Please note that the prologue for this novel is a seperate short story. I invite you to check it out here: http://www.booksie.com/science_fiction/short_story/blackmirror/war-born-(prologue)
Chapter 1 (Grayson), by M-chan
Blood sprayed out before my eyes. I watched each bead, my eyes not missing even one. How horrid was it? Certainly, I didn’t want this for myself.
I yanked my hand from his chest as his body went limp. He toppled to the ground.
My eyes stared at the body. My heart ached, but my brain remained unaffected. How sick was that? Wasn’t it a huge mess?
This was my first killing. I was eight.
My eyes track my brother protectively. He’s weaving through the crowds with ease. I never understood how he did it. I mean, how’s a blind person able to know where everyone is so easily?
Let me tell you that my twin brother lost his sight eight years ago. We’re sixteen. Do the math. Anyways, he lost his sight in a failed experiment. The two of us were the first of a government project. We’re the letdowns, the mistakes. He lost his eyes as a side effect of the project.
Me, I lost my voice.
My brother dodges around yet another person. I wince when he stumbles, almost tumbling into someone else. He regains his footing, though, going on with what he was doing. A minute later, he’s standing with me.
“What’s up?” my brother asks, though he knows I can’t answer.
I shrug in response, though I know he can’t see me.
You should know something, since you must be wondering why my brother is keeping up this conversation. My brother and I are twins, and we have that twin telepathy thing. Twins don’t usually have that in reality, but it comes from the experiments we’ve gone through.
“You know,” says my brother, “Spring Festival is coming up.”
Wonderful. That’s certainly something to look forward to this month. It will be our first Festival in US West. No one’s expecting anything from us. I’m just the boy US East didn’t want, and my brother is one of the few survivors of the Russia Incident.
“We have Gym first and last today,” my brother notes.
That was in preparation for the Spring Festival. It would be the perfect time for my brother and me to prove ourselves, but I really don’t want to show off. We’re better with everyone looking down on us.
I grab my brother’s arm and drag him towards the gym. I’d rather be there early. It’d give us time to spar without watchful eyes.
My brother and I make to the gym quickly. We approach the brick building discreetly, because class isn’t supposed to start yet, and we don’t want unwelcome attention.
I push the door open, looking in on the vast expanse of the gym. No one is inside. The place is ours.
“What do you want to do?” my brother asks.
I release him from my grip. “Let’s spar,” I say inside my brother’s head.
He nods. We set ourselves up. I debate on whether or not we should use our weapons. What if someone walked in and saw our weapons? I rather they not.
I fall back into a low stance. My brother does the same. Okay, you may be thinking this is unfair, my fighting the blind person. Actually, it is unfair, on my end.
I let my instincts take over, sliding into my brother’s reach. Only, that was dumb. My brother’s specialty is close combat. He can hear his opponent better, and he can feel the movements of the air better. On the other hand, he’s good at any sort of combat. His uncanny ability to sense the flow of other people’s aura always made him an expert. Yet, no one has ever been able to look past my brother’s disabilities.
I widen my stance and go for a grab at my brother’s arm. He steps inward, crossing our stances. Blocking my grab, my brother catches me in a wristlock, sending me to the floor at the same time.
I catch my ankle around my brother’s leg as I fall. My brother releases me and we both tumble to floor. With agile grace, my brother leaps to his feet and away from me.
I stand, falling back into my low stance.
“Weapons?” asks my brother.
“Yes,” I say in my brother’s head.
We start to materialize our weapons, but my brother freezes. It’s as if he’s a deer in headlights. I also stop, knowing to trust my brother’s judgment. Neither of us allows our weapons to materialize.
“Something wrong?” the coach walks into the room.
“Nome,” my brother says. I shake my head.
Her yellow cat eyes narrow dangerously. She doesn’t know what we were doing, and we don’t want her to know. Every WAR branch has prohibited fighting without adult supervision, though my brother and I weren’t really fighting per se. It was more like training, if you consider the two as different things.
The coach pauses, her eyes narrowing further. “I’ve never seen you two before.”
My brother isn’t fazed, and he doesn’t turn his head. “We’re new, ma’am.”
Silence answers the coach.
“Well, kid?” The coach crosses her arms. “I asked you a question.”
My brother doesn’t want to answer. He hates himself for it.
The coach looks at me. “Quiet one, aren’t you. Got anything to say?”
I shake my head, unable to explain why I haven’t said anything. Oh, what would I give to be able to speak? I’d give anything but my brother. He is the only thing that matters more than everything else does.
The coach shrugs. “Suit yourselves. I’ll look in your records. Names?”
My brother shrinks away from the coach’s bad mood. “I’m Sasha Ortega.”
The coach looks at me. “What’s your name, kid?”
My brother replies, “Grayson Sage,” for me.
“He can say so himself.” The coach scowls.
My brother shrinks a bit. “No, ma’am, he can’t.”
The coach shrugs, as if to say, “Whatever.” Then she walks away, wandering to the other side of the gym. She leans against a wall, waiting for the rest of the class.
They show up. They file into the gym in a rather orderly fashion. I watch them, taking my brother to a wall. We stand against the wall, away from scrutiny.
