For as long as I can remember, the world, MY world had been covered in dust and ashes.
I’d been born with perfect eyesight, but the only color my eyes had seen are shades of gray, an occasional brown, and — if I’m quite unlucky that day — hint of red. And not delightful pink kind of red, a nauseating-scarlet-kind-of red. Blue sky? I don’t have blue sky here, maybe it’s all those thick smokes that makes the sky is always only shades of gray.
My hearing is also undisturbed, but I hadn’t been lucky enough to enjoy Mozart, or Beethoven, or even those boy-band that girls my age would usually go head over heels for, like One Direction? MY music is kind of different, my music is usually the harmony of the rattle of some automated riffles, where you had drums I would listen to the explosion of grenades as percussion. We do have high-octaves vocalists here though, but rather than singing beautiful melodies, they’d scream out strategic commands. Did I say that they were harmonious? Well after some times, you get used to it.
But of all, I’m proudest with my fitness. I’m slender and strong, my daily exercise of running away from conflicted areas had kept my body fit. On those few lucky days where I can take a proper bath, my skin would glow and my wavy hair would fall nicely to my shoulder, I like having my hair long, and I wish I can grow it more, but I cannot have it longer than this or it would hinder with my daily exercise. It’s thanks to this body that I haven’t been a burden to my parents and we managed to survive all this time.
I opened this story with “for as long as I can remember”, well it’s because I can basically remember everything. This is my one curse, I cannot forget anything, I have an eidetic memory. That means that everything I see, hear, or feel are forever etched to my memory. If I were born in the western world, I’d be called a child-prodigy with straight As without even trying; I’d be given many awards and congratulations; my teachers would really love me. But I wasn’t born in the western world, not even in at least one of those peaceful country where there may be problem but at least the problem isn’t figuring out how I can wake up tomorrow. No, I was born here, in MY world all this ability gives me is a streak of nightmares where my brain keeps replaying the events occurring prior to my sleep. And I’d tell you that it isn’t pretty.
But I bear through it all…
I have my family: my dad, my mom, and my two heroic older brothers. My dad used to be in the army, but he disagreed with their values and defected to the rebels only to find out that their cause was not as pure as orated, now he’s a full time superhero for his family and some other people that needs help, you need to work together with other families to survive this after all. My mom was a real-life CEO, whatever resources we have, she’d manage it. She’d manage it so that we always would have enough to survive at least a week from now. Honestly, without her we wouldn’t have survived a day since the occupation. My two older brothers are identical twin, I don’t know if it’s true, but apparently each of them can feel what the other is feeling. Sometime my dad would take one of them when he’s going out, and more than once when they found danger my other brother who stayed with us would sense it and warned my mom to be prepared to be on the move again and once my dad is back we were ready. In MY world where being late by a few minutes could mean life-and-death, their ability was indispensable. I love them, and they love me, and we have each other.
I don’t have many friends since I don’t go to school. Occasionally, we would meet other families with a kid around my age and we can be kid again for a while. But I don’t let myself get too attached to them, because sooner or later we’d be separated again. This I learned from experience. Because the first time around, we met this family with a girl around my age. I had never had any girl friends, my playmate was usually my brothers, so I was delighted to have her around and do our girly stuff, until one unlucky day we were a bit late in running away. Did I tell you that on unlucky days like that I’d see other color than gray and brown? And I’d told you about my eidetic memory right? Lesson learned.
I did pick up a hobby of reading though, my brothers — who were lucky enough to attend school for a while — taught me how to read and ever since then I loved reading. I love escaping for a while to other world, where they described castles, forests, oceans, a world full of colors, a world where seeing the color red doesn’t scare you, but rather soothe you as you can see them on roses. I wonder how roses would smell like? One time, one of the abandoned houses we took shelter on had this series called Harry Potter. It’s been my prized possession ever since! I’d carry it in my small backpack wherever we move, I kinda wish that one day, there’d be an owl carrying a letter from Hogwarts and the wizards would take me (and as an exception, takes my family too) away from here. I’m not eleven yet so I’m still waiting! But too bad they only had six books, and I know it’s probably not over yet, I’m dying to know what happen on book seven! And I hated Snape with all my guts, I knew, like Harry knew, that his greasy hair smelled like trouble. I mean, how could he do that to Professor Dumbledore? Whoops, spoiler alert.
