by Elsa Graus
Copyright © September 2015 Elsa Graus
Cover Photograph by: morguefile.com/ttronslien
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please download an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, places and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
This place is new. At least for me. I don’t think I’ve been in this part of town ever. A week ago I was home and had no worries. Well, not many worries. And I knew I had to get away as soon as I realized what was happening in the ground floor.
There was something I didn’t know how to manage. The situation got out of control and I was not going to back down. Right now it’s still quite recent and probably they won’t believe me if I tell them my running away was a mistake. There was no way I could have helped it. I was afraid. It was wrong of me to do it – and now I’m too ashamed of the way I acted.
It was not appropriate or convenient. But it was spontaneous. Quite surely I will regret it later on. What I’m thinking of at this moment is to find a way to go back. It sounds easy but it’s more complicated than that. I wish I was dreaming and I’m about to wake up so this looked like an anecdote and maybe it all be forgotten. I’ve been pinching my arm several times all these days. This is becoming a bad habit. Every morning I wake up in a different place. They all look the same at night. But on the following morning, before the sun is full risen up, I am awakened by the smell of humidity on the walls and the coldness of the place to see I’ve been spending another night in one of those long-time derelict block of flats all over town.
Leaving home probably has thrown some suspicions on me. It was not what I usually do. I study the facts, and I give a good dose of thinking in order to make the right decision. Normally in this case the right decision would be to stay in and offer a plausible explanation. I don’t have to convince them. I have a good alibi. There are no clues that implicate me in the matter.
Now my disappearance adds another turn of the screw. They quite surely have me as the main suspect and in this moment they’ll be looking for me all over town. But I still haven’t devised a plan for what I did. Now it’s going to be harder for me to make them realize I had nothing to do with it. But what else could I have done?
It was my instincts playing a dirty trick on me. I had to get away from home to think what had happened. There was too much blood spilled everywhere. And the whole house was a mess.
Obviously they were looking for something. I don’t know what it was and I don’t know if they succeeded in finding it. All I know is that now I’m an orphan. I have no mother and no father. I’m sixteen. Too young to die when I haven’t started to live yet. Whoever it was who killed them didn’t bother to use the gun on me. By now that’s the only thing I know. The killer used a gun to murder them. I heard the shots. Even though I was with my headphones on and the music was on full blast.
I was listening to that CD I bought at a discount price at the music store. Two days before my parents got killed I persuaded my father to lend me the money. It didn’t cost me much convincing him. I was his only child or like he used to call me the apple of his eye. He kept telling me that although that’s not completely true.
I may be an orphan but I’m not the only child my parents had. I have a brother six years older. But my father refused him when my brother took the decision of leaving us. He changed his will and disowned him and instituted me as his only heir.
He, my brother, was very distant. And shy, he was very shy. The way he was treated by our father, the insults he received and the constant disputes triggered his disappearance. He went through the back door. It was Sunday and it had been raining all day long. Even on Sundays we used to get up early. We had a shower and quick and delicious breakfast so that we could go to mass.
That Sunday, he got up earlier than the rest of us did. Before I came to his room I noticed something was wrong. He was quite reserved but not with me. All that he didn’t dare to say to others, he told me. A few days before he left us he was quiet even with me. I knew he had been planning all this for too long.
He waited to leave us that Sunday for a reason. Besides being his birthday, that day meant something more. It was our parents’ anniversary. Twenty years ago they married in the same church we attended every weekend. And I knew my brother chose that day more for hurting our father than for his coming of age.
Nonetheless when I told my parents about it, my father continued with his routine and never made a comment about the matter. His features were even harsher. He went on with our plans as if nothing had happened. My mother, instead, was crying all day long. In silence. She thought she was alone and nobody was watching her but I learned to remain quiet when I wanted. That’s why I know more things than I’ve ever been told. There was never a day that the firmness and bad treatment of my father didn’t scare any of us three.
He treated me differently from the way he treated my mother and brother. I didn’t like it. A bad day at work could mean hell. He was the bomb that was ready to explode at the least provocation. It was not easy to avoid it. He found a good excuse or two to let the spark light.
I never counted how many times he used to assure me not to worry. All I remembered from early childhood was that repetitive motto he had telling me not to fear him.
I wasn’t really scared of him. I was scared of what might happen in a near future. I was worried that he was being unjustly cruel to the rest of the family. And I didn’t like that. I didn’t think it was appropriate for him to behave like that. Anyway I never contradicted him. There was already too much wood in the fireplace.
I knew him and I knew my brother. Perhaps too well. And I also knew life at home was bound to a disaster of whatever nature. And the disaster came that Sunday. Four years ago. Now that incident means nothing compared to what happened a week ago.
Probably they are searching for me. Whenever I hear a siren I cover my head with the hood of my sweater. I would like to be invisible. That very idea sounds horrifying in a moment like this one. I know. But at the same time I cannot help the day my brother and me were having one of our numerous talks in his room. The word invisible came out. We were interrogating each other about our likes and dislikes. And then it came the question of the superpowers.
My brother told me that if he were to have one that would be to become invisible so he could sneak in and out of everywhere. I never thought that his words would make me be sad then. I imagined what he had in mind, his purpose. I knew that he was waiting till the day he would be able to leave us. I read it in his notes. He wrote those notes for five years. There was a hidden place in his room where he kept those notes. The parquet flooring had some loose slats they could be easily removed from and clicked back in their place without anybody but the two of us noticing.
He had five notebooks written. Each one containing his memories, ideas, happening and some other stuff of his inventiveness for a year. I found that place by accident. I loved my brother and I respected him and his privacy. I never thought of intruding and mess with his things. Then one day I went to his room to have one of our small talks that lasted hours and found he was gone. So I stepped in and casually stumble upon the open slat. I could have devoured his writings in one setting but I feared his return home caught me poking my nose in his things.
The things I read terrified me. I preferred to think he was joking, that what he wrote down wasn’t serious. But deep in my heart I knew that it was foolish of me to give him the benefit of the doubt. He was determined to carry out his plans in due course. It was just a matter of time.
I said I loved my brother and that’s true. But all the love I felt for him disappeared the day he chose to go. He not only left our parents. He left me here as well. He was a confident and counselor to me and when he was gone I lost part of my life as well. He never dared to write me or phone me. I was as dead to him as he was to me. And instead I still miss him.
I have this dual confrontation taking part in my heart. If I ever see him again I don’t know what my reaction would be. All this time I’ve been a lone rider mounting the horse of uncertainty. Part of me wants to take revenge on him and another part of me longs for throwing myself into his arms. Especially after the last incidents. I feel more alone than ever.
His disappearance left us speechless for several days. Father tried to go ahead as usual. Never mind his going away. We would be better without him. That’s what father said. His words caused me much pain than my brother’s departure. I now wonder in whose names he was talking for. Not in mine. That I am sure of.
I was better with him than without him and I never would change that despite how betrayed I felt when he was gone. I should have been prepared for what was going to happen. No matter how much I could ever have been. It would always be too soon.
His later scribbling in the notebooks were barely meaningful. He was totally and desperately looking for something to come. At least that was the least bit I could infer from it. The words were almost intelligible almost as if written in a hurry. Perhaps he was in a hurry. He lost his patience. He had no more time to waste with that.
Maybe he suspected I had been reading them because he was being more reserved in his last writings. Somehow I guess he left them behind for a reason. Perhaps that I found them. He probably thought I would want to have them with me. After all they were his legacy. And he knew I would take care of them and would protect them from our father throwing them in the dust bin. Or probably worse. Father could have burned them so no one, not even me, would be able to read what his infamous and ungrateful son had written.
That’s what I did. I kept them in good custody for all these years. Finally I did same thing as my brother. I left his writings behind. Now the police would be inspecting them as evidence of my parents’ murder. Or maybe it is that I have been watching too much television in my free time and I’m just imagining things.
Whether they find a connection between the evidence and the murders I cannot tell but I know that at least they won’t lose the chance of reading those pages. I hope they are smart enough and find whoever has killed my parents. And I hope they don’t think it’s been my brother’s doings or me. I had no motive to do it and neither has my brother.
Look at these clothes, I tell to myself. I’m dirty all over. I haven’t slept in a comfortable place since last week and I am so hungry I could eat a horse, bones and all. I smell of sewer and there’s a strange substance in my hair I don’t know where it was come from. My physical appearance is unimportant right now. I don’t look like the photos the police has been handing out and sticking up on walls, streetlamps and trees.
‘Wanted’. It couldn’t me more inaccurate. They are treating me like if I was a criminal. I wonder if they are looking for the right person. There have to be clues, fingerprints and so on. There’s nothing that can incriminate me in my parents’ murders. I love them. I am innocent. I couldn’t kill a fly. Besides, what am I going to do now? I’m underage. They will take me to where I cannot be, to where I don’t belong.
