STORIES FROM THE CHILDREN INSPIRED BY-
WRITING AND READING ACROSS THE UNIVERSE
Buford The Bunny
By Once upon a time, there was a bunny, named Buford. Buford, wasnt an ordenary bunny. Buford, was a bunny that NEVER listened to his mother. So, one day Buford's mother asked him to clean up his toys, but he wouldnt listen. So, his mother told him if he didnt clean up his toys , he would have to sleep outside. So Buford slept outside. But Buford didnt know that he wouldnt be able to go inside for anything.So he couldnt go inside the house for food, water, or even to play with his toys. So he cryed. When, Buford's mother looked out the window to see if he was okay, she felt sad, because she didnt want to see her son crying. So she let him back inside and hugged him. At that moment Buford, new that rules were for a reason, even if it meant cleaning up your toys.
Roses Among Ruin
By Mackenzie F
I remember being outside, birds chirping, people chatting idly, and just the general sounds of a city in 6004 filling my small ears as the mother that I barely remember led me to a small grassy area in Moscow. While I sat contently on the ground, she carefully picked a white rose from a bush. “Never forget roses, Yvonne. Cherish them, learn their scent, and never forget their colors, and most importantly what they symbolize and their power.” Then, she gently kissed the pure white petals and handed it to me, reciting what seemed to be very important. “White roses symbolize purity and innocence, red signifies compassion, lavender represents love at first sight, yellow symbolizes happiness, orange indicates power, and black roses stand for death.” I echo the lesson back and she nods in approval. I recall echoing her movements, bringing the blossom to my lips, and then cradling its fragile beauty in my small palms. Then suddenly, the world became as white as the rose petals I held in my hands, and everything on Earth spiraled out of control. That is my only pre-apocalyptic memory, and I had no idea how much this fragile world would change afterwards…
Broken. Everything is broken, and looks burned, even now, sixteen years since the happening. The once majestic Moscow no longer stands, only rubble remains now, far as the eye can see. It’s as if someone emptied a fireplace onto the long-standing capitol of Russia, burying its former glory. Our temporary ‘homes’ always have this appearance, but to see my birthplace in such a state is a dagger to my heart. Foraging did not go very well today. Food supplies are running low, so we are going to have to start rationing our food until we can move somewhere else where the Order of Darkness is not.
There is nothing to fill the eerie silence that hangs above what once was Moscow, so any small noise echoes. This makes it hard to track where we are just by sounds because of the resounding noise. The fact that there are so many easy hiding places helps as well. This makes communication safer and simple. Cupping my hands slightly, I send out a coded message. “Area Four Report. Status: Level Ten,” I shout clearly. We have divided Moscow and the surrounding region into seven areas. Parts one through four are regions of the remains of Moscow, the other three are the surrounding region. Our ‘levels’ are a scale of usefulness. Level one is the best; it indicates that many supplies can be scavenged from there. Ten signifies that there is nothing of use to us in the area. I listen as other similar reports flow in.
“Area One Report. Status: Level Eight.”
“Area Six Report. Status: Level Ten.”
“Area Two Report. Status: Level Ten.”
“Area Five Report. Status: Level Nine.”
“Area Seven Report. Status: Level Eight.”
“Area Three Report. Status: Level Seven.”
I hear Kasai, our leader, shout, “Rendezvous via the underground.” Everyone understands and we all head towards the once colorful palace. Most outsiders, namely the Order of Darkness, would mistake ‘the underground’ to mean a train or subway station, which is our goal. Everyone assembles in the ‘base’ and we take note of all supplies we were able to find. I look around; no one found much of anything. Kasai, Iryna, Vladimir, Natasha and I are all empty handed. Only Viktor and Ivan found something of worth, and the food they found is far from plentiful. Once again, I scan the faces before me. In most everyone’s I see fatigue and stress. But in Vladimir’s I see something different. When we lock eyes for under a second, there is an unusual expression hidden deep in his pupils. Contempt, possibly? Whatever it is, the small expression disappears just as quickly as it arrived. We need to find more food. The seven of us are all that is left of this barren land that was once the powerful country Russia.
