“It’ll do you good, honey,” my mother said. “It’s only a year.”
The boarding school nestled at the foot of Mount Avalanche—a white brick building, accentuated with bay windows that overlooked the emerald-green garden with its ever blooming flower beds. The grand Victorian-esque structure had once served as a haven during the third world war. But five years after our last city was razed to the ground, the sanctuary opened its oak doors to final year students—promising those who graced its pristine halls a better future in the new world.
“We’ll get you at the end of the school year,” my father added, just as the towering iron gates swung open.
My parents were part of a humanitarian organisation on a quest to find and document all survivors of the war. As many still lived in the rubble of their desolated towns, it was their job to bring them back to civilization.
“I just hate…” I hesitated to continue. It wasn’t the school, despite the rumours of its strict and unorthodox regiment. It wasn’t the thought of living alone either—having done so countless times before. “Just… just be careful,” I said.
“We always are,” my father assured.
As the car rolled up the pebbled driveway, my only concern was of my parents’ safety. They had been assigned to the north, where ruthless scavengers were known to loot. But little did I know, my apprehension was displaced—the danger wasn’t in the wasteland. The danger was here.
“Have a good year, honey,” my mother said. “We’ll call whenever we can.”
After a hug and a peck on the cheek, I bade my parents farewell. And from that point onward, I found myself trapped in the facade of an academy—discovering the secret to its promise on the very first night, snugged under the covers of my soft feathered bed.
It began when the lights went out—a disconcerting rhythm, with offbeat syncopation, resonated through the dormitory. The music echoed down the empty hallways and filled the sleeping garden with its unsettling nature. Yet, the other students were unfazed. They remained sound asleep as though the erratic cadence was a soothing lullaby.
Seeming as though I alone could hear it, I believed it was a figment of my imagination. After all, the rhythm was oddly familiar. But as I struggled to sleep with the disturbance, I couldn’t place where I had previously heard of the discord either. And when morning arrived, my daily schedule left me with little room for contemplation.
From one class to the next—language, arithmetic, the sciences, and extra curricular—I could barely catch my breath. Students were given five minutes to walk to their next class. And meal times were kept brief—every single body moving in perpetual haste. It was only when the sun retired that I finally recalled the night before. And by then, the strange music had returned.
The soundtrack of chaos—there it was again. Was it still just in my head? Unfortunately, the exhaustion from the arduous day ushered me to sleep. Despite the peculiarity, fatigue drowned the noise. And in the hopes of a peaceful slumber, a memory filled the darkness of my eyelids. Oh, how I wished it was a pleasant recollection of the past—a sweet and comforting dream. Alas, I was swept into a disenchanted world—a time where the smoke and thunder of war robbed me of my simple life… and my sister.
“Let’s go back. It’s not safe,” she said, as the siren of an incoming attack shook the trees of the timberland.
“Yea, let’s go,” I echoed.
My sister and I hadn’t travelled far from our backyard. We had only followed the walking trail for fifteen minutes, escaping the harsh reality for Mother Nature’s comforting embrace. Alas, even Mother Nature couldn’t shield us from the war. It was there, amongst the sky-scraping pine trees, that the enemy struck—an air raid that ripped through my sister’s chest while I cowered behind a fallen tree trunk.
“Eva?” I called. “Get up. We have to go.”
I knew—I had found my sister sprawled on a bed of dried leaves. Her small body limp and lifeless on the forest floor. And I knew—I was simply too afraid to face the truth. Then, the siren stopped.
I snapped awake. Dawn had arrived at the academy. And at the chime of the first bell, my routine began—a regiment that, after a day, I had surprisingly acclimatised to. Every morning I would be awakened by the same nightmare. I would then shuffle through my draining classes, with short meals in between, only to return to the distressing memory. It was a never ending cycle with no answers and dead end questions. What was going on? I lost my grasps on reality. And it was only at the end of the school year that I finally understood—I now knew what a better future meant in this new world.
“We missed you!” my mother exclaimed.
“I missed you too,” I replied. “Why didn’t you call?”
“We did but you were always in class,” my father said.
“It must’ve paid off.” My mother beamed. “Your teachers said you did well in your tests. They’ve even recommended you to the New Order.”
“The New Order?” I asked.
“You’ve always been a fighter,” my father replied. “Think you want to enlist to defend our country?”
“Oh, sure,” I replied without thought.
“Eva would’ve wanted that,” my mother said as she gave me a tight hug.
“Yea, she would,” I echoed—Eva would’ve wanted it. That I knew… for sure.
Disenchanted, syncopation, and avalanche were words given by Ryan SMJ on Facebook.
Honestly, these three words weren’t easy to bring together—it was certainly a challenge on my end. But somehow, I managed to concoct something from them and I can only hope that this makes a decent read. So… if you have any thoughts on this story, be sure to leave it in the comments below.
Now, it’s your turn! Write a story with the three words given. It might not be easy but it’ll definitely push the boundaries of your imagination and skill.
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3 Words, 1 Story © 2019 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.
(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)