Btw, this story might get edited in the future, so what is on here may not be what the finished product has. So, mom, if you want to turn this into a book when it’s done, just ask me to send you the real thing, alright?
“Nora! Have you finished packing?”
“Almost!” Nora shoves one more thing in her suitcase before leaving her bedroom. The suitcase clang clangs against the stairs as she drags it down.
“Do you have clothes? Brush? Phone? Camera?”
“Yes, Jenna, I have everything,” Nora assures her. “I double and triple checked.”
Jenna pulls her in for a hug. “Have a great time in Greece, alright? I want a full report, and lots of pictures.”
“I will.” Nora pulls away and gives her a smile. “I’ll see you in a few days.” A car horn honks outside. “Oh, that’s Brylee. Bye!” Nora grabs her things, says one last goodbye, and walks outside. The sleek, light blue Fyra car shines in the evening light. Brylee sits behind the wheel, her sunglasses pulled over her eyes. She dyed the tips of her hair blue a couple weeks ago, and it looks really good on her. She turns her head toward Nora and points at the trunk.
After putting her stuff away, she slides into the passenger seat. “I didn’t have time to look. Who are we rooming with?” Brylee asks.
“Annabella and some girl named Kadence.”
“Kadence…. Kadence Kadence Kadence… nope, never heard of her.”
Nora shrugs. “Well, we’ll find out soon enough, won’t we?”
They drive over to the school, where a bus will then take them to the airport. It’s then only a two hours flight from here in Colorado all the way to Greece.
“Did you know that back in the 2000s, it took, like, twelve hours for this long of a flight?”
Brylee’s eyes widen. “No way! That’s, like, half a day. What would you even do for that long?”
“Sleep, probably. That’s what I’d do.”
They arrive at the school. Their classmates are milling about, some of them huddled in groups, others are standing around waiting for their friends. Brylee and Nora get out of the car and head over to Mrs. Franklin, who’s holding a clipboard.
“Hello girls,” she says with a smile. “I see you are paired with Annabella and Kadence. They’re right over there by that tree.”
“Thanks Mrs. Franklin!” Nora says. She pulls her suitcase over to where the other two girls stand.
The girl on the left has light brown hair and pale blue eyes. She has thin, pale lips that curl at the edges to make it seem like she is always smiling. She’s wearing a red and white striped long sleeve shirt with black leggings. The girl on the right has short and straight black hair paired with grey eyes. She’s wearing a green and white flannel with tight jeans.
“Hey Brylee!” the girl on the left sys with a smile.
“Hey Annabella! This is my friend, Nora.” She turns to the other girl. “So you must be Kadence?”
She nods. Then she turns to Nora. “Your last name is Tenebris, right?” Her voice is surprisingly deep.
“Um, yeah. Why do you mention it?”
“Did you know that it’s Latin for dark?”
Nora blinks slowly and frowns. “What’s Latin?”
“A really old language. I know a lot of it, even though no one speaks it anymore.”
Brylee speaks up and says, “But, I thought you weren’t allowed to learn other languages?”
“We’re not allowed to speak any languages spoken by people from the countries we defeated in World War four. No law says anything about a dead language.”
Two feelings churn inside of Nora. One is a deep, hollow feeling that screams SOMETHING IS WRONG! The other is light and fluttery, and it wants to get to know this Kadence a little bit better.
“You make a fair point,” Annabella says quietly.
“Alright students!” the principal, Miss Freeman, announces. “Start getting into the buses! Stay with your groups!”
All at once, everyone starts to move towards the buses. Within seconds, everyone is standing by them, trying to get in.
“Welp, we’re not getting on anytime soon,” Brylee murmurs.
Half an hour later, everyone is finally settled on the buses. They drive off just as the sun is setting. It’s almost like one of those old movies, where the hero rides off into the sunset after the villain is defeated and all is well in the world. But, this time, that is not the case.
When they arrive at the airport, the sun is just barely peeking over the horizon. The students all file out and go through a special door that will let them pass all the other people waiting to board their flights. It’s probably the only perk of traveling with a school.
When they get to security, Brylee leans over and whispers, “I hope you didn’t bring any weapons.”
Nora replies, “Oh no, I brought a knife. What should I do?”
