My parents were killed nine years ago. It was a beautiful hot day. My mother was holding my hand as she picked fresh fruits and vegetables in the farmer’s market that happens once a week. As she browsed through the shops, she dragged me along to make sure I wouldn’t wander off and get lost. I despised the farmer market because my mother took forever to leave it. I grew impatient and tried to go the opposite direction but was pulled back. There was a stern look in her eyes and she said, “Caleb, if you don’t stop complaining, we’re going to spend the whole day here.” I stopped fidgeting.
After the long and arduous trip at the farmer’s market, we went home. My father was watching the news on the couch while my mother was making soup with the ingredients that she bought from the market. I ran to my room where my stuffed animals waited for me. I went straight to a shelf which held all my prized possessions, my baseball cards. I took out the cards gingerly and stared at them on my bed.
Suddenly, everything began to shake. My cards began to bounce up and down. I’ve never experienced such a strange phenomenon before and was frozen in shock. My parents ran into my room and told me to run out of the house. I obeyed and ran out of the house. I was too afraid to stop; I was afraid of the ceiling to come crashing down or the floor opening to an endless void. I finally ran out of my house and I turned around to see my house collapse. I never saw my parents ever again.
I was adopted by a couple who walked past me in the street. My foster parents told me that my parents died from an earthquake. I believed them. But as I grew older, I slowly learned of conspiracy theories that people began to murmur. When there weren’t any police officers or government officials, some people dared to whisper of their suspicions of the government. Some say the government has gone corrupt. Many have tried protesting, but they were never seen ever again. We never questioned such disappearances until Melvin, an infamous activist, was found dead with a bullet hole in his chest. Sophia, a tech expert, claimed that the bullet found in Melvin was unique and usually used by the law enforcement officers.
Riots became more and more frequent and damaging. The president keeps saying they got the riots under control and tells us to not fear but it is hard to believe. Riots occur about once a week . If he truly has it under control, how could there be so many riots.
One night, I was walking in the streets as I saw a poster on a wall. I didn’t recognize it; it didn’t look like the other propaganda that law enforcement officers tape up. As I walked closer, I noticed a golden bird surrounded by flames and the words, “From flames and destruction, shall a new future be initiated”.
“Caleb, join us,” said a figure that emerged from the darkness.I turned around to see someone in a hood. I couldn't make out who it was at first.
“We can begin a new government and future through force. We can pressure the government to conform to our standards and rules. Join us,” she said. I backed up fearful.
“I don’t trust you,” I replied shakily as I backed up.
“Wait! Let me tell you something before you leave and deny my offer,” she insisted.
“Your parents were part of a group of peaceful protesters, a group of people who were doomed by the government. One day, an earthquake occurred that wiped out almost all of the protesters and their relatives… except you.”
“How does that concern me? And why should I care? Earthquakes are natural and that was the past.” I replied with hostility when she mentioned the death of my parents.
“The earthquake wasn’t real. We collected intel and discovered the government actually strategically placed bombs to make it seem like an earthquake. So, your parents were killed. Don’t you want to avenge their murder?”, she explained.
“Who are you? And who is “we”?” I asked in shock.
The figure takes off her hood and reveals herself; she was Sophia. She explained that she was part of a gang of people who resists the government using force and riots.
“Our mascot is the legendary phoenix because it is a symbol for a new beginning even from unbelievable odds like lighting oneself on fire,” she continued.
I later followed Sophia to a hideout for the Phoenixes. It looked like an ordinary building from the outside. Once inside, there were tables full of papers and maps, an armory, and many people. I was told to talk to the recruiter.
“Caleb Sade, 17”
I didn’t know how to feel; I felt brave and afraid, strong and powerless, proud and regretful.
Not much happened for a couple of days. One day, we were told that we were gonna have a riot and told to damage anything that seemed to support the government. That night, hordes of resurgents stole into the darkness. Most were armed with bats and torches, none had guns for we didn’t have the intent of killing. Some threw torches into buildings through their windows. Most of the city was ablaze. We ran back to our hideout. There, we relaxed and celebrated our “victory”.
Suddenly, the whole building began to shake. Earthquake! No, we were being bombed! Scenes of the earthquake nine years ago flashed in my head. I saw myself running in the hall. I saw the ceiling coming down crashing. I saw myself cry outside of my home on the sidewalk. The images disappeared and I see people running and freaking out. Parts of the ceiling began falling. A beam landed on me, knocking me unconscious.
Eventually, I woke up to see ruins and fire everywhere around me. There were Phoneix survivors looking out for others. I was somehow alive! Just like a phoenix, I was reborn from within the fire. The government hasn’t exterminated us yet. From flames and destruction, shall a new future be initiated.