I stood slowly, pushing my (h/c) bangs behind my ear as I searched quietly for a trail. For a moment I waited, mesmerized by the beautiful scenery. Ever since the revolution and the amazing increase in technologies, most forests had been completely obliterated. There were no forests anywhere close to where I lived, that much I could remember. All of my memories were muddled for some reason, but I could remember never being to a forest. I had longed for them, reading about them in the books that had been forbidden by the new government.
The stories of the Earth's revolution has been dredged by so many over the years. The story went that, fed up with the slow progression of equality, the people had lashed out. Some, not willing to be associated with the events, took refuge underground or stayed inside until the fighting was over. The war lasted for the better part of fifty years, beginning in the early months of 2049. The women had begun the war after the past centuries showed no promising signs for them. Abortion was being outlawed, rape was becoming an every-day experience, and there was a decreasing amount of women who hadn't been sexually assaulted at the least. Everyone was living in fear-until the revolution, that is.
A young Russian female name Alonya Treposhkil had been the first one to spark the war. Infuriated by what civilization had been dissolving to, she had declared war against her homeland, one woman against all of Russia. Her spirit managed to spread, and the news coverage of any events related to her was all that was shown on televisions across the world. The public became eager to follow any updates relating to her situation, trying to stay up to date. Within only several days, she had managed to build an army of only women. They denounced their persons, claiming that they would never identify themselves as Russians so long as the government continued with its tyranny, renouncing anything that would tie them to their brutal country. Russian men who had seen that she was making a change for everyone had joined within the next few weeks, and Russia was under attack.
The turmoil had soon spread to surrounding countries, leaving destruction in its wake. Civilians indignantly lashed out against the armies of their nations, refusing to stop even when they were heavily outweighed. Within a year, the riots had become world wide, forcing the failing governments to converge. They had decided to combine their military strengths, uniting against the common enemy that was their own people.
Even with the extreme combination of air, sea, and ground patrol, the citizens had managed to hold on to a slim advantage. Though most of them had no military training, they happened to know all the hideouts that dotted their childhood towns. Several thousand troops had defected from their leaders, joining the rebels and offering a key amount of military knowledge. The rebels gained the information of the united army's patrol routes, learning when the most opportune moments for moving were. They learned of the 'dead' areas, where they would have little fear of being detected, and began an easy-going training regiment.
For almost thirty-five years, everything was pointing towards the rebels' victory. Then, the unthinkable happened.
The Group of Eight had marshaled their intelligence for years, working on something that anyone not within the tightly concealed government group had no idea that there was anything happening. They had ended up with a machine that would flip the tables completely, rendering any old technology that the rebels possessed as obsolete.
The rebels had other problems, as well. Some of the troops who had seemingly abandoned their countries had turned out to be spying on the rebels. The ostracized group had managed to swiftly execute most of the spies, though some of the planned executions had gone wrong. Reinforcements had been able to infiltrate some of the small, broken up groups before anything could happen, taking the rebels by force and either jailing them or, if one was especially violent, execute them on the spot. Alonya was still free, rallying her forces as best she could without the ability to use the numerous news programs. Any forms of communication had been forbidden, only to be used by the government.
After only minimal success concerning the use of espionage to capture the rebels, the Group of Eight had determined that there was no other option but to use their weapon.
The device itself was fairly simple, consisting of a random assortment of gears and springs. The amount of destruction it could cause, however, was unparalleled. It was light enough to have the ability to tread water at a fast rate of speed, and, unlike the Panjandrum, which was supposed to be used during the Invasion of Normandy during World War Two, it could travel through sand in a straight line. The weapon caused mass destruction, tearing through houses and defensive barriers like a pair of scissors cuts through paper. Within three months, most of the resistance had been obliterated, many in prisons and many more left for dead. The official name of the device was never revealed, as it is said that the nations had vowed to never again use it.
Word had gotten around quickly, a bit of it falsified due to it traveling by word of mouth. It soon reached Alonya, who realized that there was no point for her to hide. She sent out groups to watch for the opposing forces, trying to bide some time. Almost a week after receiving the news, she released her soldiers, advising them to take up residence underground to avoid being caught. She waited for the government to get her, staying outside at all times.
