“Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.” - African Proverb
I walked down the street to the diner. My eyes watched the hard concrete, but not because I was upset. Actually, for once, I was happy. But I didn’t want any attention and I didn’t want to trip on the broken sidewalks. We were in a bad part of town (which was pretty much everywhere). I looked over and saw Blue’s curls being pushed back in the wind. He looked up at me and smiled. We ran down to the corner where the diner was and Blue attempted to push open the big glass door, but he really got nowhere. I pushed it open and heard the bell ring.
We sat at a table by a large window and the waitress gave us our menus. Our waitress—she was a Gerhild. And somehow trying to hide it. She had dark bags canvassing her under eyes while her forehead and cheeks were scared with carvings from the Mavuto.
Today was Blue’s seventh birthday. My mom should have come instead of me, but she works until she can’t open her eyes anymore. Blue and I were best friends even though I’m twice his age. It was just us and he wanted chocolate chip pancakes so we came here.
We ordered and received our food in less than a minute. Food was as fake as it gets so there was no need to really prepare anything. The hot plate hit the table. I could see the excitement on Blue’s face. We prayed and dug in.
“What?” Blue said after he looked up at my half closed eyes locked on him.
“Is that my shirt?” I said.
“It’s not not your shirt.”
“Are you stealing from me now?”
“I don’t know.” Blue said as he tried to hide a giggle and a smile.
“Well then let’s make it even.” I smiled and reached forward towards his plate and stole a piece of his pancake. He made a faint grumble that ended in a giggle.
“You just have to go and steal from me,” he said.
“Yeah and on your birthday too,” I said.
“That’s not a very sisterly thing,” Blue said with a smile.
“That’s not even a word!” I said. “Eat your food!”
“I am, I am. I’m eating. Don’t worry. I’m fine,” Blue said as he pulled his fork up to his face. I glanced up at him and smiled. His cheeks grew and the corners of his eyes crinkled. He looked up at me with his pancake on his fork.
And then smoke.
I looked up over to where I had just seen Blue. Nothing was there. The table was gone and the window was shattered. Shining, pointed glass shards were in millions of pieces all around me. I kept searching around the diner to find Blue or any remainder of him. Gazing down at my shirt I saw a red liquid dripping down my shirt and my heart started beating faster than it ever had before. I could feel a warm current pumping through my arms and into my hands. My hands were sweating and shaking and shuffling around on the floor to find something familiar. The smoke became overwhelming and the darkness started to disappear as a fire grew behind me. I dragged my body over a couple feet closer to where Blue was sitting.
And then I saw him.
A corpse. The limbs had collapsed and were sprawled across the demolished floor. Rubble was laying across him among the red streams that poured out. His clothes were ripped and his face was unrecognizable. But I noticed his shirt, or my shirt.
I crawled over to him, each movement being an impossible challenge. I finally stopped and looked over him. What had Blue done? Why was he the victim? Millions of questions raced through my head and came out in the form of tears. But I knew I couldn’t just cry over his body. I couldn’t be useless like I just had been. My arms reached over to him and tried to lift him. Looking over to his feet, I noticed a large piece of cement crushing him. I pushed my hands into the stone but it wouldn’t move. Pushing and pulling I tried to free Blue so that I could bring him home. The heat became stronger and closer, and time got shorter. I screamed to try to wake Blue up like that would help, but it was pointless. I couldn’t even hear myself. I could barely even see anything.
I had to. I had to leave him. My eyes were locked on what was left of him as I crawled back to where I had woken up. I shifted up and ran out of the door, into the street, and onto the broken sidewalk almost falling after every step until I reached home.
And time slowed.
Walking in the door, still covered in blood, I sat down on the broken pleather couch. I stared at the chipping wall until my eyes burned so much that tears began to form. It could have been seconds, minutes, or hours, but it felt like a lifetime. In a split second my eyes shifted up to my mother’s wide eyes locked on my shirt. She slowly moved toward me reaching out her arms to touch my shirt. Her fingers grabbed the red soaked fabric and pulled back to be stained in her own child’s blood. Her eyes moved from the stain, to my shirt, to my eyes, and to around the room.
“I’m sorry,” I said. My voice was breaking and my teeth were chattering. All I could blurt out was—“I’m sorry.”
“Where is Blue?! Where is he?! Where—” my mother fumbled over her own words. She became out of breath from running around the house pushing doors open and scanning every corner for any sign of my brother.
“I’m sorry,” I said. I just sat there.
“Why? Why are you sorry? Where is he? Why are you covered in blood? Is he okay? Are you okay? What happened? Just tell me! Just please tell me anything,” my mother said, “anything but ‘I’m sorry.’” I closed my eyes and my mom knelt in front of me. “You need to tell me what happened.”
“It was so fast,” I said.
“He was just sitting there.”
“Blue just wanted chocolate chip pancakes.”
By the end of the night I managed to get out the full story. I left out details after the explosion. She didn’t need to know what I had seen. Her heart was already in a million pieces.
Word had gotten around about the explosion. It was expected. It was the Mavuto. The Mavuto were basically the secret police, except they weren’t secret. Everyone knew they existed, but the government just refused to admit it. I heard back about 50 years ago, in 2783, they didn’t exist. Neither did Dumisani. Our division was called Anerika or America or something. Apparently when populations grew, divisions were created and destroyed. Now we’re left with Dumisani and too many people. Instead of finding a way to actually take care of them or support a growing society, why not just randomly kill some of them, right?
The whispers on the street terrify me. Sometimes I hear about the explosion and the “population control”, but no one ever actually mentions Blue’s name because he’s just a body now. His life has been reduced to a body at a scene that no one will remember in a year. Everyone will forget and move on with their lives. They’ll act like nothing happened until one day they find themselves in my shoes. And by that time it will be too late. We won’t have any control. The ones who aren’t numb, who have experienced things like me, don’t know how to do anything anymore. I can’t fight. My arms are too heavy to hold into fists and I can’t even see my own target. The hunter has a gun and what do I have?