‘Hello, this is Jonald Poppland and I’m here to tell आप the status on the war against the residents of Garlarda over the planet Sæmwine. Elves and humans are still fighting together against the Garlardians: the harlings and the danjans are against the Earthlings. There will be और drafting beginning tomorrow morning. Currently, the Earthlings are trying to contact the faerie, but their continent is hard to reach. If they fail to do this, there is a cha—'
Myrtal switched off the radio. His older brother, Zangrel, jumped to his feet. “I wanted to listen to that!”
“Of course आप did. All you’ve been talking about for the past few weeks is the war, and the possibility that आप might be drafted. Out of all the elves in the world, why on Earth would आप be drafted?”
Zangrel rolled his eyes. “Why would you?”
“I’m not the one saying I might be drafted.”
Zangrel adopted a haughty expression. “We need all the soldiers we can get. We need the oil on Sæmwine. I’m old enough, and can wield a gun. I could do it.”
“Well, you’re not going to.” Mrs. Lish came into the room with a basket of laundry. “I don’t care how bad we need that oil; neither of आप are going to war.”
“Mom, if I get drafted, there’s nothing आप can…” Zangrel started.
“Quiet. I’ll have none of that talk. Clean your room.”
Zangrel slunk out of the room. Myrtal smirked.
“You too, Myrtal.”
The elf scowled and followed Zangrel.
* * * * * * *
The last thing Myrtal had expected after a particularly stressful दिन of college was coming घर to see his mother sitting on the सोफ़ा, सोफे sobbing. Mr. Lish sat अगला to her, his arm around her shaking shoulders. He glanced up when Myrtal came in.
“Sit down,” Mr. Lish said. His voice was sorrowful and solemn.
Warily, Myrtal crossed the room and sat down अगला to his father. He perched on the edge of the seat, his blue eyes darting nervously over Mr. Lish’s face.
“Myrtal, we got a letter today. A…” Mr. Lish trailed off and closed his eyes. “A drafting letter.”
“Zangrel got drafted?” Myrtal asked, shocked.
“No.” Mr. Lish hesitated again. “You did.”
A horrible electric feeling shot up through Myrtal’s head. He heard a strange, faraway humming sound resonating in his ears. Breathing hard, he shook his head and managed to speak.
“You got drafted.” Mr. Lish’s voice was stronger this time, but he looked away quickly, and at the end of his sentence his voice cracked slightly.
“But…” Myrtal’s head was spinning. Why him? Why did they want him? He didn’t give a crap about their goddamn oil! So why were they making him fight for it?
Myrtal jumped to his feet. “No! I don’t believe you!”
Mrs. Lish looked up. Her eyes were swollen and red. “Myrtal, listen to your father, please.”
“No! He’s lying! You’re both liars! I hate you, both of you!” Myrtal turned and raced out of the room, down the hall, and into his bedroom. He slammed the door as hard as he could and leaned against it, breathing hard.
He didn’t cry. He wouldn’t let himself. Elves are proud creatures—just as proud as humans, except the elves aren’t ashamed to admit that they’re proud. Still, his eyes felt wet. He swiped at them angrily and stormed over to his bed.
Myrtal lay down and curled up in a protective position, staring at the wall. His दिल beat fast. He wasn’t ready to die. He wasn’t ready.
Not yet. Not ready. Not ready. Not ready…
Myrtal awoke to someone knocking on the door. He pulled himself up and opened it.
Mr. Lish stood in the doorway. He looked weary and sad.
“Can I come in, Myrtal?”
Myrtal nodded soundlessly and moved over to let his father in.
Mr. Lish sat down on the बिस्तर and patted the spot अगला to him. Slowly, Myrtal went over and sat down.
“Myrtal, I know your first impulse is to get angry,” Mr. Lish started. “Anger isn’t the solution. आप need to learn how to control yourself.”
Myrtal stood up. “I’m going to die and you’re talking about anger management? Why? To make sure I’m nice and friendly to the danjans? So I won’t…”
“Myrtal!” Mr. Lish’s voice, usually quiet, startled Myrtal into silence. “Anger won’t help anything at any time. It leads to recklessness. Recklessness will not help आप in a war.”
