Chapter 8

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We don't come back inside until the last few rays of spring sunshine fade behind the tree thickets. We drag our feet in each step; the disappointment weighs heavily on us. All we can think about is Nicoli smiling, laughing, always saying something to brighten the mood. We head into the bedroom, our heads hung down low.

The dinner carts are not far behind us. We all take our seats, but I don't feel like eating. I barely touch my stew and bread as everyone else woofs down theirs. My mind is walking down a long and winding road, keeping active with every new possibility, but my body is like a zombie, merely going through the motions of everyday life. I don't even want to think about the future, not without knowing Nicoli's right by my side.

I know it's kinda of stupid to completely shut down just because my best friend is sent to another room, but I've spent three years taking care of him. Day after day spent waking him up, begging on the side of a road. Sleeping side by side in the cold. Telling each other our deepest secrets, our darkest fears, and brightest dreams. Promises made in the middle of the night, in the moments built with fear and sadness. Nights spent by each other's side, crying to each other. Prayers made to gods we know nothing of. Three years of my eleven year life spent side by side with Nicoli. Every moment I see him struggle or in agony is like a dagger into my small heart. If I could I would switch places with him. I would go to the ends of the Earth to let him out of here and into a home.

"Alek, eat!" Shouts Marco. His voice makes me jump a bit in my seat. "You haven't touched anything, and the last thing we need is you off to another room along with Nicoli."

He snaps me out of my everlasting thoughts and shoves a piece of bread into my mouth. It makes me realize how hungry I am, and soon I'm shoveling stew into me like the others. Marco laughs and go back to eating.

"Goodnight Marco." I whisper into the growing darkness. We all climb into our beds and snuggle in. I turn over to Nicoli's side; the bed is stripped of sheets and pillows, and from my bed I can smell the faint scent of disinfectant. I turn back around to focus on the window. Wind tiptoes across the courtyard, trying to stay quiet. It wakes the curtains and dances with them, silent yet graceful. They leap around and twirl, as if they are at a royal ball. They act like princes and princess in movies, bowing to each other and smiling all night. There waltz lulls me to sleep in the dead of night.

I wake to find the curtains lying still on the window panes, sleeping soundly from the night of dancing. The wind is gone, dancing with other girls in their rooms. All I can hear is the faint noise of my heart, beating softly in my chest. I slowly lean up and slip off the bedsheet. I cross my legs and pull out my comic book. It's quite early, so everything is silent but the flip of the pages. I know every page by heart, each move and each word. I must have read this a hundred times; it's all I have from my old house.

The sunshine slowly climbs up the building walls and seeps into the room. The cold, gray walls are slowly woken up and tinted gold. It wakes the others up, one by one until everyone is up and moving. It's sunday, so breakfast comes a bit later than normal.

Only 10 more days until we lose everything. No one wants to think that soon we'll be nothing more than street rats. The thought of being kids on the side of the road, dying, begging for a drop of water or a slice of moldy bread makes our skin crawl. We keep it in the back of our minds.

We relish it with early morning card games and reenacting action scenes. Marco joins the others for a reenactment of The Hunger Games. I stay in my bed, watching the great movie unfold. For a while we all look like normal kids. For a single moment, we forget everything horrible and think we're just kids. Kids just being kids.

It's shattered when the sound of gunfire makes us all jump. We race to the windows to see what it is. I stand on the tips of my toes to see over the others. From atop the mountain, we have a pretty great view of everything that goes on. I guess it makes sense that this would be the ideal stop for the mayor's mansion.

In the center of town, a group of soldiers surround a young boy. He can't be much older than 17. He's leaning over an older woman in a pool of blood, crying and screaming. Maybe she was his mother, or his grandmother. One of the soldiers is yelling at him. The tennager stands up and runs at them with a cane, his arms flailing madly. He starts fighting them, and he's not doing too bad. A couple soldiers even get knocked out and crumple to the dirt. Suddenly, another gunshot followed by three more ringing out into the warm air. We all flinch at each one. The boy wilts on top of the woman. Blood pours out of him, making the puddle grow rapidly. One of the soldiers covers them in a dirty tarp. The rest march back to wherever.

Everyone stares for little bit, scared and a bit shaken up. None of us haven't heard a gunshot since the end of the war. A few of them look like they'll start screaming, the noise bringing up painful memories. Of them themselves crying over their parents or siblings bloodied and shot bodies.

I shut the curtains on our window. Jethro does the same thing on his. One by one we go back to what we were doing. I stay a while longer. It's an uncommon since the Asian-American War.

Most of the countries in eastern Asia grouped together and launched a full scale attack on the West coast. So the USA teamed up with Canada and Mexico under the condition that their borders be taken down for the duration of the war. It lasted five years. Most of it was done electronically, with gorilla warfare, and biological warfare. It killed our president, and far too many civilians. It infected even more. About 1.2 billion died by the time a white flag was waved. It finally ended with an Atomic bomb being dropped on the West coast of Mexico and somewhere in former Oregon. No one's sure who even won. I say Death won, they collected a ton of souls in these last few years. It's been a year since the end, and things are worse than ever.

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