An Orchestrated World
An Orchestrated WorldMy name is Will, and I was just about to turn seventeen when they came for me. They came in black-tie; their fancy clothes a sharp contrast to the casual finery around them within the school. They told us, me and little Ruthie Harbor- a girl my age who even shared the same birthday- that we would never be enlisted in the wars.
The wars had been going on for about as long as I’d been alive and had pretty much encompassed everything since. It started seventeen years ago when the two nations of the world- ‘The East side and the West side’ for lack of a better name- began their great argument, which in my opinion was really pointless. They seemed to be arguing over things that had no practical value to either. Whatever the case, there were always people enlisted to battle over it continuously.
And then there was the fighting.
The fighting was so primitive- one on one combat with terrible weapons. One would think that by this time that sort of uncivilized fighting wouldn’t happen. What was strange and a bit frightening though, was the fact that no one returned from these battles. There were no veterans. So as to what happened on the battlefield, we could only guess. It seemed, with both nations constantly in a tie and both relentless as hell, that nothing ever got resolved. The only thing I noticed was the growing number of recruits- all so random (men, women, teenagers) - and the emptying chairs in my classroom and the emptying houses in the city. The world population, once huge, seemed to be dwindling. All I was left with was the wondering of when I would be taken and the knowledge that it had to be soon. Each second was one more that aided in decreasing amount of time left before my departure. I would be packed up with about nineteen others. I would be on my way to where the battles were forged in Antarctica where the ice had long since melted away or had been cut and shipped for water. I lived with my aunt and uncle since my parents had been enlisted almost immediately after my birth- some of the first to go my Aunt Raven had said, and I could only pray that they took me before her and my uncle. That way I would have no one left to lose- a selfish wish, I know, but it was all I had.
The wars took so much that it didn’t even seem like a huge war anymore, but had become a way of life. The men in suits would come, they’d take people, and they’d leave and would return the following week. It had been almost too much a few months ago when they took my best friend, Leo. I had harbored this idea that no one like him could possibly ever get killed. He was my hope. I can remember so clearly how we would laugh and joke about how when he got enlisted, he would become the first veteran- the first to return.
But then he left.
And then the letter came.
I should have known it would happen. There was always a letter. I mean, I even had a theory that the letters were written before the battles even occurred, securing their fate. So I should have expected this. But still, it came as a shock as everything about the wars always did- even though it should all be so normal now. Maybe it shouldn’t be normal. Maybe hope is what caused my traumatized reaction toward Leo’s fate.
As the men adorned in black suits came into Mrs. Trimble’s class that morning, I could feel it before they even said my name. I could feel their hands already pulling me out of the room before they even touched me. I remember leaving the room and feeling the eyes just at my back. I remember thinking I’ll be seeing you soon, Leo. You’ll see. I remember the hallway and looking to my right in time to see Ruthie in the same situation as me.
And our eyes met.
And in them was a shared, silent cry; a cry that could be heard throughout the nations.
I began to look around for others- the other unfortunate ones to share my fate today. The two men that had hold of me along with the ones that had Ruthie in their grasp brought us toward the back of the school, down the janitor’s hallway, and outside a back door. There we found a government vehicle. I knew it was a government vehicle because they were the only cars that weren’t on the grid system. They were driven manually and could go anywhere because the driver could control everything.
We were shoved in the back. I was expecting to find more of the day’s recruits there as well, but there was no one. It was just Ruthie and me.
“Why is it just us?” I had the nerve to ask. I was rewarded with a smack on the head from one of the black-suited men, a slightly taller one who got in on the passenger side.
“Watch it, Riley. These ones are valuable. The boss wouldn’t like it if one of them came in… damaged.” The driver said voice a little edgy. My head was still throbbing from the blow.
“Oh yeah- these are special ones here. I almost forgot.” The one called Riley announced looking back at us again. I didn’t ask what he meant by ‘special’ and I didn’t care. I didn’t want anything to do with these guys and their talk. I always wondered why they never got recruited. It seemed like a pretty sound idea to me. I scooted farther away from them and more towards Ruthie in the open area of the back of the vehicle. She hadn’t said a thing the whole time.