They’re joking, obviously. Any minor caught with a weapon at any point is automatically arrested. They don’t get sent to the MIWS, unless they actually try to use the weapon. But their parents might have to pay a fine, or the child will go to jail for a couple days. Some parents will even go as far as to not let their child use a butter knife through fear of them using it. Yeah, it’s that serious. In the late 2000s, early 2100s, there were a lot of kids commiting suicide, committing mass murders, and settling arguments with weapons. So, Law 5624 came about.
“Play it off. Say you’re borrowing your mother’s boots, and she had a knife in there,” Brylee replies.
They finally reach the plane. A flight attendant stands at the entrance, her smile forced and her uniform tight. Behind her, the night sky can be seen through the almost invisible glass panels.
After talking to the flight attendant, Mrs. Franklin and Miss Freeman usher all the students onto the plane. Brylee and Nora sit next to each other, and Annabella and Kadence sit behind them. Brylee is sitting closest to the window.
As soon as everyone is on, a different flight attendant goes over the rules. Nora begins to zone out, because she’s heard this a million times. But then something catches her attention.
“…flying to another country, I ask that all windows remain closed. You won’t be able to see anything anyway, but for your safety, it is imperative that you do not open the cover on your windows. Anyone caught doing so will be sent home immediately and suffer the consequences there. Does everyone understand me?”
A chorus of “yes” goes around the plane. She forces a tight smile and says, “Thank you for flying with International Airlines. We hope you enjoy your flight.”
Brylee turns to Nora. “Don’t you think that it’s a little weird they don’t want us looking out the windows?”
Nora shrugs. “She said it is for our safety, and I believe her. There’s a lot of stuff out there that we don’t know about.”
“But you see, that’s the thing! We don’t know what is out there. What if…” She looks side to side and leans in closer. “What if everything they tell us in history class is wrong? What if the people are still slaves? What if the rest of the world is infested with a virus? What if World War five is going on right now and they won’t tell us?”
“Brylee, chill. You’re beginning to sound like Aaron.”
That shuts her up real quick. The plane begins to move, and soon they are up in the air.
“Hey, wanna watch a movie?” Nora asks, motioning toward the mini TVs attached to the back of the seats.
“Nah. I just wanna chill.”
Nora shrugs and pulls out a book.
About an hour in, the sound of chatter begins to die away as more and more people either begin to watch a movie or fall asleep. Nora stifles a yawn, telling herself that she will just read one more chapter before getting some rest.
Beside her, Brylee shifts. But instead of trying to sleep, she is looking around, a wild look in her eyes. Nora gives her a look, but Brylee avoids her gaze. Then, very slowly, she moves to lift up the cover on the window.
Nora grabs her hand and gives her a warning look.
“Please,” Brylee says quietly. “Don’t you want to know what’s out there?”
Nora would hate to admit it, but she does want to know what is out there. She slowly lets go of Brylee’s hand. The latter reaches her hand out and lifts the window just a little bit. Her eyes widen and her jaw drops. She turns back to Nora, a look of horror on her face.
Nora leans over her so she can look out the window. And she immediately regrets it.
It’s not dark outside. No, it’s all lit up like a football game. But it’s not the light that bothers Nora. It’s the people. Thousands and thousands of them, most of them with rags that hang over their thin bodies. People in bright white suits patrol down the lines, watching their work. At one point, a man in white grabs the wrist of a small child. He yells something in her face before dragging her off. A woman behind them falls to the floor, and two more men in white take her in the opposite direction.
Nora slams the cover shut and pulls back. The people around her are as quiet as they were before, which is strange because a war is raging inside of Nora’s head. She rubs her forehead, as if to erase the horrible memory.
A flight attendant stops by them, pushing tray. “Would you girls like anything to eat or drink?”
“Could I have a black coffee?” Brylee asks. Strange, Brylee hates coffee.
“And can I have a bag of potato chips?” Nora asks.
He smiles and pulls out the items. “Here you girls go. Enjoy the rest of your flight.” God, it must hurt to smile that much.
When he’s a few rows back, Nora says, “I thought you didn’t like coffee.”
Brylee takes a sip and winces. “Well, they probably wouldn’t have let me have a beer.” Nora raises her eyebrows. “It’s a joke! Jeez, why are you so serious?”
Nora knows that she’s not joking. She only said that in case anyone was listening. Both of them want to forget what they saw. She grabs Brylee’s cup and takes a sip.