Assembled in our ‘base,’ I feel someone’s eyes on my face. I sweep my view across the room to lock eyes with Yvonne for less than a second. When we break eye contact, I feel that she may know who I am. But how could she? I have hidden it so well! I remind myself that no one here knows of my allegiance to the Order of Darkness. We alone would have been able to make a perfect world, if only there were no ‘rebel’ groups such as this one.
Sixteen years ago, the Order of Darkness, headed by the Dark One, whose real name is Madara Naito, launched our plan. The Dark One used an ancient form of sorcery to guide asteroids to hit the Earth all at the exact same moment. Since we are so few, his power and prowess strengthened our resolve. However, a handful of humans survived the ‘apocalypse’ and formed small survival groups. Many are oblivious to the existence of the Order, and pose only a tiny threat to our plan, while others, like this group, are aware of our presence and role in the apocalypse. The groups like the one I am currently assigned to oppose us and do not plan to submit to our dominate will. They will ruin our plans and therefore must be eliminated at all costs. Even if that means that spies, like me, must find and join the groups, living among the rubble until there is an opportunity to eradicate the so-called ‘rebels.’ I have been with this group long enough to gain their trust, all I must do now is find the right moment to make my move. Tonight will provide the perfect opportunity to strike. I know of two Order operatives, twins named Travis and Rairis, in the area that I can call to my aid. Perfect. But there is still the matter of that girl, Yvonne. She seems to suspect me, as does that arrogant boy, Viktor. He shows open hostility towards me. Perhaps they are both suspicious, but no matter. Tonight, if my plan unfolds as I expect it to, there will be no reason for me to fear being found out. Tonight…I think as I slip into a deep slumber.
As we disperse for sparring practice, Iryna, the second eldest of our ‘group,’ nudges me. “I caught Viktor staring at you again,” she whispers, teasing me. “Maybe he reciprocates your feelings.” I try to suppress my light pink blush. But Ivan, the youngest, saw it and, being the naïveté he is, asked, “What’s wrong Yvonne? Your face is all pink.”
“N-nothing!” I manage to reply, embarrassed that he noticed it. Ivan just shrugged and skipped ahead to the ‘training grounds’ even though he is fourteen. I shook my head thinking, My God, I am lucky that boy is so naïve. The place we go to spar is the little grassy area my mother took me to just before the apocalypse occurred. Every time we spar it brings back memories because somehow the white rosebush survived the meteors hitting Earth. The only type of fighting we can practice is hand to hand combat due to the overall lack of weaponry. Aside from the occasional pipe or sharpened branch, all we have are our bare fists to fend off an attack. Natasha and I pair up as usual; Iryna coaches her brother Ivan, while Vladimir and Viktor spar furiously. It doesn’t take a genius to see that they hate each other. They fight so ferociously, it looks as if they are aiming to kill. During all of this, Kasai keeps watch from a pile of debris.
Later, bathed in sweat, we all regroup for the evening meal. With less food than usual, the atmosphere is subdued. We will most likely move somewhere else soon that has more to offer.
My night watch is first. I choose a perch about thirty meters from the others to use. Methodically, I scan the surrounding area for movement. For three hours straight, nothing appears, as usual. I am about to wake up Vladimir for his shift when a sudden, dark movement catches my eye. I freeze, and so does the shapeless creature. Nothing happens for five minutes or so, so I assume it was an illusion created by my tired brain. I shake Vladimir awake and collapse into my sleeping spot. Sleep comes almost immediately, but not before I see the creature move again, this time towards Vladimir. I should tell Kasai, but I can’t move; I am drained of all energy. I must warn Kasai….
Finally, the time has come. Travis, however, is having doubts. “I think that girl saw me,” he frets.
“She didn’t. I promise you. You’re only thinking that because you are worried this will not go as planned.” I snap back, annoyed at his attitude. All will go as planned.
I am sure it will. I creep up to the others and count them all, making sure no one is missing. Iryna, Viktor, Yvonne, Natasha, Ivan… Where is Kasai?!? I whip around and see Travis and Raivis lying on the ground unconscious, with no one else there.
Oh Dark One, I pray, do not let this be the end of me. I am loyal to your cause, to the idea of a New World. Do not let me die. I take my knife in hand and tremble slightly. I kick Travis then Raivis, and hiss, “Get up! No more jokes!” Neither move, and both my pulse and breathing quicken. The hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention.