“Are you doing alright?” I whispered. She looked up at me with those familiar brown eyes that clearly said she was not although she nodded her head. She looked so innocent. We had never talked much, so I didn’t really know her, but I knew that she didn’t deserve this.
She did not belong here. I grabbed her hand and squeezed it as the vehicle pulled us away like it had pulled so many.
When the moon came out we stopped. I had seen the lights of what seemed to be a giant group of warehouse-sized buildings, but only until I got out of the vehicle did they become blinding.
They brought us through the huge vaulted doors of the building nearest. I did not expect what I would eventually learn inside. I did not expect what I would find. The ceiling was very high and the floor was concrete and very hard. There were a series of different stations that made me feel as though I was at some sort of orientation. Except everything was cold and uninviting. Behind the stainless steel tables at each station, sat two official-looking government people like the ones who’d brought us. They shoved us in a long line and left telling us to stay in it and not ask any questions.
“Why do they all look our own age?” I heard Ruthie ask beside me. I took a closer look at all of the people in the growing line. I hadn’t noticed before that they were, in fact, the same age as us. I shook my head in confusion. They always took a mixture of different ages onto the battlefield.
“Look there.” I said gesturing towards a new group that I had seen come in. “Can you here them? Their voices sound different.” I stated.
“Yes I can, they sound almost…. Southern.” She said puzzled. “What are they doing here then? With us?” I couldn’t answer that.
“I don’t know. Normally recruits should go to Antarctica right away. We shouldn’t even be here.” I said.
“We aren’t going to Antarctica.” I heard a voice on the other side of me whisper. I looked to my left to see a guy about the same height as myself looking at me cautiously.
“What?” I asked completely confused.
“At least that’s what I heard.” He answered quietly.
“But, why wouldn’t we be?” I prodded. He looked around a bit nervously.
“Don’t know.” He said. “But it’s something about us all being special or something.”
“Hey, where are you from anyway?” I asked.
“Phoenix- there’s kids from everywhere here though. Thought I heard some Chinese being spoke earlier.” He declared.
“Chinese?” Ruthie stated doubtfully. “Isn’t that what they speak over… you know, in the other nation?” She added. “How could they even be here?”
“That’s exactly what I was thinking.” He said. “But apparently they‘re bringing kids from all over the world…..” He added. I eyed him.
“How do you know all this anyway?” I challenged. He gave me a mischievous smile.
“Oh I’ve been around here awhile. I got bored and let’s just say I met a few people that had heard a few things.” He answered.
“What does that mean?”
“My name’s Nathan.” He said with that same impish smile he seemed to be so apt at making. “That’s all you need to know.”
I stood next to ‘Nathan’ for the next 20 minutes as we waited finally coming to the first table. I could only assume it was some sort of physical thing because they took our finger prints and used an eye scanner. Terrified of loosing Ruthie, I stayed as close as possible to her as we moved through the tables. No matter what happened though, we did not lose Nathan. He just kept coming back like a disease. Okay, it’s not that I didn’t like him; he just seemed so sneaky that I wasn’t really sure of him yet.
At the end of the room there were more doors that led to an even larger open space- an auditorium- where Nathan, Ruthie, and I were seated. It was filling fast and I could see about 500 kids here so far. Not that I’d actually counted. That would be ridiculous.
“You guys are luck.” I heard Nathan say from my right. “You got here early for the good seats.”
“What? How many are coming then?” I exclaimed surprised. The auditorium was already about half full.
“Quite a few is what I heard.” He replied.
“Well what is it for then?”
“Don’t ask me.” He said. “I don’t know everything.” He stated with a smirk.
“Well you seem to.” I muttered annoyed. All of a sudden there was a light coming from a stage in the center. There was a screen there, the kind for showing presentations. Once the screen was lit up I noticed something was typed at the top. It was a date.
The date the war started.
“Hey, what do you know, it’s on my birthday.” Nathan said with sarcastic enthusiasm. That got my attention.