The soldiers who had found her had been recorded saying that she had been a sight. The white tank top she had been wearing was ripped and stained with blood, the original colour unrecognizable after the amount of use it was put through. Her hair had grown down past her waist and had turned from an inky black to a snowy grey. It was held in a braid, loose strands sticking out everywhere. She had gained an extraordinary amount of wrinkles, especially beneath her faded blue eyes, yet she still stood as a symbol of freedom.
Once the troops had captured her, the Group of Eight's orders were simple: execute her. Government officials had brought in the media in order to convey what would happen to anyone associated with Alonya. The fear that the world had lived in for the past fifty years had been intensified after her execution.
Most old nations had merged to form larger ones, bringing more revenue to the countries. The names had been changed in an effort to extinguish any lingering urges of usurping the new progress. A new government had been set up for every nation, a much stricter type than Communism.
Directly after birth, everybody, whether rich or poor, would have a small tracking chip implanted in their left breast. The chip left a dark scar in the shape of a crow, the animal symbol of the government. There was no way to remove the chip, as it embedded itself within the muscle tissue as a person grew. All of us are required to work grueling hours, with no hope of getting even a day off during our normal working schedule. The past two hundred years have been spent in a horrid peace, as there are no longer ways to fight back.
Seeing as I was under the legal working age, I was forced to spend my days at home, constantly cleaning the already spotless place and cooking with the few provisions we had. My 'family', if they could be addressed as such, and I live in Zveskol*, a country in the far north. The winters could sometimes be brutal, but the combination of our calloused skin and the fact that we all worked inside counteracted the harsh weather. We had long since grown accustomed to the two troops that were positioned outside of our home at all times in order to maintain 'maximum control', as our parents had explained to us.
Returning my attention to the scenery, I realized that I had been staring blankly at a sandy road for the past couple of minutes. Taking a tentative step forward, I soon relaxed as I concluded that it was safe. I kept a vigilant watch, however, my (e/c) eyes scanning the area intently for anything that might be watching as I followed the trail.
Growing tired, I leaned against a tree, judging the time as I watched the sun. It seemed to be only an hour or so since I had begun walking, yet it looked as though I hadn't made any progress. There were thick walls of trees on my left and right, and a clear path in front and behind me for as far as I could see. Whatever lay behind the trees made a soft rustling and, though I was tempted to discover what foreign creature might be there, I realized that I needed to keep walking.
And still, the scenery remained the same. It would drive most people mad, but it seemed to calm me. My memory grew less coherent the more I tried to remember anything about my family or my life Zveskol, until I was left with only a name, knowledge of government restrictions, and the facts I had learnt from the books my father had somehow managed to hide away in our tiny house. All books had been banned after the revolution, but my descendants had managed to keep ours from being burned. I had been reading them for as long as I could remember, yet it was difficult because I needed to act as though I'd never read any, which could be extremely difficult at times.
The sun began to set as I trudged onward, not quite ready to stop walking. Though the view around me didn't change, it seemed as though I was making progress. I made out a small shelter in the dying light of the sun and, against my better judgement, decided to look it over.
It was a small cavern, the entrance of it disguised with several bushes. It looked as though it could fit about two or three people within, but there were no signs of residence. Deciding it would work well for the night, I settled in, draping my black jacket over my body and studying the moist, textured ceiling until I fell asleep.
I awoke as the sun was beginning to rise, the streaks of light pink, bright orange, and soft yellows painting the sky in an array of hues. Putting my jacket on again, I walked out, unused to the bright colours, as smog covered my town in a thick cloud. My mindset was muggy as I forced myself to exit the warm cavern and squint against the blinding light.
Freshly fallen leaves crunched softly beneath my padded feet, my black combat-styled boots muffling the noise. The sunlight and warmth seemed to help awaken my body in a way that made me feel more alive than I could ever remember being. My stomach began to rumble softly; it seemed that, even though I was used to not eating much, skipping a meal would still manage to cause me hunger.
I decided to try hunting, another thing I had only ever read about. Looking around for something useful, I could only come up with a small pile of rocks. I figured I could still kill something with the primitive tool, and began searching for prey.