“Scared?” a voice I recognize as Kasai’s whispered. I swallow and whip around. No one is there. Cold sweat begins to form on my forehead. “Because you should be,” echoes all around the campsite. I grind my teeth together and move towards Ivan’s sleeping form, trying to ignore the voice which I am praying is just a prank that Ravis is playing.
“I don’t think so, traitorous scum.” And suddenly, Kasai is right there in front of me, eyes blazing, dagger in hand. I feint, hoping to catch her off guard and use her blind spot against her, but luck is not on my side tonight. She catches my arm and punches me in the stomach hard. Twice. This leaves me gasping for breath, but I still try to attack, to no avail. I cannot get in even one blow. She cuts open my upper arm with a sheet of scrap metal and forces me to the ground. By now Raivis and Travis have woken up again, and are creeping towards Kasai. They take her by surprise, grabbing her arms and pinning her to the ground. With a few sharp kicks, she is out of breath. Then, disaster! Someone strong punched me, hard, in the side of the head. Whirling around, spots dotting my vision, I realize Viktor is there. He snarls, “How dare you betray us! You filthy traitor!” This outburst wakes up Iryna and Yvonne. Yvonne just stares at the scene, while Iryna immediately begins to mercilessly attack Travis and Raivis. They yelp and try to fend her off but now Kasai is up as well, freed from their grasps. The impact of Iryna’s fist upon Travis’s jaw is so powerful, I can hear the snap. He immediately passes out and Ravis is cornered by Iryna. All of this happens as I attempt to dodge Viktor’s ruthless punches, to no avail. Almost every time he swings his fist the punch lands perfectly. Gasping for breath and still bleeding from my arm I try cut with my knife, anywhere. Finally, I manage to land a blow to his stomach. Cursing in pain, he falls. One thought runs through my brain, over and over. Take out Kasai; get her out of the Dark One’s way. Kasai’s back is in front of me suddenly. I attack with my knife aiming for an easy kill, the jugular vein, but time slows and Kasai seems to move inhumanly fast, like she knew I had been there all along. There is nothing I can do as my blade is wrenched out of my hands and turned against me. My last thought as pain blurs my vision black is: I…failed…
Vladimir falls to the ground, a pool of red forming slowly underneath motionless form. I wrench my eyes away from the corpse and look around. The remaining man is sobbing, begging to surrender, while cornered by a beyond furious Iryna. I have never seen her that angry. Another cloaked figure is not far away, it is easy to see that his jaw is broken. I hope that he won’t die, but instinct tells me he will. Natasha and Ivan are still asleep; it’s a wonder how they managed to go undisturbed through it all. Kasai is sitting on the ground breathing hard, while attempting to stop the flow of blood from a massive cut in her forearm. I try to help but she waves me away. “Help Viktor,” she commands. I walk over to him and kneel down to inspect his state. He is barely getting enough oxygen and the breaths he does take are ragged and shallow. A small stain is beginning to darken his shirt, and my eyes widen as I realize when he was punched, he was stabbed as well. I quickly tear his shirt to shreds and do my best to crudely bandage the wound. I pull the strips of cloth tight and he groans out in pain. I whisper, “I’m so sorry I didn’t do anything, Viktor.”
He gives a strained half smile and replies, “Don’t be. I’m glad you weren’t hurt.”
“Why did you take on Vladimir? He’s our best fighter after Kasai! You could have attacked one of the others that weren’t wielding have knives.”
“I didn’t want Viktor to harm anyone. Especially you.”
“But...now you’re injured. It wasn’t worth it.”
“Yes it was,” he countered. “I saved your, Natasha’s, Ivan’s, and Kasai’s lives as well as-”
“I would have been JUST fine even if you hadn’t jumped in to save the day, thank you very much,” Kasai asserts from a few meters away.