“Yuck, that stuff is nasty.” She opens her bag of chips and shoves a handful into her mouth.
They fall silent. A sort of tension hangs between them, so tangible Nora wonders if she would be able to reach out and grab it. They don’t talk, because they know they can’t say what is on their mind. It’s funny how rules are meant to keep you safe, when really all they do is give the rule maker control of your actions. Like a puppet master controlling his little toys.
Finally, the plane lands in Greece. “You may now disembark,” a male voice calls out over the speaker. All at once, everyone stands up to grab their stuff. A few people have to be awoken by their friends.
“Alright everyone, single file! I will go first, and Mrs. Franklin will take up the rear,” the principal says. Nora, Brylee, Annabella , and Kadence stick together as they walk down the length of the plane.
As soon as they walk out, Nora can sense that something is different. The air seems artificial, like the trees stopped producing oxygen and now they have to use pure oxygen. It could be because they are inside, but she is almost positive that is not the case. The sun is just rising, seeing as they Greece is nine hours ahead of Colorado.
Nora looks behind her, out the windows. She imagined that she would see lush grasses and beautiful trees. Instead, small, grey patches of snow cover the ground, and the trees look dead. There is no beauty in it, except for the blinding glimmer of the sun against the grayish snow.
“Alright everyone, this way. We will briefly stop by the hotel to drop off our luggage, and then we will be off.” Principal Freeman leads them toward the luggage pickup, where everyone grabs their suitcases. Brylee and Nora keep exchanging furtive glances, the same thought running through their mind.
Fifty years ago, this place was a war zone. But now, everything seems to be in order. The only thing that they find off is that the people here appear to be free, whereas the people they saw on the plane were clearly slaves.
They walk to the hotel, which is only a few blocks away. They check in and then head to their rooms.
“We’re in room 239,” Kadence says, holding the key in her hand. It’s one of those old fashion ones that is made of metal and fits into the lock. Nowadays, everything is all fingerprints and eye scanners and keycards.
She unlocks and opens a door to reveal a cozy little room with two queen size beds. A TV is mounted on the wall, and it looks decades out of style.
“So,” Brylee says, “Nora and I can take the bed closest to the door, and you two can go by the bathroom.”
“Um, I’d prefer to be by the door,” Annabella says. “And, no offense Kadence, but I know Brylee better than you.”
“But Brylee and I are best friends,” Nora argues.
“Are we seriously fighting over sleeping arrangements? Alright, Annabella and Brylee can take the bed closest to the door, and Nora and I can have the one closer to the bathroom. Alright?”
“But-” Brylee begins.
“Brylee, it’s fine,” Nora cuts in. “Let’s just drop off our stuff and head out.”
They set everything down on their beds, not bothering to put everything in drawers, and head back outside. They’re the first ones out.
“Well, you girls are fast,” Mrs. Franklin comments.
Annabella shrugs. “We want to get started.”
After about ten minutes, everyone has finally made their way outside. By then, the bus has arrived to take them to the Ruins. Everyone clambers aboard, practically shoving to get a window seat. Nora sits next to the window, and Brylee practically leans over her to get a look outside.
All the buildings are packed close together. The paint on them is chipping, and underneath wood shows. Odd, because most houses are made of this weird metal and plastic fusion called metac. People mill about, all of them with a solemn, almost mournful look on their faces. Even the children walk alongside their parents, not even daring to glance at the other children nearby. Everything seems stiff and artificial, from the way they walk to the way they smile.
“This is kinda freaky,” Brylee murmurs. If she wasn’t so close to Nora, she wouldn’t be able to hear her.
“I know, right? They don’t even seem human. The grey clothes make them look like robots.”
Every single person is wearing grey. From head to foot. The government forces them to wear such boring clothes as a symbol of their defeat during the war. Nora feels bad for them, honestly. The kids, mostly. It’s not their fault their parents and/or grandparents decided to fight the US.
They fall into silence. The farther away they get from the hotel, the older and older the houses get. Until suddenly, there are no more houses. It’s just dirt. Brylee leans forward to see if she can see anything up ahead.
“Look! I think I can see the Ruins!” She points up head. Nora half stands, trying to see up ahead. Sure enough, there is a pile of white marble up ahead. It is hard to make out any features, but it seems like it used to be some sort of temple thingy with those big white columns that can only be seen in paintings and photos from the 2000s. Now, however, it lays in ruins on the ground.
