Chapter 1: A Normal Day in the World of War.
| Walls filled with graffiti made of crayons, toys scattered around, picture frames hanging on the wall and a pair of little feet visible from under the curtains. Behind the curtains was a little boy with spectacles, geeky appearance, was hiding. He was peeping from the fringes of the curtains.
"Ready, I am coming."
Another young sounding voice came from somewhere above the boy. A little girl with black wavy hair tied up in a ponytail came running from upstairs. She started looking for her twin, who was hiding. She was standing in the middle of the living room.
The room was cosy with sofa, television and many cabinets with miscellaneous stuff. Caroline tapped her feet while looking around. She went towards the kitchen. She looked everywhere but found no one.
"Oli, where are you? Don't let me catch you. 'cos if you do, you have to do the dishes."
The girl giggled as she said. They were twins, so she very well knew her other half. He would be somewhere where she least expected. She went back upstairs to their room. The room had twin beds, lots of soft toys over it and everything else laying haphazardly.
She checked every nook and cranny but did not find her brother. Lastly, she went back downstairs and looked inside the nursery. It was taking her a lot of time to search him, but she was not getting tired of it. Her twin was her worthy opponent. She expected at least that.
When she was looking inside the nursery, she saw the wanted pair of feet.
"Caught you. Oli comes out from there."
The boy came out, smiling sheepishly.
"Five minutes and thirty-three seconds. You took your time. Lini."
"Hey! It's better than last time."
"Tell me you never expected me to be behind the curtains, do you?"
"Of course. What are you? Five years old. Last time you were hiding inside the space-bot. I did not know that junk had ample space inside it, enough to conceal someone. I still don't know how you managed to get inside it. But what happened now? You regressed being a Todd."
Oli or Oliver replied, sticking his tongue out to taunt Lini or Caroline.
"There's no place left anymore to hide. I have no more ideas left."
"Me either. There's nothing else to do as well. With schools closed, I am bored out of wits."
"It's so sad what happened."
"It is not sad. It's aggravating. The government let the satellites to get bombed. That thing supported almost everything. You know the internet, internet, internet and internet."
"I get it. Do you know what, about a hundred years ago the school wasn't a website? It used to be physical."
"Physical. Care to speak in the same language, genius."
"I mean it used to be a physical building like our apartment building."
"And they did what with it? Play touch me not."
"No. You are not getting it. What is the main purpose of school?"
"Education. Children like us used to go to this place and learn from the teachers who were actual humans and not some programmed machine."
"People used to teach people. Humans are flawed. They were only passing down flaws."
Caroline paused for a moment scrunching her brows she replied, "That explains why we are suffering now. Those flawed humans, aka our supreme leaders, only learnt how to wage war against the other side. Only god can save us. Oh, wait! He does not exist."
"Lini stop ranting. Every time I tell you something new. You relate it to the ongoing war. We can not do anything about it. Let's not depress ourselves more with it."
"...Sorry. I went on again. Let us play something else. Or you read me something while I draw."
While they were making plans, someone came to their home. They heard the noise and ran outside.
"Ryan. You are late. Late. Late. Very late."
Caroline kept repeating late multiple times while Ryan, a sixteen-year-old, tall and good looking with black hair and blue eyes like the kids, was holding few grocery bags.
"We got delayed. There was a long queue. And it took time, to physically process orders even for the bots. We could not buy much stuff too."
"...Yada yada. You didn't forget my candies."
"Mmmm. I..... forgot...not. How dare I forget Lini's command."
Ryan bent on his knees and pulled out a few candy bars from his pocket, delighting both Caroline and Oliver.
"Enough horse-playing. Time to study. I know both of you have been everything but diligent."
A beautiful brunette and the blue-eyed, forty-something, woman said to them while picking up stuff lying everywhere in the house. The whole place had been turned upside down while she went for a few hours.
After resetting everything back to its place, the woman had just sat on the sofa when she heard the doorbell.
"Regina, I have something important to tell you," said the man urgently.
"What is it? You look very serious," asked Regina.
"I am sorry. I tried everything I could to stop this decision, but it was futile."
"What exactly are you talking? First, sit down inside."
"Regina," The man took a deep breath and continued, "Ryan has been drafted."
Regina stumbled and almost fell when the man holds her.
"I am so sorry. I did everything I could. The Army has given a week to prepare. They will come to take Ryan to the military camp."
"This is ridiculous. Ryan is only sixteen," Regina said exasperated. "How can they send him to the frontlines? I have already lost my husband to this damned war. I cannot send away my son too. I will not allow this."
"Regina. It is futile. You know what will happen if you go against the government. Your family will get evicted, and Ryan will still have to join the Army. You have two other children to look after. Please, do not do anything reckless," said the man and left, leaving behind a heart-broken Regina. She was wailing.
The children had heard the commotion. They also were left dismayed from the sudden command. They were standing on the stairs. Along the walls of the stairs were many picture frames, each containing happy and blissful images. There was a picture of their family. Ryan was much younger, the twins were in the arms of their parents, and the happy-looking couple along with their grandfather was standing arm to arm. It was the picture taken before the day their city was air-raided by the enemy forces. They had to flee their home of many generations and had to come to this God-awful city, where every family was mandated to join the Military. They had no choice back then. As Regina and her husband Charlie were famed engineers, they were recruited soon and provided with a lavish apartment in the safest place in the world. That safe city claimed the life of Charlie, stranded their other relatives, and now it was the turn for Ryan.