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by Justin Y. – 8th Grade

It was his third day here. His third day as an invader. And it didn’t seem like there would be many more days, the way things were going. Night had fallen in war-torn South Ossetia, and the streets resembled a ghost town; a ghost town where the ghosts were launching missile strikes into highly populated buildings. He’d snuck out of camp and was now wandering the eerie city streets. Through the quietly haunting destruction around him, Adrik spotted the remains of a building. Like a fly, helplessly attracted to a lamp, he strolled zombie-like through a massive hole in the building’s wall.

Upon entry he recognized the building to be a concert hall of sorts. Past torn up chairs and crumbling pillars, he made his way to the piano stool at the back of the stage, where a single lamp illuminated the dusty, yellow air around him. Once at the piano, he softly played a slow chord progression. How long he’d been there he didn’t know – time itself no longer had a grip on him. Through the dimly lit concert hall, a woman of about 19 or 20 slowly walked. The woman was clean, dressed in an expensive looking dress. Delicate feet carried her through the musty air. Without so much as an upward glance, she made her way to a guitar. Gradually she lifted her head, finally meeting his gaze. Adrik continued to play the piano as they gaped at each other across the stage of the concert hall. The moment was so surreal that neither of them believed the other was really there.

Finally the girl managed to snap out of her trance, and mustered the words, “What are you doing here? You’re a soldier.”

The statement was obvious. Grimy and covered in mud, he donned a camouflage-patterned Georgian military uniform. His sidearm rested coolly atop the piano, its barrel gleaming menacingly in the faint radiance of the lamp. After a while he responded coldly, “I don’t fight for them-I fight because it’s what I have to do. Not all of us are able to buy our way through life.”

By now he had stopped playing the piano. The woman sat at a concert chair and rested the guitar in her lap. “You think because of my shoes, or my clothes, that my life is so effortless? You live your entire life as the biggest disappointment of your widowed father’s life, and then tell me how you feel. He needed a son. I can never be that son.”

She spoke in a certain way. He could tell she had been keeping that in for a while. Adrik bowed his head, feeling a twinge of regret for being so aggressive. Still, she was definitely Russian, definitely upper class. “Some people have all the luck,” he replied slowly. “How about you tell me how it feels when your mom walks out on you and all you have left is an alcoholic, silhouette of a father.”

Neither of them spoke. Cold air penetrated the crumbling building and sent a sharp chill down Adrik’s spine. He could tell that he was not the only one in the room with problems. There was something in her eyes – it was pain. He had come here to escape the pain of this war. It was possible she had come here to flee whatever was hurting her. Adrik again played the piano. A slow, sad song. Staring at the guitar in her hands, the girl strummed along, quickly picking up his little tune. For a while they continued playing, pouring their souls into the music. Silence again overtook the room. The woman looked at him strangely for a second.

“You know, I’ve always wanted to be an author. I’ve thought about it often, but you’re the first person I’ve told.” Adrik thought for a moment. He realized he wanted to see her again, and immediately had a plan. “So that’s what you have to do. Write a book – become famous. Tell me your name. If you succeed I’ll be able to find you, and maybe we can play again together someday.”

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