decided he would just eat more at mid-day meal. Eagerly Brad stood up and said, “Yes, absolutely!”
Brad is exhausted. He wants to skip his mid-day meal and sleep. Even worse, after he eats, he has to continue to build with Honza and Pavel. Brad prefers field work over building, but he eagerly awaits it because he is learning how to build his future home.
In one morning’s work, he already has learned so much. He knows how to carve wood, which is extremely important because the wood makes the house. If he makes one mistake, they have to cut down more trees to carve more wood. In Brad’s dad’s journal, he talked about DEFORESTATION, and how it devastated many lands and affected many people. Brad doesn’t want to devastate anyone.
After they’re done eating, they are finishing the foundation. Brad has to tell Emmy that they will have to skip rocks at the creek tomorrow. Brad doesn’t have the energy or time to do it today.
Everyone sits down to eat, and that’s when Brad notices Emmy is missing, just like this morning. Brad begins to panic.
Where is she?!
Calmly, he asks, “Where’s Emmy?”
“Have you checked to see if her stuff is still here?” Chloe says drolly.
Brad staggers to his feet and rushes into the sleeping room, walking over to everyone’s baskets near the door. They are all full.
Something must have happened to her.
“I’m going to look for her,” Brad says, heading for the door.
“I’m right here, Brad,” Emmy says from behind him.
Brad sighs in relief as he closes the door. She takes his hand and together they take their seats.
She will never leave.
Lola glares at Chloe hastily. Chloe rolls her eyes. Sighing she says, “I was only joking, Brad. I’m sorry.”
Brad laughs faintly, “Why be sorry? Emmy isn’t Sam.”
Chloe excuses herself and leaves the house again without finishing her meal. Emmy told Brad how rude he was, but she doesn’t understand. This is what he and Chloe always do. When she’s mean to him, he’s mean to her. When she teases him, he teases her. He’s sure that she will retaliate at evening meal, and by morning meal he will have his revenge.
“Emmy is right, Brad; you were very disrespectful to Chloe,” Pavel says authoritatively. “You will apologize when she gets back,” Pavel adds demandingly.
“I love vegetable porridge,” Josef says.
“You love everything,” Emmy says.
“That isn’t true,” Honza adds.
Raja says “He just loves food.”
Everyone laughs again.
It’s not really a laughing matter. Everyone at the table, except for Josef, knows how it feels to starve: The pain in the pit of the stomach. An undying thirst for the taste of something filling. Every muscle, and even every bone, aches with each step taken. Even the deepest sleep doesn’t end exhaustion. Josef is blessed to have three meals a day; they all pray he never has to feel the pain of hunger.
Brad apologized to Chloe before everyone sat down to eat. She accepted his apology with the usual response: she nodded and hummed, “Mmhmm.”
Brad was proud of his day of work. Because of his help, they got to put up a couple of walls today. Tomorrow they have to cut down some trees in order to carve and saw wood so that they can finish the walls. Brad is looking forward to tomorrow.
Tonight’s evening meal is bread, mixed greens, and corn served with broth to dip the bread in. It’s not Brad’s favorite meal. This is a meal when he wishes Fortune was around. Brad never knew Fortune, his family’s German shepherd. In Brad’s dad’s journal, there were many entries where Fortune was fed the food that he didn’t like to eat. According to Brad’s dad, Felicia never noticed. Brad disagrees with the journal entries: He thinks she did notice based on the way Brad’s dad wrote about her. ‘Felicia is a matriarch. She’s always in charge and nothing gets past her, except Fortune’s feasts on my scraps,’ Brad’s dad wrote on the 24th of May, his second journal entry.
After eating, Emmy suggested her and Brad go for a walk by the creek. Brad gladly agreed. They planned to help Lola clean up, but Lola excused them, and they left.
…A WALK ALONG THE CREEK…
Brad and Emmy hold hands as they walk along the creek. Brad loves how the water captures the image of the sky. During the day at the creek, he likes to make sure he gets a look at his own image. He stares into his eyes so he can see what Emmy sees. But there’s nothing special about his eyes. They are as pale as the daytime sky. His hair isn’t wavy and gorgeous like Emmy’s; it’s dull and black, not vibrant and deep, autumn leaf red, like Emmy’s is either. Her skin is the shade of beautiful wheat, softer than cotton and smoother than water. It looks perfect, like Josef’s skin. Brad’s has little bumps in some areas, dark spots in others, and even worse, he’s lighter than Emmy. All day, he has been working under the hot sun, and now his skin is pink. Tomorrow morning it will be nearly red and will sting and burn with anyone’s touch. Afterwards it will chap and peel; dead skin will fall off like autumn leaves do near the end of fall.
Emmy stops at their usual spot when they go on evening walks. Across the creek, behind a wall of jagged rocks of mountainous height, lies the home of the ones that saved Brad; the ones that saved everyone who lives off this land. Brad isn’t sure how to describe the home of these people. It reminds him of hundreds, if not thousands of jets combined into one large craft, their noses pointing to the sky- no, touching the sky- and their wings poking out wildly everywhere. Pavel says that’s where they live, and it’s probably how they got here. He says it’s a spacecraft that can travel outside Earth’s atmosphere.
Pavel doesn’t know why they’re here though. He just thanks God, if there is one, that they came. He didn’t think he could take another day living in the world before that existed before this one.