I didn’t provoke this situation. I’m the victim here. But what’s waiting for me out there is not what I deserve. They won’t care about me. They’ll probably lock me in one of those awful places, modern orphanages and I don’t want to be there. That place is not for me. In former years I grew up believing bad children are abandoned in those orphanages. That notion was put into my head and until now I haven’t been able to think otherwise. Authorities may believe those other kids are like me but they are wrong. They belong to broken homes. I don’t. I had a father and a mother. And I still have a brother. The fact that I haven’t received any news from or about him doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean he’s death. He’s probably out there and I want to find him.
Seven days ago I was in shock. Or so I thought. I haven’t been able to cry. All I’ve been thinking about is nothing at all and everything at once. Everything’s too complicated these days. I had a home and now I’m a beggar. A young beggar. I still remember one of the presents I got for my fifteen birthday. A psychology book. I’m the perfect case described as impulsive. I’ve acted on instinct. The more they want me the more I’m running away. I’m looking for freedom when I’m about to being caged.
I guess the right thing for me to do from now on is to look for him. The problem is that I don’t know where to start from. This city’s too big supposing he’s not anywhere else. I have to find him because I have to tell him what’s happened. I have to tell him that it’s going to be me and him in the near future. There’s no one else. If our father was the only impediment, then that barrier has been brought down.
All I do is keep walking to and fro. Up and down. With plenty of time to think. Although it’s always the same. The same recurrent and over-repetitive memories come to me. Perhaps I should go back home. Or where home used to be. I have to find something. Maybe my brother has left some clue I haven’t been able to decipher yet. A clue telling me where he has gone to. That could be a start. A point of departure telling me where to begin at.
I’ll wait till it’s completely dark. I don’t want to be seen prowling around the neighborhood. In broad daylight there are too many eyes and too many ears. Now I’m thinking like someone I don’t like. Why do I end up doing the opposite of what I’m supposed to? I don’t get to comprehend it. I’m searching for the night. I’m searching for the darkness. I want to be like a shadow. I want to be like my brother did: invisible. Suddenly that idea doesn’t seem so absurd. Is it because something has changed and the situation is different? Quite surely, because what made me laugh once, now is not so funny.
I’m distracted and amused by my own thoughts. All of a sudden it gets dark. How did it happen? It’s like a magic trick, the white rabbit taken from the top hat of the magician. Eh voilà! The day turns into night. The streets are empty at this time of day. Although the neighborhood where I live is always peaceful any time of day. When my feet touch the pavestones the familiar sense of routine comes back to me. It does seem like the old days. Those times seem so long ago. It’s been like years though it’s only been a week. This is my street. This is where I usually walk when I return from school. The same way. Two different directions. Two times a day.
Here is my house. The one with the lights down. The rest of the neighborhood houses are brightly lit. I have to take a good look at all this. I may have no other chance. Lucky me there is no squad car waiting at the curb. I sometimes wish I was living a nightmare because it will have an end. Sooner or later the bad dreams are over. And I am waiting for this one to finish.
The next thing I am looking for is the smell of dinner coming from the kitchen. My mother cooking something delicious, my dad watching news on the TV and me doing my homework upstairs with the help of some insane CD of mine. I can smell it even now. It’s still too fresh. But the nightmare persists. It’s consistent and deep. And it’s real. Too real.
The front door with a yellow do-not-cross police line on it forbids the entrance to strangers. But I am not a stranger. Although at this part of the movie I don’t know what I am. Being a stranger at my own home was something I wouldn’t have expected to become. If I break off the tape they’ll soon notice someone’s been here. It would sound weird if I am caught trespassing in my own house. But it’s something I have to do. Really. Because I need to know if the house has been completely searched. I need to find out if my brother’s notes are still where I left them.
The doorknob of the entrance has some black powdery remains. I don’t want to leave my fingerprints on it so I cover my hand with the sleeve of my sweater. The door is closed. I have not the keys with me. Last week I left so hurriedly that I forgot to take them with me. It was so unpremeditated that I wasn’t planning for anything to be rightly done. I just simply reacted in an unpremeditated way. If running away like I did was reasonable or not I cannot tell. Because, what were I supposed to do?
The first serious conversation I had with my father was when he told me about the secret key my parents kept just in case any member of the family lost their own. I was seven years old. I felt like a grown-up. It was the first time one of my parents treated me like if I was mature enough to place important decisions in me. This I considered to be the first one.
I didn’t have to search around the shrubs or under the doormat. Or even inside the flowerpots of the entrance. All these years the key has been kept in the same place: under one of the red bricks of the floor in the front porch. And there it is. I take it and I introduce it quietly in the keyhole. This is insane. I’m trying not to make a noise. I look like someone who has broken the curfew imposed by their parents and is doing everything not to wake them up.
Suddenly when I open the door I have the vivid remembrance of my father and my mother lying on the floor. Dead. A big pool of blood all around their lifeless bodies. It’s strange that I still do feel no hate for whomever had done it. I haven’t had time to think about it. Only happy and sad memories have kept me occupied. This past week has been the longest and shortest of my life.
My house has no life now. It’s empty, dark and cold. Outside the streetlamps light the inside. It’s all I need for now. I won’t risk myself switching the light on. The neighbors would call the police if I did.
Suddenly the strength I had, abandons me. I feel powerless. The nightmare is becoming real. I am the non-believer that’s been looking for a lost remnant of faith all her life and when she’s at the border of desperation a sudden revelation happens before her. I built my plans downstairs and I dreamt my dreams upstairs.
There are white marks all over the ground floor. I’m afraid if I go to the kitchen and the living-room I’ll find more of them. Instead of standing there I put myself into motion.
The balustrade is immaculately clean. My mother used to polish it every Monday. She never got tired of telling my brother and me not to put our hands in it. We had the lesson learned the first day and though we never touched it she kept cleaning it once a week. This was her private temple. Always so shiny and neat.
My room. It was not my refuge. That’s what differentiates me from other people my age. I didn’t have to be hiding here from anyone or anything. They sort of have. The walls have no posters. They have drawings. Drawings I’ve been making all these years. My brother loved writing and I loved drawing. Black and white landscapes, horses and faces. I have stacks of books in my wardrobe full of them. On the walls there’s only a small representation of what I’ve been doing.
My first drawing was not put on the fridge. My father was so proud that I had some talent that he got it framed and hung it from the living-room wall. It’ not a work of art but coming from a six-year-old, although it could have been improved – my opinion now comes from a more much experienced teenage girl – certainly that’s not what my parents and my brother thought.
I hope they haven’t taken those books with them. I’m aching to know. That’s why the first thing I do as I enter my room is going straight to where they usually are. I don’t need a flashbulb. I know where everything is by heart.
When I open the doors of my wardrobe I feel something’s not right. I try to touch my things and to my surprise I find that the only things left are the clothes on the hangers. There’s nothing else. My books, albums, drawings are not where I put them. I must find my brother’s notes. The back of the wardrobe. I left them there. There’s a trapdoor on the back. I knew of it when I was ten. The first thing I thought was about the reprimand of my parents when they saw what I’ve done. I broke it but it was unintentionally. I didn’t mean to.
I saw a crack on the wood. I just had to put my fingers there, through the crack, and the piece fell down. Luckily I was able to put it back and my mother didn’t notice. But I discovered a secret place. I don’t know the complete story of this house. But I know my parents didn’t build it. It belonged to another family before us. The house was restored. I don’t know much else apart from that.
I don’t know who that family was or where do they came from. Even what they did. But the fact that I discover two secret places, one in my room and the other one in my brother’s made me wonder. Were those two places a coincidence or they simply were done with a purpose?
From the moment I found that place in my wardrobe I thought it was useless. The reason? I had nothing to hide, so what was its use? But finding what my brother wrote changed my preconceived ideas. His notes were the only objects I had to keep safe. I made his secret my own.
Once more my fingers find the crack. I jack it open. I do it without much effort and I see them. The only legacy of my brother. I take my bag and put them there. I can’t go. Not yet. I have to add a few items to the bag. It would be useful if there is some food in the kitchen and some money too. I can’t stay in this house much longer. I better act quickly.
A week in these clothes and I feel dirtier each day. They’ll probably know I’ve been here and I don’t care a bit about it. It doesn’t matter if I take some clothes with me. And I change clothes too. I’ll get rid of these rags I’m wearing as soon as I can. I undress quite slowly. This place is beginning to give me the creeps.
When I finish I go to my parent’s bedroom. In the lower drawer of their chest there is a box with money. It has no key. They had no need to keep it lock. My parents trusted their children. If houses could speak not many of them would say the same. This money proved something else besides the confidence between our parents and us. This also means whoever killed them wasn’t looking for money. And I was left alive. Suddenly there are many disconnected facts.
The next doubt I come up with is whether the police is on the right track of the investigations. I don’t care who killed my parents. But I want to know why.
I open the box. There are two thousand dollars. I take all the money and I walk down the stairs. For a few days I can pay for a dry place to stay. On my way to the kitchen my mind is working on the gaps of the incident. There is no motive at first sight.