Everything went like that for a while, and that was all I needed, despite all this condition, to survive, and to — even though it’s rather weird saying this — be happy.
That was until a few days ago…
The pro-government forces decided that it’s time they end the stalemate in this rebel-occupied city of mine and launched a full scale offensive with the help of their ally in the western world. You had a saying that “it’s been raining cats and dogs” in the western world right? Well ever since a few days ago, we had a saying “it’s been raining bombs and bullets” ever since. The difference is that it doesn’t mean that it’s been raining hard, we just took it literally. MY world turned upside down since then, yes, even crazier than before. We were constantly on the run then.
And then everything started falling apart.
Didn’t I tell you my father once defected? Even though it wasn’t for long, his name still managed to get into the “wanted list”. He’s wanted by the pro-government forces, and these days the forces are executing the people who’s on the list, publicly, as if trying to make a statement of what would happen to the rebels. Their corpses would be left on the street, their wives raped then killed and then they’d be laid beside the husband’s corpse but in a more miserable condition as their clothes are usually torn apart and their eyes would open wide reflecting the last terror they’d seen before those eyes went dark forever.
The day and night were similar then. The days were darker, with all the black smoke blocking the sun; and the nights were lighter, with all the fire ablaze from missile dropped from continuous air-strike. We probably had’t slept well for a week, as we needed to stay vigilant. We’d been reaching our limits from quite some time ago. I couldn’t remember when was the last time I saw my father sleep. We ran out of food too, the volunteers that’s usually hanging around some of the city parks giving food had been evacuated. I even lost my Harry Potter books, I’m pretty sure it was left behind when we had to run in the middle of the night because of another air strike. Those air attacks were adding another sound to my daily music: a whistle and a bang. The whistling noises were usually faint, but still distinguishable as they brought a horror much greater than the other instruments. The bangs were worse, it’s an instrument that you’d wish you never have to hear in your lifetime. And I wish you would never need to.
The war was at its height. And we knew, and we hoped that, if we survived just a few more days we’d be safe. In the world of Holywood movies, and one of the General would be done in by one of the heroes, and the war would suddenly stop. The missile would stop raining down, the sky would suddenly clear up from all the smoke and would show a color I longed for from a long time ago – Blue.
But again, this was not a world from the Holywood movies, it’s MY world. And in MY world, miracles didn’t conveniently happen just in time. In MY world, the villain didn’t have any sudden revelation and turn good. In MY world, they didn’t show mercy.
Just like last night…
We were surrounded, my dad knew there’s no way out of this so he told mom that he’d buy some time and distract them by surrendering himself. They never show any act of affection in front of us, but last night my mom did something straight out of movie: she kissed him. It wasn’t an affectionate, “I’d see you on the other side” kind of kiss. It was short, fleeting, and the look they shared at the end of it knew what was laid in front of them. It was only for a few second, but I knew it felt like forever to them. It was an unspoken goodbye.
We ran, but my dad didn’t manage to buy us much time. I still could glance at my father as we ran, I could see the militant surrounded him, his hands on his head as they forced him to kneel. Just as a wall blocked my view, I heard a gunshot. Remember how I said I remember everything?
They were immediately hot on our tail, their shouts echoed accompanied by an arrangement of war music. My mom then stopped, whispered something to my brothers and make them promised something to her. They promised, tears in their eyes but they promised. They were always more grown up than their actual age, they knew what was the best course of action. What was it they promised was clear to me just a few seconds later.
They grab me and ran, I screamed and I screamed and I screamed as I was dragged further from my mom, who glanced a smile at me. It was her unspoken goodbye to me.
