By Daria Apakhonchich
Illustrator – Kristina Anishenko

Translated by Liuba Kitsay
The coin with letter U
Once upon a time there lived two sisters – not in a Far Far Away land - but in a usual block of flats. They were named Anya and Tanya. Their family was quite usual too: the mother, the father, the grandmother and the cat. The grandfather was not there as he had died long time ago at a war. Anya and Tanya never saw him, except the photograph on the wall.

The sisters were not quite alike. Anya would go to the 5th grade of school and liked encyclopedic books, while Tanya would go the 3rd grade and like animals. However, the people would often confuse the girls with each other. The girls were unhappy for having such similar names. It would have been so much better to be named, for example, Susanne and Verlibre. The girls were just living their days, enjoying school, attending hobby trainings, crafting interesting things at home and watching TV cartoons. Our tale would have gone smoothly this way, unless there had been a real magic incident with the girls.

Of course, it didn't look like magic right away. One day Anya and Tanya together with their grandma went to visit a grandmother's friend Tamara. Auntie Tamara was living at the outskirts of the town together with her striped cat and a garden-like collection of home plants. The girls had already been at Tamara's home, and they liked looking through the old photographs, try on the antique hats, play with the cat and listen to the adventure stories: auntie Tamara had been exploring the far away woods in her young age, as well as she had been at the Far North and volcanos.

And this time Auntie Tamara asked the girls to help her sort things:

- Tanya, Anya! You like old treasures, don't you? You'll be the ones to help out.
Auntie Tamara put a big wooden case in front of them.

- I don't need these, - she said, - but I can't just throw them away. Take a look, maybe you'll like some items. These are mostly random knickknacks, however, there are some valuables.

The girls got excited to pick over the contents of the case. There were not paired old-fashioned earrings, some keys in the shape of a question mark, some mechanical gears that looked like museum pieces. While the girls were inspecting and sorting the treasures, the old ladies were drinking tea and talking about their matters; sometimes they commented on some of the items from the case or explained the purposes of them.

- Hey, what kind of a coin is that? It doesn't even have a numeric symbol on it, but just one letter – U. What is it?

- Hmm, - Auntie Tamara paused to think, - I guess we brought it from a journey with my first husband… That's right! We bought almost all souvenirs from a street shop, and the seller gave it to us as a present. She said it's a magic coin: you need to make a wish and throw the coin in the river. But it necessarily takes two to do! Then the wish shall come true. Haha! Whatever it takes people to believe in magic: they throw coins in fountains, tie knots for luck…

Auntie laughed and kept recalling things about the journey and her young years.
- So why didn't you throw the coin in the river? Didn't you come up with your wish? - asked Tanya.

Auntie took a thought:
- I guess we never could come up with one wish for the two of us. We just argued and argued, but never decided anything. I wanted to make a wish of something funny, for example, letting people fly like birds whereas my husband wanted to become the head of a plant himself.

- So did he? – asked Anya.

Auntie laughed again:
- No, he didn't. And we got divorced by the way after this journey: too boring he was. So, I lived happily afterwards, and even forgot about the coin. Now, you can go ahead and make a wish for yourselves, but it needs to be just one for the two of you.

Anya twisted the coin in her fingers: it looked pale and small and not very presentable.
- Nah, I don't believe in magic.

But Tanya did want to believe:
- Shall we try anyways? Just for fun?

- Not sure – aren't we grownups?

- Look, Auntie Tamara didn't make it to come to agreement with her husband, will we be not able to agree either? Aren't we tight-knit with you?
Tanya was capable of giving good reasons.

Now Anya got offended: how come they can't make it just the way a stupid Auntie Tamara's husband couldn't?

- Fine, let's make a wish, but for the record, I don't believe in magic, only in science, - gave up Anya. The girls had some more time at the Auntie's place and then they came home: here, while sorting their new treasures of old gears, keys and other pieces of ancient civilizations they were talking about their dearest wish.

- How about we wish the weather to be good everywhere? Like, the sunshine all the time, the warm sea? – suggested Tanya.

- No, this is not good, not good for the nature. The nature needs rains and snows, no plants can grow without it, - objected Anya. – How about allowing people flying into the open space without the spacesuits?

- Nah, that's kinda boring… Maybe a lake of sweets? Or the whole sea?

- Candies sound good, but don't you think it's a waste of a wish to pick something so simple? Think about it: we can make a wish for the whole world to live happily and peacefully.

- The whole world… - said Tanya meditatively, - you're right, for the whole world to live in peace with no wars. But how do we do that?

- I suggest all weapons disappear – that's how it would be impossible to make a war.

- Exactly! No more guns, cannons and tanks, - Anya liked the idea. – Our grandma said people cannot stop making war just as simple as that. Also, there is so much of arms in the world that would be enough to destroy our planet multiple times. I read this in the encyclopedia!

- Fine. No candies then? - specified Tanya.

- Candies… Then how about all guns turn into candies?

- Also the tanks, machine guns and bombs – all will turn into candies!

The girls were happy with their idea. They wrote their wish on a piece of paper to be legit, went to the river embankment where they solemnly read the wish, swung wide open and threw the coin in the water while holding each other's hands. The coin flashed goodbye in the air, plopped and disappeared in the water.

At this very moment soldier Semionov jumped out of his trench and gave a machine gun burst at an enemy soldier. But how surprised he was to see that there were colored little balls that looked like sugar coated candies instead of bullets! The next second he realized he was holding not a machine gun: it was a long striped lollipop.

