Thirty days of non-stop bombing, and then silence.
The buildings were gone, more than half the villagers were dead. The enemy had taken over the island, and Cory was alone. His parents and friends had died in the first bombing, several months ago. In spite of his best efforts, his little brother Talon did not survive much longer.
There was no food, and so the few orphaned stragglers had taken to eating trash, and the rats they could catch. A lot of times, the murky brownish black foodstuffs that made it into their pots, plates, then stomachs, looked incredibly unappetizing, but Talon always managed to make it a little better.
“Just pretend we’re eating chocolate, Cory,” he would say, as he bravely shoveled the miscolored “food” into his mouth.
Eventually Talon ate something bad that was too much for his overtaxed system, and after laying curled up in agony for a night, he died.
Cory could still feel Talon’s slight weight against his arms, and his whispery last words: “I wish we had chocolate…”
Cory was almost glad Talon was gone. At least that way, the kid wouldn’t have to experience the bleakness of this painful existence, half alive, but wishing to be dead.
The enemy had marched in with their tanks yesterday, rounding up the few remaining villagers–a handful of kids here, a couple teens there. Cory hid from them.
There was nothing left. Everything was burnt, destroyed. The hunger was like a living animal, gnawing at him from inside out. Part of him wanted to lie down and die, but the stronger part of him pushed him to keep going, keep searching for food and shelter.
Cory tripped over something, and his eyes widened as he spotted a grenade that had not gone off. Carefully, he crept closer. It was a real, live grenade, unused. The pin had not been pulled. Cory considered leaving it alone, but then decided to pick it up. If it went off accidentally and killed him, all the better.
Wrapping the grenade in some scraps of old newspaper he had managed to scrounge up, Corrill continued down the deserted road.
Suddenly, he heard voices. Male, vigorous, unfamiliar language. The enemy!
Cory ducked behind a crumbling house and watched as two young men appeared, dressed in the gray-green uniform of the enemy. As Corrill watched the young men talk, bile rose in his throat and a burning hatred raged in his heart. This was his opportunity! It didn’t matter if he lived or died, as long as he had the chance to avenge his family.
Cory stepped out from the house and held up the grenade, ready to pull the pin and throw.
One of the soldiers looked up and spotted him. He reached for a weapon, but Cory saw that he had none, which was odd. The soldier called a warning, and his companion looked up…and locked eyes with Cory.
He had light brown eyes, almost amber. They seemed to peer into Cory’s soul. Cory had only seen one other person with eyes like that–his little brother, Talon.
Involuntarily, weakness crept over Cory’s body, and he lowered his arm.
The first soldier shouted something angrily, but the second golden-eyed soldier shushed him, then said something Cory did not understand. The first soldier seemed to be protesting, but the second shook his head, and tugged him away.
Cory sank down next to the wall and the grenade rolled from his hands. He didn’t look to see where it landed. It did not go off.
All night, Cory seemed to see two pairs of golden eyes, haunting him. The young ones of seven-year-old Talon, and the older, wise ones of the soldier in gray.
In the morning, a thin mist hung over the whole city. Cory woke up but found he had no energy to stand, or even crawl.
There was a crack of twigs. Cory looked up. It was the golden-eyed soldier.
Come back to finish me off for threatening them yesterday, Cory thought, and sighed. I’ll see you soon, Ma, Pa, Talon…
But the soldier did not break eye contact as he stepped forward. He reached into his pocket, and Cory stiffened, but could not manage more than that. Then the soldier removed a square package and left it on a boulder, several paces from Cory. Still holding eye contact, he backed away slowly.
When the golden eyed soldier had disappeared, Cory crept forward to see what he had left. A brown square, wrapped in paper. As he unwrapped it, a familiar bitter-sweet aroma hit his nostrils. Was it really…?
Cory popped a corner of the square in his mouth, too hungry to care what it was. But it was…chocolate. Creamy, and sweet, better than anything he had ever tasted in his life. Cory wolfed down almost the whole square before he regained his presence of mind.
He stood shakily and walked to the familiar mound of dirt next to the tree stump. Only a small pile of bricks marked Talon’s final resting place. Reverently, Cory wrapped the last bite of chocolate back in the paper and buried it next to the mound.
“For you, Talon,” he whispered. “Chocolate.”