This is a series of stories that take place about five years in the future. America issues a draft, and Michael, Max, Alex, and Kyle go off to fight. . . and never return. These are the girl's stories. All by Ria Stardancer.

Time To Let Go

She stared at the clock as the seconds passed. Tick… Tock… Tick… Tock… The minutes became hours, the hours became days, and still he did not come. And still she watched the clock.

He said he would come. He said that he would be back soon. And yet here she was, alone, watching the clock count the hours away. She was alone. She was always alone.

She shivered despite the hot desert air drifting in an open window. He’ll come, she said, and then again said, He’ll come. There was no answer, because no one really cared. No one was there to witness her wounded eyes and her clenched hands, because no one wanted to know what happened to her. She was alone, and he did not come, no matter how long she waited.

After a while, she dropped her eyes to the ruby eyes of her Siamese cat. He was not looking at her. It was as though even he, in his animal innocence, could not bear to see the look upon her face. It was the look that had driven the others away, even as they understood her. Because she was hurt the most of all. And she, unlike the others, never gave up hope that he would return.

She lived in memory of that day, the day he left. She said that they could run, to another country, skip the boarder and escape the draft. He smiled at her sadly, but would not give in. It was duty, he said, to save his country. He could not run away. And she knew that he would go, and that she would not stop him, because he was right.

The cat would not look up, even when she coaxed some feeble sounds out of her long neglected throat. He wanted nothing to do with her, just like the others. So she turned her eyes back to the clock. Tick. . . Tock. . . Tick. . .Tock. . .

How strange it was, she mused, that he would end like that. That they would end like that. Two people who were so strong, so committed to life and to each other and to a planet far far away. . . strange that they would end fighting someone else’s battle. Well, his battle. She always expected to die first, because her battle seemed much nearer at hand.

That battle was impossible, now that they were all gone. All of them. Every single boy, no, man, that she had ever really loved. Her brothers. . . and him. Her lover. They were all gone now. . . he said he would return, and she believed him. But he was dead. . . how can one return from the dead?

If only she could have been there, she would have saved him. But she had been left behind, he would not let her fight. And now she was all alone.

He will come back, she said, but it lacked the conviction that it once had. Maybe, a small voice deep within her said, he will never come back. So what will you do? You are all alone.

My friends. They were my friends. Maybe, if I go to them, they will be my friends again. Maybe they will understand, and forgive me, and let me start over. Maybe I can make myself into the person he loved again, maybe I can live the life we planned to live together alone. Maybe, with my friends, I can learn to live again.

Tess reached for the telephone, tears running down her face.

And maybe, once I am worthy of him, he will come back.


Forever Dwell By Starlight

The darkness surrounded her, and her mind would not rest. Over and over the words pounded her: Forever, Forever, Forever. . .

She told him that she would wait forever, but forever now seemed so far away, knowing, as she did, that he was gone for good. The clock in her hallway counted the hours, but she just continued to lay on her bed and stare at her ceiling. The stars that they had put there so long ago still glowed faintly in the artificial darkness of her room.

She had tried, for appearance sake, to be strong, because she was supposedly a strong person. But when Tess had refused to admit the truth, it had gotten her to thinking.

Because forever is a very long time, when you know he’s not coming. And he was not coming back, no matter how deep their love had been. Because he was dead. And dead is dead. After death, there was not much that anyone could do. How could she keep her promise to a dead man?

For a while, although she hadn’t told her best friends, she wanted to die too. She didn’t want to face the idea of life without him, her best friend, her confidant, her everything. But he would never return, and she had to stay strong, for her friend’s sake.

She stared at the stars on the ceiling, and focused on a formation in the corner she had never seen before. I love you, she read aloud, and smiled despite herself. That was just the kind of thing he would have done without telling her. He used to leave her messages, on the refrigerator and on the table and tucked inside her wallet, telling her things she would never hear from his mouth. How, she wondered aloud, could anyone possibly live up to him? Without him, what purpose could her life serve?

The words in the corner glowed more brightly as she concentrated. Maybe if she held on to that moment long enough, it would become real, and she could rest secure in the fact that if she waited forever, she would eventually find him again. But deep down she knew there were no guarantees.

But, she thought, isn’t life an endless non-guarantee? Nothing is certain. Even death is not certain, because we don’t know what happens after. Maybe we have no need of guarantees. Because what continues on is the human spirit.

Even though he died, he lives on in me, and in those stars in the corner. She stared up at the stars, finally comprehending what she would have to do.

She would have to hold on forever, and she would have to let go. She would have to wait, but she would have to keep moving. Her life, once so simple and serene, would have to become more complicated.

But it will be worth it, she thought as she opened the dark curtains at last, letting the bright desert sunlight into her room. Because maybe if I wait long enough, my dream will come true, and I will find what I have waited for. Him.

In the meantime, she would have to live her life. He would not have wanted her to stop living because he was dead. He had always placed a lot of value on life, and she would live up to that. She would live on in his name and in his presence, because in that way she could keep her promise.

Maria blew a kiss at the paste up glow stars in the corner of the room as she hurried out.

After all, she had to keep going. She had promised.


Calm Unending Peace

The busy sounds of the streets below echoed against the walls and through the ally ways, but the only sound she heard was her own shallow breath. Breathe in. . . Breathe out. . . Breathe in. . . Breathe out. She momentarily tried to cleanse herself of the dead feeling within her soul, but her insides continued to rot and curdle like sour milk.

Death had not cut her down quickly, but had gradually broken down her defenses and seeped under her skin, where it writhed and squirmed till she screamed, and would not let go. It had firmly attached itself to her, one day a mere three months after her lover had left.

