• Walden’s War


    The first attack was launched. When the news came I felt like there were people dying all around me while they were still alive, and I was one of them. The sky, the world, seemed a bruised red-purple, the color of sorrow and regret. No one wanted to know what had happened. No one wanted to see the world bruised and burned. But it came, whether we were prepared or not, it came.
    To the south, London was a black pit of despair and once you were sucked in, you never came out. To the North there was nothing but trees and grey pockets of grief. My school was in those woods and I was glad when the quiet, solemn girl named Emily Walden walked through the front gate.
    The courtyard was still, in a mournful kind of way, and she just stood there, looking at the things that weren’t there any more. I watched her for the longest time from my desk next to the window of the third floor. The school consisted of many classrooms and windows set into old, red and brown bricks. That schoolhouse always reminded me of subtle anger and cranky old men that never have fun any more.
    That day everything seemed grey and Emily Walden was even greyer. She didn’t make things worse, or make people feel bad; she just had this aura around her of grey. But it wasn’t the grey of sorrow or hate; it was the grey of simplicity. Everything about her was simple and calm. No one could break her hard shell of stone, and no one wanted to for fear of the beast that might arise from inside her.
    Emily’s long, dark brown hair was pulled away from her face and tied at the back of her head. Her long skirt was caked eight inches up with mud and grime from the country roads. While most girls were scarily pale, Emily was as tan as possible without living in the tropics. She seemed oddly and wonderfully self-contained, which was a relief because all the other girls at school sort of throw themselves at the guys. Emily always held her head high with dignity and poise, much more so than I had seen before.

    A Small Fact About Emily Walden:
    Her father was a duke of England, but he had died when she was ten, three years earlier.

    Every day that week I asked Emily, politely, if she would like me to walk her home. It seemed perfectly normal to me since we lived next door to each other. Every day Emily turned me down, saying that she liked being alone or needed time to think about something. But, that Friday, and to my joy, she said yes. I could tell that she wasn’t exactly happy about it and wasn’t very sure about me either.
    The first half of our walk through the wood was spent in silence. Then, next to a pond, Emily spotted an Orchid. She squealed slightly and ran over to it, kneeling down and caressing its delicate petals in her hands. She told me it was her favorite flower and it was odd to see one blooming this time of year. Somehow that spurred a very long conversation, which, sadly, ended as we neared Emily’s house.
    I walked her to the door and stood looking at her from the bottom step. Her house was unimpressive; it actually looked a lot like ours. Apparently her mother had grieved so hard and for so long that the aura around her turned permanently black. Which, I believe, to some extent, had affected Emily greatly.

    Emily Walden, Inside and Out:
    Outside: Confidant, dignified, almost cold
    Inside: Helpless, scared, and she is constantly warring with herself

    The year of 1938 included Emily and me becoming great friends, the horror that it would never last, and lots of piano playing.


    Hitler springs into action. The days are filled with fright and worry. Across the sea, Germany is planning something. The world turns a bruised grey and brown, and I sit and watch it all happen. Not very many people understand what is happening, but the younger generations feel like the world is disintegrating, falling apart, like a piece of paper in a winter storm.
    Many of the people of Great Britain think it won’t come to them. It won’t cross the sea. But they were wrong; the monster always comes out of its hole in the ground, and that is what happened. The monster crossed the sea to catch the inhabitants of England unawares.

    1940, Spring

    Our parents always tell us to hide if we hear anything odd. Well, that year we had to put those words to the test. Emily was to come over to my house if anything happened since we had the deeper basement and thicker walls.
    Off in the distance, to the South, sirens were blaring out across London; and there was the rushing noise of bombers soaring across the night sky. Emily heard it first and ran to her window. She saw a bomb land on the outskirts of London and explode in a giant, angry cloud of red and orange. She watched as clouds burst up all across the city, she imagined the horrifying screams of women and children as they ran for their lives or cowered in a basement.
    The sound of the planes got louder and Emily was frozen. The inside of her had switched with outside or the outside had disappeared completely. She was yanked sharply away from the window and turned to see her mother’s green eyes shining with fright.
    “Emily, what are you doing? I told you to wake me or go to the Marks’!” she shouted over the noise of the planes. They were spewing hard black spheres as they flew.
    “I-I’m sorry! I couldn’t pull myself away!” Emily shouted back.
    “Come on, hurry up!” Emily’s mother pushed her out the door and toward my house. “Go! I’ll catch up to you later!” she added when Emily turned around. Her mother ran back inside the house and Emily wanted to follow her, but she came to my house instead.
    A bomb landed a ways off but it wasn’t close enough to cause harm. The walls shook at the impact and things on the shelf rattled, but nothing was broken. When the sound of the planes humming drifted away, Emily walked home. I wanted to go with her but she wouldn’t let me. Her mother had not come to my house, and so I followed her anyway.
    When Emily could just see her house through the night air, something moved. There were eight figures milling about the house. Just then Emily realized that they lived close to the sea, way too close to the sea. The figures started heading toward the beach, and Emily ran. Her full skirts slowed her down way too much, and she vowed she would never wear a dress again. She saw her mother’s form struggling with the Nazis as they tried to push her onto a boat.
    They pushed off the shore, but when Emily got there they were too far out. She couldn’t do anything. But she did do something, she cried. For the second time in her life she full out cried. As she stood there, hunched over on the beach, she could hear her mother desperately calling out her name. She called back and sobbed uncontrollably, tears streaming down the front of her nightgown.
    That was the last time I saw Emily Walden. I worry about her constantly. Those last few minutes that I saw her, I could see her aura turn from the grey of simplicity to the black of hate and suffering. But that black was different than the others I had seen. It was definitely different than her mother’s. Emily’s black rippled with the red of revenge and deceit. In those last moments I watched in terror as the girl I knew as Emily Walden disappeared inside a husk of abhorrence.


    I am twenty-four years old now and don’t know how I survived the war. When I was eighteen, in 1942, I joined the British army. Somehow I avoided death and all his friends throughout the last three years of the Second World War. I remember standing by, untouched, as friends and family fell around me. I remember asking death to take me with him. I don’t know if he heard or not but I’m sure he was busy enough as it was.
    The war ended in 1945 and I came back to that little stone house next to the sea. I stood outside the house next door and gazed at the front door. I remembered being fourteen and standing on the bottom step and saying good-bye to a thirteen year-old girl with soft, dark blue eyes and flowing brown hair. I remembered watching her in the courtyard at school when the world was grey.
    During the war the world was yellow-brown, full of pain and loathing. I couldn’t wait until those days were over. I longed to be back with my parents and to play piano again. Now, in 1946, I am happy; maybe not content, but happy.
    Christmas comes around, but I don’t notice until something wonderful happens. There’s a knock on the door and I look up from my writings, it’s snowing outside. There are three more rapid knocks and I go to the door.
    “Happy Christmas, Dorian.” I am staring straight into the soft, dark blue eyes of Emily Walden.

    A Last Note About Emily Walden… For Now:
    Her aura is no longer black, but white.