‘The spacecraft’, if that’s what it’s called, can be seen anywhere, even at the ends of the land. Emmy always likes to stare at it here. She looks at it like she’s missing something, or looking for something.
“What do you think they look like?” Brad asks.
She shrugs her shoulders. “They probably have big heads, huge, bulging black eyes, and green skin.” She laughs.
Brad laughs to appease his need to connect with Emmy.
Emmy abruptly stops laughing. Brad follows suit.
“How was your day?” Emmy asks.
“It was great!” Brad exclaims. He tells her all that he learned while building the house.
“I know Pavel will help me, but one day I’ll probably know how to build one by myself,” he tells her.
He wants her to know how serious he is about it. He would tell her about his plans to build a house for the two of them one day, but he doesn’t want to point out the obvious (if she already knows about it) or make her uncomfortable if she’s not ready to talk about it yet.
“How worried were you today at lunch? I would never leave without saying goodbye.”
“I know,” he says as he embraces her.
The sound of a twig snapping, somewhere in the dark of the forest, startles Brad and Emmy and breaks their intimate embrace. Brad feels a pounding against his chest and hears a thudding in his ears. Suddenly he is a terrified, defenseless five-year-old boy again. He can hear the pitter-patter of gunfire and the savage cries of crazed soldiers. Footsteps from the forest approach Brad and Emmy. Brad staggers backwards and stumbles into the creek. He reaches out for Emmy, but she moves closer to the approaching footsteps and away from Brad. He whispers her name, but she ignores him, or she didn’t hear him.
He can’t let anything happen to Emmy, but he can’t move. He knows he should do something, but lacks the strength.
“It’s okay Brad, whoever it was isn’t there anymore,” she says as she reaches out to Brad.
He takes her hands as if he’s clinging to life and holds onto her tightly.
She leads him out of the creek onto land.
“Do you have a clean pair of clothes at home?” Emmy asks as she takes Brad’s shirt by the base and lifts it up. “Raise your arms,” she tells him.
He does so. “I think so. Why wouldn’t I? What are you doing?”
Once his shirt is off, she balls it up and rings it out. The tighter she twists the shirt, the more water pours out from in between her fingers and onto the rocky, pebble shore of the creek. She whips the shirt up and down a few times and hands it back to him. “Now take off your pants.”
Brad didn’t want to do that. It wouldn’t be right. He won’t do it.
“You can’t go home dripping wet.”
Brad puts his shirt on, “Then we’ll stay outside until I dry,” He says.
“Okay, but I’m going home now.”
“Wait with me and then we’ll go together.”
“No Brad. I’m going home now. Goodbye.”
Brad notices she’s acting weird.
Don’t go Emmy, he thinks.
“Please, don’t go yet.” He says.
She hugs Brad and nestles her face against his. The embrace lingers longer than most goodbye hugs do. She whispers in Brad’s ear, “I love you.”
Immense joy sparks within Brad and a warmth ripples through his body like wildfire. He has told Emmy numerous times that he loves her, but until tonight she has never told him. He is too intoxicated by joy to say anything. He smiles, marveled by the way she makes him feel, and watches Emmy walk back towards the house without him. He stays outside, by the creek, until his pants dry. Then he goes home.
…WHEN BRAD GOT HOME…
When Brad got home, everyone but Emmy and Josef were sitting at the table, and three guests were sitting with them. The guest in Emmy’s spot was someone Brad hadn’t seen in a long time: Sam. Brad’s spot is occupied by a beautiful, redheaded woman. Her breasts were the largest Brad has ever seen; it would take two hands to firmly cup one of them. He’s staring at her – he must avert his eyes to someone or something else.
Brad looks at the guest in Josef’s spot, a young black man. He isn’t a dark, deep brown black man. His shade is similar to Emmy’s but has olive and pink undertones. His hair isn’t black with tangled and tight tiny curls; instead it is reddish-brown with medium, relaxed curls.
The guests look grungy, and by the foul odor of sweaty pits and mud, Brad figures they haven’t bathed in a while. Their lips are severely chapped, and their skin is in equal condition. Brad can see they are exhausted.
All eyes are on him; everyone must be waiting for him to say something.
“What’s going on?” Brad finally breaks the silence with the obvious question.
“Is Emmy with you?” Sam asks.
“Yes, where is she?” The redhead asks. “It’s been such a long time since we’ve seen her.”
“It has been a long time,” The black man adds.
Brad is confused. Emmy should be here already. She isn’t here though.
As Brad heads back to the door, it opens and Emmy walks in. She is shocked to see the strangers, though her shock quickly turns into enthusiasm when the guests rise out of their seats to approach her. Brad closes the door for Emmy. He watches her hug all three of them at the same time. The odor didn’t seem to bother her, but it did bother Brad. He moved next to the table and stood beside Pavel.
Brad is curious how Chloe feels about Sam being back. He looks at Chloe but she shows no signs of how she feels. She only appears to be deep in thought as she blankly stares at the table.
“We were worried you wouldn’t make it here on your own,” Sam says to Emmy.
The black guy interjects, “They were worried, I wasn’t. I don’t make crap, I make gold.”
“We know that now Thatch. Before, you never had a chance to test your gadgets. We- she had to go on blind faith,” the red head says.
“Well Mya, she made it here, and it was all thanks to Thatcher,” says Sam.
“How did you all make it out at the same time?” Emmy asks.
“How do you know Sam? Who is Mya? Who is Thatcher, and how do you all know each other?” Brad asks.
*Edited by Aly Fry