I chuckle at this comment and Viktor does too, although I can see it pains him. He attempts to say something else but I shush him, telling him to save his energy. He doesn’t persist so I drag blankets over to him and try to make the ground he is sleeping on more comfortable. What was he going to say? I ponder. I look back over to Iryna; she has the other attacker by the collar and is dragging him towards Kasai. I realize he is only a boy, most likely no older than fifteen. His face is white as the rose I remember and has an expression of pure terror written upon it. She pulls him up in front of Kasai, and he blanches even further. “P-p-please don’t kill m-me!” he squeaks. “I-I was f-forced to join the Order!”
“Right…” Iryna snarls from behind him. “Just like how you were forced to attack us in the dead of night. How you were forced to try to kill Kasai. Like how you were forced to stay and fight instead of running away, like any other coward would.”
What is the ‘Order’? And why did they attack US? I think as Kasai just shoots Iryna a look that reads clearly, shut up. She looks the boy in the eye and says, “How many are in the Order currently? And where is your base located?”
Flustered, the boy replies, “W-well, we have the D-dark One, Pein, Kira, Sesshomaru, A-Akito, Hiema, Crona, Maroko, a-and me, Raivis. Travis is now d-d-dead and s-so is Vladimir, so that leaves us with nine members of the Order of Darkness…” He trails off with a pained look. “What are you going to do to me?” Raivis whispers. “Let’s think…You attempted to kill us, not even seeming scared when you pounced on me to save you dear friend Vladimir. You lie, saying you were forced into the Order to try to invoke some false sympathy for you. And lastly, you avoid the latter question so your precious ‘home’ won’t be destroyed by us! I ask you once again, where is you base located?” Kasai snarls, her deep green eyes glittering dangerously. “It’s j-just about a day’s walk e-east from here. A-as the crow f-flies,” Raivis explained, terrified beyond measure. “Thank you,” Kasai growls and motions to Iryna. She steps forward and Kasai whispers something in her ear. Iryna nods and grips Raivis’s upper arm and begins to drag him off. He whimpers, but doesn’t fight. Iryna disappears from view and Kasai lets out a long breath. “What are you going to do to him?” I half whisper. With her back to me, Kasai responds slowly.
“We can’t have him following us, or worse, going ahead and warning the Order of Darkness.”
“Kasai?” She turns to face me.
“What is the Order of Darkness?”
I hold my breath, hoping she will answer me. Kasai let out another long breath then replied gently.
“Wake the others; they should hear this as well.” I shake Natasha, Ivan, and Viktor awake and tell them to listen. Kasai looks each of them in the eye, and then begins her story.
“Twenty years ago, a man named Madara Naito had an idea, that he decided surely came from God himself. He wanted to create a perfect world, but in order to do so; he believed he had to start the world over from scratch. Generating an ‘apocalypse’ to wipe out all of the humans on Earth was his plan. He carefully recruited a handful of faithful followers to support and help carry out his so-called ‘God-given mission.’ Armed with a powerful scroll that unleashed ancient powers in human beings, he guided seven asteroids to hit the Earth, one for each continent. His scrolls were destroyed in the ‘apocalypse’ however, thus weakening his naturally deadly strength.
“However, a handful of humans survived the ‘apocalypse,’ thus infuriating him. He needed those hindering his plan eliminated, and quickly. Some ‘rebel’ groups did not know of his presence and were easily defeated. Others, like ours, knew or know of his existence and fought him, or are readying to oppose him. In order to restore the world eventually to its previous state, Madara and his twisted ideas must be destroyed. That is why we must defeat them as quickly as possible. We leave tomorrow and attack the day after. Prepare yourselves.” With that she walked away.
As I look down at the rebels from the cliff, I feel a sense that resembles regret mingled with irritation. I have lost my best fighter and my best spy to a group of inexperienced rebels that should have been taken down easily. However, as I think about my remaining followers, I find myself certain that this is a battle I am sure to win. My other forces will not fail me. Now I wonder; should I ready those faithful to me for battle, or stay and attempt to discover their plan, if they even have one? I decide to stay, it offers the best advantage. Knowing the enemies’ strategy is always the number one priority behind having forces with which to enter combat. My base is not too strong, but I expect it to hold. I look down at their forms, puny from this vantage point. Seven, there are seven of them and eight of us including myself. My lips twist into a smirk, their defeat is inevitable. Now, would it be more fun to have my followers ambush them, or use this as a test to see if they can handle an ambush? I turn to leave, my decisions made, but glance back at them.