Though I knew I had heard the sounds of small mammals only yesterday, there looked to be nothing scurrying about. The silence that came from being thousands of miles away from civilization helped immensely with my concentration. My (e/c) were squinted as I heard the faint, high-pitched chirp of a small bird nesting in one of the trees around me.
Pinpointing the exact tree that the sound was coming from was easier than I had anticipated, and I held one of the larger grey rocks in the palm of my hand, waiting for the bird to sound again.
The rock flew from my hand as soon as the bird called again. I watched intently as the object soared above my head and into the thick foliage above me. A strangled yell met my ears as a rather large object flew down from the tree and onto the ground before me. I approached it cautiously, knowing to not let my guard down.
It was a man-or, rather, a teenage boy who looked to be about my age. His short, snowy white hair was splayed out behind him on the jade-coloured grass, his face scrunched up in what looked to be pain. He wore a simple, dark blue tank top and a pair of faded and ripped jeans with black combat boots that resembled my own. A somewhat familiar symbol hung off of his twine necklace, which was worn with age. A bright yellow bird hovered over him before settling gently on his exposed stomach.
"I'm sorry, I thought it was just a bird up there! I didn't think someone would actually be crazy enough to try to climb that tree!" I apologized hurriedly, a bright blush masking my face. My hands flew to my face in embarrassment as the man groaned before sitting up, opening his stunning vermilion eyes. I couldn't help but gasp as I saw them: I had never know a person was able to have red eyes.
"It's fine, fraulein. Besides, zhat blush makes you look adorable-maybe I should start falling out of trees more often." He replied lazily, smirking.
"Are you okay? That rock didn't hit your head, did it?"
"Vouldn't matter if it had, frau. I'm a quick healer." He stood up swiftly, his lithe muscles moving smoothly.
"So who exactly are you, anyway?" I asked, my (e/c) eyes making contact with his vermilion. He let out an indignant squawk, as though he couldn't believe I didn't know.
"I'm zhe awesome Prussia, fraulein! How could you not know? Most people know zhey're in for a treat vhen zhey see my awesomeness." His voice held a certain charm, whether it was due to the raspy quality or the way he conveyed himself, I wasn't quite sure.
"What are you talking about? People can't be nations, unless you're a representative. What are you, a prime minister? Besides, Prussia hasn't been a country since 1947: that was about three hundred years ago. Now who are you?" I was beginning to grow annoyed with his cocky attitude, finding it a bit tiresome. A part of me was beginning to believe that he was absolutely crazy. He couldn't really be the personification of a nation, much less a former empire that had been dissolved after the second World War, could he?
"Ah....I see. You must be vone of zhem. It's zhe only explanation." His voice was soft, as if he was talking to himself more than answering my question. I couldn't dispute that he held a heavy German accent that twined intricately through his words when he spoke, yet the pure absurdity of his notion was too great for me to understand.
"What are you talking about? What, or who, for that matter, are 'them'?" The blush had finally faded completely from my face, leaving behind what I could only assume to be a disgruntled expression.
"Calm down, frau. I'll explain later, but first....ve need to get out of here. I know a place vhere ve can be alone. Und call me Gilbert."
"Well...fine. I'm _______________, by the way. In case you wanted to know."
"Nice name. Now follow me." Gilbert started running before I could protest, leaving me to catch up. The blood was pumping through my body faster than I was used to, and I was left breathless soon after starting the sprint. I could feel my muscles starting to cramp, and the sweat ran from my pores like a river.
"G-Gil...wait up." I coughed, stopping and falling onto my knees. My body felt as if it was on fire, and it was all I could to stop myself from collapsing.
"Hm? Oh, sorry, frau! I forgot zhat you must not be used to running. It's a lot different vhere I'm from, ve train daily so we can keep our strengz up." He apologized, his abnormally pale hands gripping my shoulders as he helped me stand. I leaned against his shoulder for a moment as I caught my breath, willing myself to remain conscious. The black dots that had started to invade my vision slowly shrank as I concentrated on my breathing.
