Brothers are made into refugees because of war over water.
I looked back at the white wasteland, smoke rose up in the distance as hundreds of footsteps had been etched into the snow. We had hiked over some of the snow covered hills that now hid us away from infantry that spotted near the foothills of the mountains. It also hid away our camp. We were walking towards a large truck that was dwarfed by the impressive black and white mountains that cut into the sky. We were near the Rocky Mountains and were safe. For now. We had made it, but to what loss? Many stayed behind so we could escape. My guts squirmed, as I turned my back on the smoke. Turning my back on the courageous, the brave, and the unfortunate; I hoped they wouldn't consider me a coward for running. For living on, or not becoming a prisoner of our invaders. My younger brother held out an arm to help me in. His face was round with dark brown eyes, and curly brown hair. He was short but broad and many people said we looked the same but I had blond hair and blue eyes.
The truck had been retrofitted to carry refugees away. Canvas walls shaded us from the worst of the cold weather. Its walls were worn through countless journeys sheltering many lives before us. Parts of fabric were drawn in, some elegant sketches of animals, homes, dreams, farms, orchids, meadows, others of sad faces. The canvas lower to the ground had childish drawings. The pictures done by the children were unfortunately tainted by the horrors of war. My gut squirmed again, my face contorted with rage, and sadness. I remembered the first time it became unbearably clear to me when it all started.
We were back home in Whitehorse. Mark was sitting on his laptop playing some sort of sandbox game which apparently involved exploding fictional soldiers from another game, and building crazy structures balanced on nothing but a washing machine. Mum was out working ; she never got the weekends off anymore. Dad was down in the garage tinkering with something or other, and I had finished all the episodes of Dr who again. I wasn’t to sure what to do with myself. Instead of acknowledging that I Justified reading the news. The Headline was.“China starts war over water. Britian and U.S move to protect Canada.”
It had been uttered that war would eventually start over water, but no one really said like it was said then. In highschool I always thought it was a possibility but always thought that the world leaders would find a way without bloodshed; but now here it is right there rate on my lap. Mark removed his headphones noticing my jaw had remained open for a while.
“ Jack?” He said. I motioned him to come over.
I watched his eyes quickly skim the article his face darkened. He sat back down, his left hand awkwardly half way to grab his headphone but was stopped. We both sat there lost in thought wondering what was soon to happen.
“We’ll be alright.” I said.
“I hope so.”
Maybe if I never read that article maybe the war would never have happened. Maybe when I opened up the article I opened a door into this backwards universe that could never be closed. I wish it never started. I wish it was normal again.
The truck bounced and shook putting me off balance. I managed to grab Mark’s shoulder to stop myself from falling over.
"What is it?" Mark said masking his emotion with a lame poker face.
"Just..... Just everything. I can't believe it. I wish it was normal I wish none of this happened." I said walking towards the back as a large man with a walrus like moustache outside the canvas walls behind the truck shouted.
"Get into the back squish in, we have to fit everyone in! Get cozy! Come on! We don't have much time! Hurry! Get to the back!"
“It is unbelievable, but it’s happening. We won't be seeing some of our friends again; we might ever get to see our home again. Everything was gone, and I remember only a few months ago just sitting up at the ceiling of our house board of the yellow walls thinking; I'm bored, I wish I was somewhere else, I've done everything here there is nothing to do. Now I'm thinking I didn't do enough. There is things I want to see again even if it’s one last time, but it's too late." Mark said trying to comfort me, but it didn't. It felt like a distraction it felt forced. Mark wasn't usually much of a talker he kept to himself. Sometime on the rare occasion he made an effort to speak and when he did it was worth listening to.
This time though it just felt wrong, why was he speaking so much, why were my words gone? I looked elsewhere I couldn't see the white wasteland that I had escaped only moments ago. The flatbed and been filled were packed in tight like a herd of cattle, or livestock. Was that what war turned us into? Did we become mindless livestock to be killed on a whim over an ideal, over a misunderstanding, over something that hadn't been communicated? I looked around the flatbed trying to see if our parents had made it to this one we had been separated earlier from the commotion of running from town when we were told the enemy was coming. I couldn’t make them out not through the other distraught, confused, unbelieving faces. There wasn't a chance in hell I would hear them over everyone's woes. I just had to hope that they had made it safely. Maybe Mark had seen them?
"Did you see Mum and Dad on our way here?" I said shuffling my feet as the truck bounced around again.
"No." He said simply. The truck lurched forward causing us all too nearly fall over.
"I'm sure there fine. I hope there okay. I wish they were with us atleast then we would be a step closer to normal." I said trying to keep this dying conversation alive.
"Yeah but..." He didn't finish looking down at his feet.
Mark was always quiet and a shy guy and normally it brought a smile to my face when everything was normal. When the only thing I worried about was making money to go back to school, and not spending it on food or some other waste of time. Thinking of food. There was something left of a cookie in my pocket that I grabbed dividing the small amount in half giving half to Mark whom quietly accepted. It was almost frozen but the sweetness of it, with the even sweeter bits of chocolate chip brought me way back.
Mark and I were in the kitchen it had been snowing nonstop and school had been closed. We decided to make chocolate chip cookies, and dinner to be kind to our hardworking parents. Who wouldn’t be home for another four hours. Sean had finished whipping up the first batch dough and started it eating with a spoon.
“Stop that.” I said, but he just smiled and helped himself to another spoonful.
“ I thought we were doing this to be nice.” I said not able to hide my own smile as I grabbed a spoon.
