The war has been over for over 10 years now. But the killing and the destruction never ended. I don't remember much of it, I was 15, but when the war ended there was no celebration, because there was hardly anyone to celebrate with. The world had changed. My parents had moved to Ireland which was one of the Islands which remained uneffected by the fighting and bombing. When we returned to the main land, right after the war, we found a Europe flooded with Chinese who fled their own land and migrated en masse to Western Europe, their only allies during the war.
But the war was not followed by peace, but by anarchy. More people died in the 2 years after the war than did during the 5 years of war. The lack of a legitimate authority, or shared values in general, lead to a common saying nowadays: nothing's bad so anything's possible. It meant that there were no rules anymore. Me and some other children from farmers like my parents, would come together and listen to stories about the time before the war. But we never played. I heard that before, children would play games like war or hide and seek, but I cannot imagine that something like looking for something would be fun. I cannot image that having lost something would be fun.
My parents died one year after we returned. I was left with my dad's books and my mum's vegetable garden, but after some time. I didn't see the point in staying anymore and the sporadic riots that killed my parents were intensifying. So I took some food, some books and my fathers gun and left the place where we tried so desperately to start a new life again. A new life in a new world.
The first town I came across was mainly populated with Chinese, though we call them Migrants now as China does not exist anymore and they hate being associated with the country. I wasn't sure what I was looking for, but I was secretly hoping to just meet someone to talk to. So I entered a bar, which looked like a saloon-turned bistro. The little round tables were occupied by dirty looking men who seemed drunk as the were playing a game with their hands and screaming very loud. I went up the stairs to a mezzanine where only a few people were quietly sitting and sipping beers. Four men were playing domino in the corner.
I sat down and immediately spotted a a girl across the room who appeared to be my age. She sat in a dark corner, but I could clearly see a large shadow next to her - upon consideration this large shadow had two twinkeling eyes which were gazing straight at me. I turned away and pretended to be looking around for a waiter. Luckily one approached me, but instead of asking what I needed, he served me a beer and a tiny glass with a water-like substance in it. "Xiexie", I said remembering the Chinese I picked up the last year. Bu ke qi the waiter answered but remained standing in front of me looking at me with an empty face, with empty eyes. As empty as his reply had sounded. I realized I had to pay the man, but did not feel like hazzling, so I took out my wallet and offered two coins. He accepted.
My eyes returned to the girl sitting in the dark corner while sipping my first beer I ever had. It tasted like wet bread. It seemed she was drinking tea, while her companion had the same glass as I had. They were not talking, but just sitting there. As if they were waiting for something. Suddenly I realized that I had been staring at her and she looked straigt at me. Despite the dusky light, I could see that her eye were bright green. She has a slim face and long wavy hair. It seemed that her presence was surrounded by a serene silence and mist. She was sitting straight with slim bare arms lying folded on the table. I quickly took another sip and forced myself to look at my book I had put on the table.
Who were they? Were they together? They weren't Migrants so probably also travelers. Maybe they go the same direction as I? Are they a couple? Was she really looking at me? I think I sat there repeating these questions to myself for over 15 minutes. I sometimes pretended to look around the room to randomly check what's going on. But in reality I wanted to see of they were still there. I saw her sipping her cup at times, but the large shadow next to her appeared as a sculpted King, with enormous shoulders and arms and equally straight back. I started to feel woozy and the bread taste started to annoy me. I couldn't concentrate on my book and this girl.. I made my decision, I'm a traveler and travelers have to be bold to survive in this world. I took the little glass with the watery substance and downed it in one go. My whole body shivered and became really warm. I stood up and needed to find my bearings. Maybe I overdid it? But I took my challenge seriously and walked in a straight line, right to the table of the two other travelers.
I arrived at their table, but before I could say anything, I saw that the large shadow was a man with jaws like razor blades and blue eyes as electricity. He leaned forward, "boy, you really want to move on and let us be". I mustered all my strenght, my whole body felt as made of lead. Noises from the rest of the room seemed to dampen, the players of the game downstairs seemed to have stopped playing, and time itself started to be reluctant in its course. I was amazed by my own bravery as I took my eyes of the dark man and looked at the girl. She was looking down, but there was no doubt that she was the prettiest girl I had ever seen. "I..I just wanted to say hello to some fellow travelers". The moment each word exited my mouth, they occured to me as ridiculous. "We are no travelers boy, now take your little book and move along. Now!". I raised my brows as his last words sounded not as of threat or warning, but of desparation. I took a step back and saw from the corner of my eyes five Migrant men coming up the stairs. They were screaming something in Chinese, but came straight towards me.
What happened next I don't really clearly remember as it was over within 3 minutes. The Migrants pushed me away and began speaking to the man with the razor-like jaws. "You know what we are here for. We take the girl and you stay here. No fighting, dong ma?". Two other men grabbed the girl from across the table and lifted her right from her feet and started carrying her towards the stairs again. I just stood there. And time had overcome its reluctance and seemed to attempted to make up for lost time and fast forwarded everything that was happening. Suddenly - I did not see what caused it - the three Migrants who were standing in front of Razor Jaw, pulled out three long swords. All I could see were the man's hands, still on the table, but now as fists, tightened fists. "Easy now sha-gua". The girl started screaming and tried to kick her captors as she was dragged down the stairs. I remained standing there 2 meters away. One of the Migrants looked around and noticed me, he turned his sword towards me and place it on m shoulder. "You are not a hero, are you Xiao Didi? Better stay that way". He started laughing. The moment the men with the swords started leaving and descending the stairs, Razor man stepped from behind his table and with a thundering voice screamed: "hold on Engill! Wait for me, I will find you".
Four months later we set our eyes upon the burning remnants of Paris. Whether it was the place where we would find her or death would find us - we continued forward. Whatever needed to be done, we'd go forward. And I believed we could accomplish our mission. Because if there's no bad and anything's possible - the only good is what we set our minds to. And we'd see from there.