The sky was bathed in gray, and the stars she and her lover had loved to watch together were not visible to any human eye. Maybe, she thought through the pain, somewhere up there is someone who can see this sky from the other side. She wondered what they would think of her. She wondered what everyone would think once she was gone.

Death was inevitable now, and she welcomed it as an old friend. She had felt it tainting her life since that day she had known, deep within herself, that he was gone. Thinking back, she admitted she might have known since the day he had come to her, telling her where and why he must go. She knew when she begged him not to leave, and she knew when she let him go. She knew when she watched her eyes, gazing back at her through a solid glass window, as the bus carried him away.

And she knew. . . oh, she knew too well, when she felt her lover and her unborn child die in the same instant. That was the day she died too. The last few months had merely been hang time.

She had done her duty, and tried to be there for her friends. But she had known that she was only settling her affairs before Death came to take her too. She loved her friends, but with her insides rotting themselves out and her mind constantly screaming for her lover and child, she knew it would only be a matter of time. They could not hold her back. Her love would not make this final journey alone.

Breathe in. . . Breathe out. . . she controlled her breathing as she felt her heart slow. She didn’t know what the doctors would say about her condition, because she hadn’t gone to one. She knew they wouldn’t have a solution for her, and she didn’t want to hear what she already knew. She didn’t want a solution. Sickness of the heart is, for the most part, incurable. She didn’t want to go on feeling like she was merely a shadow of what she had been, what she could have been.

Briefly, she thought again of her friends, and what they would think once she was gone. They would be sad, she knew, but they would survive. And she couldn’t wait for them this time. This was one doorway she’d have to walk through on her own.

The noise in the streets was stilled now, midnight covering the town like a blanket. She gave one last look around. I wonder, she thought to herself, if life really goes on once we’re dead. Or perhaps life and death are merely illusions of the mind. She smiled. Either way, I think I’ve finally won.

The clouds broke, and for one second the sky, and the mystery, beyond the realm of human comprehension, shone through.

Liz slowly closed her eyes.

Goodbye, she whispered.

Perhaps her suffering ended there.


This Is My Source Of Freedom

What is life once death has overwhelmed it? What is love once death has forced it’s ending? What is hope when there is nothing left to hope for?

There often is no reason to look for the next sunrise, no reason to put one weary foot in front of another. But most of the time something compels us to keep going, whether it is the prayer for a better future. . . or the memory of a better past. We remember, and we keep remembering, and somehow it helps us through the nights when we feel so alone we want to curl up and die. And somehow. . . it makes us stronger.

People have told us to move on, that it’s been five years, that we should get on with our lives and find someone. But people don’t understand. Once you’ve loved someone with your entire being, you can’t just move on. You can’t just find someone. Because you know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that they will never be the right person for you. Once you know perfection, life is but a shadow without it, and shadowing someone else isn’t fair to them. . . or us. Love is too important to pretend about.

We are, in a sense, alone in the world, but we have each other now, and that’s what really matters. Three lonely people, clinging to something they once had, and to a living hope.

One of us came from denial, from a cold room and a clock that nearly drove her mad. Day after day she stared at the clock, listening to the clicking and ticking, counting the minutes until her lover came back. But he did not come back. She is still not resigned, but she believes that if she becomes what he would have wanted, maybe she will be worthy this time. . . when he comes back.

One of us came from solitude, from a dark room and glowing stars of memory. She was looking for a purpose, for a reason to go on. She found one in forever, in that mystical land where no one crumbles and everyone lives their lives in unceasing joy. She believes that if she lives for him he will never truly die. And there might be something to that.

One of us did not come at all. Why she gave in we do not know, but I believe that her love was her only reason for existence, and when he died. . . we all miss her, in a jealous sort of way. I’m sure, wherever she is, she is happy and with her love. Because that is the way her life, and death, should have gone. There are some people who deserve perfection for all they’ve gone through, and life put her through enough to deserve a more than perfect death.

And me? I came from reflection, and what I discovered was this:

Life is nothing but a series of games, played by people who don’t know the rules and have lost half the game pieces. Life is confusing. There is often no rhyme or reason to things that happen. . . but the fact is that they do happen. To everyone. And we must live, and deal, with the consequences. Consequences that can tear us to pieces and tear our lives apart. Yet we live, and for some reason, some reason I haven’t discovered, it’s all worth it. Because there will always be that moment in time when you are absolutely happy. I know that my moment has already passed. But in the memory of that moment, I will live on, and I will remember.

He would not have wanted me to die, so I live. I live so that I might die. I live so that I might see him again and have nothing between us but love. I have pulled my life from the broken pieces of what should have been, and although it sounds funny to say. . . I’m happy.

My world consists of us, the three who know what it is liked to be loved so deeply that it is almost painful. We are the history, we are the only living reminders of what was, and what might have been. In my heart, I know that life will never be satisfying without him here. History is painful, and yet it must be remembered, for if it is not, someone will be doomed to repeat it, and I would not for all my memories make anyone else live through this. Which brings me to the point.

Don’t settle for less than love, and don’t ever let it walk away. Remember me.

Someday, when I am old, when my friends have all died, maybe you could come and visit me, and I’ll tell you about him. His smile, his touch, his voice, his laughter. . . I will tell you about them all. And you will remember with me, because it will sound so familiar to you. By then, you will have found that kind of love, and you won’t let him go away like I did. No one, not a person, not the government, not God himself will be able to take him away from you. And then you will finally understand why I do what I do.

Isabel brushed a kiss across the young girl’s blond hair as she lay dreaming of a father she would never know.

Only in these cages, where light is dark and hope is a sickness of the mind, can anyone be truly free.


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