Thando Bhebhe / Lead Infinitum Writer
As Eve stared back at the computer, she saw the white spaces of the page, the world reflecting back, possibilities as infinite as the story she could tell, as the world she lived in.
When it came to the question of what change a single person could bring.
Eve’s world answered back with Infinity,
Because her world was no ordinary world,
It was a world where gods walked among men,
A world where heroes wore capes.
A world of superheroes!
War broke out,
And Eve, like many survivors of time’s eternal arrow, knew exactly when and where she was when the world changed forever.
This was a world that had been riddled with terror and tragedy, a world that some of you might be able to recognize.
A world that had its heart ceased when a global pandemic struck chaos in every institution held sacred amongst men. This world was rocked by fires, floods and quaking earth as climate chaos stormed on every headline. This was a world where a single man’s death enveloped almost every capital in stampedes of riots, marches and protests as justice was demanded, for without justice, how could there ever be peace? This was a world that witnessed death in motion, as a dead empire annexed a former vassal, everyone holding their breath as the global war was teased, the third installment in the franchise of doom rocking upon a world theatre.
Yet in the face of evil…
Good won, or instead fought to win.
The world’s heartbeat was on, and people locked arms as they marched in multitudes. They raised fists and banners declaring justice, declaring action and declaring peace!
And for the most part…
We mostly knew who the good guys were.
We mostly knew who the enemy was.
But what happens when innocence is taken away?
What happens when war breaks out and calls for justice and peace seemingly come from both sides?
When there is no clear monster.
No real villain to defeat.
For the most part, Eve and many in her world looked up to their heroes,
Many of these masks and capes personified their causes. Unilateral support hailed from mankind as Eve’s world cheered them on.
There was always a hero.
And the villain was as bright as black.
Eve trusted in her heroes, but the nuances and complexities are inescapable.
Soon, these supermen began personifying more than just heroic causes. They started personifying their nations, becoming mascots and avatars of states and empires.
From saviours, they suddenly became weapons, the new age of proliferation.
Instead of nuclear deterrents, the world now had superpowered barriers.
Gods serve as political pawns.
Things became hazier, with patriotism and heroism mixing into an unholy cocktail whose taste constantly swayed from sweet to sour. Yet, Eve still had someone to believe in.
That ultimately took the form of the UNJPC.
The United Nations’ Justice and Peace Council.
Formed from the member states of the UN’s Security Council, the UNJPC was a superhero equivalent, filled with gods instead of military machines.
There were the big five permanent members…
Madam Might of the United States of America.
Woman of Steel from Russia.
Union Star of Great Britain.
Dame Der Fer of France.
Then, the Golden Star, who hailed from China.
To complete the council was…
Black Star from Ghana.
The Redeemer from Brazil.
And lastly but not least,
Femme Supreme of the United Queendom.
These were Eve’s heroes, her world’s guardians. They always stood for good, fighting for it, the world cheering them on, governments and citizens united in their peaceful and just cause.
War broke out.
When the sun rose, Eve was clutched in her partner, Trixie’s, arms. A new day bloomed, a new status quo settling into reality. When she broke out of bed, Eve discovered it, her phone buzzing as notifications popped off. She graced her sight, and Pandora’s box broke open.
“Crisis in Africa Minor! Verland under attack from VENGE!”
Eve blinked, and reality settled.
“This is the greatest attack on Verlanders since WWII genocides!”
“Verland caught off guard by VENGE militants, civilians killed!”
“Innocent civilians caught in VENGE assault.”
“A new chapter in the seemingly endless tragedy of the Verland – Zurria conflict.”
“Rumors of escalation floating as Verland demands justice for killings.”
“Held ransom in Z-Land.”
“Verland to attack Z-Land!”
Eve’s eyes rolled further, her mind melting back to childhood, when she was first introduced to this war, for despite what the headlines read, this war was nothing new. It had been brewing in the background of the world for decades; Eve first learned of it in her history teacher’s class as a teen.
