The great hall was as crowded as always when a troop returned; the icy walls of the frozen metal that surrounded us, almost reflected the furry coats we wore to keep from the cold. The loud voices echoed through every room of the complex . One man pushed himself against me to get through the crowd. I wasn't angry with him; I also wanted to be one of the first people to arrive in the hall in order to see the soldiers. I tried to run, but was slowed down when I heard a scream before me. Some stopped in their tracks, others kept walking. I tried to get on my toes to see what was at the end of the large corridor but all I could see was hundreds of people peeking through the crowd just like me. The cry came from a woman. She began to sob heavily, it hurt my heart . Not one person misunderstood her hysteria, we could be the next people to cry.
"I wonder who it is this time." Someone said behind me.
"It sounds like Bertha," someone else said. "Jimmy is gone."
The people before me finally began to move again. They formed lines, next to the walls to let the woman through. In the center of the crowd I could see a hunched woman. Her hair resembled the snow around us, a young man held her hand and guided her through the mass. The woman shivered, her hand was clutched on her mouth. I couldn't see her eyes, or facial expression. But I knew.
In the hall the people finally formed an ordered line before the paper wall and one line before the few soldiers who were gathered there. The hall was big enough to give space for 500 or more people, the ceilings were about 40 feet high. A glass cupola in the ceiling lightened the stage on which the soldiers stood, but gave no warmth to their appearance. We were all used to the sight of the men who fought in the war; they looked like shadows of who they used to be. No one smiled, no one gave a faint reaction to our questioning eyes. All just stood there in complete silence. They were about 25 men. The commander stood before them with a frozen look.
Their uniforms were dirty. Everyone in Little Sand wore usual coats of dark gray color, made of seal skin and fur of human hair and horse mane. The soldiers however, wore coats dyed white. Their pants were knee length fur boots-also white. The only color was a big N on the coats center which stood for Northerners and below it a L.S that stood for our city : little sand.
"Dear citizen of Little Sand!" The commander stepped forward and folded his hands behind his back. I'd seen him before, he was in charge of the area and often came by to send news or to recruit new soldiers. When he came, we never knew what we should expect; either he was here to take away our men or to announce their deaths.
"Last week our enemies have attacked New Thule."
A cold shiver ran down my spine. New Thule was only 30 miles from Little Sand. Everyone became quiet and stared at the military man in shock.
I couldn't stand looking at his icy glare. I wish he'd smile or show a sign or positivity. But the grimace behind his red beard grew harder by the second.
"We mourn the deaths of many brave men."
A low murmur rumbled through the commander raised his palm to silence their voices , "but their deaths were not for nothing! For we have successfully defended New Thule and pushed the attackers back to the south!" He shouted out his last words to underline the meaning of the victory and some people even responded with equal jubilation. I and many others remained silent. After four years of war and loss, we no longer cared about victories. We only wanted our men back.
"We don't know why these monsters attacked but we assume that they attempted to free the war captives there. Do you know what that means? They are now after war captives! Traitors and sickly, old people because they're running out of young men to fight for them! They're losing!"
People muttered and shouted, discussions and remarks appeared between the lines "We're winning the war?" Someone whispered incredulous. "We are winning the war?!" The person then shouted even louder.
The commander cleared his throat, "well, it looks very well for us." He mumbled. "We can now take over the North again!"
"And send all those devils to hell!" Someone shouted.
"That too!" The commander said, "but in order to do that and in order to finally win we need support!"
I squeezed my eyes shut. This was a moment we all feared; I could already see mothers and wives cling to their sons and husbands. Like I had done twice...
"Again?" A woman screeched. "Haven't you taken enough young men already?"
"We all need to make sacrifices ."
"I have sacrificed my husband and my oldest son! You won't get the only child I have left!"
"You should be filled with pride to give your son the honor of fighting for our country!"
"You mean dying!"
For the first time I saw movement in the commander's face. "Do you want the southerners to take over?!"
"I want my husband and my son back! And I won't give my youngest to the southerners or you!"
"Mother." Someone hissed.
"Quiet woman!" The commander stomped on the ground. "This kind of attitude will not help us win but lose! Your words can be considered treason!"
"Ah crap! Go ahead and arrest me!"
People raised their heads to look for the woman and murmured in unison. I glanced back to the commander but he was calm again. He only narrowed his eyes for a moment and then pointed to his right. "We will put up the latest news on the wall up there, check for your loved ones if you want and avenge them by writing your name on the recruiting list. These are lists for the true, loyal Northerners among you who wish to join us in the fight." The commander spun on his heels and turned. Off the stage, he said something to a soldier and disappeared.
