18-year-old Peter Ola Paul explores the notion of how conflict can bring about unity in this short story
Warend is an original short story by Peter Ola Paul, part of CBC Books' Transmission series
Warend is an original short story by Peter Ola Paul, part of CBC Books' Transmission series. It is part of Transmission, CBC Books' original writing series reflecting on life during COVID-19. Read more works from Transmission here.
Warning: This story contains scenes of violence
The arena falls silent as a man takes the stage to speak. "Good evening everyone, I hope you've all had a wonderful day of peace!"
Many audience members respond with whoops and cheers.
After a moment he speaks again. "As one of the few with the position of a Nations As One referee, it is my duty to bring peace to the world through the wargames. For we all know that every game fought in our unity, means one less war to devour lives and one step more on the path to the eternal dream, War End! I'm not one for many words so I thank you all for joining us, as we witness this wargame for peace! Begin!"
At these words, Harris squeezes his eyes enough to hurt. Many around are doing the same, everyone steeling their hearts for what is to come. At that moment there wasn't a person standing who didn't wish they could go back and stop themselves from fleeing the war. Because they hadn't fought the enemy, they would now fight themselves.
In these mock battles, the bloodlust always started out low. These were men chosen for cowardice after all. Once it did start though, all limits were off, after all, everyone wants to live. Most merely aimed for crippling foes before the escape arrived.
Because they hadn't fought the enemy, they would now fight themselves.
Their yellow brick road would rise to the platform in just over 13 minutes, each second representing a year in the longest war in human history. The only issue for them, to cross to wonderland they would have to escape the twin beasts rising with the path, waiting patiently to feast.
"Move, move, move, come on!" Harris thinks to himself. However, it seems it isn't meant to be him that takes first action. As the cheering dies down, a nearby man in a purple shirt takes it upon himself to attack the nearest target. Unfortunately, that's unprepared Harris, so when a fist smashes into the back of his head, he crumples. A sorry is muttered, but that's poor consolation. Fortunately, the man's hesitation lets Harris swing around. This time it's purple that goes down, and as if that was the signal, brawls start all around.
As purple struggles to stand, Harris grabs a rock. Seeing this he frantically forces himself up. However, he's shaky on his feet and is unable to dodge the kick to his knee. With a shout of pain he's down. The terror is evident on his face as he flings dust at Harris while trying to scramble away. Before he can, the rock is swiftly raised and flung down... right beside his head.
As he watches the figure trembling, Harris turns to make for a wall. "I'm not the kind of person who'd kick someone while they're down...." The thought is interrupted by a man swinging a rock in a failed sneak attack. Before he can try again, dust is kicked into his eyes while his knee is stomped. He goes down with a horrible cry as another moves to take his place. Time burns away as the numbers are trimmed. Suddenly silence fills the arena as the path reaches them, and with it, hope. Hope that turns to fear as the creatures bound into the arena.
The end of this nightmare would simply be ... the end.
Everyone is kept rooted by that fear. The kind of fear one hopes never to face, nightmarish fear. Raw, heart-wrenching terror, finality, knowing this is the end. But now, there would be relief in awakening. The end of this nightmare would simply be... the end.
Off camera, the referee shakes his head. "The saddest part is the number of people is never enough to satisfy them. It's a shame for those honourable sacrifices, but it must be done to show war's futility."
As the beasts move, every fighter shrinks. The tension is at its limit before, in a moment, the bubble pops. A man is tossed to his end, and the floodgates burst. At that, many start running for the path hoping to escape while they eat, and attacking anyone in reach in case they don't.
Harris spins around to take it all in and stops as he sees purple running toward him. He raises a stone but halts as the man lifts his arms. He comes close and stops. "Thank you."
The stone is cocked. He does not flinch and stares resolutely. As screams return to the air, the man does a most peculiar thing, he lowers and extends his hand to Harris. "We can be stronger together."
A note from the author
I was inspired to write this piece when I saw the news of the George Floyd murder. The tragedy of someone being suffocated in the midst of a global pandemic that attacks the lungs. Seeing something that was supposed to represent peace became a tool for violence brought forth the idea for this story.
About Peter Ola Paul
Peter Ola Paul was born in Nigeria in 2002 before moving to Canada shortly after. Even at a young age he had a strong love for reading which occasionally got him in trouble with his teachers for not listening. His need for glasses is probably linked to all the times he'd read at night with a small penlight instead of sleeping.
Growing up admiring those who were able to craft such interesting ideas to share, he was inspired to take up writing for fun in middle school. For him, the best part of creating something is sharing it with somebody and knowing they appreciate it.
He was the 2018 winner (grades 10-12 category) of CBC Books' First Page student writing competition with the piece, Greater Than Or Equal To.
Transmission is a new series of original creative works, commissioned by CBC Books, that reflects on time, place, identity, community and purpose in an era of COVID-19.