War meant little to them. All they knew was that it took lives and that, in itself, was unjustifiable. That didn’t mean much though; everything grown ups did always was either cruel or unjustifiable, but their War meant both.
All Rue knew about War was that it robbed the softness of eyes and the gentleness of hands; War did worse than end people, it twisted them. And Rue knew this because she had seen it (Mrs Platt lost her son to War – she now used hands instead of heart to deal with Rue and the rest of the children), heard it (no longer could any of them bother between rainstorms and gunfires; this was how Rue knew that even she was War-damaged) and read of it (a selected few from the Home were taught to read at an early age; it all stopped after Enemy bombed System one night; any pretences of peace crumbled along with the wreckage. Rue learned much from the books she could get her hands on; she imagined the rest, filling in the gaps where words and phrases meant nonsense to her—what was Tranquility? It sounded a lot like a sister of Quarantine).
The church had moved on.
The reverend Marsh from Wednesday chapel told them they were Warring because there was no other choice, and that if they win, the Problem would be solved. But the thing was, nobody seemed to know what the Problem was. Some claimed to know, of course, but they always said it was complicated, others told her they no longer remembered.
Rue stayed behind one afternoon, the distant bombs and gunfires were, to them, white noise now. Rue asked what War meant because the reverend didn’t look like she believed her own words.
“Like I said.” Her white cloak hung sadly on her dark frame. “The world is in disagreement. Naturally, this is its way out.”
Rue stared. She didn’t move.
The reverend arched her eyebrows. Could reverend Marsh see the struggle Warring across her six year-old face? A war was going on here too.
“You do not believe me,” reverend Marsh said, a statement rather than a question.
Rue shifted from foot to foot, her tattered t-bar flats clucking on the stone tiles of the chapel entrance.
“Only your eyes spell them words different, ma’am,” she blurted out, looking up to meet the woman’s brown eyes.
The woman blinked. “The words in my eyes?”
Rue nodded, heart rising up her throat. She had no other way of explaining this.
Reverend Marsh bent down to her eye level. For a second, Rue flinched, thinking she was going to hit her the same way Ms Berry had done to young Gill this morning, but the reverend only rested her hand on Rue’s trembling shoulder.
“What does my eyes tell you, Rudith?”
Rudith. She hated that name. It didn’t sound like a name, much less her own. It was like calling that poor boy ‘Gilbert’ instead of Gill. It wasn’t a name, but what was a name?
Rue shook her head. There was no point in saying any more.
“What is this war to you, Rudith?” Reverend Marsh asked instead, her voice the softest it had ever been.
Taking a deep breath, Rue tried to organise the arrays of thoughts. “An— an example.”
It ended up sounding like a question.
“Example of what?”
Rue shook her head again. This was too hard. She shouldn’t have brought it up.
“Naturally, war is the solution.” The reverend stood up, sighing. “It is never the solution.”
And Rue was ushered away, up the well-trodden route back to the Home, because, when it came to grown ups and their ever-present contradictions, how important was logic?
Rudith is a character from a WIP.