The crowd began to shuffle again. And the once so ordered lines faded into a mess of voices and complaints. The papers pinned to the ice walls served as some sort of newspaper. People did not only find news about the war but recipes, school schedules , advertisements and job openings.
I was nervous; not just because of the recent dispute between the commander and the woman but because in only a short while I might find out what I feared the most. People pushed and shoved themselves to the walls. Reactions varied with each news. Some people left the wall with faint relief in their faces, others screamed sometimes even fainted or cried when they read news of their beloved ones. How many times had I feared this moment? I feared it since the war least once a month, new news were pinned onto the walls and at least once a month, I fought the demons of my fears and forced myself to take those ten steps from the stage to the wall.
I never believed in happy or sad places, but ever since the war began I knew that certain places on this planet can trigger emotions we can't control.
That stage had once been a happy place. In my childhood, there were concerts and school plays. Ryan Manor did stand-up comedy. He was a star in Little Sand. Everyone knew him, everyone laughed at his joke and I believe everyone in Little Sand said goodbye to him when he went off to war four years three months later, everyone mourned his death.
Here right next to the stage we stood . Flabbergasted by the news. Back then I didn't understand.
Now I did, or so I thought.
For war had nothing to be understood. War was the most illogical invention of mankind. War had no meaning, war had no use. War was just there. Like a bad odor, you can't fight it or ignore it. You can only accept that it's there. The man before me finally moved away, his shoulders hung down low. It discouraged me; I had told myself I wouldn't read the names but now I felt I was lying.
There were four papers pinned neatly next to each other. On a pale, yellow surface a neat handwriting declared information of dread and pain.
I skimmed through the names of strangers. All I could read was deceased or missing. The latter was rarer. The man next to me gasped and clutched his hand to his open mouth. His eyes filled with tears. His hand was still stuck to a name I never heard.
To me the name was just as meaningless as the number of stars in the night sky. But to this man, the name was everything. It was everything he just lost. The man sobbed, just like the old woman had in the crowd and for one second I wanted to cry too.
But I focused back on the list. I read every paper more than twice but always ended up with the same result. Nothing.
No news. No confirmation. No denial. The word missing was even more taunting than 'dead'. Most people were missing, but only those who had been seen by friends or acquaintances before an attack or maneuver and didn't end up returning were announced missing. If friends or acquaintances died too, no one could tell whether they'd seen someone alive or dead.
Missing. That word laughed at me. It was as though the paper just read, 'you might die in war'. Missing meant they're lying somewhere. It meant they died. But they died alone. Without anyone around who could report their deaths.
It took me a moment to realize that nothing changed for me. The man next to me who cried for the stranger's name, finally had been confronted with reality. He was spared another month of uncertainty , another month of nightmares and depression. Now he could mourn and cry and eventually move on. But the confused ones like me, stood there by the wall. Lost like abandoned dogs. We still knew nothing. We were not spared, we still feared.
The conflict between the southerners and the northerners of Greenland had probably been going on since mankind's reincarnation.
We call the reincarnation the return of human population after the global, nuclear war.
A highly contaminated planet like ours isn't exactly the best place to live and people needed to adapt. All I know about other countries is, that it's impossible to live there and that probably 90% of the population had vanished.
But some of our ancestors fled to secluded areas of our planet. People from Scandinavia and Canada fled to Greenland. They brought their language and science and the Inuit shared their knowledge of life in ice and snow. These people learned to live with each other and eventually, our race was born. We don't have a name. From books and stories, I heard that humans had given each other names based on their looks and heritage but I don't know much about that. We only have Northerners and Southerners, Westerners and Easterners.
Here in Little Sand or also known as Siorapaluk or New Thule also known as Qaanaaq. We have built a new city hall, a huge Igloo which as -I explained earlier- was big enough for half the town.
In our big Igloo, we have a school, a university, a restaurant and even a brothel. Basically everything you need. The Southerners probably live an equal life in regards of infrastructure and culture. But the system differs much. For most of the time everyone only minded their own business, until people of the south began using the fishing bays of the north. You can imagine how little farm land there is, when most of the Atlantic remains frozen throughout the year and snow barely every completely melts.
At first disputes were minor and people tried to find a way out of their misery by finding a good compromise. But eventually people felt threatened. The question was who began to attack? Obviously many rumors were spread around throughout the years, but eventually the negotiations were no longer enough and one attack let to another.
Then four years ago, the Southerners wanted to annex the most Southern city of our municipality and obviously we wouldn't let that happen. A war broke out and it's been going on for four long years now.
Every week and every month people speak of the war's end and of us winning or losing. I completely stopped listening to these stories. I just want this to be over.