I pushed Gilbert away and removed my jacket, tying it around my waist and leaving my upper body to be clothed in only a dull green tank top. I managed to catch the soft tinge of pink on his cheeks as he turned his back to me, grumbling incoherently in German.
"It's fine, Gilbert. But, if I might ask, where are we going?"
"You'll see soon enough, ________________. Zhere are zhings vatching us in zhis forest, and it's not private enough." As if to prove his point, Gilbert lifted his face towards the trees and squinted, looking for something I couldn't see. Before I could comprehend what he was doing, he ripped off his necklace and threw it into one of the thick bunches of leaves. A metallic chink sounded as the cross-like symbol made contact with something that was hidden from us. A dull grey streak fell from one of the branches, landed at the base of the tree.
Gilbert picked up the object and brought it over to where I had remained. The symbol that hung from his necklace was wedged into one of the metal sheets that formed an animalistic shape: a crow, I quickly realized.
"What is that?"
"Zhat is zhe reason it's not safe for us to talk in zhe voods. I'm not surprised you don't know about it-most people don't. Ve should be relatively safe for right now, so I'll explain vhy zhey're here.
Your government doesn't trust zhe forests. Zhat's zhe real reason most of zhem have been demolished, but zhey came to zheir senses vizh just enough time to stop before zhey depleted our oxygen supply. Still, zhey're afraid zhat anozher resistance vill form, so zhey patrol zhe forests using zhese. Mechanical crows-zhey're simple enough, just a few sheets of metal zhat are velded togezher to protect zhe hidden camera and microphone zhat are hidden vizhin." To demonstrate his point, he ripped his necklace from what looked to be the chest plate before running an edge along the incision.
The cut left was about three inches long, enough to show the mechanics that were behind the metal. A small, rounded cylinder had been split by the impact of Gilbert's necklace, and the microphone sparked faintly. Gilbert slashed across the machine's 'eyes', ruining the camera that was undoubtedly hidden in one of them. He tossed it to the ground, stomping on it before tying the rope around his neck again, the necklace a bit shorter due to him needing to close the rope once more.
"Thanks for that little history tidbit, Gilber-... Er, is that bird your pet?" I changed the direction of my speech as I noticed that the tiny yellow bird had nestled in his paper-white hair.
"Ja, zhis ist Gilbird. He's an awesome little guy, but zhat's obvious." The Prussian's lips turned into a satisfied grin as he reached up to pet the bird's head.
"You named the bird after yourself? Wow, someone's not obsessed with themselves at all, are they?" My voice was dripping with sarcasm as I stretched forward, rubbing the fuzzball with my index finger. The bird chirped contentedly at the attention it was receiving, leaning into my touch.
"Anyzhing else just seemed too vorn out. Anyvay, ve should get going. Zhe ozhers are expecting us." Gilbert turned on his heel and we began walking east.
The journey was shorter than I had anticipated, and we managed to find the place within the hour. It was surrounded by a large clearing and separated from the woods by a high fence. The doors opened as we approached it, revealing an assortment of wooden cabins. He lead me to one close by, waving to several others as they passed us. Opening the door, he gestured for me to walk inside before following, closing the door securely behind him.
"Are you going to explain everything to me, now?" I asked, crossing my arms over my chest.
"Ja, ve're safe now. Ve have our own security vizhin a mile radius of zhis place. So, vhat exactly do you vant to know?" Gilbert sat on an old mattress as I leaned against the wall.
"First off, how did I even get here? It's not like I can teleport."
"Zhat's easy, frau. You vere chosen; zhat's zhe only reason anyvone ever gets transported to zhis forest."
"But how does that happen?"
"Nobody knows zhe answer to zhat question, frau. It's just somezhing zhat happens."
"Fine. Second question: what is this place?"
"It's a bit of a resistance group. Anyvone who's be transported here gets to stay here. It's razher peaceful, and we don't have to vorry about zhe government running us. Technically speaking, it's zhe remains of Prussia. Ve're all safe here, and zhe natural resources are great for food und fire. Ve've learnt how to revire zhose crows so zhey can alert us if somezhing unknown vanders vizhin a mile of us."
"What is it with you and Prussia? That nation died years ago!"