“We are now approaching the Ruins. These are the only remains of the great empire that stood here thousands of years ago. The other ruins were destroyed in World War four. Now, who can tell me what this used to be?” Mrs. Franklin looks around expectantly, but no one raises their hand. She sighs, disappointed. “This used to be the Parthenon. The historian on sight will explain more.”
The bus pulls into a parking lot near the Ruins. As the students get off the bus, an aging man with stringy grey hair approaches the teachers. He too is wearing all grey and speaks quietly to them.
Principal Freeman forces a smile and turns to the students. “It appears we have arrived a little early. This fine gentleman has informed me that we will have to wait a little while, because there is already another group here. It should only take a few minutes.”
Everyone bursts into chatter. Nora turns to Brylee and says, “I wonder who is there right now.”
She shrugs. “Probably a group of tourists, or some people who live here that want to learn more about their history.”
Kadence walks over to them. “Hey, do you guys hear that?”
They stop talking and listen. They can faintly hear sounds coming from the direction of the Ruins. Slowly, other people stop talking and listen. It’s a sort of hum, but it’s odd. Low, high, low. Low, high, low. They do it over and over again, without stopping.
Nora cranes her neck to try and see what is going on. She can faintly see a group of people surrounding the Ruins. They are all standing as still as statues, their heads facing forward.
“What are they doing?” Annabella murmurs.
“I don’t know,” Nora replies.
Suddenly, they all stop, as if a switch was flipped. For a moment, they just stand there, silent. Then, they all start moving toward the exit, also known as the place where Nora and her classmates are standing. The people walk past them, keeping their heads down. One of them, a child, looks up and locks eyes with Nora. She immediately looks down, red filling up her face.
The old man comes back, a smile on his face. “Thank you all for your patience.” His voice is louder than it seems like it should be. “My name is Emmanuel, and I will be your guide for today. If you could please follow me.” He starts down the path, and the students follow him.
As he drones on about the history of the Ruins, Nora can’t help but think about those people. What were they doing? And why were they humming like that?
Nora finds herself floating to the back of the group. Brylee walks right behind Emmanuel, devouring the information. Eventually, she finds herself walking beside Kadence.
“It’s strange, don’t you think?” she says quietly.
“Yeah, it is.”
“What if I told you I know why they were doing that?”
Nora laughs before she can stop herself. “I’d say that you’re crazy, and just looking for attention.”
Kadence raises an eyebrow. “What do you think they were doing?”
She shrugs. “I dunno, some weird ritual or something. Why does it really matter? It doesn’t affect me in any way, shape, or form, so why should I care?”
She nudges her. “Come on, I know you want to know. You’re not even just a little bit curious?”
“Well… okay fine, maybe a little bit.”
She lowers her voice to where Nora has to lean in to hear. “Well, it is kind of a ritual. You see, it’s a sign of rebellion here. Showing that they don’t like our government and whatnot. A low hum to signify the start of America, a high to represent where we are right now, in control of everyone, and low again for the hopeful downfall of the United States. It’s a small act, but here in Greece, even the slightest signs of rebellion can get you into big trouble. Them coming here, out in the open, singing a tune like that… that takes guts.”
“But… I saw a child. She mustn’t’ve known what she was doing.”
Kadence shrugs. “There are a lot of things we can’t control in life. One of them is what our parents tell us to do.”
Nora cracks a smile. “Yeah, that’s true.”
They finally reach the Ruins. Everyone makes a kind of circle around it, trying to get a closer look. There are ropes surrounding them and guards positioned here and there.
“Here we are, the Ruins!”
Everyone oohs. Nora doesn’t see all the excitement, because it’s literally just a pile of slightly charred marble. It’s obvious they have been polished up, because something doesn’t survive a war and look that shiny.
Brylee grabs her arm. “Aren’t they amazing?! I mean, it’s not much to look at, but the history behind it!”
“Sure, they’re pretty cool.”
Brylee gives her a look. “Are you okay? You seem… off.”
Nora fakes a yawn. “Just tired, that’s all.”
“Nora, I’m your best friend. You can’t lie to me. Now come on, what’s up?”
“I… don’t really know, exactly. I don’t know how to put it into words.”
