Short Story 14

The Lieutenant General

The vibration from the beat was a familiar feeling cursing through my body as my friends and I danced like there was no tomorrow. I hadn’t had a day like that in far too long. I think the little nest I’d built while studying is too comfortable for my own good, and I’d fallen into a lull where I’d much prefer to have a TV show marathon, in my pyjamas, alone, rather than socialise.

My best friend and I had spent the evening getting ready, like we always used to do, before I became a recluse. We laughed, danced, and sang until our hearts were content, which of course meant that we were late meeting up with some other friends.

Her long auburn hair was subtly curled with perfection, the complete opposite to the dead straight black hair I wore. We were friends since childhood, and because we grew up together, we had mannerisms that mimicked one another. Not to mention that growing up people used to think we were twins because we kind of looked similar, save for our hair colour.

People say that don’t they? That you are first drawn to people, who have similarities of yourself mirrored in them both physically, and in their core values and beliefs? I’m not sure, all I know, is that it was nice to be in her presence again, like I’ve found a long lost piece of myself.

It was a comfort I had missed until she decided it was her mission to find herself a guy to hook up with tonight. She was one of the giddiest people I had ever known, like a pocket rocket of energy, and now she was hell bent on finding her future husband.

I had forgotten what it was like to be a friend of the bouncer, because when we arrived at the club, we skipped the line that extended around the block. The sudden dramatic change from the street to loud music and the sardine packed room of people was something I definitely wasn’t used to anymore.

A lot of things had changed my life in the past year, so that sense of normality was amazing, and a welcome presence in my life. I had spent too much time trying to perfect the things in my life that would lead me to the career I wanted, and the places I wanted to go.

We did shot after shot; after all, celebrations were in order. I had just received an offer for my dream job, on the eve of my birthday, along with the fact my boyfriend just became my fiancé.

Everything in my life was slotting perfectly into place. My life plan was coming to fruition and I was numb with exhilaration and anticipation, but then again that could have been the alcohol talking.

It was 3am when we left, and I had already begun sobering up, but that didn’t make what we walked into any easier to mentally navigate.

We climbed the stairs to get to street level, and were greeted by thousands of people running around aimlessly. At first I thought that there might have been an evacuation, because there were people in pyjamas mixed among the clubbers.

My friends and I made a human chain by grabbing each other’s hands, as I led us through the crowd, trying to find an open space.

Everyone was talking, but I could only make out bits and pieces of conversations. Most people were just trying to be reassuring, and trying to calm other people down.

A series of large spotlights turned on, illuminating what seemed to be the epicentre of the mass of people, and we moved, as the crowd did, towards a makeshift platform.

Armed defence force personnel stood on the podium, and the eldest, and clearly the highest ranked officer, raised a speakerphone, and as he did, the crowd began to quiet down.

Everyone seemed to be just as confused as we were, so any official personnel who wanted to give us information seemed like a welcome idea. The lieutenant general squared his shoulders, and with complete impartiality, he began speaking.

“Today our country was invaded,” He paused as the crowd stood in silence and shock, “We don’t know by whom, and we don’t know why.”

I squeezed my girlfriend’s hand, but kept my eyes trained on the lieutenant general as he continued, “What we do know, is that approximately an hour ago, several points on the country’s coast were hit by airstrikes simultaneously. Twenty minutes ago, we lost all forms of communication.”

He exhaled, clearly the weight of thousands of lives on his shoulders, but his voice remained steady and stern, “We’re flying blind here folks, and we have no idea how we are doing in the fight with our enemy invaders. Before communications were lost, the preliminary casualty counts were too high to be accurately gauged immediately after the fact, but stretched well into the thousands.”

A million thoughts were running through my head. Was my family alright? Was my fiancé? He was out tonight as well; I might be able to find him. I scan the crowd as the lieutenant general’s voice became somewhat of an echo in my mind.

“We are instituting various measures that will hopefully give us the advantage if and when they decide to bring the fight to us. As such, various areas of the city will become temporary defensive barracks. These include the university, city hall, and the courts, alongside the defence force bases. As of this moment, those districts will become your new home, at least until we gain a better understanding of what is happening out there.”

I saw my fiancé across the crowd, standing on the hood of a car, searching faces until he found mine. I saw the relief on his face, as he hopped off the car and started pushing his way through the crowd in my direction.

“Make your way to one of the places I just listed, you will come to a checkpoint where you must sign in with details that will allow us to keep track of who is where. I can’t make any promises on your safety, but I can promise you that we will stand proud and fight for this country.”

People started moving, including my friends, and I decided to let my best friend’s hand slip from mine, and watched them get further and further away. People started to panic, and I got knocked to the ground. I felt so lost in the chaos, but then familiar hands, in the form of my fiancé, lifted me from the ground and into his arms.

By Naomi Eleanor

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