I didn’t remember anything until I woke up the next morning in — what’s left — of a Mosque, apparently I passed out from the stress. My brothers sitting watch near me. And then it hit me. I could remember it, clearly, everything. Never had I cursed my memory like that, I could remember my dad being forced in the ground and my mom’s fleeting smile. She knew, she knew I wouldn’t leave her, she knew I would stay there, and she knew she couldn’t bear losing more than one person she loved in the span of a few minutes. She knew my brothers would take care of me.
But what she didn’t know was I was just a kid. I hadn’t had enough time with them and I couldn’t understand, I couldn’t understand why they had to leave. If they expected me to think like an adult and survive, they were wrong. This was not those movies where I endured all the struggle and grow up to be someone who eventually end war and change the world, they were MY world, and I don’t know and I don’t care about any other world. I was just a kid.
So I ran, I ran back to where they were, ignoring my brothers who were trying their best to keep me save. They chased me of course, but I was fast, I was nimble, and I knew the neighborhood like it’s the back of my hand, they couldn’t keep up.
And that brought me here, now.
Looking back, I knew it was a mistake. I couldn’t find my mom, or even her body, but I did find my dad. His body was just where we left him. If it wasn’t for the scarlet color covering half of his face, I would have thought that he was sleeping. His face was peaceful and no longer tired, like he was freed from fate worse than being killed. I guess my mom was captured but managed to not be raped and evaded the fate of those other wives by committing suicide, these days a lot of women did it.
I cried and hugged my dad, hoping that he’d wake up like usual, lift me with his hand and hug me on his chest. But for the first time in forever, he disappointed me. The world around me was a chaos: the sky was dark from all the smokes, the building around me all in ruins, some were still ablaze, the ground would shake every few seconds from the explosions nearby, people screamed in terror, I’d hear the roar of jet engine from the jet fighters passing by rather closely every few seconds, gunshots not ending. But it’s all seemed so irrelevant to me, for me all sights were a blank, and all sounds seems muted, and it felt like even time is halted. Because MY world, MY world is falling apart there and then.
Some militants then see me. They closed in to grab me but my brothers arrived on time to save me. They took me to the nearby building but it was a dead-end. They dropped me in the corner of the room and stood guard bravely on the entrance while the militant appears from the smoke. Did I tell you that my brothers are heroic? No fear on their eyes, they faced the terror that just stepped into the room. I just realized then how tiny two unarmed teenage boys were compared to a fully-armored militant. They didn’t stand a chance of course, a few hits from the militant and they fell, side-to-side. Heh, even in death they were inseparable.
And this is it, I thought as he, he that is everything wrong with this world, closes in. But he never got to me. The other militant called him and said something unrecognizable to me in an urgent tone and he ran out of the room. The reason becomes apparent to me as the sound of a jet engine roars right on top of me, followed by that dreadful whistling noise. I’ve never hear it this loudly before. And all of a sudden the world run in slow motion and I’m recalling every memory I had of this world as they flipped through my brain like an old 80’s movie. The music that I am used to hearing now become more harmonious, it’s a rather pleasant feeling really, with the whistling noise in the center of it all. The militant is still running to the entrance, but I know he’ll never make it. So I smiled.
In other world, the Order of the Phoenix would apparate into the scene right at this moment, cast some magic and stop the missile, right every wrongs that had happened, disapparate with me and let me know that everything is all right. But I’m not the main character of a sweet magical story, I’m not even the extras in a movie that’d be saved by the superhero, all that I am…
…is just a bystander in this sad, sad world.
I’m sorry that I took a bit of a darker theme this time. I tried to imagine the horror of being a kid in the middle of an ongoing war, and although it may not come even close to the horror of the real thing as I couldn’t quite imagine the horror they went through, I shivered quite a lot writing this. This is not a theme I’m used to take.
This is, of course, a work of fiction, none of this happened in real life, all of this only happened in my mind. Any similarities would be purely coincidental. Although I have to say that this writing is a tribute to my brothers and sisters in Aleppo. I pray that they are all save and the war would end soon.
Oh, and picture is not mine, it’s a photo of Omran Daqneesh, credit is to the taker of the picture.