My eyes slowly fluttered awake and I looked up at the wood ceiling. Wait. I jolted up in my bed and froze. How could I have fallen asleep?! I stayed a statue, waiting for the thunderous march of armed footsteps, for the sirens, the shouting, the gunshots, the explosions of bombs, the smell of smoke and fear and blood. I strained my ears, but surprisingly heard…birds chirping. I couldn’t help but wonder at the sound. Birds! I hadn’t heard their songs for months. Since the revolution started. I pulled my blanket off me and stepped off my bed. Wait. Bed? I whirled around and stared at the comfort I had just been sitting on, and slowly turned to see my room, neat and as if untouched. My room…that had been destroyed in the bombings. What was happening? Last night I had been curled up on the cold stone floor of a bombing shelter. How did I get here? To a place that doesn’t even exist anymore? I slowly crossed to my window and pulled the curtain open a crack, waiting for the dream to end, for the screams to begin. But they didn’t.

Outside, the smoke-scarred sky and burning fires was gone. In its place, the neighborhood gleamed up at me, as if repainted with bright new colors. The sun’s bright rays of light grinned down at me and washed the street in vibrant rays. I stared as a little boy, his clothes fresh and new, skipped across the driveway with a basketball in hand without a care in the world.

What was going on? I carefully made my way downstairs and out the front door, still hestitant. Still waiting for the bombs to come destroy my home. Again.

“Howdy, neighbor!” I jumped at the sound and turned to see a woman waving at me. A smile, taking up almost her whole face was plastered on as she held a hose over plants so green they looked fake.

I stared at her for a second. I recognized her.

“Lidia?” I took a step closer. Yes, I did. I imagined her face covered in ashes, the grin she now held replaced with sobs that racked her whole body. Her clothes bare rags against the cold stone floor of the shelters.

“Lidia, do you know how-what-whats happening? How are we here?! Last night, remember, we were in the bombing shelter. How did we get here? This place was destroyed!”

She tilted her head and her brows furrowed slightly, but her grin stayed bright.

“Bombing shelter?” She asked. “My dear, what are you talking about?”

“The shelter we were in just yesterday! To hide! To hide from the bombs they sent that blew up this whole neighborhood! And killed your brother!” I flailed my arms around me at the perfect haven surrounding us.

“Now, who ever would do such a horrible thing?” She said, clicking off her hose.

I gaped at her. “Who-who-what-? You don’t…remember?” I was at a loss for words. “The government!” I screamed, my voice pericing the calm surrounding us. Out of place.

“The government that tried to kill us! The ones who declared war on us after we started to think for ourselves, the ones who vowed to protect us then murdered thousands of innocents!”

“Oh, no, my dear. The government protects us,” Lidia said and, if it was possible, her smile widened. “They build us this sanctuary.” She opened her arms and the houses around us. I shook my head in disbelief, my legs carrying me back, away. I whirled around, looking for something-anything to bring me out of this dream. I stumbled across the street and made my way to another neighbor’s house.

“Howdy, neighbor!” Lidia said. I froze and turned to see her smiling up at me again, the hose pouring over her plants.

I banged on the door and a man opened it. I recognized him too. He was there, during the war, we were running for our lives together.

“Hi there,” he said to me, a grin breaking his face in half. The conversation went the same way. I slammed my fists on the other neighbor’s door.

“Howdy, neighbor!” I heard from behind me. A young girl opened the door for me. The conversation went the same. And again. And again. And again. “Howdy, neighbor!”

I slumped against a wall and stared out. No one remembered the very houses we sat in being obliterated by the government. No one remembered…well, anything. The war we fought so hard to end was simply…erased. I closed my eyes, my mind emptying itself of any reasoning. Of any simple explanations.

“Howdy, neighbor!”

I shoved my eyes closed.

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