But she does know how to put into words. She’s thinking about how everyone around her is skeptical about what is going on. But Nora… Nora thinks they deserved it. That the people of Greece deserve everything that has come to them. They did start the war, after all. And where did that leave them and all the other countries that decided to fight the United States? She will admit, there are a few things that don’t quite add up, like the people she saw outside of the plane. But the government knows what they are doing.
“Oh. Well, if you figure out how to phrase it, tell me, okay?”
There is no way she is telling her. Brylee is too skeptical of it all, and telling her how she feels would bring on unnecessary conflict.
Emmanuel goes on about the Ruins. Nora does her best to focus, but is finding it hard with all the thoughts swirling through her head.
“…concludes the tour. You may visit the gift shop, where we have a buy one get one free on all postcards!”
Everyone begins to make their way toward a small little building not too far away. Nora notices that Miss Freeman and Mrs. Franklin walk behind everyone, talking in low voices. She can’t help but wonder what they are talking about.
They walk into the little shop. The walls are lined with postcards, pictures, and shelves filled with various items. There are shelves placed neatly around the room, also filled with a bunch of souvenirs.
“Oh, look at this!” Brylee exclaims, holding up a t-shirt. It has a picture of the Ruins on it, and written across the top in big letters are the words I VISITED THE RUINS! It’s very colorful, which is odd. Nora glances behind her friend to see a pile of the exact same t-shirt, except it’s all grey. That must be for the people who live here in Greece.
“Oh, come on Nora! Show some more enthusiasm!”
“I’m more interested in the culture of Greece, not so much it’s history,” Nora replies.
Brylee shrugs and places the shirt back on the shelf. They wander around, looking at various items.
Something catches Nora’s eye. She turns and sees a book hastily shoved under a t-shirt. She pulls it out and reads the cover. Greece: Culture and Ancient Mythology. It’s a hard back, and the plastic cover shines in the light.
Odd… Nora was just talking about how she’s interested in the culture. And then she suddenly finds a book hidden under a t-shirt about it.
“Hey, look what I found,” she says, showing it to Brylee.
“Interesting. But what’s Mythology?”
“Dunno. Guess I’ll find out.”
Nora walks over to the counter and buys the book. It’s really cheap, as far as books go.
“Alright everyone, finish up! It’s time for us to head to lunch!”
Brylee buys her postcards, and they walk back over to the teachers. After everyone is gathered, they walk back to the buses. Nora stifles a yawn, reminding herself she still has half a day to go. Maybe some food will wake her up.
When she gets onto the bus, she opens up the book and looks at the table of contents. Her eyes widen, and she nearly chokes on air. When Brylee isn’t looking, she peels off the plastic cover to see what the hardback says. The books is blood red, with gold letters that shine like hidden treasure.
The True Story of World War IV
The true story? What does it mean by true story? Her history book back at home has all the information she needs. She puts the plastic cover back on and looks at the table of contents again. One chapter title stands out to her: The Corrupted Government.
The bus begins to move, starling her. She closes the book and shoves it back into the souvenir bag. Brylee is too engrossed in her pictures to pay any attention.
Pictures. Nora squeezes her eyes shut in frustration. She forgot to take picture at the Ruins. She had her old fashion camera around her neck and everything. Well, she’ll just have to take some from now on. Besides, there are plenty of pictures of the Ruins that Jenna and Herald can look at.
The dirt turns back into houses the further they drive. Finally, they arrive at a little outdoor mall area. People mill about, going to various stores and restaurants. When they get off the bus, some of the pasterbys stare at them. They’ve seen tourists, sure, but not so many young people at once. The color in their clothes make them stand out even more. Nora crosses her arms over her chest, feeling exposed with all these people staring at her.
“Alright everyone, feel free to wander about and get food,” Miss Freeman says. “Be back here in about ninety minutes.”
Nora picks up her camera and holds it close to her body. “So, where do you want to go?” she asks.
“Hmm…” Brylee looks around. “Ooh, what about that little cafe over there?” On their right is a small little cafe painted a pale pink. There are small tables outside, and it doesn’t seem like a lot of people are there.
“Sure.” They walk over there, and at the entrance, Nora takes a picture. “Here, let’s get a selfie.” She and Brylee stands next to each other as Nora takes a picture. “Awesome. Now let’s go eat.”
