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A fight with fire



By Keerti Gupta

“They lit my town on fire, killing those I loved. I’ll do whatever it takes to get revenge.”

Earlier that day –

The sky had turned dark, expressing the mood my town was in. Yesterday, the Council had ordered the execution of a fellow man, who had turned out to be a traitor from our enemy country across the sea, or the ‘island devils’.

My best friend, Amanda, and I were collecting wood from a nearby forest, and I told her about my plans to join the army. Although she didn’t support me with the idea because she thought I would die along with the others, I stomped away with my sticks of wood, with Amanda not far behind me. “Leave me alone, Amanda! You have already shown how much you support me,” I screamed at her and ran faster. She didn’t respond, not that I cared. I reached home, only to see my father leaving.

Me: “Where are you going, Dad?” Dad: “I have some work with The Council; I’ll be back by evening.” Amanda: “Millie wants to join the army.”

That snitch.

Mom: “You can’t, Millie!” Me: “I will, I will fight with them.” Mom: “Michael, tell her something!” Dad: “We’ll talk about this in the evening.”

My dad left, and I glared at Amanda for telling them. She didn’t even look at me. My mom and I didn’t talk all day, neither did Amanda and I. That was until the evening when I heard someone screaming, “RUN, RUN. THERE IS A FIRE. RUN FOR YOUR LIVES.” Everyone was running hither and thither, and it was complete pandemonium. So many people were trampled upon, and so many died due to burns. Bright, blazing, amber flames rose to the sky, smoke reaching the heavens.

Our house also caught fire, Mom and I tried to run away, but my mom fell down the stairs and fractured her lower body.

Mom: “Run away, Millie. Save yourself.” Me: “I won’t, not without you.” Mom: “Why don’t you ever listen to me?!”

I was speechless. I couldn’t leave her alone. I attempted to lift her, but I was unable to. I was so weak; I hated this. I heard the door open, and someone dragged me out, leaving my mom to burn to her death.

“MOMMMMMMM,” I screamed, but it was to no avail; she was gone.

I looked up and saw Amanda crying. “Amanda, OMG, Amanda, you are safe. I am so glad,” I cried and hugged her. She didn’t respond, of course, and grabbed my hand and we ran until we reached a safe place. I looked around, to see any other survivors; there were none. I couldn’t believe this. In just a few hours, my life had taken a complete turn. My gut feeling was that this fire wasn’t an accident. Who hated us so much, to commit genocide? The island devils. They lit my town on fire, killing those I loved. I’ll do whatever it takes to get revenge. At that moment, I vowed to join the nearby town’s army and kill the island devils. This time, Amanda didn’t oppose me.

Back to now –

Amanda and I both joined the army. We were given a mission to spy on the country of island devils and bring the necessary information to attack them. My small team consisted of -, Amanda, Liam, Anne, Tessa and me.

Anyways, we embarked on our journey towards the island, which was across the sea. After traveling hundreds of kilometers on foot, we finally reached the island devils. It seemed peaceful, too peaceful for my liking. There were intimidating guards at the entrance of the town; we couldn’t just enter like that. We had to disguise ourselves. We wore normal clothes and pretended to be kids who were collecting wood and faced the guards. They were suspicious at first but let us in. Thank God!

The inside of the town was colourful, and all the people seemed to get along. That’s not how I imagined the town to be. I had imagined it to be filled with people who were fighting and a dark aura around it. We applied to join the army of the island devils and pretended to practice a lot.

After a year –

Anne and Amanda were placed in one of the highest positions in the army. The rest of us had our ranks just below theirs. Our plan was simple so far, make the officials trust Anne and Amanda and give them the information needed for us to tackle their weaknesses. One thing I noticed was that Anne was a bit friendlier with Major Thomas like both already knew each other. It might have been just my delusion, but still, I decided to confront her. Later, in the afternoon, we gathered in our room to exchange information. Anne stated that the army intelligence room was the most vulnerable at 10 p.m. when most of the strong soldiers were out for dinner. Any questions? Yes! As I decided, I confronted her.

Me: “I have seen that you have been very friendly with Major Thomas, What’s going on? Have you known him before we did? If yes, how?” Anne: “No.” Me: “You are lying, Anne. I have brought the special kids here. Is my mission over now?

Anne’s face pales, and I knew I had hit the spot.

Anne: “Fine, you know what? Yes, I am betraying you guys. I came to your town to bring special kids which I have succeeded in doing. My work is done! I’ll finally be free and save my father!”

With that, she stomped out while the rest of us were left with our mouths hanging open. I couldn’t believe this. She was betraying us all this time. But this wasn’t a time to give up; we needed a new plan. Just as I was about to open my mouth, someone kicked the door; it was Major Thomas. “Traitors! Arrest them,” he shouted. “What the hell? We didn’t do anything, leave us!” we shouted back and tried to resist their attempts to arrest us. They eventually captured us and put us in jail.

After a few days of not getting enough food and sleep, we had a new prison mate. The gatekeeper shoved him inside; he was lean and looked sick. When he looked up, his face was covered with a long beard, but those eyes, I’d recognise them anywhere. “D-Dad?” I whispered out, not being able to control my emotions. His soft caramel eyes brightened up, and he hugged me. I started crying like a baby. Tears filled up my dad’s eyes after I told him about my mom’s death and slowly started pouring down.

