A Flame that Never Dies

Prologue

Once upon a time there was a happy little child…and then the child grew up and turned into a monster.

I was only a child when the world fell apart, too little to understand why Mommy was crying, why Daddy wasn’t coming home, why everything was so terribly loud. But, even as a child I understood that the loud was far preferred to the unearthly quiet that followed.

They came for me soon after that.

The leaders who remained alive after the destruction was over immediately formed together in order to “prevent destruction on such a massive scale from ever occurring again by bringing the remaining people under one banner, one government, as one people.” I have played that broadcast over in my head so many times since I was able to understand. I’m not unconvinced that the Leaders didn’t orchestrate the Great Destruction for their own gain, but, where I am, to utter such a thing aloud would mean certain death.

As I said, after the Great Destruction, they came for me. Not the Leaders, not yet. I was still only a child. The Leaders wouldn’t have any use for me until after I’d been trained, until my potential and usefulness had been proven. No, they are much worse.

I was still a child, unable to think for myself beyond basic necessities and desires. I wailed like the child I was when they took me away from my mother. If I had known what was coming, if I had been capable of understanding, I wouldn’t have dared cry. What lay beyond our safe home shut me up soon enough, however.

I recognized nothing that lay beyond my door. Our neighborhood was in ruins—the city beyond billowed great clouds of smoke, obscuring much of the familiar skyline. Bodies lay in the street, broken and bloody, piles of rubble from what had once been their homes scattered about them. I quickly buried my face in the shoulder of the man carrying me, and that was the last time I ever saw my home.

After that they took me to what would become my new home…of sorts. It most certainly was not a home, but it was all I had. They trained us in what must have once been barracks for the army of whatever country the land had once belonged to. One of the other kids asked where we were once—she came to dinner that night with a black eye and a broken arm, and those were just the injuries we could see, the rest likely hidden by her uniform. Questions were discouraged. We were expected to do as we were told promptly and without question.

Our lives were living hell, but that was only our training. What they had us do in the field made us monsters. And I was one of their finest monsters of all.

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