"Isn't it beautiful?" My brother's voice from beside me makes me stiffen. Turning my eyes from the window I twist to face him. He's standing just behind me, slightly to the side. His hands are clasped behind him, back straighter than the wall, a cold smirk on his lips. I study him, eyes resting on his face; the same one that used to laugh and smile warmly, brighten with joy when I came home from class. I stare at him, wondering where my innocent little brother has gone, wondering when he started to take delight in others pain. And with agony in my heart I wonder why I haven't noticed any of this before.
Returning my gaze out of the window I scan the ground without meaning to, without wanting to. I can see lifeforms moving, scrambling out of the way as debris rains down around them. All of my life I had been told that they were monsters, the spawn of the devil. I had been taught in countless lessons that the people of the underworld were animals that only wanted to feast on our flesh and drink our blood; that they were beasts that deserved to die, nothing else. My eyes rake unwillingly over the shadowed figures fleeing for their lives, the figures of supposed murderers, killers... monsters. Then my eyes fall on a tiny little shape, standing on the rock with its head lifted towards us, towards me. My body jolts like it's been electrocuted; the figure isn't big enough to be anything but a child. I lean forward a little, staring at the other figures. They are all children!!
I swallow, as another silver cylinder drops from the clouds and plummets to the ground. I shiver, as it seems to hover over the helpless silhouettes, over the children. I close my eyes as it falls, exploding with such radiance I can still see the colours from underneath my tightly sealed eyelids. I can feel the shuddering earth under my feet even with the stabilizers.
One last bomb digs into the eartha nd the monstrosity ends, at least for today. Out of the corner of my eye I see my brother turn. Feeling his eyes heavy upon me I force a smile, still staring out of the window at the settling red mist on the glass.
"Another victory," With effort I make my tone light, pleased. "The war will be over soon."
He laughs, even that sound cold and heartless now. "I hope not Ella. Where's the fun in that?"
"Indeed, where's the fun?" I parrot softly. I don't bother arguing, what's the point? It would only mark me as a sympathizer and I couldn't trust my brother to not turn me in. I hold out my hand for my brother to take, wrist stiff. He embraces it with one hand, bending to kiss gently; so formal, so polite. Fascinating at how our society could be so ceremonial yet subsequently so harsh and cruel. Freeing my hand from my brother's grasp I head for the exit, ignoring the blood-streaked windows.
"Get this place cleaned up." I hear my uncle, the commander, order as the door slides shut behind me. "Remove that cursed matter off my ship."
I walk through the corridors without really seeing; everything is a haze of reds and greys. I can't be sure it's anger or that my eyes have just adjusted to the constant stream of our enemy's blood. I pause, stopping in the middle of the corridor. That small, lone figure staring up at the ship is so clear in my mind I have to remind myself that it's gone; ashes now. We were fighting children?? How was that the great threat that was plotting to destroy us? How were children a threat worth eliminating?
"Ella!" I snap out of my thoughts as a gentle hand touches my arm. I look up, taking a breath as I do so. Rachael Westwood from my childhood school days is smiling down at me, as ever so much taller than me.
"Rachael! It's been too long." Dipping down into the customary curtsy I straighten to see a misery in my old friends eyes.
“Morning Rachael. It’s been too long.” Dipping down into the customary curtsy I straighten to see a misery in my old friend’s once joyful eyes. “Rachael?” I ask, dropping my voice as a few patrolling officers pass. I wince at the sharp glare they shoot us, most likely at our lingering. Not wanting to get into trouble I loop my arm with Rachael’s and start to walk towards my quarters. I don’t say another word until the door is closed behind us.
“What’s wrong?” I question as Rachael collapses onto my window seat. I gently sit down beside her, gladly noting that the glass of the window isn’t red but rather a clear crystal blue.
“I don’t know any more.” She murmurs, sounding lost. I blink, confused. Rachael never seemed to me as the lost type; she always knew exactly what she wanted and how to get it. In a way I was always envious of her growing up, because I never knew what I wanted; never mind how to get it.
“What do you mean you don’t know?” I whisper, not know why I was whispering but feeling as if I should be.
“Why are we fighting?” She whispers back, her volume matching mine.
“Because the war demands…” I begin automatically.
“Because of what war?” Rachael cuts in harshly. “What war are we fighting? What are we fighting for? A war means there is something we are fighting for. This…” She stops abruptly, tears beginning to cascade down her cheeks like waterfalls. “This is just two sides slaughtering each other, there is no purpose. We fight and we die, and what for?” She finishes, before breaking into sobs.
“What happened to you?” I question. Of course there was a reason why we were fighting, the people of the underground were monsters; we would die if we stopped. But that was the expected answer, the answer everyone is brainwashed with at school. I remembering the figure staring at the sky and twist in my seat, away from Rachael.
“You know, it’s been a long time since we’ve spoken.” Rachael starts. I glance over at her vaguely, lost in thought. “A lot has happened.”
“Not all that much has happened to me.” I comment dryly. It was true; my life was still the same as it was five years ago. Only I was going to work instead of school nowadays.
“I got engaged, and then married.” Rachael laughs, bitter. “And two weeks ago I was widowed.” She keeps laughing, the sound strange and emotionless.
“I’m sorry.” I murmur.
“What could you have done to have stopped it?” Rachael asks, “You didn’t even know him.”
“I could have been there. I could have been there all these years.”
“You’re here now.” She says, salty tears dripping from her chin and silently splashing on the floor. I bite my lip, staring at them; I don’t know what else to say.
“He was in the war, my husband. He died fighting those savages.” Rachael shakes her head, mournfully from side to side.
“I don’t think they’re all savages.” I say before I realise what I'm doing. I bite down hard, clipping my tongue; such words were treasonous and dangerous around someone like Rachael. Her father died in the war, and recently her husband. Sure enough she was staring at me with hatred and anger in her eyes.
“How could you even say that?” She hisses. Standing up she towers over me. “How could you even think that?!” She screams before spinning in a sharp circle and marching towards the door. It slides open easily, shutting just as quietly. I sit in shock, unbelieving in my carelessness. How could I? I was going to be arrested for certain now. I stand up shakily, a sick feeling spreading through my stomach. I stare out of the coloured glass of my window, down at the ground below. They weren’t savages, I was positive. But how could I be so certain? I glance towards the door, knowing it was only a matter of time before the officers in blue came. Swallowing harshly I dart towards the closest dresser. I needed to find proof; proof that the people of the underground weren’t what they were described as; if only for my own piece of mind. Tossing in a few sets of clothing and a couple of personal items I quickly clasp the bag shut and pull it over my shoulder. There is no time to change; I will just have to run in my dress.
The door opens with it's usual silence. I slip out and don't waste any time in moving through the hallways. Monsters were a thing of dreams and tales. They couldn't be people and chldren just trying to live their lives and survive under cruelty. It was time to prove that. And if not, people were going to see how much of a monster I could be.