- Err… - was the only thing the soldier could say, while thinking "Now I am dead!", and then – "What a stupid joke? Am I sleeping?"

He froze expecting the enemy soldier to throw a grenade at him. So he did, but that was not a grenade – instead, there was a chocolate bar in a funny wrap. The bar soughed in the air in complete silence and plopped next to soldier Semionov's boot. Half-consciously, he picked up the candy and walked backwards to the trench where he found his comrades with awed faces surrounded by piles of candies.

This happened not only in soldier Semionov's trench. Everywhere on the planet all guns turned into candies: the sweets were falling off the planes on the heads of people of seized towns, remained in the weapon depots, and some criminals who wanted to rob a bank could only threaten the cahier lady with a stickjaw candy and had to run away accompanied by deafening laughter.

What a hectic mess started! Generals got scared at first, then they were arguing, and as the night came, they started thinking of what to do next.

A hundred thousand military intelligence officers reported they have several million suspects but they had no specific ideas of who turned the weapons into candies and how. A hundred thousand spies reported there was something happening in the armies of the other countries, but they could not give the specifics. A hundred thousand military engineers all over the planet ran millions of tests and reported that manufacturing new guns is just impossible as once two pieces of a gun assemble – they immediately turn into a candy. All weapon, tank, torpedo and cannon factories were filled with sweets.

In the meantime, a hundred thousand chemists and confectioners reported that the candies were not dangerous, yet healthy. However, the generals gave the order not to touch them and, of course, keep the fact of the weapons turning into candies in secret – what if the enemy country attacks them making use of the situation!

This was very difficult to control: the colored candy wraps, the smell of chocolate and toffee had a bigger effect on the soldiers: they were throwing candies, laughing and occasionally sneaking to have a candy or two.

In the evening Anya and Tanya were trying to figure out whether the magic had worked or not.

- Maybe we can visit a military base?

- They won't let us in – that's prohibited!

- Maybe we can go to a museum to check out whether the guns are still exhibited there?

- That's a better idea! Else we can go to a store for hunters. By the way, remember, in the dad's room there are some bullets in the box? Let's go to take a look?

- Indeed, there was a box with bullets in the room of the girls' dad as he once had gone for hunting with his friend. Ever since that day he said he would never go hunting again, and hunting itself is savageness. That's how the girls learned the word "savageness" and the fact that hunting is evil. The dad's friend left the bullets to pick up later, but he never made it to come over.

Anya and Tanya sneaked into the dad's room while he was drinking tea at the kitchen and looked into the closet. They saw the bullet box with some mint drops inside. They quietly – so that the parents didn't hear them - danced their victory dance, jumped in the air like little birds, and rushed to drink their tea.

- You girls are so merry today, - laughed their mom and dad, - did you make up a new game to play?

- Nah, no big deal! Just having a good vibe. How about we go to a museum tomorrow

- Okay, and tomorrow is Saturday, we can go for a walk too.

So they were drinking tea and laughing, and then Anya and Tanya went to sleep to have dreams of candies, the piles of candies, and the cheerful soldiers having fun when throwing lollipops at each other.

I suppose my keen readers have already figured out that the magic disappearance of the weapons was considered the darkest secret, and the very next day the stores for hunters and museums were closed down, and the sales and security people were inviting the visitors to come another day giving them fearful glances.

A couple of days later Anya and Tanya were purchasing paintbrushes and paints.

- Can I have that big box please?

- Err, sorry, but the set is incomplete.

- Meaning? – questioned Anya. – It doesn't have all colors in the set? Do you have another set?

- Err, I mean that all boxes of paints at our store are missing black, brown, green and blue colors. A temporary disruption of supplies, - said the salesman almost crying. It was clear he was very upset.

- Why is so?

- I don't know, have no idea! Come back later, - cried the salesman and ran away to his utility room.

Anya and Tanya looked at each other.

- What's going on here? Have they cone crazy? I think that's because of us…

Anya knitted her brows:
- Who do you think could possibly need all these paints all of a sudden?

- Who? – asked Anya, although she was already having a guess.

- The military! – said the girls together and laughed imagining the generals giving orders to paint the cardboard tanks in gouache and crafting fake machine guns of splash paper.

Yet the girls bought a box of paints and spent their evening painting with only yellow, red, purple and pink colors. It looked like a new genre of painting, and they called it "war-free art".

Here I can finish my fairy tale, only mentioning that the world took a while to get used to the new life. The military kept acting up as if nothing had happened and kept demonstrating cardboard tanks, rubber guns and inflated cannons.

Anya and Tanya were rolling on the floor laughing while watching the military parades because they could notice that the soldiers had to hold the inflated tank so that it wouldn't fly away. However, the adults never noticed that because they were used to the serious voice of the TV host and they generally could not imagine so many people being involved in such a big fraud.

In the meantime, the theatre artist became a highly demanded job. They were hired to cover up the absence of the weapons. Naturally, the artists were getting bored only using the black, green and brown pains, and they gradually started adding bright touches to the boringly looking military weapons: here and there they would add a funny bow or a floristic pattern. Also, the soldiers and military officers became more cheerful and relaxed, lost their habit to goose-step, whereas giving more time to their families, reading books, planting cactuses, sky gliding and doing so many more interesting things.

Tanya and Anya were still living in their usual apartment, going to their usual school, reading books, studying and dreaming of the future: of how they would grow up and depart for a warm far away land to finally find out what the meaning of the letter U on the magic coin was. What's your idea?

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