“There is no such a thing is being nice when you have a bowl of delicious cookie dough, and spoon.” He said mischeviously snatching the bowl away from me.
“Oh come on!”
“Nope! Make your own bowl!” He said jogging to his bedroom. I gave up and started the next batch 15 minutes later he stepped out groaning a little with half a bowl of cookie dough left, “ Worth it.” He managed to smile, before returning to that sick feeling you get when you eat far too much cookie dough.
Mark wasn’t like that anymore he was more serious now, and even though he didn’t say much. I knew he enjoyed my company and like talking to me when he was interested even if I wasn’t interested in what it was. We also knew if one of us was in a bit of problem the other guy would fish us out even if it risked our own neck. Multiple times the guy covered for me when I was out with my friends drinking and I him.
We were moving along at a good speed now. People had now settled down the cold was still a bit of a nuisance but the collected body heat in the canvas canopy managed to make it bearable. Mark had quit talking now and dropped the lousy poker face he was still staring at the floor his eyes darting about, the muscles in his face tensed. He was worrying about something. It was natural but something told me that there could be a chance that I could so or do something to help.
"What's on your mind?" I said.
“There is nothing you can do. So why are you agonizing over it?" I said steadying myself as the truck bumped over something.
"Why aren't you worried? Where are we going to go? What if we don't see our parents again. Nothing is solid anymore, and no one told us a plan. I don't think we going to a better place than where we left, and that could mean joining the army and I don't want that." Mark said.
" I’ am but if I worry myself to much it's not going to help. It's Naive and foolish I know but I keep holding onto this thought: that we get to our next destination unscathed things will turn out okay, possibly meet up with our parents, somehow making it through. Somehow having things work out. Maybe that's what's keeping me sane right now. But I know I’m setting up myself for a fall. I don't know. Somehow someway we'll make it through were not dead yet." I said.
"That just sounds like a silly fairytale jack. I don't want to dilute myself. I don't want to separate myself from reality. The true heaviness of the predicament I am in. If I did would I be able to make good informed decisions?" Mark said.
I wasn’t able to answer him as the truck started careen sideways, and everyone broke into screams, before long we began rolling over. I felt the snow catch my body, while air was pushed through my lungs. The screaming had stopped with an eary silence as I rolled around gasping for breath. Once I had managed to reinflate my lungs I started looking for mark he couldn’t have gone too far. I rolled over someone wearing similar green garments to him, as I did I felt a warm substance on my hand. I knew it was blood but didn’t let this new fact startle me if It was mark I had to help him. Gritting my teeth I looked into the face of a man around the same age as me his green eyes weren’t moving his face had already paled as blood leaked from his mouth. It wasn’t Mark but my heart still stopped, as I looked into his cold eyes. Time began to slow as I felt a cold harsh breeze pass me.
“Move! Move! For F*%K sakes move!” I thought but his cold dead green eyes just stared at mine.
I couldn’t move , what if Mum and Dad were dead? What if I couldn’t get Mark and I through this? No no. It was all going to fine it was all going to be normal. A hand grabbed my shoulder I shook in fright dropping the man as I thrashed violently through the snow. My heart was pounding. It was Mark, his face paled but showed much more calm then mine.
“ There not dead!” I yelled.
“Mum and Dad they’re not dead. They can’t. He’s dead though. He didn’t deserve it.” I said noticing he was still calm even if there was someone who was only living seconds ago laying there staring at us like we weren’t fast enough to help, “ How can you be so Calm!”
“Calm. You think I’m calm?” He yelled, “ I haven’t had a nights rest since you showed me that headline! But You keep pretending it going to be alright! It’s not Grow up!”
“I just want things to be normal! If I keep thinking I can return to that...” A crowd of had noticed us and had come closer but kept their distance.
“Normal!” He kicked the ground, “ NORMAL! How the F*%K does it get normal from here! It’s never gonna be normal! Ever again because people like you pretended that the problem will go away if they pretends it not a problem anymore. Now look! We refugees, and you better face it Jack! That Mum and Dad are gone!” He seethed with his fist clenched and his teeth gritting.
“How do you know? Atleast I have hope! You want them to be dead don’t you so you can justify your dark little world! You hate people don’t you that’s why you never talk!” I spat at him getting to my feet when I got punched scare in the Jaw.
“You Ignorant little brat! How dare you......How dare you say that? Don’t take this out on me becaus your stupid ideal world is crashing around you Jack. Your delusional. It might be cold but lets face the facts. Mum and Dad aren’t here we haven’t seen them for 12 hours there either caught or dead.”
“What if they went with another group?”
“Then there alive but I don’t remember seeing another group! So get a grip look at this world with rational eyes because if you can’t get over one cadaver or if you can’t get over the fact you might never see your parents are gone. How are you going survive this new world thats facing water shortages and men no armies who are willing to kill everyone in their way for that life giving water?” Jack said his voice no longer raised.
“Is it so wrong to hope?” I said.
“No it’s wrong to want to wish things back to normal and dwell on who we used to be and what was. It’s wrong to think that something like seeing you parents again is going to wash all the shit we’ve seen go away. What we’re seeing is terrible and it shouldn’t be wished away because it needs to be fixed.” He said giving me his hand again, “It’s wrong to wait for things to get back to normal. Normal isn’t a way to survive Jack. Surviving is going to be harsh and unacceptable but were going to have to accept it sometime.”
“Alright. Alright. I’m sorry.” I said taking his hand. I wanted to say more but saying it’s going to be alright wasn’t what he was looking for and it wasn’t what we needed anymore.