The war had been raging on for more than a century; a country, once a bastion of hope and promise was slowly but surely being destroyed. It’s vast territories were becoming increasingly uninhabitable as bombs tore apart the earth, the chemicals contained within poisoning every living thing within minutes. Millions had lost their homes and many resorted to savagery just to survive; there was no help offered to the homeless or the starving. The concept of family had long since been abandoned, there was now loyalty only to the Crown or the State….
A decrepit and filthy old man had crawled into the basement of what had once been a famous apartment store; he faintly remembered the opulence and the tantalising aroma in the great food halls. His stomach growled pathetically, it was many days since he had eaten and he knew that, if he didn’t find food soon he would perish as so many loved ones had perished before him. He had lived for 115 years and was one of the very few who could recollect the time before the war….
The State had ruled. Officials were elected by the people and, after a certain time in office, they were replaced by others who had newer and fresher ideas. This system had worked well for hundreds of years and then one came who had called himself King. Like all the others before him he had been elected; he’d had a power and charisma never seen before and many were quick to follow him. He promised great change; no longer would the country’s great wealth be shared with it’s neighbours, it would be kept and used to create prosperity for all who dwelt within it’s borders….
For a couple of years everything progressed well and the old man could dimly remember having a sense of pride in his country; like others, he enjoyed the wealth and comfort that the new King had delivered. However, things began to change. Families who had lived in his community quite peacefully and happily suddenly began to disappear. At the beginning of the Kings’ reign the borders had been closed to any that couldn’t significantly contribute to the economy, he’d explained that it was for the benefit of the whole population and he was believed. He wanted his people to be protected and insulated from potential intruders into their idyllic world, he said, and they felt secure. Then he wanted to rid the country of anyone who was not at least 2nd generation as they could not possibly have true loyalty and that was when the old man’s neighbours started to disappear…
The King’s power grew and his subjects grew richer but many were no longer content. Their communities were changing and they were losing good friends in the process. People who were 2nd generation were being questioned and forced to take tests to prove that their loyalty lay with the King. The majority were allowed to stay but a great tax was levied upon them, it was felt that they hadn’t been resident long enough to really contribute. There was a whiff of fear in the air….
The tax was eventually expanded to include all 3rd generation families, about half the population. The old man thought that was around the time of The Divide; some grew ever richer and some increasingly poorer, some neighbourhoods flourished in great luxury and some collapsed into slums. The rich paid for trainers and plastic surgeons to keep their youthful looks and their healthy bodies while those on the other side of The Divide succumbed to diseases that were thought long eradicated – rickets, cholera, tuberculosis. It was almost as though the wall that surrounded their entire country had an invisible counterpart; the King’s supporters refused to see and those that were left were too weak to fight…..
Was it one year after or two? The old man couldn’t remember, he was so tired now. He could, however, recall the day when the The Divide came crashing down. The State who had once been the King’s supporters could look the other way no longer and they rose up to help those who had been forced into poverty. One side had the fire power that only immense wealth can bring but the other had a fire in their bellies that can only come from oppression and so the war began…
There had been 3 Kings in his life time, each one more ruthless than his predecessor. The State too had changed leaders a number of times and during these transitions their original purpose, to bring the country together once more, seemed to become more and more lost and so the war raged on. The great wall which had once been a sign of security and prosperity was now no different than a prison wall, they were all trapped. Their neighbours would not or could not come to their aid so they were doomed to continue the fight until the money ran out or they were all dead because, it seemed to the old man, that that’s the only way it would end.
He collapsed against a wall, he no longer had the strength to stand, grateful that he had managed to find somewhere peaceful to rest, away from the noise of the fighting. He closed his eyes and thought to himself:
“To think, they once called us the most advanced nation on earth”
This short story was inspired by a one word prompt from Fandango who has, once again, set my creative juices flowing so many thanks to him :O)