Kasai, dear sister, our paths will cross again soon enough, and this time there will be no escape.
Everyone is fumbling to prepare for our assault on the Order of Darkness. Viktor, although wounded, insists on doing more than his fair share of work. I at first try to dissuade him, to no avail. He continues to do extra preparations, most of them my assigned duties in addition to his. Could these favors hold a hidden meaning? Could he possibly reciprocate my feelings? Every time I ponder this, my heart flutters wildly.
Natasha and Ivan only know that Vladimir betrayed us, not that he and his companions are dead. Kasai did not give Iryna the order to execute Raivis. But I suspect she did because no one knows where she left him, and if she had tied him, we would be bringing him food.
Kasai sits alone, apparently deep in thought. Glancing at her from time to time, I see her draw something in the soil, erase it, and draw again. Finally, when the sun is a few hours from its departure, she calls us over.
“I have created a rough attack plan for the day after tomorrow, when we begin our assault on the Order of Darkness. Tomorrow, we will travel using the directions Raivis so gladly gave us. We camp that night on the out skirts of their base, and early in the morning, we attack. It works best if we are in pairs. Iryna, with me, Yvonne, stick with Viktor. Natasha and Ivan will not be fighting; they are too young and inexperienced. We have two people on the inside which works in our favor, we will outnumber the enemy.” At this she pauses and holds up her hand to stem the flow of questions. “I am not going to tell you who they are because they will not reveal their treachery until the fight is underway, and Madara is occupied fighting me. That way they can easily strike down two Order operatives before the others realize they are on our side. No one leaves the battlefield until Madara is dead. We must be careful that no one escapes. If someone does get away, follow them. That is all, any questions?”
No one makes a sound.
I look out on my operatives sparring in the ‘courtyard’ of our headquarters. Kira, the first to share my ideas, Pein, my second-in-command, my beloved Akito, the tactical mastermind Sesshomaru, Hiema, the most determined, the quiet but deadly Crona, the cunning, clever Raito, the violent Medusa, and the impassive Maroko. We will not fall. They had traitors, while we are untainted by opposing forces. We are the only hope for the New World. In a moment, Akito is beside me. “Something troubling you, my lord?” she asks in her velvety smooth voice.
“Just the thought of the rebels, and how annoying it is to track them all down,” I answer, only voicing part of my thoughts.
“Although we are few, we will still triumph over them easily, my lord. We are the Order of Darkness after all,” Akito attempts to soothe my worries like always. Then she leaves me to my thoughts.
Still facing out towards the ‘courtyard’ on my balcony, I think, but what if they have something we cannot handle? What then? What will become of the Order if I am defeated? I shake my head to dispel the worries, and I can think clearly again.
We will triumph. We must.
As the sun begins to rise above the horizon, my eyes snap open. I roll over and watch the sky become a cartwheeling array of yellows, oranges, reds, and pinks. But even the overwhelming beauty of it all does nothing to dispel the sense of foreboding that is overshadowing me.
“Enjoying the spectacle?” I jump, I hadn’t heard Viktor approaching. He chuckles at my reaction and sits next to me, wincing slightly as he does so.
“Even the onslaught of raw beauty can’t shake the ominous feeling I have,” I reply truthfully, and he nods.
“The quiet before battle,” Kasai’s voice explains quietly, almost dreamily. “Everyone experiences it at least once in their life.” We turn and see her gazing at the spectacle before us, yet somehow not quite seeing it. “What you are experiencing is the feeling of something to come, something that could affect your life either marginally or tremendously. Misfortune or luck? Who knows what will come from the future?” she asks, sounding almost philosophical, very unusual for herself. She shakes her head and walks away. Viktor clears his throat after she is gone.
“Can I tell you something?”
“What is it, Viktor?” He takes a deep breath and looks back at the rising sun.
“I…I really…like you, Yvonne.” I take his hand in mine, looked into his sea green eyes and responded.
“I really like you too.” Then I leaned forward and our mouths connected in a gentle kiss.
