Emmeline and Matthew still remember the day, three years ago, when the war was first officially declared. They were at the beach, located not even a half hour away from their home, with their dad, who was teaching them how to swim. During a break, the children collected seashells while their father listened to the radio for news of the escalating tension between their country and the one that trapped them against the ocean. Emmeline ran to her father, arms filled with only the brightest of seashells and heard the announcer say a war has officially broke out. She managed to hear the warnings to stay indoors before her dad noticed her standing there and shut off the radio. Being only eight at the time, she didn’t think much of it, even when her little brother told her later that night that he saw their father drawing blueprints for what looked like bird wings.
Ever since that day, their father became more and more distressed and spent longer amounts of time down in the lab where his inventing took place. On the anniversary of the war’s start, when their father thought they were asleep, Matthew and Emmeline sat on the stairs and listened to him speaking to his co-worker and friend. The friend told him that the enemy’s troops has been slowly pushing their way through the country, rounding up and killing all scientists and inventors so the government would have no one to help them build weapons. Their dad just nodded, said something along the lines of, “I thought this would happen”, and politely showed his friend out. Just before he left, the friend handed their father a note and said, “If you ever need a safe place.”
After the meeting, the hours in the lab increased, as did the reports of the enemy’s violence against not only scientists, but of civilians. The trips to the beach stopped and their father no longer spent time with them. Occasionally, Emmeline would have to comfort her little brother when he cried, worried that his dad cared more about his inventions than he did the siblings. She verbally passed his fears off as nonsense while thinking the same thing herself. As far as she could see, the siblings would lose him to the enemy, to their government, or to his work. Whatever happens, they would lose him.
One month ago, their father brought them into the lab. He helped them up to the chairs so they could see the mechanical mess that was wrapped in a white cloth and laid out on the table. It was a pair of bird wings with feathers attached to the metal and twice the size of their father. He showed them how to strap the wings to one of their backs and connect the little black box against their wrist and run the wires around their ankles to control it’s flight. He showed them which buttons to press if you wanted to fly, which ones to press if you wanted to land, and how to maneuver in stormy weather.
“I’ll make another pair,” he told them.
They weren’t happy at the thought of their father neglecting them further to make another set of wings, but they didn’t say anything.
They hardly said anything to him anymore, even when he spoke to them first. They became jealous of the inanimate inventions of his that took up so much of their father’s time. They grew cold towards him and soon felt hatred for the man that preferred mechanical messes to his own flesh and blood. No longer would they ask him to play with them or read them a story, even when he offered to. No longer would they tell him they loved him.
It was midnight now and the radio buzzed softly with news that the enemy troops had made it near the ocean’s shore and all civilians were to leave as quickly as possible. The siblings couldn’t hear for they were asleep and their dad couldn’t hear because he was in the lab.
When the clock struck one, they woke up to their father’s gentle shaking. Matthew wanted to tell him to go back and worry about his precious wings, but he yanked the boy out of bed and thrust the mechanical mess into Emmeline’s arms. Half asleep, they were dragged downstairs and to the closet. Their father kissed them on the forehead and closed the door just as the front door was kicked open.
The siblings huddled under the mechanical mess wrapped in a white cloth and listened to the shouting and their father’s calm voice coming from behind the door. Footsteps stomped in all directions and they could hear the sound of glass breaking and wood splintering as the enemy troops trashed the place. Emmeline clamped her hand over her little brother’s mouth when gunshots sounded outside the door to keep him from screaming. Only when the footsteps were silence did the children race out the door and out of the house, their father nowhere to be seen.
Their once beautiful street was littered with debris and broken glass. Houses were on fire and silhouettes of people were running through the mess and hiding from the enemy and ally troops battling in the middle of the road. Emmeline took her little brother’s hand and they ran towards the beach, not daring to look back when the bullets began to rain above them. On the entire journey, flares were set off and screams were heard. Small bombs exploded just yards away from them, causing debris to cut open their skin.
The closer they got to the shore, the more obvious it was that the enemy troops haven’t reached their childhood spot. There was no broken glass, no dead bodies on the ground, and no fires set to what little it could be set to. The beach looked, at the moment, untouched. Using the light from the moon, Emmeline strapped her brother into the wings, finding a note tucked away in the feathers as she straightened them. She gave it to her brother to read aloud and she tightened the little black controller on his wrist.
My dearest Emmeline and Matthew,
Ever since the war began, I knew the first targets would be
the inventors and scientists. I knew either the government
would take me away from you or the enemy would. Either way
I wanted you to be safe from harm. These wings are the best I
could do for you as the troops would be blocking the borders
and all means of transportation. Enclosed are the coordinates
to reach an old friend of mine. He’ll take care of you.
Remember that I love you.
The children stood at the edge of the water, re-reading the note in silence. The words “I’ll make another pair” rang in their heads along with the memory of them glaring at their father for being so selfish. There wasn’t another pair, Emmeline knew, at least not a finished pair.
Emmeline turned to her brother and held him close, then gave him the paper with the coordinates and their father’s message. She lifted her little brother up as much as she could while he flapped his wings. He hovered above her, but refused to let go of her hands.
“There’s another pair,” Emmeline lied, “In daddy’s lab. I’ll go get it and I’ll meet you there.”
“How will you get there?” Matthew asked, “I have the coordinates.”
“I memorized them.”
They hugged one last time and released each other’s hands. The glowing haze of fire and the screams behind Emmeline grew louder as she stood on the shore, watching her brother fly away, knowing the enemy would soon be on the beach. But her brother was safe, and that’s all that mattered now.