I was looking for something ordinary. When the war ended, that’s all any of us wanted. I’ve been a soldier as far back as I can remember, when the occupation first began. Now, decades later, I’ve lost everyone. My parents. My friends. All I have is this lonely apartment the World Army put me up in after my decommission and a cat named Libby that apparently comes with it.
I hate cats.
Currently, she sits on my feet. I don’t even try to get her to move. Kick her off a thousand times, and she’ll just come back for more.
I sit in one of my two kitchen chairs, facing the window to watch the occupiers leave. It’s a big day. The Council invited me to be there, but I declined. I’ve seen enough of those ships to last a lifetime. Glancing down at my watch, I realize the treaty is being signed right at this moment. I suck in a mouthful of air in an attempt to calm the unrest within me, and as my breath escapes, the ships rise like clockwork into the air. I’m only about a half-mile away from the ceremony. They hover, ghost-like, before turning skyward.
My leg begins to bounce, and I hear Libby hiss in frustration. I scowl down at her but press my hand down on my knee all the same. A thin sheen of sweat breaks out across my body as I watch the ships ascend until they’re just small, black dots in a giant sea of blue.
What the hell do I do now?
Glancing around at the drab room, I wonder how I’m ever supposed to call it home. There is no food in the fridge, barely any clothes hanging in the closet. I don’t even know where the closest grocery is located. It’s never been something I needed to know.
You’ve served your time, they said. Go live your life.
What life? I survived twenty-seven years of war. A dirty war too. A war we weren’t supposed to win. They had every advantage, but we refused to give up, and somehow we won. Somehow, I made it through. Not many people can say that. I only have to visit the graves of all my friends to know.
Bending over, I lay my head in my hands as the first wave of fireworks shoot off across the city. The Council had warned me about them, thank goodness. My fingers plug my ears as the vibrations reach their crescendo before vanishing away like the retreating ships into the sky.
I expect to hear the cheer of the crowds, but only silence greets me. Is everyone already leaving, ready to get back to their ordinary lives and ordinary jobs? Twenty-seven years, and that’s it. Time to move on, everyone!
The lack of noise presses down upon me, and my chest feels like it may explode from the pressure. Standing too quickly, Libby scurries away at the sudden movement. I grab hold of the window pane just as the whistle reaches my ears. I think it’s just in my head, but as it grows louder with each passing moment, I realize it’s coming from above.
Turning my eyes to the sky, the small, black dots grow larger once again. I can only stare as the first one slams into the city, maybe a mile from where I stand, the others racing down behind it. My phone starts ringing within seconds.
“This is Jackson.”
“Vacation’s over,” I hear Patterson yell over the chaos. My anxiety vanishes, the nausea vacating my stomach at the sound of the familiar.
“Get your ass over here. Now.”
He hangs up on me, and I stare out at the city disintegrating before my very eyes. Grabbing my pack from the counter, I run to the door, yanking it open before turning back one last time. Libby now sits in the chair I vacated, staring out at me with her cold, black eyes, her long tail twitching back and forth. I narrow my gaze at her before turning back and slamming the door behind me.
Perhaps ordinary just isn’t something I’m meant to have.