I start looking on the cupboards for something to eat. I find the cookies my mother used to buy for breakfast. I eat a few of them. There’s not much space in the bag so I have to be very selective. I pick a couple of tuna cans and a bar of white chocolate. Always my favorite. There is also a bag of crisps. That would be my dinner tonight.
I leave my house through the back door and there’s something wet running down my cheeks. It’s the first time I’m crying since my parents died. I don’t know for certain if I’m going to be back. Even if I have the chance.
I’m already out. I look up at the sky. The night is clear. There are few stars here and there. I remember the last science class. The teacher talked about the energy and how it was not created nor destroyed but transformed. I spent the evening, after dinner, pondering about what comes next when we die. If we are also made up of energy and that energy can’t disappear, then does it mean there’s an afterlife? Or simply is more relevant to believe what some religions preach? The notion of reincarnation? The same energy passed from body to body?
Whatever it may be I thought it’s comforting to having have those ideas in mind. It’s better than the loosing of horizons when one feels alone.
I hear a sound and I crouch down behind a bush. I look intermittently left and right to see where the noise has come from. I don’t want to be seen. One of my neighbors is taking the garbage out. I look at my watch. Right on time. Of all the people I know he’s probably the one with the most rigid and inflexible of habits. He’s been living across from us for five years. He came with his wife. They have no children. I feel sorry for them although if I’m compared to them I’m the one to be felt most sorry for. They have no descendants and I don’t have the ascendants.
They won’t cry for any child if they haven’t known them while I’m beginning to grieve my parent’s death.
He’s not only rigid in his customs. His manners leave a lot to be desired for. He hasn’t got much conversation with anyone. He hardly talks with his wife. I’ve been on the lookout from a secure vantage point: the window of my room.
The day they moved to this neighborhood I was intrigued all day long. It was Saturday. I remember it as if it was happening right now. There was this huge moving van in front of their house all morning. Their house is bigger than my family’s. It has more rooms and one extra bathroom. Judging by the amount of things, furniture and other stuff the moving men were unloading it seemed like an army of children were going to occupy that house. But nothing of that ever happened.
In the aftermath of the busy day of shuffling around the period of adaption was what kept me stuck to the windowpane every single day of the following week. Their presence was enigmatic to me. Their ins and outs were reduced to his short night walks when he took out the garbage.
My mother went to their house with a strawberry pie she had made. It was the way she used to introduce herself to the newly-arrived neighbors. There’s no harm in being polite. Those were not my words. I learnt them from her. It was her motto and her prerogative. She was too polite even with people who were not.
She went three times to our neighbors’ door. And the three times she had to come back with the pie in her hand. Either they were not at home or they were rude to the extreme and didn’t want to talk to her – or anyone else for that matter.
Her efforts were fruitless. She didn’t get to know them those days and when she had the chance her disappointment left her dumbstruck for a couple of days. The only sounds that came from that couple’s lips were monosyllables. A ‘yes’ over here; a ‘no’ over there; and from time to time a brief ‘excuse me I’m late’. There was never a smile. I concluded they were not very friendly.
They were in no mood to enter any conversation, trivial or significant. They were very private. Thick curtains were always closed in every window. This kept me more intrigued than before. Their comings and goings kept me guessing about what they could be doing for a living.
Three years ago I had to be secluded at home. I had come down with the flu and was forced to not leaving my bedroom for some days. When fever came down I entertained myself with spying out neighbor’s house. I began to elaborate several hypotheses. As soon as I considered them I discarded them. One by one they were falling like dominoes and I ended up having more doubts than at the beginning.
I once heard my mother speaking on the phone. She had a lively conversation. I was sitting in the stairs listening carefully. One of the many things she told to whomever it was on the other side of the line was that the couple living across us worked at home. That explained my doubts. I must confess that for a thirteen-year-old girl the options, although several, had not contemplated this last one.
Apparently he is a writer and his wife is his assistant. That explains some things but unfortunately not all of them. What sort of writer prefers to cover all the windows of his house barring the natural light, and consequently part of the inspiration, from getting in? Nevertheless my curiosity was aflame. The next day when I was on my way to school I couldn’t help looking at their letter box.
Kowalski. His name was not difficult for me to remember. It was not very common but one of my primary school classmates happened to share the same family name. I came home with only one purpose in mind. I was determined to find out more about him on the Net. Impatience had been growing up on me all morning. I was unable to distract myself even at lunch time. I tried to get caught by the gay spirit of my friends but their conversation bored me stiff. There was always the eternal theme of who was dating with whom. None of that interested me. At least not then that I was living a mystery so close to my home.
It was amazing the number of people whose names were the same as my neighbor. The list was endless. I reduced the search adding the word ‘writer’ to his name. Perhaps I was luckier that time. Far from hitting the target, I missed it. Because there were no results that combined the two objects of my investigation. I studied the screen carefully. Once, two, even thrice. I wanted to make sure if what my mother had said was true or she was being fooled.
I changed the title into something more concrete. On the search space I wrote the address although something inside of me was telling me this was not my lucky day. After 0,18 seconds I could check the futility of my try. Again there were no matches with what I was looking for. I tried several other options but the results were unsatisfactorily. Again
On a sudden thought I had this occurrence. Perhaps he didn’t appear anywhere because he wrote under another name. It’s quite normal. Many writers do. Still there was another possibility. All that time I had been assuming I was looking for a novelist. What if he was a freelance journalist instead? Many of them work at home. They write articles and are paid to express their opinions. They just have to turn on their computers and with a direct click all that’s happening in the world is at hand’s reach.
Later on I discovered he wrote science fiction novels under a false name proposed by his editors to make his books more commercial. A question of marketing it was. But there were still some loose ends and I still haven’t been able to explain them.
Now that the Kowalskis’ front porch light is switched off I can come out of my hideout. Their house has been the least illuminated of the neighborhood. That was only on the outside. Nevertheless the lights inside were kept switched on ‘till late hours in the night on most days.
I make my way out of here with the perspective of looking for a decent place to stay the night. Now that I have some money with me I can afford it.
I go to the nearest bus stop. Most motels are on the outskirts so I wait until number 5 makes its appearance. The place is deserted. I’m the only passenger waiting. It’s beginning to rain slightly. Rainy days used to be my favorite. And now… Well, now I’m not so sure about what I like and what I don’t.
The bus comes to its stop seven minutes after I do. When I get up there are few passengers returning home. They are interspersed inside the bus. Strangers sharing their paths and time with each other. I sit at the back with my senses on the alert. I have lost my confidence in others. And their eyes… Those mischievous looks… Everyone is my enemy. At least until the murderer of my parents pays for the crime he’s or she’s committed.
Inside I have developed a new sense that classifies everyone else as guilty of something. Probably I’m turning into a paranoid but I believe them capable of doing more harm than good.
It takes the bus half an hour to get me to the motel. I know of this place because a friend of mine told me about it. I’m not a regular of these places and neither is my friend. She was suspecting her father was cheating on her mother. Although more than a suspicion that came from scratch it was the continual fights among her parents. Or to be more accurate the never-ending accusations of guilt her mother bombarded his father with. Every day of the week was the same story. That’s what she told me. They began early in the morning and didn’t finish until late in the evening.
Tired of being the object of negotiation between the two of them, tired of the cutting remarks of her mother and the useless attempts of defense from her father my friend determined to go and check for it on her own. She wanted to know if her mother was right. She was hopefully expecting all of the things her mother said weren’t true. But whatever my friend found out there was nothing else any of the three could do to save the family. The marriage was broken long ago even before my friend was born. She could have done anything to help it no matter how much she tried.
One day she devised a plan. It was not the first time she skipped class although it was the first one she skipped the whole day. She forged her father’s signature. To my surprise she did a good job. The next day she gave her tutor the note with the excuse that she had been all day in bed. Something’s she ate didn’t agree with her. Apparently her tutor bought the whole story. She didn’t even bother to phone the parents. I have to add improvisation was the strong point of my friend. That and her angel face were an explosive combination. Adults never thought she could be capable of doing any wrong. She was not perfect but she was treated as if she was.
The day of her adventure all the planets aligned in her favor. The time she waited to follow her mother was eternal. That’s what she said. She had been hiding all the time under the bed of her own room. Her mother was the first to go to work, bad-tempered as always. Her father was the next in line. Usually it was the other way but the exception of that day was becoming a custom of lately. The reason was that he was supposed to catch a train. He had to travel to another city. It was not one of those habitual days of working at the office.
The minute he opened the door she came out of her room carefully of not making any noises that could alert his father of her presence. She took her bag and she put some of her books in it. Her father was supposed to be taking a taxi to get him to the station. But instead he took the bus. Same number I’m travelling on at this very moment.
