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Jan. 12, 2031.

They said a third world war would be hell. And it was.

The men who declared it did it for the games of power and ambition. Plans were made, battles fought, humanity as a whole was annihilated, and this will continue to cause havoc for an unforeseeable time, but nobody seems to realize that we won the war but lost everything else. Humans don’t need gods to save them, it is rather the contrary.

The memories of green are lost in the back of my mind, low spirits of hope are the only ghosts that follow me. The only vague memory I have is of just before I left. I came back from school in a rush through crowds of screaming and terrorized people who blew like wind in the opposite direction scampering out of the town. When I reached home, they stood outside with trucks filled with the youth of our town, or whatever was still left of them. Most of them either cried, or pointed at me looking at the men in the dull green uniforms.

They threatened to rape my mother and sister if I didn’t join.

That was three years ago. I returned home yesterday, after the war was over, and with it everything else. As I walked through what used to be my neighbourhood – I could almost envision Mrs. Agostino’s flowers in December snow on her lawn, and her dog ruining it all. The old Christian couple who had grown estranged from each other, and my younger sister Annie on the outside staircase murmuring, ‘Fade into you, strange you never knew…’

She would always question the shirt I wore every day because she knew that our mother loved it, so she had to hate it. ‘Again with the pink shirt?’ She said. ‘It’s not pink, it’s mauveine,’ I replied as always. But my visions snapped away as I stepped over shattered glass, the floral design I recognised. It was the same glass watering can Mrs. Agostino used.

Nobody was allowed contact with their family since they had left. I only dreamt our home survived the war, for we would still have something to live for. Everything around me was almost dust, but as I felt nearer to my home, it came in my view, and I didn’t know how to feel. My home wasn’t broken yet, but the house had lost its vibrancy, everything faded into grey, like ashes. The house barely stood together with its old covered windows, andthe lifeless blue walls that my father so wholeheartedly painted, joining the rusted staircase where Annie would always sit, but it had survived the war. I had made it home.Three years it took me, but I had made it.

I knocked on the door and shouted ‘Mom?’

No response came back, and my heart felt a sense of its weight dropping. I looked around – it was all barren except for two other houses, both shut. I shouted once more to no one, I put my hand on the knob – it felt cold, as I turned it, the door opened and an unbearable smell rushed through my nostrils, ittold me where I should head. But I paused for a moment and stood in silence, nobody was around – three years ago, this is all I would’ve wanted. Everybody gone. I didn’t anymore.

Where was mother? Where was Annie?

The smell led me upstairs where everyone’s rooms were, the doors to them were all open. As I walked into my parents’ room, I saw my mother lying battered and naked, with my father still tied up on a chair. They looked blue and swollen. I stood there as the tears blurred my vision. It’s been three hours since then, and my sister is still not here. I feel nothing.

A part of me cries for my parents’ and wants to know where my sister is. But another part of me tells me to give up because I know I won’t wake a man who won the war, but one who survived long enough to see his people turn into ghosts, and those ghosts into shadows. The men behind the white walls lost a few zeroes, the men over the blue skies lost nothing, but they must laugh in horror of what have they created.

This is the last entry in my journal, as I sit here in the kitchen. It smells beautiful because mother has just made dinner. It’s time. I wish today I have the courage to tell father how much I love him – to hug him once. To tell Annie how good she is at singing, and that she should pursue a career in it. I will finally appreciate mother for the loveliest food she makes, and she will be even happier since I’m wearing her favourite shirt. Well, not anymore. The shirt is a cloth now, hanging from the ceiling fan. I am ready.

Udbhav Rai

Udbhav Rai is an eighteen-year-old writer residing in India. His creative inspiration comes from writers like Philip K. Dick and Albert Camus. After recently being published in Flash Fiction North, he aims to write hybrid-genre stories that stem from little things as individual emotions to larger subjects about existential crisis.

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