Chapter 18:


Curiosity Killed The Cat

Anything is easy if you follow the proper steps first. That’s what Kothur thought for most of his life.

Sleep well. Eat healthy. Run a mile. Pass the physical test. Easy.

It had been a few years for Kothur since he met that mysterious girl in the forest. He couldn’t really remember much of what happened that night, no matter how desperately he tried. It was like recalling a dream. He mostly remembered that girl’s cute smile while looking at bullets. He decided to keep one in his pocket to give to her if he ever met her again. He figured she lived around here and hoped to tell her his feelings one day.

Pay attention during class. Study at home. Pass the exams at school. Easy.

For a while, things seemed to get better. Reohn started to rarely get sick at all. Fehram had graduated and left home to join the government as a scientist. He was always interested in becoming one and had the grades to get recommended. Their family enjoyed ample support from the government. How nice, Kothur thought, he doesn’t have to directly end anyone’s life like a soldier would.

Pick a target. Aim your gun. Pull the trigger. Easy.

One day a letter came with shocking news. Fehram had been accused of high treason and labeled a traitor. His whereabouts were unknown. If we were to shelter him, the punishment would be severe. Our benefits were revoked during times of food scarcity. The news spread throughout the town. Their mom took it the hardest. She blamed herself constantly and her family was at a loss on what to do. It never seemed this bad before.

Maybe things were easy to him because he was born lucky. He was born without illness like Reohn, who struggled to run a mile for the longest time. However, he wasn’t born as lucky as Fehram, who came of age before the draft. It didn’t matter. Whatever fortune he was born with ended on that day he found his mom on the floor. A gun in her hand.

The world was going insane to him as he tried to follow along as best as he could. Every able-bodied boy coming of age had to become a soldier and people were happy for it. Those that did were proud and respected whether they came back alive or dead. Reohn in particular was eager. Kothur didn’t understand, but he tried to only think of the support he could win back for his family. He wished he could be more like Reohn.

It wasn’t that easy. Nothing was simple anymore. His only shooting experience was target practice. He wasn’t able to get past the thought of holding a gun to a person. He stopped being able to sleep at night. He would go without meals due to lack of appetite. He buckled under the weight of holding a gun for hunting. Was he always this way? So weak and unreliable. Despite all of this, at school he was still on track with graduation drawing nearer.

Kothur sat on the grass outside their house next to Reohn. They both had a lot on their shoulders. The sun was setting and the sky was changing colors. He looked down the road at nothing in particular. He wasn’t feeling alright. The pressure in his chest was getting more intense. He asked his younger brother a dumb question. “Why do I have to kill someone just because I was born male?”

Reohn answered him in a quiet voice. “It’s not that you have to kill because you’re a man. It’s that there are enemies out there and men need to be protectors. We were made for it. Women are too frail.”

His throat caught. That’s not fair. Protecting? Killing? I can’t do anything like that. I'm a failure as a man. I can’t protect anything. I can’t even protect... Kothur rubbed his eyes, his shoulders shaking.

“Men don’t cry, dumbass!” Reohn punched him on the shoulder. He was normally like this, but Kothur took Reohn's aggression extra hard today.l and couldn't shake it off.

“But it’s sad, isn’t it?! About Fehram? About mom?” His voice was barely understandable. It was so embarrassing.

Reohn glared, tears were welling up in his eyes as well. He shouted at him. “Of course it’s fucking sad! You don’t think I’m hurting too? If you cry, that makes me feel worse! Men have to be strong in these times!”

“But why?!” His throat hurt.

“Because the world is full of sad things! Stop being such a bitch and move on! We can’t be crying about every little thing! Everything would collapse!!”

That night, Kothur laid in his bed wide awake. His heart was palpitating worryingly and his thoughts were frantic. He must have been lying there for hours. That image of his mom was haunting him. If he became a soldier, he would have to see more images like that. Maybe even hundreds. At worse, he would become just another body on the ground.

There’s just no way, he thought. He grit his teeth together painfully. There’s just no way! I don’t care anymore! Let the world collapse! I can't do it! I won’t do it! No, I have to think. Oh. I know. They can’t send me if I’m not able-bodied, right?

He carefully made his way out of the bedroom, hoping Reohn wouldn’t notice. His breathing was erratic so he tried to hold his breath until he got out. The pulse in his ears drowned out the quiet sounds of the house. He went down the stairs to the kitchen.

He pulled a drawer open and took out one of the knives. He looked at it with unfocused eyes. It shown in the moonlight from the window. It was the only thing he could see in the dark room. This would be enough, right? This won’t kill me, right? I don’t want to die. I’m doing this because I don’t want to die. Yeah, that’s good enough.

His chest heaved with the strength of his breaths. Ok, where should I cut? He looked at his arms and legs. Anywhere I cut on my limbs will heal unless I cut too deep. I could hit an artery. Oh, no. I’m scared. I can’t do this. He put a hand on his head to grab his hair. He gasped as he touched his eye.

Wasn’t there something about a new type of gun that you just need two eyes to shoot? Yeah, something about using new dael technology. They couldn’t make him fire it if he literally couldn’t. He grinned at the thought.