She couldn’t believe her eyes when the bus her father got on was not bound for the station or anywhere nearby. All these last months, each time the silence was disrupted by an argument in her house my friend had called her mother hysteric. She came in defense of her father. She was convinced her father’s lack of attack towards her mother must have meant something. She assumed it was all due to the love her father still felt for her mother. That day she feared the worst. How would you feel if it had happened to you? Personally, I wouldn’t have known how to act.
Her surprise became even bigger when she saw her father mounting up the stairs of the motel I’m heading to. There was almost no doubt of his purpose there. Purpose that was confirmed when he knocked on the door and a woman in her underwear opened it.
She believed in him. What her father did, not only affected her mother, my friend was involved in it too. Needless to say I was aghast when she told me. Living under the same roof was impossible given the circumstances.
My friend was speechless for a week. I didn’t need her to tell me what she had found out because the lack of words already said too much. She was fighting her own war debating whether she should tell her mother or not. She finally chose not to but what my friend was doing was prolonging what should irremediably happen sooner or later. It was bound to be. The failure in the marriage didn’t have anything to do with her. She probably was the right in all that wrong.
A couple of months later her mother filed for divorce. She wanted the house and her daughter’s custody. And also a juicy amount of money in compensation for the harm her husband had caused. She had all she asked for. The only purpose of her husband was to come out of the equation.
I get off the bus and I walked towards the motel to order for a room. The guy at the other end of the counter smiles at me. A smile of confidence. He might be the simplest guy or he could be the most complex one in this world. I’m about to be seventeen. I’m already an adult now. Either I know too much or I don’t know anything at all. All the information I’ve been having in my little world is been taken from movies and novels. All my experience is reduced to the fantasy world.
The guy behind the counter gives me the key. I have this feeling that on this part of town people live in their own world disconnected from the rest. The apparent calmness surrounding this place is broken soon. Very soon. Every room could tell thousands of stories. Every door I pass by is keeping similar problems inside as the ones you watch on your TV set. Women who have run away from their partners, teenagers escaping their homes, and adults who, like my father’s friend, are aching for a new old experience that gives meaning to their meaningless existence.
I find my room. I go inside and I hope I am not making a mistake I would soon regret. There is a double bed and when I go to the bathroom I see it’s completely clean. There are no strange stains that make me wonder what they are or where did they come from. The bed covers smell of fabric conditioner and mothballs. I sit down and I’m glad it’s comfy. It’s not paradise but at least it’s bearable.
The only window of the room has a little crack on it. A small imperfection not to be given too much importance. I take out my brother’s notes and the bag of crisps. That is going to be my dinner tonight. There is a fast-food restaurant on the other side of the street but I’m too tired and I prefer to be lying in bed studying carefully what my brother wrote.
I’ve read them a couple of times before. This is the third time I’m trying to concentrate on finding some useful information. That’s why I take the last of his notebooks. This one was prior to his leaving. My reading is fast. I’m analyzing and scanning every word afraid to be missing something of vital importance. Maybe it’s because the situation has changed but I feel there’s something different this time. I have a mind that absorbs everything I hear, see or read. His words now have a new meaning. Each of them can have a connotation I haven’t perceived before.
I’m turning the pages back and front and back and front again. There is something secret hidden here. Perhaps what I need is to read between the lines, understand what is not written. The vision of a nearby future terrified him. He flew away. I knew the reason why he did it but what I have to discover is where to. I’m desperately trying hard to catch the hidden meaning I didn’t see before.
I’m tired. My eyes are beginning to blink too quickly. It’s difficult to being awake. I’ve been walking up and down all day and this is the first comfortable place I happen to be for seven days.
I know this night’s efforts are going to become to nothingness. I need a good night’s sleep to be able to start afresh in the morning. I put the notebooks back on my bag; I turn off the light and the second I close my eyes and I sink into a deep sleep.
The morning rays of light hit me in the eye. I’m still a bit drowsy. I hide my head under the pillow. I allow myself some more time. I look at my watch. It is twenty minutes past eleven. I get up and the first thing I do is taking a shower. These are the things I’ve always taken for granted. And after a few days of deprivation I appreciate them even more. It’s the most welcomed long absence habit. I pay close attention to my hair. My long blonde hair. I definitely need a good haircut. The ends are severely damaged. It’s been more than a year the last time I went to the hairdresser’s.
I wrap a towel around me. I’m dripping all over the floor. It feels like hell when I disentangle my hair with a comb I always carry in my bag. I still have that custom. Some years ago I was in the school swimming team. I trained three times a week on alternate days. I was methodical when I prepared the two bags: one for the books and the other one was a sports bag. The only thing I always forgot to put inside was a comb and I always had to borrow one. And just when I quitted the team I acquired that weird habit of including one with the books. It makes no sense and I can’t explain why I did it. I just put it there and there it has remained all this time.
While I’m putting something clean on, my stomach starts making some funny noises. I’m craving for an all-American breakfast with pancakes, syrup, a huge bowl of milk and cereals, scrambled eggs, sausages and bacon. I feel really hungry.
I put all my things back in the bag and cross the street. I go to the fast-food restaurant and when I’m about to go inside I notice the poster with my face in black and white. I continue walking and don’t even bother to look at it. I’ve seen it before. Too many times this week. The picture is everywhere. I’m surprised the guy of the motel didn’t recognize me last night.
A few more blocks away I find a diner. I take a chance and I go inside. I sit at one of the tables at the end. The game of lights and shadows in that part is crucial and I can go more easily unnoticed. The place is almost empty.
The waitress, a middle-aged woman with a curly red hair approaches the table to take note of my order. I act as naturally as I can. They probably have posters with my name and photograph on it. Or if not, they might have read it in the paper or watched it on the news. I’ve been front page on the tabloids these days. COUPLE MURDERED. DAUGHTER DISAPPEARS. Although there’s one point in my favor. People of this country have better things to do. They have their own problems to deal with than bothering with the everyday disappearances, murders, gang fights and robberies that do not directly affect them.
The waitress doesn’t even bat an eyelid or put a strange face when I order my breakfast. It’s not unusual to have breakfast at lunch hours. While I’m waiting for the meal I continue studying my brother’s notes. A couple of girls with a foreign accent enter the diner. They go straight to the bar and put their hugely tight backpacks on the floor. Their English is quite deficient and at every attempt of making themselves clear they can’t help giggling like two teenagers. The waitress pours them some coffee while they have fun with each other trying to decipher the menu.
Probably this is their first visit to the States.
Then the waitress also continues pouring coffee to the rest of the clients. All except me. I’m allergic to it. I’ve known of many kinds of allergies but I’ve never known someone could be allergic to coffee.
My breakfast arrives with a smiling bon appétit from the waitress red gloss lips. I practically devour the pancakes in no time. But my eyes cannot move from the notes. There are some words that don’t make any sense. At least not in the way they are written. Something about them rings a bell and I cannot say what it is. I read it over and over.
A sort of help – divine or not – comes to my rescue. The words indeed have a meaning. It was me who’ve failed in knowing what that meaning could be. Not until now. It was well written from the first but all his words have something in common. They are written in lower case letters. Even proper names. All this time I had this clue in front of my eyes and I didn’t even know it.
Shoemaker. That’s the name. He was a friend of my brother. They knew each other since kindergarten but my brother didn’t use to talk much about him. However it might be, their friendship was solid but my brother kept most of his things to himself. I probably heard him mention that name about once or twice at the most. But it was easily remembered by me because of those few times. It was the novelty. It was the first friend he talked to me about.
How could I forget it? How could I bury it in the back of my mind?
Apart from him I didn’t hear him speak of anybody else. No other friends that I knew of.
I finish what’s left of my breakfast. I pick up my things and I left the diner not without paying the bill first and giving the waitress a good tip. The guy sitting at the bar is reading the newspaper. I’m front page again. This is the five day in a row. I abandon the place like the ghost I am turning into.
Once outside I go to the nearest telephone booth which is round the corner. I am looking for the telephone directory. This is not a big city. I have some hope in not finding many people with the name Shoemaker. When I turn on the pages the ones between –Sh- and –Si- occupy five whole pages. There are three columns listing the numbers of people who share the name Shoemaker. It’s going to be more difficult than I imagined.
I don’t have any spare paper sheets to write all the information – the addresses and the phone numbers. I make up my mind and rip off the page. I folded it into four and put it in my pocket. I shouldn’t have done it but I think I have no other alternative. I’ll keep this page just in case I may need it later on. Although I seriously don’t think it is of any help right now.
I can’t figure out how to find the Shoemaker I am looking for. Besides I can’t afford to be phoning all these people. I have to be sensible and use my money wisely. Suddenly the good idea I thought it was, is gone. There is nothing I can do now. All I can think about is the same things I’ve done over and over. Lately I’ve been having these flashes quite often. I’ve reached a deadlock. I don’t know where to go from now on.
I don’t think I can mourn my parents until I find my brother.
I go back to my room at the motel. The bed is full of wrinkles. Last night I was so tired that I left it made. I lie in it facing upwards. I wonder if my brother is looking for me like I’m doing. He must have heard about it in the news. Or perhaps it was the police who contacted and told him.
