The Next Soldiers

nuclear winter

Depiction of the effects of a nuclear winter” – Found at the New York Times

Abracadabra,” enchanted fourteen-year-old Elazaro Motyka as he sat under an almond tree overlooking the Port of Haifa, but the sea breeze blowing into the park overlooking the old University was still too cold. Even the magic word his American neighbor taught him didn’t work against the last vestige of nuclear winter, but he hadn’t expected it to.

It had been thirty years since the last war. He managed to avoid most of the stories his zayde told him of whether it was India or Pakistan that fired the nukes first and then pulled in the Chinese, Europeans, and Americans, blah, blah, blah. It was bad enough that they taught about it in school. The present worried him a lot more than the past.

That made him rather atypical among his classmates, since most of them loved to listen to any of the people who were alive during the Third World War. It was a reminder of the last time that even in stupidly killing millions, humanity had been free.

“Hey, Elazaro!”

He looked down to see Inaya making the arduous climb up the hill to his lookout. She was a grade behind him but liked to brag that she was more mature than he was, as if that made her better than him.

“Hey, Inaya. Did you bring lunch?” On days when they didn’t have school, they met in the park to eat and talk.

“Yeah. In my backpack.” She was out of breath but just about at the top. He liked to watch how her developing breasts bounced while she climbed, but then looked away before she noticed where he was staring.

The young teen plopped down under the tree beside him and pulled off her pack. Unzipping it, she removed the foil-wrapped falafel she’d made earlier. “Here.” She tore it in two and offered him half.

“Thanks.” It was still warm to the touch and dripping with tahini sauce. “Hmmm. You always make the best lunches.” He took another bite.

“How’s the ankle?” She nudged his right foot with her left.

“Better. How do you think I made the climb?”

“It isn’t that hard.”

“You were out of breath.”

“I know. I need to workout more.”

“Don’t agonize over it. I think you look okay.” He regretted mentioning her looks the second after he said it. She probably thought of him like a brother. After all, they’d grown up together.

They both finished eating and Elazaro was licking the delicious leftover sauce off of his fingers.

“Take this.” She pulled out a napkin and offered it to him.

“Thanks.” As he reached for it, their hands touched and she seemed to let their fingertips linger on one another for an extra second.

“You’re a mess,” she giggled.

“What?”

Inaya took the napkin back and wiped his lower lip. “I think you still need a bib,” she teased.

Desperate to change the subject, he looked into her open backpack. “What’s that?”

“Oh, my khaali let me borrow it.” She pulled out an odd device that looked like a pre-war cellphone, but with oddly angled wires sticking out the top.

“The one who works at the University?” Elazaro’s abba told him yesterday that in the last census, the population in and around Haifa had finally reached over 3,000, because the University, only one of three left in Israel, was a big attraction.

“Uh huh. He calls it the artifice.”

“What does it do?”

“He’s not even supposed to have it.” Then she leaned toward him and whispered, “It’s Minisian.”

Her hot breath tickled his ear, and he felt both nervous and excited that their faces were so close together. Then he realized what she’d said and pulled back.

“Minisian? Maybe you should put that thing away.”

Ignoring him, Inaya looked down at the artifact, turning it this way and that in her hand. “He says he thinks they use it to amplify impulses from the Broca’s area of their brains so they can communicate with us.”

“How did he get it?”

“Remember that Minisian scout ship that crashed near Mt Hermon last year.”

“Yeah, do I ever. My mume was part of the IDF detail that was ordered to cordon off that whole area. She said the Minisia Electorate didn’t let any humans within ten kilometers of the crash site.”

She replaced the alien device back in her backpack and zipped it shut, then put her lips close to his right year again to whisper. “Anyway, my khaali had a friend who was part of the same detail and he said he found it. Probably thrown clear of the ship when it impacted. He thought my khaali might be able to reverse engineer the Minisia tech. Give us an edge when the time comes.”

“You mean war. Then the rumors are true. It’s coming this soon?” He had joined her in using conspiratorial tones.

“Maybe. I mean, I don’t think the grown ups want us to know, not yet.”

“Why did he give it to you?”

He got word that agents from the local occupation were going to hold a surprise inspection of the school, including his classroom and lab. It’ll be just for the afternoon. Figured it would be safe with me, especially since he knew I’d be in the park with you.”

You’re not that safe with me. Remember, I twisted my ankle because a Minisian constable tripped me when I was running to get home before curfew.”

“He was just being a bully and you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s not like they’re going to hunt a couple of kids eating lunch in the park.”

“I guess you’re right.”

“I do feel safe with you, Elazaro.” She leaned her head against his shoulder and closed her eyes.

Hesitantly, he put his arm around her, very lightly at first to see if she’d object. Instead, Inaya took a deep breath and let out a sigh, the rising then falling of her chest, attracting his attention, though he hadn’t meant to look again.

He tried to relax, too and looked out over the harbor and then out to sea. An old diesel freighter was just coming into port. It was supposed to be bringing in supplies of wheat, but the Minisians would be all over it looking for contraband weapons and any advanced communication and computing tech.

“Look, Inaya.” There’s a Minisian ground vehicle pulling up to the University.”

She fluttered her eyes sleepily and then sat up straight. “Wow. There must be dozens of them.”

“You were right about that search. I bet they’ll go over the entire campus room by room.”

The young Arabic girl scowled. “I hate them.”

“Keep quiet,” the Jewish boy hissed.

“They can’t hear me.”

“Keep quiet anyway. You never know.”

“We were only babies when they invaded.”

“You mean the occupation.”

“They said they were our benefactors, saviors from the stars, Come to help us restore the planet after the last war. They said we’d all starve because of the nuclear winter.”

“That’s what’s they teach us in school. Everybody knows that.”

“I hope the rumors are right, that the resistance cells here, in Europe, Russia, even America, are all organizing.” She turned suddenly toward Elazaro. “You’d fight them, fight in the next war, wouldn’t you?”

“Well…” he felt awkward and then remembered some of the stories his feter told him about the occupiers, what they did to people caught out after curfew or suspected of being resistance. “Yes. Yes I would.”

“Me, too. I can’t wait to hold a gun in my hands.” She looked back down the hill, down at the campus, watching the patrol make their sweep from one building to the next while herding all of the students and faculty outside into the middle of the quad. One of the alien soldiers hurried a lagging person along by roughly jamming the butt of his rifle in the girl’s back, causing her to stumble.

The boy’s attention was pulled skyward as another transport vessel descended from orbit toward the Minisian compound outside the city, probably for a troop rotation, or maybe to increase their complement of soldiers. Inaya was right. It was just propaganda their teachers were forced to preach to them about how the Minisian occupation was for the good of human beings. The world would never be free while the aliens were in control of all Earth’s resources and kept the humans penned inside their cities. Soon it would be time to fight back, and his and Inaya’s generation would first be soldiers and then liberators.

I wrote this for Bonus Wordle “The Letter A” hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. The idea is to use at least 10 of the 12 words listed below, all beginning with the letter “A,” in a poem, short story, or other creative work. I used all 12 and bolded them in my story. The words are:

Atypical
Almond
Avoid
Ankle
Angle
Always
Agonize
Amplify
As if
Arduous
Artifice
Abracadabra

I’ve been toying with this idea for a few days and thought I’d give it a “voice.” Might come in handy in the future.

Oh, I used Yiddish and Arabic words for uncle, aunt, grandpa, dad, and so on in the story. In reality, their common language could be Hebrew, Arabic, or English. I’m still working that out in my head.

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