“I wonder how they prepare for Festivals here,” my brother says thoughtfully.
I don’t give a crap. I don’t need to participate in a Festival. The word “Festival” doesn’t even suit the occasion. Festival gives off too much of a nice connotation. What we’ll be participating in is a bloodbath.
I rock back and think of what it’d been like at US East. It had been violent and competitive. I don’t like standing out. I never did. Therefore, I blew off the Festivals. I’d go, but I wouldn’t do anything. What’s the point?
It looks like everyone has filed into the room. The coach blows a silver whistle that’s been hanging around her neck the whole time. Every head turns.
“Listen up, maggots,” the coach screeches. “Spring Festival is in two weeks. You better get off your lazy asses and get moving.”
My brother turns his sightless eyes to me. “This will be an interesting two weeks.”
I nod in agreement, and then remember that he can’t see me nod. Living with someone who can’t see your gestures is difficult.
Of course, things pick this time to explode.
My brother senses it first. It’s in the tensing his body. It’s in the widening of his irrationally colorful eyes, which always seem to change. It’s in the tilt of his head.
I smell it. It’s the telltale scent of gunpowder, which I work with a lot. That’s another story entirely.
Exactly now, fire starts raining down, and I’m half convinced it’s the end of the world. Maybe it is the end. Maybe this is punishment for the world’s sins.
Smoke fills the room quicker than I would have expected. By now, students have left in an organized fashion, just as they came.
I turn to my brother, who drops low. I follow suit. I grip my brother’s arm firmly, ready to drag him out of the gym. It’s always been like this. I’ve always pulled my brother to safety.
It was the blur of fair skin. That was always it. Only, this time she wasn’t mad at me. Her hand came down hard across my brother’s cheek. She grabbed at his arm hard, yanking him forward. Her hand came down again.
He cowered in fear, as much as he could in her grip. More hard slaps rained down on him. This was the seventh day after the reunion of my brother, my mother, and me. It was the seventh day after the beginning of Project E.
Before the next blow, I dragged my brother away from our mother. I took the blow for him. I was used to it, the hitting. My mother was never afraid to hit. It was always that way.
My brother had no idea what to do. He grabbed at me, pulling me into him. He wrapped his frail arms around me, a hug for security. We have each other.
“Why are you still here?” my mother screamed, her voice raw from all of the other things she’d yelled at us. “Get out. I don’t want you here. Leave, like your father did.”
Tears sprang to my brother’s blue eyes. They were the blue of the sky. That was only for then, though. Those eyes were a different color every day, even after he lost his sight.
“Get out of my sight,” said my mother fiercely, her voice now a hoarse whisper.
I took my brother away, out of the house. We weren’t welcome. We’d never be welcome. So we ran. It’s all we could do. Life sucked, and always will.
We stopped running eventually. I don’t know how long it took our legs to start burning, but we stopped. My brother clung to me as I tried to catch my breath.
“Is mom going to get rid of us?”
I stared at my brother, the question throwing me off guard. We’re twins, the same age. Yet, I felt over the past week that he remained oblivious to the whirlwind around us. It was as if he locked himself in a perfect imagination world, except for the times of the experiments. I didn’t expect him to be worried about what our mother was planning to do with us.
My brother turned his sightless eyes on me, and it felt as if he could actually see me. I stared into those blue eyes, wondering if our father had the same eyes. My brother’s eyes changed so often that it was impossible to know what our father’s eyes might’ve looked like. My eyes didn’t change. They’re soft, sunset red, like my mother’s eyes.
“Is it because I’m broken? Is that why dad left?” It was another unexpected question, without a good answer.
I opened my mouth to respond, wanting to assure my brother with false lies that everything was going to be fine. Then I remembered that my voice lefta weekago, gone with my brother’s sight.
If only I could tell my brother, that osteogenesis imperfecta didn’t make him broken. It just happened that he was born with a rare condition in this age. Our father’s mysterious disappearance wasn’t his fault.
Since I couldn’t explain, I shook my head in response to my brother, although he couldn’t see. I didn’t have another way to reassure my brother, though. That was the best I could do.
“Can we go home?” asked my brother, his voice soft and scared. Yet another question without an answer.
We had no home. A home is where we’re welcome. Where was that? Mom didn’t want us. She hated us. Dad left, carried away on the wind. The government announced us mistakes, the failure prototypes of a project started in vain. The WAR branches were arguing over who should be stuck with us.
I didn’t have the voice to say this, of course. I wouldn’t, anyways. What person would want to know that they’re unloved, unwanted? Besides, it would kill me to hear the words, to breathe life into them at last.
“Gray?” That was my nickname. It was “Gray”, for Grayson.
I waited for the question to follow my name. I waited, and waited. Nothing came. I continued to stare at my brother. His lips pressed together, eyes shining. It took me maybe five minutes to realize that saying my name was comfort enough.
I took my brother up in my arms, holding him. This was all I had to give. Maybe it wasn’t enough, but it was what I had. That counted for something, didn’t it? I mean, we had each other.
We will always have each other.