“I’m not reckless.” Myrtal stated it as a fact, but even as he कहा it, he knew it wasn’t true. He was reckless—even और so when anger took control of him.
“Myrtal. आप know that’s a lie. If आप do something reckless during the war, it could mean your life. So no matter what, आप simply have to think before आप act. आप should do that always, not just during a war.”
Myrtal stared at the ground. “I…alright. Alright.” He looked up at his father. “When do I go?”
“I’m driving आप to the boot camp tomorrow after lunch. Pack up and say goodbye.” Mr. Lish stood and hurried out of the room, closing the door firmly behind him. Myrtal heard him let out a choked sob, then footsteps hurrying away.
Myrtal opened the closet and took down a suitcase. He stuffed in as many clothes as he could fit, a penlight, a cell phone, and, lastly, a चित्र album.
The album actually belonged to Mrs. Lish, but Myrtal and Zangrel had been looking at it a few days पूर्व and had forgotten to put it away. The album was full of pictures of birthdays, a boring family reunion, and countless pictures of one of the kids snuggling with someone-or-other.
Myrtal stuffed the चित्र album into the suitcase and zipped it tightly.
“Myrtal?” a small voice outside the room called.
Myrtal opened the door and looked down. Staring up at him with wide eyes, her face tilted towards his, stood his sister. Relm.
“Daddy says you’re going away,” Relm said. Her voice was serious, with a tint of sadness.
“Daddy’s right,” Myrtal said. He wasn’t sure how to explain drafting to such a young girl.
“When will आप come back?” Relm asked.
“Relm? Look at me.” Myrtal knelt down in front of her. “I might come back in a year, I might come back in four, I might—I might never come back. But you’ll remember me, right?”
Relm mouth pursed and trembled a little. “You might never come back?”
“I probably won’t.” Myrtal had meant to say more, but his voice caught on the word won’t and he had stopped quickly.
“Why? Do आप not like us?”
“It’s not that. Relm, I…I might die, okay?”
“No!” Relm threw her tiny arms around him and looked up into his face. “No, no dying! No dying!”
This broke Myrtal down. He had been able to pull himself together until now, but seeing his sister so upset, so afraid, he just couldn’t stand it. Tears streamed down his cheeks. He buried his face in her कमीज, शर्ट and sobbed.
Myrtal heard footsteps. He tried to stop the flow of tears, but couldn’t even lift his head from Relm’s shirt. It was a red shirt. Blood red.
Someone touched his shoulder. “Oh, Myrtal, baby, my baby,” he heard his mother’s voice. She wrapped her arms around his neck and cried.
Myrtal wasn’t sure how long they stayed like that, just holding each other and sobbing, but when the tears were finally dried out, he was completely exhausted, emotionally and physically. All he wanted to do was just lie on the floor and forget everything, just pause life, if only for a day, only for an hour.
But life, unlike a movie, has no pause button. It keeps on going until the end. And like a movie, it does end somewhere.
Lunch was silent the अगला day, what with Myrtal leaving directly after it. Everybody picked mournfully at the food, seemingly intent on making sure lunch lasted as long as possible. But finally Mr. Lish stood, glancing at the clock.
“We have to go now,” he said.
Myrtal stood slowly. “I need to get the suitcase.”
Mr. Lish nodded. Myrtal wandered into his room, dragging his feet. He picked up the suitcase after checking every pocket to make sure they were all zipped. He started to straighten the बिस्तर covers, as well, and then plumped up the pillows.
“Myrtal!” Mr. Lish called.
Myrtal took one और look around his room, then hurried to शामिल होइए his father.
It took a few hours to get to the boot camp. Myrtal stared out of the side window the whole time.
The trees moved द्वारा so fast; just a greenish gray-brown blur. Like his life, Myrtal thought. His whole life was just going so fast. It was almost over.
The blur of trees turned into a view overlooking a lake, and Myrtal gazed down at it, forgetting for a moment where he was headed.
But as the car left the lake behind and turned into the boot camp, he remembered all too well.