She saw the subcontinent of Africa Minor, located just off the coast of South-western Africa in the South Atlantic Ocean. It was a relatively small place, with seven countries hailing it as home. Yet, despite its minor appearance, this small continent had been the subject of countless wars, massacres and genocides. A theatre of would-be emperors, colonialist ambitions and almost limitless riches that cradled the greed of kings and pillagers there and away. A playground of superpowers and supermen, the stage for a deep conflict between two peoples who found themselves in the same land, all calling it their home!
Thinking back, Eve felt pity and now immense respect for her history teacher. How could he possibly surmise and articulate a history of this magnitude, with clarity and depth, to teenagers whose biggest concern was what they would do during their lunch break?
“I think the best place to start is right now, with the map in front of you.”
“The Verlanders are the current authority of this land and under their stewardship, it is called Verland. To them, it has always been their home and with their state, they finally get to reclaim what they see as their birthright. On top of that, they also get to have a home, a place where they can be safe, a place where they can make a stand from the attacks of a world that has always persecuted them. The Verlanders have had a tough history, kids. They’ve been massacred and murdered, victims of evil empires. At least in Verland, they have a place to call their own and feel safe. Just like you guys when you get to go home, away from all the bullies in school.”
“But they aren’t the only ones who live in this land. There is also the Zurrian people. Like the Verlanders, the Zurrians see this place as their home. Still, with the establishment of the Verland state, the Zurrians have lost their home and they find themselves with nowhere else to go. They don’t get to go home like you guys; to them, the bullies are in their home, and they see the Verlanders as bullies. The Verlanders have moved many Zurrian people into Z–Land. Zurrians live there, crowded and guarded, with huge walls and soldiers with guns keeping them in. Despite it all though, they refuse to back down. They won’t stop calling this place their home and many are willing to fight for this and the freedom to be at home, in their home.”
“The same is true for the Verlanders though; both sides are ready to fight for their home. So they fight.”
A hand raised, the teacher acknowledging.
“So, whose right?”
The teacher stared blankly.
More hands then rose, more questions barking.
“Who was there first?”
“Why don’t they just share the land?”
“How can they fight when the Zurrians are locked and trapped in Z-Land?”
“Do the Zurrians have an army too?”
Soon, the kids ended up answering each other’s questions…
“They do have an army, an army of terrorists!”
“Yeah, they fire rockets and blow themselves up.”
“That’s some ISIS shit, bro.”
“That’s VENGE, right?”
“And the Verlanders, are they terrorists too then?”
“Yeah, they drop bombs and they even use chemical weapons and shit.”
“Yeah, white phosphorus, I think.”
“Damn, for real? I saw that shit in Spec Ops: The Line, bro, nasty shit. The game went hard though, no lie.”
“They must love the smell of napalm in the morning,” a student laughed.
“They’re defending themselves.”
“And what about the Zurrians? Who defends them, huh?”
Years ago, what ensued in that classroom resurfaced as Eve scrolled through headlines and comments. The fighting was everywhere, as the world seemed to shatter. Eve was a slave to the doom scroll. From interviews and newsrooms to internet videos and social media reels, all the personas, grand and small, famous and infamous, all had a say, and the once black and white world of heroes and villains crumbled grey.
Eve wondered what her sister, Irene, would say here, waiting for the next chance she’d get to meet her. Irene had always been so sure in herself, a hard line who saw life as either for or against.
Trixie woke up beside Eve, and Eve pounced at her with the news.
She’d gone from explaining the case to explaining her case.
“I don’t know what the hell VENGE was thinking doing this! While everyone’s focused on Verland, the Zurrian people will be the ones to pay for this! They’ll be the ones to answer for VENGE’s vengeance.”
Eve had not been sure about many things in her life; she’d trained herself to keep a distance from things, yet as she spoke, as the Zurrian people cramped in Z-Land flooded into her mind, those massive jungles of concrete shattering at Verlander bombs, she could feel her heart pump, deep empathy flooding as she found herself picking a stand.
It wasn’t about vengeance or revenge. It was about who would pay the more fantastic price. Like she feared, the pride of Verland, their very superman, the personification of all Verland strength, marched forth, LIVE.
He was called The Verlander and his president stood by him as he addressed the world.