Fools, I think as I watch the young boy and girl kiss from the cliff. I have found their weakness, and I will use it against them. I smirk; this makes my task almost too easy. They shall fall once I use turn my newfound knowledge against them. I have already discovered the older girl’s weakness, the youngest boy, and she is his. Perhaps they are related. No matter, I have discovered nearly every one of their weak points, all there is left to do is discover Kasai’s. The other girl’s weakness is her strength, or lack thereof. Yes, these rebels will be simple to crush. I curl my hands into fists and look back at the kissing teenagers. Deep in thought, I turn away from the cliff edge and begin to head for the base.
When Viktor and I break the kiss, the first thing we notice that everyone in our camp saw us kiss. Iryna exclaims, “Well it’s about time, you two!”
Kasai is staring, not at us, but at the sunrise. There is a long moment of silence. Then Iryna breaks it. “Let’s get moving, then.”
The beauty of the sunrise continues to grow as we retreat due east, towards the enemy.
Returning to my headquarters, I continue to think about the impending battle. They will not win. The rebels are few, and we are many. They faced a traitor, and now must be wary of each other, while we remain pure, free of infestation.
We will arise from the ashes victorious.
How far have we walked? We have traveled at a steady pace in a straight line for half of the day and there is still no sign of the Order’s base. I wipe sweat from my brow, and shift the pack I am carrying. Before I can ask, Ivan voices my thoughts. “When will we get there?” he moans.
“We get there when we get there! Now be quiet! You’ve been asking that nearly every hour on the hour since we began walking!” Iryna scolds him, again. He groans and pleads, “Can we at least take a break? I’m so tired! Please please please!” Iryna rolls her eyes at her younger brother and glances at Kasai for approval. She nods and Iryna responds, “Fine, but only for a short while!” The relaxing break we take is refreshing and quiet. After all, what is there to say? I think. Then, we are up and trooping through the land like we never stopped, silent.
Viktor’s side occasionally pains him, ad he tries to hide it. I notice, but usually don’t say anything unless he stops walking because of the intensity of the pain. I do my best to end the pain away, but from what I’ve observed, it isn’t working. He attempts to remain vigilant, but I want to stop for his sake. Many hours pass this way.
The sun is almost touching the horizon, preparing to depart for the day. We have all stopped, save for Kasai, she is scouting the area that is before us. She returns, creeping up on our exposed flank. I am the first to see her and when I do, I jump. I didn’t spot her until she was about five meters away from our group. “Kasai!” I exclaim quietly. “What is ahead? The enemy base?” She nods, remaining silent. She approaches Iryna and whispers something in her ear. The younger girl pales and whispers back, looking pained. Kasai nods and pats her shoulder. Then she stands and announces to us, “The enemy base is an estimated fifty meters from our camp. Tonight we will eat well, sleep well, and remain well hidden. Iryna and I will keep watch. Your jobs are to be rested and full. Those whom are fighting need to be as energized as possible tomorrow. Even with our spies we are outnumbered. Eight to six…” At this, she pauses and shakes her head. “However, we plan to strike early, around dawn. This should give us an advantage over them. Just try to stay quiet in the beginning and knock as many enemies unconscious as you can if you don’t want or have the stomach or strength to kill. Ivan and Natasha, I want you to trail us but stay on the outskirts and hide as best you can. They will probably be distracted by the fighting, but if they see you, run until they give up. Stay where you are for a little bit, and then come back. We may need you for medical help.” She looks straight at me as she says this. “Remember, we have to win this fight. If we lose, there won’t be another chance for the world.” She looks every one of us in the eye.
“We leave at dawn. Be ready.”
Alas, in order to use the impending attack as a test, it must bee kept a secret. Which means the Order must stick to its usual routine. This means the night watches I assigned are still in effect. This means that some of my forces will be tired and more prone to being defeated. Also, the rebels could pick them off easily if they are in the right place at the right time. But telling everyone to get a restful night’s sleep will just make them worry that I am a traitor to them and no one will get any rest, which is worse. And then another worry adds to the pile in my thoughts. When will the resistors launch their attack? Dawn, when we are all tired and unfocused? Nightfall, when everything is veiled in darkness? Midday, when we are all in one place? There is too much unknown information. I pull my lips back from my teeth in a grimace. Where will they come from? East? South? North? There are too many questions and not enough answers. But I know one thing. That Yvonne, the Ever-Changing Rose, her true power will be diminished. My grimace transforms into a cruel smirk. “Retiring for the night, my lord?” Akito asks, suddenly beside me.