I’ve been wandering all these days all over the town. There were no plans. All my actions were ad-lib from the beginning. From the moment I ran away. I acted instinctively. I think of my picture in the paper. I have a sudden feeling that if I change my appearance and the more I try to not being found the more not innocent verdict I attract towards me.
I’m in the middle of the circle. Just like my psychology book says. And I need to have a way out. It shouldn’t be hard. All I need is very simple: try to repair the non-premeditated wrong I’ve unconsciously done.
Maybe the most sensible thing for me to do right now is what I should have done it from the first day: going to the police. And maybe it’s not too late to repair it.
I paid this room for a day. I’ll stay some more time and then… Then I will go to them. I will go to them and I will tell them all I know. They probably are willing to hear what I have to say. My version of the story. Although there are not many details I can reveal to them. If they depend on it they are going to be disappointed. They are not going to make much of it.
I close my eyes. When I open them again the hour hand of my watch is two hours later. Now I think I’m ready or as ready as I can be. I gather all my things. I put them in my bag and I leave the place. I give the keys back to the guy who lent them to me.
I begin to walk very slowly. I’m in no hurry. There is still broad daylight. I see all these people, some of them walking by my side; some going on different directions. How many times have I thought about how boring my life was? I didn’t count them. Now there’s nothing I could wish for because there is nothing or no one that can bring me back what I have lost. All I did lose was lost forever.
I feel like I’m the one dead among all the living. My steps are heavy. I’m advancing in slow motion. Their lives have nothing to do with mine as I once thought my life was different from others I saw on the news. Those crimes they tell you on TV, the solitude of the victims, the brutality of the actions, the helpless in need or those abandoned at their will. I never thought I could be one of them. Never until now.
The air smells of rain. I stop and take a deep breath. I look up at the sky. In a few hours the sky’s color has turned from light blue to dark grey. I hear a thunder. It’s the prelude to the incoming storm. A storm that is already here. Above all of us.
When I lower my head my eyes meet the neon lights of the police station. Before I climb the steps I take a look around. The city’s bursting with colorful lights. Shops, cars, sirens… Everything is so lively that I feel ashamed for not being in tune with the world around me. But their song is not what suits me best right now.
I don’t have anything not even an excuse or a suitable explanation I can use as an apology. I don’t expect to be rewarded for what I did not do. And still there’s one point I haven’t had the time to analyze in full detail. What’s waiting for me from now own it’s something I haven’t devised.
Well I’ve been pondering about just one thing all this time. All else has been relegated to a second place. Enough is enough, I say to myself. I repeat those three words like a mantra in yoga. I’m just trying to steady myself because at this moment I can only depend on me.
I climb up the stairs and I do it as if I carry the world’s weight upon my shoulders. I swallow hard several times. I cross the door and put my things – the bag and all the metal I carry with me – in the X-ray metal detector at the entrance. The police officer offers me a warm smile. Obviously my photo has been distributed everywhere, even in this station. But this woman in her uniform hasn’t realized I’m that girl. The same one they are looking for.
I collect my things and I go directly to the board where my picture has been thumbtacked. I’m not the only one. The board is full of people like me. Different ages but with one thing in common: we’re all missing persons. And we’re all looking the same. That’s what all of us victims share with each other: the innocence. One way or the other, innocence is our weak point. Regardless of how old we are. Recent victims are displacing the old ones. The board is not big enough. I bet there are a lot of unresolved cases that no one cares about. A lot of files that are piling on top of each other in the basement rooms of these buildings gathering thick layers of dust sunk into oblivion.
I contemplate my photo. I see myself as if I was looking at a mirror. I go unnoticed. In this little universe that has a life of its own I go unnoticed. I prolong my posture in front of the picture hoping someone comes to my rescue, so to speak.
What am I supposed to be doing now? I cannot go on like this forever.
I wait for my turn on the line in the main hall. It is full of a much varied sample of the asphalt jungle tribes. And amongst all this melody I am the discordant note. The one who’s always out of tune. Prostitutes, drug addicts, beggars, thieves… Most of them re-offenders. Regular customers of the illegality.
I wait in silence with my head bowed. The guy before me smells of urine and alcohol. It makes me sick to my stomach. The woman behind me – or perhaps it’s more accurate to say the transvestite behind me – is humming Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I will survive’.
Their eyes intimidate me. That’s why I don’t look at them. I’m trying to avoid them at all costs.
Ten – perhaps fifteen – minutes later I feel someone’s hand on my shoulder. I turn around to see who it is and I feel relieved to discover a police officer by my side. ‘Honey you’re in trouble’, the transvestite says in a hybrid voice. But before she finished the police woman tells me to follow her.
It’s the sweetest voice I’ve heard for a long time.
At night the game between lights and shadows comes into play. At night the evil spirits go for the hunt of weak souls. Timid little creatures looking for somewhere to hide. Not many places are available. Where to go? What to look for? No one knows. No one can tell.
You are alone in the middle of nowhere. Who’s going to help you? Who cares about you? Born alone you die alone too. The inquisitive eyes of the strangers looking at other strangers. Blue, green, brown. The colors doesn’t matter. Their curiosity alights the otherwise dull brightness. The missing spark. You ever wonder why? Why it all has to be like it is? Why there are too many questions and not enough answers?
A movement in the darkest corner calls your attention. Who’s there? What’s there? Another one like you? Maybe. You’re not quite sure. You suddenly begin to feel uncomfortable. Is that a shiver what you’re experimenting? Yes. A cold and sweaty shiver. For no logical reason your body is in alert. There is no reason or so you think. Maybe there’s nobody in that dark place. Maybe you’re just imagining things. Probably. But the idea persists in your mind. The more you want to get rid of it the more it sticks to your brain.
Again you begin to feel uneasy. Is that for real? You think it is. Was that another movement from who knows what? It could be just anything. A homeless. A rat. For them there is no difference. They don’t care. But you do. This has more to do with you. After all you might be in danger.
You want to go, to walk away. But you’re caught in between. Your desire to know more impels you from running away. Or is it because of your fear? You cannot tell. You don’t have that answer. But unless others this questions seems fairly easy. Undecided to act one way or the other, you remain in this no-sense paralysis.
There’s something that keeps you like this. And you know it regardless of the fact that you’re going to regret it one way or the other. That’s why you remain there. Unable to tell how much time goes by while you are in the same position. The second hand of the clock moves slowly and heavily. You can hear it. The sound of every second is amplified in the silence. For a while you don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s making you feel even more nervous. Why does it have to be so complicated?
The echoes of a distant passer-by disturb the piercing silence. It woke you up from your momentary concentration. You don’t know where to focus your attention. The creatures of the night are way too different from the daily ones. Alike in appearance but opposing attitudes. For some kind of reason you don’t understand there’s a transformation. The opposites rule the world at night. Same body but a different personality.
Where to go? Everywhere’s the same. You rebel at yourself. Is it right to feel so wrong? Every decision is up to you now. You wish it weren’t so. Choosing is a hard task. Wherever you go and wherever you stay has a bitter taste. But then there is no guarantee that things are going to change for the better. You realize it and it makes you want to puke. Sensing its smell feels just like nauseous.
Wonder. Wonder. Wonder. Haven’t you stopped wondering? Doubts are all you have. There’s a surplus of hesitation someone injected through your veins. Now comes it all. It rushes through your blood. The path is the same. All the way up in the same direction as before. This is not the first time. You’ve gone through this. You know how it feels. You know what it feels. It’s way too familiar.
The border is too close. The town was divided long time ago. You’ve always stayed in this one. Never know what the other looks like. Will the stories be true? Is there someone who can tell or is it just a myth? Is it real or just invented? The only think you can see are the walls. The dividing line. Somebody had to build it. It’s not something you deduce. It’s something you learn. The first thing you are taught is to obey the rule. There is no more than one rule. Do whatever you want but stay away from the wall. The farther away the better.
The forbidden zone wasn’t built. One day there was nothing. The next day there it was. Who can remember anything? Everyone is too old to remember or too young to recall. There is no in-the-middle notion. The balance did not exist.
What are you really waiting for? You start walking. At least you know how to do it. The hesitation has taken you more time than necessary. You’ve wasted too many years like this. It seems there’s nothing else you can do about it. You keep on waiting. That’s the only thing you know how to do. But nothing’s changed every since you were a child. You started a decade ago. The street is the same. Only this time you are heading in the opposite direction. Another decade and you make the journey in reverse. The mirror in which your face reflects speaks quite clear. A few more wrinkles and you’re here again. Back to where you started. Walking in circles? The accumulated experiences on your back are the basic instincts for survival.
You gained not much more. But you have risked a lot. Perhaps more than you’d dared to confess. Why would you talk about it? You think it’s useless. Since no one cared for your life your expectations towards the human race have diminished. You have no faith in them. That’s understandable. What have they made for you?