Gilbert's lips were set in a straight line at my statement. "Zhat's vhere you're wrong, _________________; zhough I am surprised you zhat even know about Prussia.
See, back before zhis whole var started, Prussia returned as a micro-nation. Being zhat small, ve laid low, not villing to have our existence viped out again. Vhen zhe var began, ve became secluded, a neutral zone zhat didn't accept anyvone vizhin its borders-zhe only neutral zone, as even Svitzerland had joined zhe fight. Everyvone else left us alone because zhey didn't zhink ve vere important enough, and aftervards, ve vere left in relative peace. However, zhis forest became infested vizh zhose pesty machines by zhe government, so ve taught ourselves to detect zhem and revire zhem so ve could use zhem to our own advantage. So far, novone has come looking who shouldn't be."
"But why doesn't anyone from the government come looking if their citizens are randomly transported here? It doesn't really make much sense."
"Ve're not sure of zhe exact reason, but ve know it has somezhing to do vizh zhe tracking chips. For some reason, vhenever somevone is left here, zhe chip is one from zheir body. Ve don't know how zhis happens, but ve're not exactly complaining about it."
"How do you know the chip is gone? There's not really a conventional way to check."
"Zhe crow mark is gone. It just...vanishes from zheir bodies vizhout any explanation."
"Creepy." I couldn't think of much else to say, as my mind was spinning from all of the new information I was receiving.
"Ja, kind of. Are zhere any ozher questions you can zhink of?"
"Just one, Gilbert. What's that symbol on your necklace? It looks so familiar, but I can't seem to remember where I've seen it before."
"Zhis? It's an Iron Cross, _________________."
The gears in my mind clicked together as he told me the name of the strange charm. If there was any subject that I would give anything to be able to read about, it was World War II. The Iron Cross was a military honour bestowed upon German and Prussian soldiers in the twentieth century, and was used as a symbol of national pride in Germany in later years.
"So where did you get it? Your grandfather?"
"Frau, I'm zhe nation of Prussia. I've had zhis old zhing for zhe past few centuries. My brozher and our allies had zhem, too, but. ...Vell, zhey von't be able to tell you zheir stories." His burgundy orbs were focused on the floor, and I could clearly see the small tears that were growing in them.
"Oh...I'm sorry. It's just that it's kind of hard to believe that you're hundreds of years old, but you still look like you're eighteen or nineteen. It's one of those things that seem really illogical."
"Nein, it's not your fault. To be honest, you're zhe first person I've admitted zhis too; zhe ozhers here just zhink I've found zhe fountain of youzh. And sometimes I vish zhat vas true, because zhen...vell, at least I vouldn't be so alone." His hair shaded his face, and I heard the soft plop of a tear hitting the wooden floor.
"Your other friends-they were other nations, weren't they?"
"Ja, even mein bruder. Even zhe ozher micro-nations have been...you know. And sometimes I vonder how I vas chosen to live instead of zhem."
"What happens when a nation is dismantled?" I moved to sit next to him, my own hand resting on top of his.
"Usually, zhe representatives-or, razher, zhe personifications-die. Vone day zhey'll be zhere, and zhe next, zhey've faded into history. I vas a special case. Even vhen my country was dismissed after zhe second vorld var, I continued to live. I stayed at Germany's-my brozher's-house until I vas deemed a micro-nation. I still can't believe zhat ve lost zhe revolution, zhough. Even zhe personifications vere on zhe rebels' side. Ve all defected from our bosses, zhinking it vould hurt zhem and help zhe rebels vin. But, in zhe end, I guess it vasn't enough."
I was left speechless by this: even if I had known that nations had personifications, I would never have dreamed that they would have fought on the rebels' side. I suddenly felt as if I knew Gilbert's pain of losing everyone he had cared about, the pain of watching his own brother die in war.
"Sorry about zhe depressing backstory, frau." He apologized, sniffing before looking up to my eyes, a small, desolate smirk plastered on his face.
"No, I don't mind, Gil. It's really interesting, and, besides, you obviously needed to get that off your back."
"Danke. Now, how about I let you get cleaned up vhile I go looking for anyvone else who might have been dropped off." He stood up, getting to the doorway before I could stop him.