“What was that?” I asked suddenly.
“I said, ‘hey what do you know, it’s on my-“
“Birthday.” I finished for him.
“Well don’t ask me what I said if you already know.” He stated annoyed.
“No, I mean…. That’s my birthday too.” I explained.
“Awe, isn’t that sweet; we’re birthday buddies.” He replied voice maintaining the hint of sarcasm I noticed it tended to have.
“Not just his, mine too.” Ruthie chimed in. She and I both looked at him.
“Coincidence?” He suggested.
When all the kids had gotten there, there were about a thousand of us. A small group of government people had assembled on a platform that was risen above the crowd and just in front of the screen that was exhibiting the date of the war.
“What do you thinks’ going to happen?” I heard Nathan say. Then the lights went out. The only lights were now focused on the stage and the screen. The immense crowd of kids which had been endlessly buzzing with conversation about what was happening began to fade. From the front of the circular stage rose a pedestal. The group of government officials broke apart to reveal another that had been hidden between them with great care and respect. At first his face had been hidden in shadows, but as he approached the podium and stepped into the light, the auditorium erupted in a gurgle of whispers that became louder and louder until it was shouting and chanting.
“It’s him!” Someone yelled.
“Our leader, in the flesh!” said another a little too excitedly, collapsing. The man at the podium had shoulder-length dark dirty-blond hair and piercing blue eyes. He held up his hand in what I at first thought was a salute, but he was only trying to get everyone’s attention. In another five minutes they all finally calmed down again. Our leader muttered something in the ear of the closest official and then returned to the podium. He scanned the crowd with those familiar blue eyes I had never seen in person until now. Then he began to speaking.
“Welcome.” He said in a loud, full voice. All of us sat watching, holding our breath together, always together. “I have been waiting for this day for seventeen years.” He began. “It is with great excitement that I meet you all here today.” What the hell was he talking about? I looked around me and everyone else was clearly thinking the same thing as me with their various confused expressions. Except Nathan- his eyes were narrowed in suspicion.
“I am not exactly sure how I am supposed to say this to you, even though I have been preparing it for a long time. This is not something you can prepare for.” He looked around and then turned to the screen. “This,” he pointed at it. “I am sure, is a date that you all will connect to.”
“It’s the start of the war!” Someone shouted.
“It’s my birthday!” said another. Our leader held up his hand. Again there was silence.
“It is all your birthdays.” He said. This got everyone talking then shouting. I looked at Nathan and Ruthie. They looked back at me stunned.
“Why?” I said to both of them, but it was our leader who answered my question.
“You are all very… special.” He said. “Very special. You’re destinies, your lives; even your births were orchestrated. You see, you are… vital.” He was choosing his words carefully, slowly as if each one’s placement would affect life long after they were said.
“It doesn’t matter if we’re going to die any way!” Nathan shouted next to me, almost making me jump.
“What are you doing?” I whispered urgently.
“Egging him on.” He replied underneath his breath.“Isn’t that why you brought us here?!” He bellowed again towards the figure at the podium.
“No! You see, you’re the ones who’ve been chosen to survive!” Our leader informed brightly. “You’re the new generation!”
“But there won’t be any new generation if we don’t end this war! That’s the problem you should be focusing on!” Another kid shouted. A few of his supporters joined him by adding other remarks.
“There aren’t any problems!” Our leader declared voice rising with annoyance soon to invoke anger.
“That’s a load of crap! There are a lot of problems!” I finally yelled standing up for the first time since it started. “Every day I watch more and more people go off to fight and never come back. More and more I have to watch always wondering when it will be me or who else I’m going to have to lose all because of this horrible, pointless war!” I bellowed scaring myself a little by the intensity of my voice. The leader stared down at me, somehow finding me in the dark throng and singling me out. His eyes were bottomless- full to the brim and spilling over with an emptiness that was not human, so cold it rocked my soul.
“There is no war!” He spat words so precise in their decision that they echoed in my head, existing still, long after their duration.