Pain. It’s the only word which fits appropriate. Ever wonder why you were brought here? To feel pain. It’s the one thing you know for sure. The experience is unforgettable. And you suffered it on your own skin. There is a mark. You don’t know what it means. It’s a strange symbol. An abstract symbol. It resembles many familiar things in general but nothing in particular. You wear it on your left arm. It has been put there for a reason. There’s always a reason. For everything. You deny it. It’s not the first time nor it will be the last you do it. It is for you to remember. To remember who you are and where you are. You cannot escape the fate they’ve chosen for you. You never have a saying in it. It is not allowed.
You stop in your tracks to contemplate the only natural light up in the sky. It is full moon. The satellite looks bigger than ever. Is it just a perception? Your perception? Who put it there? You remember the day you were told about it. This is the new moon. Somebody made it to replace the old one. But it also has its failures. Artificial things can’t be as exact as natural ones. That explains why it is always full moon. Tonight’s no exception. Some things are burning your mind. This is one of them. What’s it for? What’s its use? You never knew the old one. You cannot tell for sure what it look like. You cannot compare. You cannot decide. But who put that up there? Something so big? Something so huge? It seems impossible. You sense you haven’t been told the truth. Without knowing it, you’ve been right all along. Your suspicions cannot be proved. Not by yourself. If you’d realize how much you know only through your instincts you’ll be scared. You’ve hit the center of the target too many times. And you’re oblivious of everything.
The moon is no moon. No real, artificial or whatever moon. It’s just a simple reflection. A spotlight. It makes sense over a lot of things. It resolves the mystery of why it is always at the same place. It does not move. Not like the old one. Still you don’t know how to find out if what you’re thinking is true or false. You don’t have that ability. Not as the rest. Nonetheless you were born with certain limits. They impede your growing up not so much physically but in those other planes.
The same impediment that now revolves around your head has been the over-repetitive bad actor of your many headaches. Your breathing gets a little bit difficult. Do you feel right? Are you OK? There are a lot of inconsistencies in your life you don’t manage how to explain. If there is a way, you don’t know it. Nobody’s ever sit by your side and talk to you about it. A good talk. That’s all you ever wanted. But it’s been so hard – almost impossible – to get. The lack of human touch didn’t make it easier either.
Some shadows pass behind you. You notice them. Who are they friends or foes? In a place like this you cannot trust in anybody. Confidence is an old trick sometimes the mind plays at you. You want to turn back and see them. If you were brave enough you’ll do it. But in that case you’ll have to be fast enough in your movements. The shadows are the masters and mistresses of disappearance. This is not the first time you’ve noticed them. Nor it won’t be the last. Sometimes they can be observing you from afar. They watch you meticulously. Sometimes they can follow you. They usually do. It’s normal. That’s how they behave. But you won’t ever see them. You only perceive them. They will never show to you.
You make up your mind and start to run like a devil. You don’t know where you’re heading to but you cannot stop. You think your life depends on it. You run because you’re afraid of the shadows. You don’t know what they’re capable of. You’re constantly hearing rumors about them but again the doubt persist in you. You’re completely blind in this matter. The notion of good and evil exist but no one knows who’s who. It’s not unusual to get confused. It’s a practice way too common.
You keep on running. You feel the blood pumping faster and stronger. Your level of endorphins is high. All your other notions are worthless. There is one object. One aim. Get out of here, says your brain. Now. Who are you to question him? He knows more than you. He’s there to protect you. You feel safer with him as your ally. He’ll be the only friend you can count on. You better take care of him and he will do the same for you.
Wait! Stop! Listen. Just for a few seconds. Try to recover your breath. You won’t survive if you keep running forever. That’s not how it works. You turn around. Slowly. No one’s there. You’re alone again. Now’s the time to relax a little bit. You have to give yourself time to think about it. That’s it. You’re recovering fast. You need not be that impulsive. You cannot go on like this. That’s not the solution. A change in strategy is what you need. Things work best if you give yourself time to ponder carefully about them. Maybe next time you won’t be so lucky. Your pulse returns to normal activity. That’s better now.
Again another headache intrudes in your thinking. Lately there had been too many. Too many aches and pains. The notion your life is miserable is not new to you. You’ve been thinking about it for a while. Perhaps for a longer while. A piercing sound hurts your ears. What is it? Where is it coming from? Lately you’ve experienced this sound too many times. It comes at the most unexpected of occasions. Why you? That’s the million dollar question. Why has it always to be you? Don’t try it. It’s useless. You’ll never find the answer. Others have tried it before. You’re not the only one. Others will try to find that answer when you’re not here.
It takes a few minutes for you to concentrate. You’re lost. When you look around you see you’re in a blind alley. You don’t know this part of town. Maybe you went out running in the opposite direction you were supposed to. It is darkest than the place where you come from. You have to go. You cannot stay here. Your steps are unsteady. You have to look where you’re treading. There are traps everywhere. The watchers put it there. You don’t know what time it is. You think it’s late but you’re not sure.
The sky looks about to rain. You can inhale the rancid smell of something wet. It’s in the air. But it’s quite improbable. It’s been ages since the last drop of water fell from the sky. You’ve never seen the rain in your whole life. How can you be so sure? You don’t know what it looks like. You’ve never been told. Who’d have put that notion into your head? You’re not quite sure although you remember yourself reading about it. Where? That’s a good question. Again you don’t have a response. It’s not likely for you to forget things as important as this one. Something’s been happening. It’s been affected you as well. Don’t think you’re immune.
You walk away from that blind alley. That was pretty close but again you managed quite well to avoid danger. Don’t think it’s your fault. Don’t let that idea contaminate your brain. Self-blame does not work. It’s not going to help you. Martyrdom was never a good option. You could never have done anything to avoid it. Now you’re like the rest. You’re one of many. You’re no different than they are.
How many times playing the fugitive? The old game of hide-and-seek. Why are you running away from them? You don’t know them. You don’t know who they are or what they are capable of. But the stories are engraved inside of you. Will you ever be free? You’ve never taste what the flavor of liberty is. Is that sweet or bitter? Maybe you’ll never know because the price to pay is way too exorbitant.
Where are you going now? It’s sensible to act in a logical way. Think well before you can act. The other alternative looks better still. That’s why you choose to follow your instincts instead. It’s worked before in a couple of times. You have this feeling you can’t explain. It’s like you’re going to find something you were not aware you were supposed to be looking for. You make something risky. Although you’ve been away from home for too long you don’t want to go back. You’ve wandered incessantly. If this is hell or high water you definitely prefer to be in hell. At least it’s a familiar place. You need a rest. You have to get away from all this. Last night was not so bad. It was acceptably comfortable. You slept well with no interruption. It’s not a good idea to stay in the same place twice. Not now that you are being looked for. Why are you being chased? You did nothing wrong. You’ve never infringed the rules.
This is not right. It feels not right. You missed your old routine. But it’s not time yet to go back to your origins. First you have to find out more. That’s why you came here. That’s why you are here now.
The last time you messed things up was when you asked what you were not supposed to. Since then you went ahead. There’s a debt you must pay. A debt to yourself. Once you started you cannot stop. Not now that you think you’re so close to the end. For better or for worse you must continue. The next objective is to look for a bed. You have to be ready for what will come next.
All the buildings look the same. You know one you know them all. Same distorted faces. Ugly masks playing with death. Weak spirits with invisible auras. Restless souls who know one thing only: they are the bad joke of somebody’s drunken night. Creepy creatures seeking refuge like you. You’re one of them too. Unintentionally you met them. You belong to this world. Escaping from the fears that haunt you. Mesmerized at the same phantoms of the imagination.
A murmur fills the air. You’re very close to the refuge. At the end of the street and around that corner. Ancient brothels occupied by outcasts. Black buildings mixed with the black night. Sun will never shine again for them. If you stay here too long you might become one of them too. Unhygienic constructions half-brick, half-stone. A few more steps and you’re already there. The putrid smell infests your nostrils. A source of infection. This place is not suitable just for everybody. You shouldn’t be here but you have no place to go. At least these places are free. You won’t be charged anything.
As you enter the building you know you don’t have to look them in the eye. They will never look at you but they’ll notice if you do. You learnt this the first night out. If you want to go unnoticed you have to do as they do. Their bodies are physically there but their heads have gone strayed. You learnt fast to live like them.
You walk up the stairs. If you’re lucky enough you’ll find a room for yourself. It’s not pleasant to share the same space with one of them. You may not be waking up the next day. The last thing you need right now is an added risk to the list. One more worry and it will be too much for you. The day has been long. You need to lie down for a while. Some faces ring a bell to you. Lost souls with no destination have crossed your path often. You are lucky. There is one room unoccupied. It’s small but it will suit its purpose. There is one mattress on the floor. It’s dirty all over. There’s a strong smell of urine in the room. Red blots scattered everywhere on the floor. There is no steam. When was the last time you stood in front of a steam shower? Your body has remained unclean for many months. Steam is a luxury here. The rates of infections are higher than if you were outside. You don’t care. You are determined to follow that path to the last of consequences.
