The first rays of sun beat down on the scarred land, baking and scorching the already dry soil. Small clumps of crops grew here and there where there was enough to hold onto. From the small village, a scrawny rooster could be heard announcing the morning as people left the shelter of their huts, thanking whoever had let them survive another night.

Talow was like any other fifteen anno old that was still alive and not recruited. He worked on the farm, if te could call it that, picking the weeds and making sure the village would have food. Shoving himself off the thin blankets, Talow got ready to face another day.
“Good morning, papa.” He stepped outdoors to see his father hooking up the mulo to the old wagon. “Where are te going? The crops are not ready to harvest and we have nothing else to bring to market.” Talow helped his father buckle the straps around the animal’s thin chest.
“We need supplies.” His father detto as he picked up his sack. “Your sisters are growing and will soon find husbands of their own, we can’t rely on them forever.” He wrapped the lead around his wrist and turned to lead the mulo towards the neighbouring village of Maylan.
“I will come with you.” Talow followed his father.
“You need to finish your work first.” His father continued to walk on. “Besides, Maylan is no place for kids. Talow stopped in his tracks. He hadn’t been called a kid since his mother had seen him trying to help his sister bring in the crops.

He had been only five at the time, trying to drag one of the carts through the fields as his sisters, both at least three years older then he was, had loaded it with whatever had managed to grow that year. Talia, the oldest da six months had placed an armful of lumpy potatoes in the carrello when the whole thing tipped over spilling the mornings labour across the dusty ground. Their mother had struck him across the ear, scolding him for creating più work. She had detto the fields were no place for a kid running around and getting in the way. Talow had spent the rest of the morning sulking under the elongated roof of the neighbours, shading himself from the bright sun and the harsh words of his mother.

She had passed two years fa during the drought that had left everyone desperate for any water they could find. The barrels that usually collected rainwater were dry and the jungle, which had moved in as the climate had warmed, provided dangers beyond imagination. Talow watched his father walk down the winding trail to the edge of detto jungle, disappearing between the large leaves as he followed the path to Maylan.

He turned to look out at the village. The occasional neighbour could be seen weaving between the huts, feeding chickens, milking goats, o getting ready to head out to the plains. Out here, away from the cities, people worked to survive. If te were lucky te produced enough for the family and maybe a few spare coins. Talow picked his way to a small hut on the edge of the village. The yard had a short fence made from mismatched materials like wooden beams, and rusting steel running around it keeping a few skinny chickens from running off and getting eaten da something. Stepping over the barrier Talow made his way to the front door of the slightly lopsided house. It was made from baked clay bricks and had stood here for years; the roof was an extension of the collina behind it creating a green roof that allowed for a garden on top. The door shook on its hinges as he knocked on the thin board.
“It’s open.” A faint voice could be heard from inside the house. Talow pushed the door open revealing a circular room that was the only one in the house. The walls were washed in the dim light of a sputtering candle placed on a wobbling stack of old books. Beside these was a wooden tavolo with two chairs, one occupied da the owner. She was no più then four and a half feet with a tuff of white hair at the crown. Grandma Ninovan was the oldest woman to still live in the village. Both of her sons had been taken into the army when they were kids so she lived alone in her little hut. She had no grandkids so she wasn’t really anyone’s grandmother but she acted like one. Talow had grown up with Grandma Ninovan checking up on the family, for the past three years he had been doing odd jobs for her to repay for the countless times she had saved them from starving throughout the year. Everything from feeding the chickens, to repairing the fence with bits he could find discarded da others. Today she sat, looking out the round window at the jungle beyond.
“Grandma Ninovan? Is something wrong?” Talow was usually off with his assignment da now, happy to help in any way he could but today he wasn’t. Grandma Ninovan hadn’t even moved as he came in, she just continued to look out the window, hands clasped around the wooden cane she used, lips moving as if speaking. Talow leaned in to hear what the old woman was saying when the sound of shouting and gunfire caused him to stop. Talow looked to Grandma Ninovan, she was crying and trying to say something to him.
“Go, they are here.” Her faint whisper reached his ears just as a soldier, no older then Talow broke the door down with the butt of his gun. He stepped through the space, regarding Talow and Grandma Ninovan and as he checked the gauge on his flame-gun. Grandma Ninovan sat quietly, eyes closed as the boy let loose a jet of flame onto the furniture; the room was blazing within minutes. Talow reached for Grandma Ninovan but she pulled out of his grasp, gesturing to the door. Hesitating, he ducked out the door as the soldier boy went from house to house, lighting them up the same way.

Talow was disoriented from the fumes but he managed to make his way back to his home, grateful that no one was home. He charged through the open door, grabbing anything that may be helpful. He threw a few things in a bag, shoving a balled up blanket in when he heard the screaming of woman and men alike. Talow took the bag and ran for the jungle; no one would follow him in there. He colomba between the leafy branches, watching from the corner of his eye as his village, his home went up in flames.