“Verlanders have suffered greatly today. We have been maimed in cold blood, innocent blood! Women and children murdered by heartless monsters! This is what today will be remembered for. Know this. However, today will also be the day that Verlanders fight for justice for humanity! Today is the day we face and end this evil once and for all. To all you animals listening, you cowards who kill children… you will face the wrath of the great people of Verland! We will come for you, we will destroy you and we will win!”
Verland declared war on VENGE, and death readied its scythe for the reaping.
The Verlander led head first, the very tip of the spear. His outstretched fist cut through the air, sharper than the armada of jets soaring behind him in triangle formation. The pen of history was at the Verlanders’ tip, the ink readying as the bombs dropped.
Zurrians wrote it in blood.
“What about Zurrian innocents?” asked Eve.
Trixie stared back, merely offering her hand as she held Eve tightly.
The toll rose with each day, the bombs becoming as constant as the rising sun, hospitals burning, limbs emerging from the rubble, dusted and marked so the strangers would know whose child had passed and which name to put on the headstone.
While these images flooded Eve’s social media, the world’s newsrooms remained on that first day when VENGE took vengeance. Even as weeks and months passed, fresh Zurrian blood pouring into this rising ocean, the world remained at the very beginning, the entire conflict, past and present, forgotten. All that mattered was that first day, the foundation of everything, why even the UNJPC broke into a dead lock.
Madam Might, Union Star and Dame Der Fer repeated The Verlander’s speech.
“We stand with Verland; they have every right to defend themselves.”
Woman of Steel and The Golden Star tried to find a middle ground, but from Eve’s Western world, it was the usual suspects going against Western righteousness. When Woman of Steel’s would-be empire annexed its former vassal, she took a stand against it, which shocked and emboldened Eve’s trust in the UNJPC. She leveraged her superpowers with a superpower, refusing to participate in combat, her strength having promised an easy victory.
It may be just politics, however. If Woman of Steel’s lasers beamed, Madam Might would have to join the fray, as she would be empire-sided against Woman of Steels’. Deterrence prevailed, and the two gods stood together in the UNJPC while chaos ensued in their backyards. Yet Madam Might would not have her antonym’s comradery, even in the name of politics.
As for the rest of the council, The Redeemer and Black Star called for peace in Verland. Femme Supreme went so far as rebuking The Verlander’s actions. At the same time, he blasted through Z-land, lasering down complexes and razing concrete into ash, jet screeches rocking in his wake with more death.
“I am saddened and ashamed at the world’s response, including my fellow ‘heroes’. Z-land is burning! The Verlander is murdering, maiming and destroying innocent people, innocent children! This is the beginning of a genocide and the displacement of millions of Zurrians! We can’t sit here and pretend that The Verlander’s war crimes are justified! These are innocent people like you and me who had no part in VENGE’s attacks! Their blood is now paying the price in the gallons!”
Femme Supreme represented the radicalness of her queendom, a spark of rage glittering in her eye as The Verlander’s lasers reflected back, blood pulsing.
Yet while Eve’s governments parroted the same rhetoric, this radicalness was felt everywhere, with countless citizens holding massive protests and calling for immediate peace!
No one deserved to die anymore.
Especially innocent Zurrians,
Peace was the only way, the only thing that should’ve been fought for.
Yet The Verlander’s strikes continued, an army amassing behind him as Z-Land was surrounded by the Verland war machine, a full-scale invasion reckoning.
“We will come from the sky, from the sea and from the land. There is nowhere for you to hide; we will destroy you and we will win!” said The Verlander, his eyes glowing red with rage.
Madam Might would then grace the air as well, her cape flowing from the Atlantic drift, as she dared all outside players to try and stand in The Verlander’s way, her side chosen as she looked upon simmering Z-land.
Eve lost herself in a dream as night fell.
Scenes of a wild western landscape set into mind, and she saw a carriage on the run, military men firing revolvers as bandits in hoods followed on horseback. The outlaws fired back at the military men, bringing the carriage to a bloody stop. The outlaws joyed and jostled at the bodies, then further ahead in an unknown city… justice stormed in its outskirts.
An encampment of soldiers was presented, but these were no ordinary soldiers. Their faces were marked with white, their general, a great giant, taking the lead on a horse, a thousand hooves stomping behind his march. Eve suddenly embodied a person in the city they marched upon. The town was ravaged, and she found herself in a building, as dream logic gave her no explanation.