“Yes, my dear.” I respond, but not before glancing back at the departing sun one more time.
See you tomorrow, dear sister.
Waking up is easy the next morning. Adjusting to the idea that we are going to be killing people, although evil, for the good of the entire world is not. Breakfast is quick, and we are off, trooping silently through the woods. Kasai produced a katana and a few daggers for our use. We creep through the rubble, in a scattered formation. I look around, scanning the other faces. Kasai’s is unreadable, a blank slate. Iryna’s is the picture of deep concentration; I suspect she is entering a ‘zone’ that allows her to kill the enemy without being fazed by the blood. Viktor is determined to win this fight; I can see it written on his face. Vladimir’s betrayal has made him decide to fight harder, and help win this battle. It’s for me, no matter what he says or thinks, deep down, he believes it’s for me, and me alone.
Viktor, I love you, I think, hoping he will somehow hear me. I hope he is thinking of me as he enters the battle, and as he leaves it.
I love you, with all my heart.
Then we enter what will be the battlefield.
Kasai darts forward and slits the throat of a woman that had most likely been on patrol.
We leave her to die, but she manages to scream, “Intruders! Rebels! They are attacking…!” before she completely leaves this world.
And so it begins.
I awake to Medusa’s distant shriek of “Intruders! Rebels! They are attacking…!”Everyone, I am sure, bolts out of bed at this. The time has come! Kasai is here…
I am outside in a flash, but my forces are already here before me. And Maroko is already dead. I curse and Kasai turns from her battle with Akito, and rushes towards me. I pull out my ninja swords, short, deadly weapons. “Welcome, dear sister, to the abyss. Who will fall in? Shall it be you, or me? Let us find out...” I say as I begin a series of deceptive feints, preparing to use her blind spot against her. I am about to tear open her back, but she turns, inhumanly fast, and parries. She whisks a dagger out and plunges it into my thigh. Instead of crying out, I simply suck in a lungful of air and continue to press her. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Hiema and Crona turn against the other Order members and attack. Pein’s death at Crona’s hands, or rather blades, is swift, but Sesshomaru will feel pain for a long period of time before he crosses into the abyss that is the afterlife. Raito manages to stab the boy I saw kissing the girl, and the girl takes over, attacking him mercilessly. When Raito falls, she moves onto Akito, who is fighting Crona. She stabs her in the back, which will end her life ultimately. I can see she is fueled by rage and pain. Maroko is attempting to dodge Hiema’s attacks. They both deliver fatal attacks at the same moment. They fall to the ground together, but Hiema crawls away. Kira is fighting the older girl, who is obviously winning. Kasai’s solid fist slams into my diaphragm, bringing me back to our duel with a frightening shove. I am now out of breath and bleeding from my leg in torrents. All Kasai has is a cut on her cheek accompanied by an intense look of hatred and disgust directed at me. “You – tried – to – kill – us!” Each word punctuates a blow or cut. “I – was – your – only – family. How – could – you – do – that?” She shouts, exceeding loud and moving into a whole new scale, right into my ear. “You – evil – lying – backstabber!” she snarls, with so much lethality my blood runs cold. Time seems to slow as her steel katana pierces my heart and exits through my back. For a split second, she is vulnerable. Ignoring he sword in my chest, I lunge forward with my weapons. Burying them in her chest and abdomen, I feel a twisted satisfaction that we will enter the abyss of the afterlife together. Locked together, we sink slowly to the ground. Warm liquid runs out of the side of my mouth as I whisper, “It seems we are departing together, dear sister.” Since there is nothing I can do, I turn and drink in the scene during my last moments.