"Wait a mintue, Gil! You said when you found me that I was 'one of them'. Who are they?"
He turned around to look at me, his eyes bright. "'Zhey' are a group of people who are actually educated und know more zhan zhey should. Zhey're also quick to adapt to our life style, and zhey're extraordinary people. But, most of all, 'zhey' are actually you. Ve've been waiting years for you to arrive, ____________________."
I gaped at him for a moment before I found my voice. "Wait, what? How do you know it's me?! I'm sure there are plenty of other people that are more qualified for whatever you're planning than I am! Hey!" I shouted after him, but he had already left. Flopping back onto the mattress, I decided it would be best if I cleaned myself up. It had been days since I had showered last, and the trip in nature certainly hadn't helped me smell any better.
I had showered for far longer than I had intended, the hot water feeling like bliss to my dirt-caked skin and tense, knotted muscles. Gilbert had been right about losing the crow mark, as the skin was perfectly smooth and even in colour. It felt nice to run my fingers through my wet hair as I rummaged for clothes, a fluffy red bath towel wrapped around my figure.
Looking through a small pine dresser, all I could find was an outfit that was identical to Gilbert's. Knowing it was either that or my old, dirty clothes, I pulled them on, surprised to find that they fit well. Combing through my hair with my fingers and pushing it back, I sat down on the bed, unsure of what to do except wait for the Prussian to return.
"Looking good, frau." I jumped as Gilbert spoke, his frame outlined by the setting sun. His signature smirk was in place as he sauntered in, and I noticed that his hair was ruffled more than usual. I only glared at him for a moment before standing.
"Gilbert, what did you mean earlier about waiting for me to arrive?"
His expression fell at my question before he answered. "______________, I know zhis is going to sound ridiculous, but hear me out. After I my country vas dissolved in 1947, I nearly died. However, my brozher took care of me and nursed me back to healzh. And after all of zhat, I vas left vizh a certain...gift. I can see spirits, ________________, and sometimes zhey give me visions. And one of zhose visions, about eighteen years ago, vas of you. I don't know much about vhat's going to happen, but you're definitely zhe vone I've been vaiting for. Nobody here knows zhat you're any different from zhem, and I'd like to keep it zhat vay."
I tried to think over what he had said before hastily snapping at him. It was true that I was almost eighteen now, and normally, I'd have to start working after my birthday this year. In fact, all of it seemed to make sense now. I had only known one other person who could communicate with the dead, and that had been my father. And certainly a traumatic near-death experience like the one he had faced may have been enough to leave some sort of a mark.
"Okay, Gilbert. It all adds up, so what do I do? Am I some sort of virgin sacrifice or something?" I asked wearily, sitting as I remembered one of the old books my father had let me read.
"No, frau. I'm not actually sure vhat your role is yet, so just try to act natural and I'm sure ve'll find out vhen it's time. Until zhen, ve have to get you started vizh your training. But ve can do zhat tomorrow, so vhy don't ve just hang out here tonight and get some food later?" Gilbert suggested, sitting next to me on the bed.
"What, don't I get my own cabin?"
"Actually, ve're building a new vone right now, so until it's finished, you'll be staying vizh me. I can sleep on zhe floor, if you'd like."
"No, I don't mind sharing the bed with you, Gil. This thing is probably about twice the size of my old one, so I'll be comfortable enough. I should warn you though; I tend to kick and yell in my sleep. Sometimes I even fall out of bed." I laughed softly at the memory of finding myself on my floor, tangled in the threadbare sheets.
"Vell I guess I'll just have to make sure I keep a tight hold on you, zhen. Don't vant you getting injured." Gilbert chuckled, the hissing, raspy beginning to sound familiar.
"Good luck. Apparently I'm very forceful when I fight in my sleep." I leaned back, still smiling as Gilbert watched me.
"Zhen it's a good zhing you're sleeping vizh me. Zhe ozhers might not be able to handle your force." He commented, hovering over me. My eyes widened as he came closer, his face inches from my own. He smirked once more before closing the distance with a quick, chaste kiss. He pulled away before I could react, leaving me to stare at him.
"I'll go get some food." He whispered, leaving me to deal with the thoughts racing across my mind.