Monica Wang

We wouldn't be at war if he valued our friendship.

Trust is king, my father had always said. So I refused to doubt Dameer no matter what the advisors laid on my desk. I tried to read some of the documents, but lately I've felt a pressure building in the back of my eyes and throat whenever I work at this desk. Dameer's kingfisher watches me from its nest, the tidiest stack of papers, in the centre drawer—I feel it yet. Who chooses such a stubborn-looking bird as an insignia? And that shade of blue-green...

Today marks the hundredth day of war, and a certain number of years since I came into this world. No festivities—celebrate one, and we might appear to make light of the other. Time enough when we're free to step outside the city borders. In here all is colourless and airless, but beyond the walls were the sunlit hills and towns that Dameer and I explored as boys. I picture them while poring over the reports, my throat constricting as if burning in sympathy flames.

In the latest report, my chief advisor writes: There is water to spare. There's little else, I gather. I can't fault him for the optimistic omissions, though I hate him a little for moving on, for letting go of the past so much better than Dameer and I.

The chief advisor brings in another update and more water. The water tastes as bad as yesterday's. Over the brim of the glass, I read, squeeze my sore eyes shut, and re-read. I get to my feet.

“Hold on.” My voice comes out an unfamiliar rasp.

He turns to stare at me. I let go of his arm, which I don't remember grabbing. Something distracts me from my apology. The sound of rustling paper, or flapping wings, and a flash of blue-green. I blink and cannot be sure what is actually in the room.

“Do you see that?” The aftertaste of the water is sparks.

The advisor's lips move. He looms over me, now the one who is pulling on my arm.

Although I no longer understand words, I smile up at him. Today is—is some special day, after all, and I've swallowed so much sunlight. Never has the world looked so precious and bright as now, as it and I dissolve into the blue-green of Dameer's eyes.

Monica Wang has fiction in Electric Lit, QMT, Three Crows, etc. She grew up in Taichung, Taiwan, and Vancouver, Canada, and now writes in Germany.