My beloved Akito, who stood beside me for so long, is on the ground, a pool forming beneath her head, her eyes open and blank. Sesshomaru is curled into a ball. Pein is close by. Hiema, a traitor to me, is not far away, ragged gasps escaping her throat from the pain of the massive and most likely fatal wound in her side. Raito’s corpse lies very close to the rebel boy and girl. The boy is laying on the ground, the girl sitting and cradling his torso in her arms. The girl weeps, as the boy struggles to hold onto life. When he fails, and she cries harder and a younger girl came over and embraced her. I fight to keep my eyes open. Kira and the other older girl are lying side by side; the younger boy is attempting to hold back tears. The older girl whispers a few words to him, which makes him burst into the held at bay tears. Then, she slips into the abyss, her expression peaceful; this makes the boy begin to gasp in horror and sadness. Crona sits alone, breathing heavily.
I am almost gone. I can sense it. Goodbye, my sweet world, the one I could have shaped.
I am holding Viktor as he takes his last breaths. He was stabbed by another boy, older than him. I managed to kill the attacker in my rage, but that did nothing to save him. “Viktor,” I gasp through tears. “Please don’t leave me. I love you. This…this isn’t how the war ends. You...you aren’t going to die! Tell me you will live! Promise me!” His eyes crack open and his lips part. For a moment, only coughs accompanied by blood come from his mouth. Then he whispers, “Yvonne…I love you. My spirit will forever accompany with you, no matter where you travel. Start the world over. Give it a good beginning. Just don’t,” –another cough- “Forget me. Promise me this.” I press my lips together and nod. Then we share one last kiss. He falls away and I can no longer feel a heartbeat. That is when I let the tears fall. Natasha comes over and wraps her arms around me. “I’m so sorry, Yvonne.” She murmurs comfortingly, and we stay in that position for a few minutes. When the tears finally stop flowing, I look around at the scene before me. Iryna lies in Ivan’s arms, and he has tear stains on his face as well. Kasai is dead, right next to Madara, the brother she defeated for the good of the world. “Goodbye Kasai,” I whisper. “I wish you well on your next and last journey.” Natasha bows her head quietly. The girl that was a traitor, I believe Crona is her name, walked over to us. Gently she says, “We must bury them. It will let their spirits free from this world.” I bite my lip and nod. She crosses to Ivan and says something different. Whatever it is, it helps him. He stands and walks over to us.
Digging the graves is hard, especially without proper shovels. Our work is finally finished late in the afternoon. We lay the bodies carefully in the holes, and cover the as best we can. Crona says a final prayer for their spirits, and we all say farewell. We dispose of the other bodies, and then go inside. “We might as well get as much rest as possible,” Crona reasoned. “Tomorrow is the start of a whole new era in earth’s history. One we can shape however we feel.”
“Shouldn’t we find any other survivors?” Ivan questioned, as per usual.
“The sooner, the better,” Crona responds with a smile.
As I lay in a bed, I think of everything. Crona is right.
The time is now to put the past behind us and begin again. To make the world as best place as we can. To shape our own destinies. To begin anew.
Today, the sun sets on a world that is never to return.
Tomorrow, it shall rise upon a new Earth.
The Nightingale’s Song
By Ravi Yelamanchili
Amidst lost shadows of stolen nights,
Lost thoughts rise from heights forgotten.
With Oblivion’s cold gates opened wide,
Nightingales sing their seemingly sweet songs
With life transfixed in distant fears,
The heavens weep forth gentle rains
And, those fertile grounds once giving of life
Collapse on envy’s daunting intrusions
Though to the eyes forever bright,
The Sun’s veil falls at night’s coming.
Yet, the moon’s light touches even lost souls,
In depths of darkness that death dare not cross.
When life’s passions are lost from sight,
And dreams are vanquished at their heights.
When life fades to memories of the past
Recall, that shadows are but lights unsought
But when darkness spreads out her arms,
Do be wary of the nightingale’s songs
The Flames of May
By Ravi Yelamanchili
Short days do seek the breech of May
Fair light does dim cold night’s dismay
Hell’s shrouds do tear on youthful prose
And withered buds do bear new rose
Yet, on love’s threshold ever meek
Unlikely, hearts may chance to meet
While lost hopes pave grim roads unsought
Love’s true ways aren’t desires sought
Like oceans met by rivers long
Love’s harps are strung by two souls strong
And guided by the heavens high
These fledglings met, with wings shall fly
As time blooms winter’s blossoms white
Pure love will hold through bitter plight
As cold times do end, upon spring’s sight
May eternal light, kindle love’s flames bright