You can read the previous part here: Part 9
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November 5, 2036
Mei stabbed hard, causing red to cover the board entirely. She stabbed it once more. At this point, she was completely used to red liquid. Partly from the number of tomatoes she had cut in the last hour for soup, and partly from the constant flow of blood outside her house in the city and cities all over Zealandia, her supposedly new ‘home.’
Her hands worked furiously, refusing to be without work. She needed to keep herself busy until three, at which time she would venture out to the place where everyone did. Some to lose their lives, and others to watch others lose their lives. A few people stayed at home, not knowing whether they would be able to see countless families like theirs destroyed as their members would fall on the ground, spilling blood like water.
To Mei, it didn’t matter. Death surrounded her as it had for a long time. At this point, a little bit of silence would make her jump. She knew things were going too well, but she didn’t dare switch on the television or the radio. If anything had to be said or heard, she would do it where she had to go at three.
Her living room didn’t carry the mucky smell of dust or the smell of family and happiness as many homes did. Perhaps one day it had while she was still in the Hilitine. She could no longer recognize the smell in her small apartment in Zealandia. She knew she could now venture out and return as her she wanted to.
Mei missed the curfews imposed on her by her brothers. The chiding of her mother for her to eat breakfast on time and to make new friends. The coaxing of her father to try some sport instead of just lurking in the house all day, wondering and writing depressing poetry.
Mei filled a glass of water to swallow her tears. Her father. He always reminded her of himself in everything. She wondered how he would react after hearing about the civil war. Perhaps he would debate with his three sons on the dining table, discussing tactics, his eyebrows furrowed. Mei could only wonder. She dragged herself to the living room and stared at the clock on the wall, a stellar replica of the one that used to hang in Lei’s room.
It was two forty-five. It was a five-minute walk to the place. Mei sighed, wondering if she should wait. She remembered what waiting had caused- five deaths. On an impulse, she gathered herself and slammed the door of her apartment shut. She could come and go as she wanted, anyway. There was no one waiting at home. If she could call it that.
It hardly took her any time to reach the place. Wars were being fought all over the continent of Zealandia, and people often gathered to watch, and the smell of blood guided her to her destination. Mei no longer watched for the sake of knowing who would win or if it would solve anything. She ignored the reporters who would put questions to her, preferring to give them a blank stare. The sole reason she visited was to see how her father had died. Was he as helpless as those soldiers who lay lifeless on the ground? She couldn’t really picture the earthquake. It had been twelve years, after all. She had been twelve at the time, and now she was twenty-four. Yet she found, nothing had changed. Nothing new had been given to her. Time had taken everything away from her, though.
No view was the best view, everyone sat where they could. None of the views were good anyway, thought Mei as she stood by the border, trying hard to keep her breakfast down as a soldier coughed out blood. She closed her eyes as she heard a deafening shriek from an injured man near her. That was it. She fled, as she did every day. A few interested viewers pointed out her to the journalists who snapped up pictures.
“Woman flees battlefield in terror,” Mei thought it would make a good headline.
‘Hi, Lei.’ Mei said as she lay back on the couch, tired out. Lei didn’t say anything. He couldn’t, given the fact he was a wooden doll on her mantelpiece. At least he’s smiling, thought Mei.
She switched the radio on. Over the years, she’d realized why her brothers were so up to date with the news. Perhaps it was because they were patriotic kids. Perhaps it was a good topic to debate on, perhaps it was because they were asked questions on the war in their exams. Mei watched it simply because she had too much time, and at this point, no news disgruntled her. She had sailed on a kayak for miles losing all her family on the way. What could possibly upset her?
She had forgotten, though, that she was not blank of emotion. Shock clouded her face as she heard the crinkly voice of a man on the radio. She had never expected this.
“Within a few hours itself, the Cipher has intervened between the civilians, and the war is being stopped all over Zealandia. The government is taking effective measures, and soon, all bloodshed will be stopped.”
Mei watched, her mouth hanging open, as people were interviewed regarding their relief. She stared into blank space as the radio lost its signal and the voice was replaced by an eerie buzzing.
She ran to her room and pulled out the only photo of her father which she had managed to grab before they had sailed off in the kayak.
‘Dad,’ she whispered. ‘Dad, the war stopped.’
Her father did not answer, and unlike Lei, he did not smile. Perhaps he knew about what would come next.
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You can read the next part here: Part 11