You take off your jacket. It’s covered in mud. You fold it and use it as an improvised pillow. The smell of the mud is not nice either but at least you prefer it to the mixture of urine and dry blood. You close the door and you know you won’t be perturbed. There are norms here too. Unwritten norms respected by all these derelicts.
You can forget about the rest of the world. There are better things to care about. One hour later you have your first nightmare of the night. You are restless even in dreams. That’s one of your many battles. You can’t stop fighting even while you’re sleeping. The old recurrent images lurking in the deepest of your memory.
When you usually wake up you remember everything. It’s always been like that since you were a kid. That’s too much information. In some occasions it’s been useful. But there are times when you don’t know what that means. Your dreams are full of data. Quite often it seems without sense. And here no one can help you. If you told them they would imprison you. Your case deserves careful consideration. Your brain would be studied. You’ll be a toy between white rubber gloves.
You don’t want that. That’s why you have remained silent. That’s why you’ve been hiding. The lights frighten you. You are continually searching for the dark. Your capabilities frighten you too. You remember what you did in the past. It’s not comforting. You are ashamed but then you could not choose. You blame them for that. Now you know you’ll never be the same. There’s no turning back.
You have no friends. There are spies round every corner. Even in the most godawful places. Places so sordid you cannot dare to name. Places like this one. This building. This room. This is not hell. Hell is everywhere. Hell is all. Hell is surrounding you.
You suddenly open your eyes. You can’t see anything. All is dark. Be quiet now. Listen carefully. There’s a noise. You feel your muscles paralyzed. You cannot move even if you want to. There’s agitation downstairs. You hear the sound of steps upstairs. The wooden steps are creaking. Some creatures shout. Others cry. You hold your breath. That’s the best and the only thing you can do. You know it’s you they’re looking for. Is this going to be all? Is this how it’s going to end? Somehow you’ve kept it coming. The adventure of the outlaw is going to finish.
You hate it. Sooner or later you’ll be in their hands. They all more or less want to lay their hands on you. There will be no escape. You’ll be their prisoner forever. Your mental digressions are making you lose time. You weren’t supposed to be waiting for them to catch you. You planned to fight them. You were not supposed to be an easy prey.
There are more shouts and more cries. The building is being vacated. Someone kicks at your door. You’ve had enough. It’s the sign you’d be waiting for. You spring out of the mattress. Think. Do it. And do it fast. You have not much time. You don’t have minutes. You don’t even have seconds. What are your exits? What can you do? You have to act fast but your mind is blocked. You come up with nothing. There has to be a solution. All problems have one. Why don’t you have it?
Now there’s a knock on the door. Time’s up. All right. Relax. You hear them talking on the other side. You can’t catch their words. What language is that? Or is it a new dialect? It’s new to you. What are they saying? The inflections of their tones go up and down. Damn it! What was that? You know that word. Where have you heard it? Shit! You can’t remember. You’re losing your faculties. Now they’re talking in whispers.
The window! It’s your escape. So close and so far. You think you could reach it in time? You just have one try. If you fail there won’t be a second chance. The door is secured from the inside. You still have some time before they knock the door down. Don’t forget your jacket. It’s dirty but it still can become handy. The nights are still freezing if you have to stay out in the open. Don’t waste one more second. Open the window and get out. You’re glad of the smell. It’s not exactly air but it’s better than what you’ve been inhaling in that room.
The cornice is broken. This might not be your lucky day. Too many obstacles in your way. Better be careful where you put your feet. A footstep in the wrong place and it’s over. That’s an advantage you’re not afraid of heights. You move slowly but firmly. You’re on your own. Better be careful. One little step, then another. It’s been ages since you left that filthy room. Time escapes your control. You have to reach the next room before it’s too late. Better be quick if you don’t want them to find you. In no time one of their heads could be leaning out of your window. They will spot you and immobilize you.
You won’t be killed. You’re more useful to them alive. More than you think. But death will be better for you than to be alive if they catch you. You move your head right and left and right again. Once. Twice. Thrice. There’s no sign of them yet. You cannot linger here much time. Go now. Some more steps and you’ll be safe. Safer than before.
You finally reach the next window. You look inside. It’s empty. The door is slightly open. That’s a good sign. This room’s been searched before yours. You decide to hide behind the door. You spy what’s happening on the corridor through a small hole in the doorframe. The movement continues. Every room is being registered. Those poor souls continue screaming to no avail. No one will have mercy on them. Their destiny was decided before they were born. But you won’t let the same happen to you. You know they’ll be executed. They can be disposed of.
This is not an ordinary raid. Something must have changed. The one who makes the rules is the one who alters them. You wonder what made a change of mind like this. You stay as quiet as you can. You are scared they can hear you breathing as more and more of them go to and fro along the narrow corridor. Suddenly your head gets assailed by a lot of images. Some of those images you once dreamed of come true. This somehow worries you. You try to establish the connection between them. Between what is real and what is not. Lately there have been a few coincidences. Perhaps too many this last week. But the thing that’s really becoming a problem is how closer you are to the danger. Inextricably the more you follow the clues the more risk you run.
A few years ago, when all this started, you managed quite well to avoid them. You’ve always have gone one step ahead of them. But now the distance is getting shorter. You begin counting the times you were this close. Maybe this will help you find out their modus operandi. Only one number comes to you. That is number six. That’s the total amount of times your life was been in danger of being caught by them. You think that only means the answer will be soon in your power. You’ve been waiting so long. But this is not the end of the road yet. The hardest part comes now. Whatever you might think about the difficulties and the obstacles you had to overcome there’s a lot you have to see yet. You have the premonition. You’ll see it soon.
You have started muttering something incomprehensible even to yourself. Perhaps an old prayer. You cannot say. You’ve listened to creatures speak many different languages. But the words that now come out of your mouth have nothing to do with them. You know those words by heart. Have been repeated them over and over. Each time you do you feel a strange sense of comfort. The soothing pronunciation has a pleasant effect on you. Like a mantra. There’s something that’s been eating you up for quite a long time. You won’t be at peace with yourself until you solve the equation.
You suddenly stop muttering. It’s been like a reflex action. Something involuntary. Not planned. You stay quiet and you only hear silence. How much time has passed? Who can tell? The measuring of time belongs to a few. The place is calm now. Still you decide to remain where you are. Only a little while. To make sure the danger is over.
The place is empty. You don’t know if anyone can escape besides you. Get ready to leave this awful place. You open the door completely. The squeak of the hinges pierces your ear. It’s maddening. That’s something you cannot explain. Why you’re becoming so sensitive lately. Sensitive to the sounds, sensitive to the smells and yes, why not, sensitive to the point you cannot stand being touched. It’s a sickening sensation burning you inside. As you come down the stairs you remember what it was like that disgusting feeling of those hands touching yours in need of help. You went out running, looking for somewhere you could find a sort of disinfectant. Infections are easily contagious here. But again the contradiction comes into play. What you are trying to avoid is dragging you towards. The chain links are impossible to break. They go together, hand in hand. You cannot stand the places you sleep in every night. But there you go. A destructive relationship keeps you completely tied.
You wonder what’s become of her. Oftentimes you’ve thought about it. Probably she died. It’s not remorse what you feel. If she’s dead it’s not your fault. You couldn’t have done anything even if you wanted it to help her. She probably deserved it. That is cruel of you to say even if you don’t say it with words. Paradoxically the acuteness of your sensitivity is making you insensitive. If that is so then why you keep thinking about her? The more you try to avoid it the more you cannot do it. It’s become an obsession for you. You cannot waste your time like this. You had your chance with her and you did nothing. Then why are you feeling guilty? After all that’s what you wanted: to do nothing.
She was of no help to you. You wouldn’t find the answers you have been looking for if you stayed with her. There are few answers in this world. You ever wondered what was the cause of it all. What is the origin of this darkness? Why did you have those experiences? Why have you been having these feelings?
Your journey must continue. You cannot stop if you want to know the truth. It must be daylight. The old daylight. Sunset and daybreak are theoretical notions of a few past generations. It’s been eons of the sun. The energy was diminishing. There were some predictions but no one could foretell the exact day the sun would disappear forever. Now terms like sun, moon and the stars are part of what someone calls science fiction. The moon was replaced by a giant spotlight fed by a generator. There is nobody who can remember what it felt like the rays of the sun hitting your face or feeling the effects of the several phases of the moon. The whole galaxy has been reduced to this town. All else has died. But the truth is not available for everyone. Only a few privileged know the total truth. They pass it from father to son like the only inheritance they have.
Now you live life in complete darkness. And you’re not the one. There are no trees or flowers and of all the animals only the nocturnal ones and all the vermin have survived. Humans don’t go beyond forty and the worn expression in their eyes is a bad omen of what is going to become of the human race. Who’s caused it all this is the permanent question which has made a nest in your brain.