When they walk inside, a sweet smell hits their nose. It’s strong like a spice, but it also smells sweet, like candy. There are cute little booths stationed around the room, and only two other people are here. Beautiful paintings line the wall, full of people with weird clothes.
“What’s that smell? I want to eat whatever it is.”
“I don’t know. Let’s find out.”
They walk over to the counter and take a look at the menu. A man, probably in his late twenties, walks out. He has short black hair and soft brown eyes. A light grey, almost white apron is tied around his waist. “Hello girls. What can I get for you today?”
“Could you maybe tell us what that delicious smell is?” Brylee asks.
He smiles. “Ah, that could be the cinnamon rolls.”
“What’s… cinnamon?” Nora asks.
He glances down at their clothes. A look of recognition crosses his face. “A lot of American tourists don’t know what that is. Well, it’s a spice that was quite common in the 2000s, but when India cut off trade with America and the spice dulcis came out, people started to cook with that instead. But here, we like to… spice things up a bit. Pun intended.”
Brylee looks at Nora. “Wanna try it?”
“I don’t see why not.” She turns to the man. “We’ll take two cinnamon rolls, please. And then I’ll also get a BLT sandwich with some water.”
“I’ll have a grilled cheese with a hot chocolate.”
He writes it down on a piece of paper. “Anything else?”
“Nope, that’ll be it,” Nora says.
“Your total will be $17.82.” Brylee hands him the money. “I’ll bring it over as soon as it’s ready.”
They find a booth near the window and sit down. Nora looks out the window. “Looks like a lot of people are over at that American restaurant. Even Kadence and Annabella.”
Brylee smiles. “Look at all them, waiting in line. And then we’re here at this cute little shop, no one else to bother us.”
Right as she says that, two guys from their school walk in. The taller of the two has short blonde hair and a way-too-big smile. The other is a face Nora has seen multiple times. Shaggy brown hair and a few freckles dotting his face.
Brylee turns back around and gives Nora a look. “Don’t. Say. Anything,” Nora says through clenched teeth.
“I’m gonna talk to him.”
“Brylee Kay Wolfe, you are not going over there.”
“Using my full name doesn’t work, Octavia.”
“Hey, you agreed never to use my middle name.”
“And you agreed to give me half of your Halloween candy in eighth grade, but here we are.”
“Okay, that is not fair.”
“Who said life was fair?”
“I’m going to talk to him.”
“No you are not.”
Just as Brylee is about to get up, the man appears again with their food. “Here you girls are.” He sets everything down and gives them a smile. “The name’s Orion, by the way. If you need anything else, just ask me. Enjoy!”
Nora pulls out her camera and takes a picture of her cinnamon roll. “This looks so good,” she murmurs.
Brylee gently picks hers up. “On three. One, two, three.”
They both take a bite at the same time. Nora’s eyes widen as the glaze melts on her tongue and the cinnamon works its way down her throat.
“Oh. My. God,” Brylee says. “This is literally the BEST thing I have had in my entire life! Why don’t we have this back at home?”
“I know right?”
The two boys finish ordering their food and sit in the booth two seats behind Nora and Brylee.
Nora’s eyes widen, and an evil grin spreads across Brylee’s face. “Don’t you dare,” she says quietly.
Before she can stop her, Brylee gets up and walks over to them.
She is so dead, Nora thinks.
“Hey Alvaro, hey Jaydin,” she says. Nora gets up and stands next to her to keep her from doing anything stupid. “Fancy seeing you here.”
“Um, hi,” Alvaro says. He’s the one that Nora has a crush on.
Brylee loops an arm around Nora. Please no she thinks. “My friend Nora here wanted to tell you something.”
“Um, no, I didn’t,” Nora says.
“Yes you did. Go on, tell them.”
“Um… I… you…” Her face heats up, and she avoids looking at Alvaro. “…should really get the cinnamon rolls. They’re really good.”
And before Brylee can say another word, Nora drags her back to the table. When they sit down, Nora leans in and hisses, “Seriously?”
“What, you have to tell him at some point!”
“No, I don’t. I don’t have to tell him. I can just admire him from afar.”
“At least talk to him. For all you know he could be a complete jerk.”
“That’s why I’m admiring him from afar.”
Brylee sighs. “Fine, have it your way.”