Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2018 finalist, Inés García! Inés finished 8th grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “The Sound of Peace.” In her description, Inés said, “My story demonstrates that even in the darkest of times, there is always the chance of a change for the better.” Enjoy!
It was the year 2182 CE, and somehow, human civilization had found the answer to all its problems. Yes, truly it had. Gone were the now trivial issues of racism, gender inequality, and global warming—they were finally free. But now, with no persistent problem looming above their heads, what were they to do? Like ignorant children, they began to create a new conflict, something all could give their attention to.
They turned to War.
Together they began to build an arena. An arena which towered above all else, an arena which was whispered to be the eighth wonder of the world. Turning to the people of ancient civilizations long lost, they christened it after the very thing they sought after: Bellum. Here, the blood of entire armies would be shed, whilst the whole world watched in gleeful rapture. Craftily, they began to design the warriors which would serve as their entertainment. Humans would not suffice; they would prove to be too… sentimental. What they needed was a group of unfeeling fighters, beings who would feel no emotion. Instantly, the prospect of AI soldiers was raised and agreed on. They were expendable and would serve their purpose without question. All eyes turned to one man, Prometheus Delle. Throughout the world, he was known for his born skill for programming, a talent that had brought him far in this technology-immersed utopia.
Prometheus eagerly accepted the assignment. Weeks on end, he worked, chained to his computer, a slave of humanity. But one morning, things changed. Prometheus stood abruptly from his chair, and it spiraled into the wall by the force.
“I’ve done it,” he announced shakily. “I’ve finished the program.”
60 years later…
Soldiers tramped across an endless battlefield, weapons clutched with an inhuman strength. Bullets whizzed through the air, hitting their targets with fatal accuracy. The cries of the wounded soared upwards, wretched and lachrymose, heeded by none.
This was Bellum. It was the ultimate war zone. To survive, one followed their program. Called the I.R.O.A.S program by its creator, or Intelligent Ruthless Obedient Artificial Soldiers, these robots were the world’s greatest fighting machines. Day after day, they fought in Bellum, watched with excitement by the entire world. This had been the way since the very foundation of Bellum had been laid down, and nothing was going to change it. Until one particular delivery…
Bellum had been expecting a new shipment of I.R.O.A.S soldiers, as the rest had met their bloody and terrible fate in the arena. Like heavy, argentine raindrops, the soldiers fell from the sky in sleek containers. They were then led to the center of the arena, where the battle would commence. One by one, the I.R.O.A.S soldiers stepped out of their container units, their eyes squinting in the bright sunlight, contrasting against Bellum’s ominous atmosphere. Suddenly, amidst the sullen stares of the soldiers, an odd sound was heard. Heads turned uniformly; what was that noise? At last, the origin was identified. One of the fighters was coming out of her box, and she was singing.
The soldier had dancing green eyes, softer than moss. Her wavy hair was a russet brown, which gently met her shoulders. The girl’s lilting voice was met with blank stares from her comrades as she sang of liberty, and of golden songbirds freed from their cage. None could understand why she was singing. The I.R.O.A.S soldiers did not sing, period. Neither music, nor emotion, nor humor had been encrypted into their code. Yet, no one could ignore how her voice carried through the arena, giving life to its harsh, arid landscape.
She tried to meet the eyes of all who gazed upon her, only to see them turn the other way. At once, she was struck with a starting realization: they did not accept her as their own. She knew as they turned towards one another, the soldiers’ eyes telling the same story, glinting with distrust. She would never be one of them; she had proved this simply by uttering a single note. Euterpe’s voice faltered and ended; for she had just identified herself as different… as a target. Her chances for survival looked slim.
Euterpe crouched behind a withered bush, her once carefree face crumpled into a mask of utter fear. She was clutching a weapon far too large for her small hands, and her arms ached from its iron-like weight. Her ears rang from the ear-splitting shrieks of the dying.
This was her tenth battle, and it was by far the worst. This particular bloodbath was proving to be horrendous; everywhere Euterpe looked, the dead were scattered like forgotten ragdolls.
She scanned the horizon for trouble, hoping her hiding place would keep her safe. It did not. She heard the click of a gun being loaded and spun around, terror pulsing through her veins.
Begging, Euterpe whispered, “Please, hold your fire.”
No response. Instead, she watched fearfully as the soldier aimed right at her heart, at point-blank range. In a last, desperate attempt, she closed her eyes and began to sing once more. She sang of a place where one could touch the clouds if they wished, and where the wind was made of silver whispers. She sang for the deceased, as she knew none had comforted them in their last moments. She sang, and that was all that mattered.
Suddenly, her mellow voice gained a deep undertone that wasn’t her own. Euterpe slowly opened her eyes and was stunned at what she saw. The weapon lay discarded on the ground, and the bearer was singing along. His voice was surprisingly melodic; she hadn’t expected someone with eyes so cold to have a voice so warm and familiar.
As their voices flew towards the sky, the world around them fell away. All that mattered were the two soldiers, their voices the very sound of peace.
Perhaps there was hope after all for this war-stricken world…
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