My Dad looked around to see if the gatekeeper was listening, but thankfully he was sleeping.

Dad: “I need to tell you guys something. It started a long time ago, hundreds of years probably. The Council, which you see as the symbol of peace, is not what it is. It has been recruiting some ‘special kids’ all this time. They use the brains of these children to work for them as child labourers in some of these factories, and you know that child labour is banned. However, due to internal corruption, The Council continued its work. When they decided to recruit some kids from our town, people of our town opposed it, including me. Since I was an important member, they didn’t kill me but held me as a prisoner all this time. To the other opposers, well, you know. They killed them. Do you remember one man getting executed a day before the fire? He was one of the opposers. Unfortunately for The Council, many people in the town got to know about its evil intentions and decided to rally against them. The Council couldn’t handle all this, so it ordered a fire to be lit in our beloved town. I didn’t know about their genocidal ideas until they tied me up in a prison. Some of the survivors were shot on the spot. It’s a miracle that Millie and Amanda are alive.”

Amanda: “So what about the island devils? Are they not evil?” Dad: “No, they aren’t. The Council has been putting that in the minds of little children to increase their hatred toward the so-called ‘devils’, make them join the army, develop their minds and skills, and select a few special ones to force them into working in these factories. I also know that they blackmailed a little girl into lighting the fire in a village and if she denied it, they would kill her father.”

The loud thumping on the prison door made us quiet. The gatekeeper handcuffed us all and guided us to a room where three men along with Anne were present.

Man A: (coughs) “So, are they the special kids you brought for us, Anne?” Anne: “Yes Sir, they are the kids.” Anne: “Am I free? Can I meet my father now?” Charlie: “Your father’s dead.” Anne: “WHAT?!!! YOU PROMISED TO NOT KILL HIM!!!” Charlie: “Well, he opposed us a lot.” Alex: “Anyways, Millie, we have a task for you.” Me: “I am not doing your tasks, end of the story.” Scott: “How about we kill all your comrades if you don’t do the task.” Me: “What do you mean by killing them?” Scott: “Do you want me to give you a demonstration?” Me: “What do you need me to do?” Alex: “We need you to light fire to this village which has been annoying us for a while. Plus, we need land to put up new factories.” Me: “I will do it if you promise me not to kill anyone in the room here and not tie up any of them. Once I see these conditions fulfilled, I will do your task.”

I looked at Anne, and the emotions in her eyes threw me off. Pain, hurt, loss, and sympathy for my situation flashed in her eyes. Every person has a chapter in their life that is not displayed to other people. Just like me, she was blackmailed to burn our village.

Scott: “Fine then. Day after tomorrow, you will conduct your mission. Got it?” Me: “Yes.”

In the prison –

Anne: “I have a plan, which I need to disclose, which may help Millie to not kill people to save us. My plan is that you sneak out today, Millie.” Everyone else: “WHAT?!!” Anne: “After you sneak out, go straight to Hitomito Mountains, and meet Adam Williamson. Adam has his own group of strong fighters. Tell him to raid The Council on the night you were supposed to light that village on fire.” Me: “How will I sneak out?” Anne: “Wait till the guards fall asleep.”

We waited for an hour for them all to go to sleep, and then Anne, as promised, unlocked the gate with her hairpin.

Anne: “You will find a trapdoor right next to the door leading to the main hall. It was made for emergencies and leads straight to the forest outside.” Me: “Roger!”

After I sneaked out, sprinted toward the Hitomito Mountains, and located Adam’s house. I knocked on the door, and a man opened the door with a creak. I narrated just about everything as instructed by Anne.

Adam: “I see. I always had a feeling that The Council was corrupt. We will raid The Council.”

There we are then! I quickly made my way back to the cells.

Everyone: “Thank God Millie, you made it back safely.” Me: “I did, and Adam has agreed to your plan, Anne.”

Day of the attack –

We heard the door to the prison cells open and saw Scott approaching us with that annoying smirk of his.

Scott: “Today is the big day, Millie.” Me: “Sure it is Scott.” Scott: “I hope you don’t plan on betraying us, do you?” Me: “I would have already done it if I wanted to, Scott.”

Only if he knew what was coming for him. And BANG!! We heard gunshots and men screaming. There was total chaos everywhere.

P.A. System: “Intruders have entered. I repeat, intruders have—”

The P.A. system went off.

Adam’s men came inside the prison hall and started slaughtering all the gatekeepers. One man came to our cell and asked, “Are Millie Taylor and Anne Stevenson here?” I replied, “Yes, we are here, and these people are my friends.” Then, this man broke the door with a kick I had seen Anne do so many times. “Let’s go, everyone!” En route to our freedom, we went into our ‘assassin mode’ and killed all of them except Alex (who would tell us where Scott was) in one of the fiercest hand-to-hand combat. “On the third floor, with a hundred men as backup,” said Alex, hoping for a reprieve, which he didn’t get. We cornered Scott, who had lost his men.

Scott: “What a beautiful place!” Me: “I am glad to make this beautiful place your deathbed.” Scott: “What? You can’t kill me; I am still so young. Please forgive me. I will even give up my urge to make happy people cry. Don’t do this, Millie.” Me: “Too late, Scott. Bye.”

With that, I poured oil all over him and threw him on the ground. I dropped my lit matchstick on him.

Revenge taken, Scott.