All Eve could feel was dread, growing horror. Around her were others, and they were all crouched, stuck in a stairway, panicked, sweating and desperate to survive. All Eve knew was that war was outside and suddenly, a balcony presented itself from the stuffed stairway.
Eve crawled to it and saw them, the white-faced soldiers, the white paint blinding. They were everywhere, armed to the teeth, and somehow, Eve understood that if they saw her and any of her fellow refugees, they would be killed on sight. Eve also understood that this was retribution. The outlaws had damned her and her company in misery, and they would pay the price. As the white-faced soldiers moved in, coming for Eve and her fellows, pure dread wreaked her spirit as she knew profoundly well that there was no escape.
Eve then awoke from her dream.
It was confusing, yet it was genuine. The reality for many Zurrians.
The world watched them burn and they had no escape.
Each night, Eve would think about that… There was no escape. There was no one for the Zurrians to turn to.
VENGE would not save them; it may not have been the genesis of this war, but it would not be their salvation. It had damned them like those outlaws, and it gave Verland impunity to raise hell upon them, all in the name of justice.
The Verlander came into focus as Eve scrolled on,
“The death of Zurrians is a tragedy, but that blood is on VENGE’s hands. VENGE is their damnation! They use these innocent people as shields while they cower behind them. Yet if they think that’ll stop us, they’re wrong. We will come for them, we will destroy them and we will win, whatever the collateral!”
No one was coming to save them.
No one was coming to save them.
As this set in, this bleakness, this nihilism, Eve looked on toward her heroes, literal gods. Yet they sat there, their arms crossed, reading off scripts and prewritten speeches.
The same story over and over again, the rhetoric remaining…
Verland – VENGE war… What of the Zurrians?
Who was dying, who was bleeding?
Western journalists reported live from the barricaded cities and guarded spaces of the Southern Foot. Soldiers and police were present and at arms while they spoke of the victims of that first foundational day.
Then, in Z-land, while they spoke of yesterday, bombs dropped NOW! Children died, bleeding to death right before everyone’s eyes… LIVE!
Where was their story?!
Eve simmered in frustration.
Trixie told her to let go, to stop feeding it,
“You’re just hurting yourself more.”
The privilege to just walk away from it, to go home.
To have a home.
The arrow of time marched on, entropy emotionless, the clock ticking, blood dripping, everyone watching, a car crashing in slow motion.
“Why won’t anyone do anything? Why won’t someone save them?!”
“Where are the heroes?!”
The world was doing something, though. Despite Madam Might and her allies’ pressure, most nations now called for peace and an immediate ceasefire. Millions of dollars were to be sent to the Zurrians in aid, and talks of humanitarian corridors floated in the headlines. The Verlander shouted for the Zurrians to head north, straight for the Sehrinite border, promising safety despite his bombs dropping and his lasers scorching, the gates to salvation remaining closed as Sehrin refused entry.
“We will not let Verland rid their Zurrian problem to us!”
The clock still ticked while the world did something and blood dripped.
The white faces from the dream stared back, having seen Eve taking aim. The stairway overran from top to bottom as the white faces moved in, murder on their mind.
No one was coming to save her.
No one was coming to save them.
There were no heroes.
Eve stared at the computer; the story was at an end, but how could she end it here and on such a sour note too? It needed a happy ending, a promise of better things and salvation. And yet, how could she make such a promise? This was her reality today, and if it kept on, the white faces would soon reach her and everything would be over.
Many more Zurrians had to die and when they no longer posed a threat, they would finally receive their justice.
When the Indigenous no longer posed a threat, only then would they receive truth and reconciliation.
When the Black African had been imprisoned for 27 years, only then could he receive the world’s sympathy.
When the weapons of mass destruction were no longer found, only then could the Iraqis receive the world’s apologies.
When the Jews had been marked and defiled, concentrated in a camp of all forms of death, only then would the world march to their liberation.
When the Palestinians were dead and subdued, only then could the world regret and wish it had done more.
Eve looked at her story…
What difference would it make?
She ended it.