“The Life of War” By Matthew Mande

Reyker’s dark brown eyes slowly opened, and he saw the familiar sight of the cold metal walls and empty room that he called home. As usual, he had dreamed of his sister. When he was fourteen years old, he had took the requisite military test that every fourteen year old was forced to take due to the war with Russia. To find the few people compatible with the commander expectations, the military had released this test. When Reyker took these tests, he was hoping to fail. His mother was very ill, and he wanted to stay by her side until the last of her days. Reyker also had a younger sister who would be alone with Reyker’s father after his mother passed away. This was worrisome because their father was often abusive, and the last thing Reyker wanted to do was leave his sister with his father. Surprisingly, he had passed the test, and had been forced to leave, away from the drylands of Texas that he had once called home, and to the military commander facility located underground in North Carolina.

Eventually, Reyker received a letter stating his mother had passed away, three years and two months after Reyker had left for the military base. The death of his mother was calamitous, but he had expected it. What was worse was the news that came after. In addition to his mother’s death, his father had been arrested of child abuse, and Reyker was shown a series of photos containing his sister’s injuries. Reyker could not help but think it was his fault. If he had only tried harder to stay with his family…. The weight of this guilt had carried with him throughout his time at the military base. It was the main reason why he always dreamed of his sister, and the dreams were always nightmares, containing the worst possible things that he thought could happen to her. But today, one of these things came true.

As Reyker swung his long, scrawny legs out of his bed and ran his hair through his short, brown hair, he checked his most recent scores on his training exercises. As he had expected, he had set records for the highest score. Commanding was Reyker’s main talent, and ever since he started to learn how to command, he had met and succeeded the expectation of his teacher, General Carter. He knew that he was exactly what the military was working for: a genius commander who could pick apart Russia’s army and win the war. Ryker’s eyes looked down at the floor, and he noticed a message waiting on the floor of his room. He slowly walked over to it, using his skinny fingers to open it. What he saw made his guilt one million times worse. His sister was dead.

For the next months, Reyker distanced himself from everyone, becoming an invisible speck in the large facility. His test scores dropped, almost dipping below previous records, and he was always as exhausted as poet’s final words, paying attention during his lessons, but never learning, never enjoying them. The guilt had doubled itself and was greater than ever, but his desire to return was gone, for he had no reason to return, no one to return to. General Carter noticed his obvious depression, but could do nothing about it. To Reyker, every day was stodgy, every night full of nightmares.

One morning, he was awoken by the sound of alarms. General Carter Rushed Into his room.

“Reyker, we are under attack!” Carter yelled, so loud Reyker knew this was not a drill, “And you are going to defend us.”

This news finally jabbed a whole in Reyker’s emotional lockdown, and he jumped up, running quickly down the long, white tile hallways of the military base, and into the command room.

“Where are they coming from?” he asked, “What type of transportation and weaponry?” His eyes raked up and down the hundreds of different colored switches he had learned about located up and down the panels of the control room. The computer in front of him showed him the answers to his questions. There were a series of computer piloted bombing jets flying directly at the East Coast. He knew that if he did not stop these drones, then hundreds of thousands of people would die. Moving his hands speedily up and down the controls, he launched a series of his own planes to attack the drones.

For the next few minutes, Reyker worked quickly and efficiently. He did not notice that he was doing everything so fast that everyone had stopped using their computers and tried to get a look at what he was doing. All of the sudden, all of the Russian drones were at the bottom of the sea. Reyker slowly realized he was finished, but what he did not understand was the relief he felt. Not the relief of winning the battle, but the absence of the pain that had tormented him for such a long time. Military officers and generals around the room came to shake his hand. General Carter came up, and Reyker gripped his large, chubby hands and looked up into the General’s round, smiling face.

“Congratulations,” general carter quietly said to him, his eyes sparkling with pride.

And for the first time in months, Reyker smiled back, because for the first time in months, he was truly happy.

 

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