By: Marie Chu
“Elise! Where are you?” Jayce yelled. “Maybe I should check the orphanage.” He walked through the ruins of Tribeca, still in awe at the sheer damage the war had created. Remains of bullet shells littered the floor and the rubble from buildings were tainted with blood. Finally, he reached the orphanage and opened the tattered door. In front of him stood the petite girl, with her auburn hair drawn back in a ponytail, that he had been searching for.
“Why is your shirt all bloody?” Jayce exclaimed.
“It’s a war zone, what do you expect,” she replied curtly, nervously stepping out and shutting the door behind her.
“I mean I guess you’re right,” he said hesitantly. “Ever since your father became the dictator, there hasn’t been a single day where I haven’t heard a gunshot or explosion. War is everywhere.”
“Enough about my father, I never considered him as one in the first place. Don’t forget that he abandoned me at the orphanage. Come on, let’s head back to camp now so I can change out of this awful shirt.”
The two proceeded on their two mile walk back to the camp.
“That reminds me, I’ve rarely seen you this past week, you’re almost never at camp. What’ve you been doing?” Jayce inquired as the two walked back.
“Nothing much. I was just thinking about the first night of the war. How dare that monster target the orphanage first and take the lives of our friends. When I was walking through the hallways of it this week, all I could hear were the screams of that night.”
“Look Elise, I agree that he isn’t the best person. In fact, he might be the worst person ever to have lived, but at least you’ll never wonder who your father is.”
“Yeah, and I’ll also never wonder who killed my mother.”
The two walked in silence until they reached their tent. Jayce held the flap open for her and then they sat down at the table.
“Well, at least I got to meet you from his mistakes,” Jayce replied quietly.
He poured two glasses of water and turned on the radio to listen to the updates of the war. Moments later, he jumped out of his chair, cranking up the volume.
“Do you hear this? The dictator’s been missing for a week!”
“Isn’t that good? Although, I think he’s probably in hiding since we started rebelling. He was always a coward.”
“Coward or not, he doesn’t back down that easily,” Jayce replied as he took a small sip of his water. “By the way, did you happen to see him during your trips to the orphanage?”
Immediately, Elise’s face fell and she pushed away from the table.
“No. Jayce, I’m not in the mood to chit chat. I’m going out for a walk,” she mumbled and briskly walked out of the tent. On her way out she accidentally bumped into their friend, Lucas.
“Hey you come back here— ” Jayce started as he got out of his chair.
“What’s her problem?” Lucas asked gesturing towards the swishing flap.
“I don’t know but she’s been missing a lot this week.”
“What does that have to do with anything”
“Look, I know this sounds far fetched, but hear me out. You remember that the dictator is Elise’s father, right?”
“Yea, what about it,” Lucas answered absentmindedly while playing with the glass on the table.
“So earlier today, I found her at our old orphanage and her shirt was drenched in blood. She said it was nothing, but what if her disappearances are related to the missing dictator?”
“Stop right there! You’re crazy Jayce,” Lucas exclaimed as he accidentally knocked the glass off the table. Water splattered over the floor and mixed with the shattered pieces of glass.
“You know what, never mind. Clean that up for me and go back to your tent, will you? I’m going out for a walk too.”
He pushed open the flap and walked out into the night. The cool breeze ruffled his dark hair as he wrapped his jacket tighter, pulling it flush against his olive skin. He trekked through the ruins of the city until once more he stood in front of the gloomy abandoned building that he grew up in. This time he opened the door and stepped inside.
“So many memories,” he reminensenced aloud.
He inspected each room thoroughly, trying to find any traces of life. Beds were overturned with shredded burnt sheets strewn across the hallways and rooms. Jayce noticed a trail of footprints in the layer of fine ash on the floor and followed them into the ruins of Elise’s old room. There sat the mangled body of the dictator, tied to the metal bed frame.
“So you knew,” came a voice from behind him.
Jayce whipped around at the familiar voice and saw Elise standing in the frame of the door with her piercing blue eyes set on him.
“I thought something was up because of all your disappearances, but I didn’t think you took it this far. Please tell me you didn’t kill him,” Jayce hopefully begged.
“Don’t worry, he’s just unconscious. I couldn’t bring myself to let him off that easily.”
“He’s your father though! You didn’t have have to torture him like this.”
“He’s a monster. He killed my mother. He killed our friends. He killed all those innocent people. I have a father, but he left me to fend for myself,” Elise yelled.
“But you’re not alone. You still have me.”
“Do I really? You’re my closest friend, but don’t you think I’m a monster too for torturing that?” her voice trembled as she thrusted a shaking finger towards the body.
Pausing for a moment, Jayce replied, “If you really thought it was necessary, I’ll stand by your side. I’m still your friend. That’s why I’m going to help you. If someone else finds him here, you’re going to be in trouble.”
He stooped down next to the body and started untying the intricate knots. Elise quietly sat in the corner watching her best friend struggle with her handiwork.
After a while she broke the silence, “Will you do anything for me, Jayce?”
“Yes,” he answered without hesitation.
She quickly stood up and started to ramble, “Kill him for me. We can’t let him terrorize anyone anymore and you know it. If you kill him now, you can do it painlessly, when he’s unconscious. If I do it, I won’t be able to control myself from torturing him to death.”
Jayce stopped untying the knots and got up. He put his hands on her shoulders and looked her straight in the eyes, “Elise, I don’t know—”
“But, you promised,” she said quietly. “If he lives. I die. I don’t want to die.”
Tears started forming at the corner of her eyes as she wiped them away with the back of her hand. Standing there, looking at her crying, reminded him of the first time he met her ten years ago. He remembered then that he promised to never let her feel so helpless again. Wrapping his arms around her, he pulled her tight, resting his face on her soft hair.
“I won’t let you die.”