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I just want to go home. Somehow, I don’t think it should be this hard.
My mother and father are dead. My brother is dead. My grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends are dead. Even my dog is dead. Sky’la, my dog, ran when the bombings started. I found her two days later, after the dust had cleared. She had been trapped and crushed by war debris.
I am war debris, now. I am what’s left behind when weapons of war have blown everything apart.
My planet, Attarla, was a rather peaceful one; we were always scared, though, that the war would come to us anyway. And, soon enough, it did. The Dark War is sweeping across the entire galaxy, with no though to villages and homes and sons and daughters and beloved dogs who would not live to see another dawn because of it. The Dark War takes all.
I was one of the few who survived. The others are all strangers to me, and they look at me with hard, cold eyes.
We come from the same planet, I want to tell them. We are victims of the same war.
But I don’t. I don’t speak at all. They don’t want to hear my voice.
I am sixteen. I turned sixteen on the refugee ship off Attarla, watching my planet turn gray and dead in the distance. I was supposed to have a big party and ceremony, with all my family and friends gathered there to watch. But those in graves don’t see. They can’t watch young girls dance or hear happy music or eat a birthday feast. So I had no party, no ceremony. I grew up, instead.
For the past few months I’ve been living in a refugee camp set up on one of Attarla’s moons, a small one that has relatively no importance to either side in this war. That way, there is less of a chance we’ll be bombed.
I turn my head as somebody calls my name.
“Manda,” they say, “we’re going home today.”
My heart lifts. The last I saw of my planet more warships were headed in. This stranger, another refugee, informs me that the last of them has left; the battle for our planet has ended. Who has won? I don’t know; they leave before I can ask. But it doesn’t really matter. After these longs months away, I’m going home.
The ride to the surface seems to take forever, though it is actually a little less than that. I press my face to the dirty window, watching stars and dust clouds swim by outside in the murky, black-blue velvet of space. My planet is a little green-gray spark, and I never take my gaze from it. My home.
From the landing point the refugees are herded onto shuttles assigned to different regions of the planet. The windows are dark so it’s hard to see. I fidget uncomfortably and excitedly, wanting to get on the ground.
When I left it, Attarla was green, overflowing with plants and flowers of every size and color, some blooming right out of the waters of the rivers that snaked over the surface, so pale and clear and blue. I loved running through the trees, playing games with Sky’la and occasionally my brother, although he liked the inside more than the outside and spent his day playing virtual-reality games and challenge holos and, when he did step outside, he had his friends and I had mine. My brother was twelve when he died.
My home wasn’t large, like some of my friends’ homes were, but it was cozy and I loved it. My room was on the top floor; it was the only one up there. I could look out my window and see for miles unobstructed, and I had a skylight that I could look out of at night while I was lying in bed and see the stars. My family was there, and that was all that counted.
My family won’t be there now; I know that. They’re gone and nothing can ever bring them back. But the ship that brought me back to my planet today has given me hope. Maybe I can make this place my home again, even if it far emptier than it was the day before the war destroyed it.
The run to my home is seemingly taking forever. My leg muscles are burning and my heart is thumping, so hard that it hurts me. Still, thought, my home lies ahead. I keep moving.
Something makes me slow as I travel further on. To my feet, this ground seems familiar. However, my eyes don’t recognize it. The dirt is brown and charred; grass seedlings have died in their rooted cradles. The wind doesn’t blow often and when it does, it is in short and jagged breezes that reek of death and smoke.
I come to a complete stop when I see what lays in front of me. It is a great, lumpy mound, at first seemingly made out of dirt, but then I see it for what it truly is.
It is my home.
It has collapsed, been blown in upon itself. Rocks and rubble scatter the area; I can smell old army fires in the distance. They have only just moved out, leaving this cracked home-shell behind in their wake. They never stopped to consider what was once in here, considering that they killed it, too, leaving only me alive--if that’s what I am. I’m swallowed up by a great, spreading pain that adds some doubt to that.
I drop to my knees under the ashy, gray sky. This is not the place I remember it as, and now I know that it never can be.
I just wanted to go home. Somehow, I don’t think it should be this hard.