You are hungry. You’ve been three days without eating. You look like a walking skeleton. All bones without flesh. The world’s dying and you’re dying with it too. You have to look for something to eat. You have nothing to give anybody back in exchange for a piece of something decent you can eat. There are not many things that you like. The majority of the food is repulsive to all your senses. Chemical mixtures of synthetic proteins, vitamins and minerals. Enough to keep you alive for the moment. What about the flavor? Plastic tastes of plastic only. All this decrepitude makes you feel more miserable even that could be possible.
You begin your search for food. You start thinking of new tricks to get it. Now the security is stronger. The old expending machines were empty long time ago. Now there is no other choice but to go to where they sell it. Anonymous premises run by anonymous guys where they give you the same tasteless stuff behind a prison of bulletproof windows. Cameras recording who goes in and who goes out. Your movements are controlled in these places. It’s for protection. They need to identify who’s going to steal them. But who is really stealing who?
You won’t go to where you went last time. You’d be recognized and you don’t want that. You want to preserve your anonymity but that won’t be easy. All your movements are under control. The inquisitive eye wants to know everything about everyone. You are no exception.
Hands in your pockets you start walking. Next stop you don’t know still. You think you’ll figure out later on. Have been pondering about it lately. The number of places available is less every day. More of them are closing. The owner of all of them is the same. Only one owner. Some hybrid specimens with hieratic faces serve you the essentials to survive. You pull a grimace of disgust at the thought. But it’s been three long days with no intake of whatever grub. It feels weird but you’re getting used to it.
You walk a few more blocks. There’s already a long queue waiting outside. It’s still too early in the morning but there are always people impatiently ready to receive their daily dose. You are caught in this indecision among to stay or to go. You decide to stay although the perspectives don’t look any good. They are getting smarter. There probably won’t be enough food to reach for the dozens of people standing in line before you.
You need food more than the majority of the queue. You haven’t thought of an alternative in case you don’t get it. But then again something can come up. Almost always something happens. Something unexpected. You’re no friend of surprises. Never been fond of them even when you were a child. You came at that conclusion too early in life when surprises had a negative meaning. But some of them have benefited you.
A mother with a baby in her arms is behind you. She asks you if you’re the last one. What a stupid question, you think. Again you show how well-behaved you are honoring the education your parents gave you and you keep your thoughts to yourself. There is no need to be rude. Not now. There’s plenty of time when you’ll be put to the test. What would be the use of wasting your energies right now? What good could it be?
You nod with your head. Who’s got your tongue? Maybe it’s been too much time since you last spoke. You always have to rationalize what you want to say. That explains why you don’t have many friends. There’s nothing you think you may have in common with them.
You look at the baby. The eyes are big for such a small head. You wonder if it’s a boy or a girl. It’s still too early for you to know. At such age it’s not easy to differentiate them just by looking at their faces. Innocent faces like these are used by their mothers to melt the hearts of others. That’s why they carry those babies with them everywhere. Others have pity of them and they have no problems in getting what they want. But it’s not always like this. The trick is not new although from time to time they resurrect the old dodges.
The angelic face with its rosy cheeks doesn’t change your attitude. You have a purpose in mind and you’ll get it whatever it takes. Nothing will take you back. Your determination is strong beyond measure and you don’t let anything affect you. You don’t trust anyone. You think that’s what has kept you alive so far. Maybe you’re right but it’s nothing you can demonstrate.
You’ve been waiting for quite a while and there is no movement in the queue. Everybody is where everybody was when you arrived. You try to not betray your emotions and pull a straight face but you don’t like this. You’ve becoming too much suspicious lately with due reason. Potential enemies hide behind nice and inoffensive masks.
Children. Have you ever thought about them? What kind of future awaits them? The world is dying and no new generations can do anything to change what was sentenced beforehand, before they were born. Some have come into this world accidentally. Soon the innocence is lost and evil forms part of every soul. Too bad the dice were cast before their time. It hurts to think in these terms. What good can it make you? Nothing. You already knew that. But you are getting immune to living this way. At first it was not easy but your skin has become harder all this time. There have been many changes in your life recently. Your old habits were gone. New ones have taken their place.
There’s a lack of understanding between your words and your thoughts. Your dialectic skills have become rusty while your mind is getting stronger. This lack of balance has made you leaving the old custom of beating about the bush. Now you’re more direct. You are laconic. You don’t give explanations to anybody. What for? The less they know about you the better for you. Your no-communication with all of them is a shield that’s been protecting you so far. Not only illnesses are contagious.
You look up into the sky. A dense mass of pollution is in possession of the upper layers of the atmosphere. Like a permanent cloud above your head. You’ve never seen a real cloud so you cannot make a comparison. You cannot tell what they were like. You’ve never seen the rain either. That’s why the water is now so valuable. Ancient stories told of the rain. All the writings were destroyed and those stories go from mouth to mouth. You’ve heard some of them and you long for what it would be like to feel drops of rain touching your skin. A simple and old pleasure out of reach for you.
The others don’t care about these trifles any more. Others don’t have the same inquiries you do or the same yearnings you do. Other than the same DNA sequence you don’t share anything else with the rest of the human race. But every time you turn your head you see the same cherubic little round face ignorant of the big problems; oblivious of the world he was brought to. You wonder if he will live enough to tell the tale. Life expectancy has been drastically reduced since first the sun and then the rain disappeared forever.
But this is not a time of darkness due to the lack of sun, it is mainly because civilization as once was known exists no more. This is the last remains. This is all there is just by now. And while you stare wondering, others have neutral faces.
By now it should be broad daylight though you can’t tell the difference. You just know it. How? Perhaps by the biological rhythms. You don’t want to be here. You should be on your search. You left all you had in exchange.
A Vigilance Five-Wheels passes by. You pull up the collar of your worn-out jacket. You don’t want to be recognized. You try to cover your face in the most natural way. You try to look away. Your eyes may betray you. The Five-Wheels moves slowly scanning the faces of those at the queue. Most of them are homeless. You temporarily are one of them homeless too. Mixing among them has saved you quite often. It has been your covered exit in many occasions.
With the corner of your left eye you watch the Five-Wheels passing by. Now you’re ready to go. Surreptitiously you walk away and nobody observes you. The mother of the baby is too busy with her own things too. You leave the queue not so unhappy. Still you have to find something to eat. Suddenly it comes to you the remembrance so long forgotten. You missed the soup your mother cooked. It felt good and nice to have something warm to eat for a change. The tasty remembrance makes you salivate like never before. Your mouth is watering. The absence and the uncertainty of repeating past experiences are the cause.
You want to go home but you’re afraid nothing will be the same. And you’re afraid you won’t be welcome. But there’s something worse. Maybe you won’t be remembered if there is anybody alive.
There’s anything you can do about it right now. You have other things in mind. More important and intriguing things. Even if your suspicions come true and you have no family to care about you, you have to do what you came here to do. At least for them.
Inexplicably you’re not hungry now but you won’t survive unless you find some food. It won’t be warm but you’re very close to finding the answer and you cannot give up.
It feels cold. A chilly gush of wind caresses you and plays with your hair. You wish you were not born. Not in this world. When you look around all you can see are long faces. It’s depressing. The few that are still alive will die soon. Most accelerate that process and prefer to kill themselves. Their bodies appear everywhere with signs of violence they inflicted upon themselves. There are no miracles to make them reconsider it. Regret is kept inside. A worthlessness feeling grows inside. Sometimes you’ve been feeling like that too. Luckily for you it is only momentarily.
You go to another establishment. It’s not open. You come up with an idea. You won’t have another chance so you’d better be quick. You look around for something you can break inside. You know the futility of the situation if you try to break the windowpane. Every attempt will make you more desperate. Others have tried before you and the only result obtained was the excess of attention received.
Making noise is not good for you if you want to remain undiscovered. But you don’t want to give up yet. There has to be something else you can do. You can’t think clearly. This is like running around. A clear consequence of being deprived of the essentials for some time and the mind soon registers a fall in activity. Your moves are awkward and your wit slows down.
‘That won’t work man’, says a hoarse voice behind you. You turn around to watch the owner of this message. It’s a consolation for you to know you’re not the only one in need. He looks worse than you. He takes a step towards you and you can breathe his smell. There’s a mixture of absinthe, vodka and cheap wine coming from his mouth. You look intermittently first the establishment, secondly this dude. You guess he’s probably right although you don’t tell him.
Your eyes get hypnotized when you see his bag. You wonder if he’s going to attack you. You always think the worst of others. Why not? You have to be careful who you meet on the streets. You’re not the only one with inquiring eyes. This stranger has some questions too. Who are you? Where are you from? How did you come here? All of them irrelevant questions right now. He’s eager to know many things about you and you’re in a hurry about other things.
He opens his bag and he offers you something that looks anything but delicious. It smells rancid to say the least. He keeps his arm extended at you. It’s not an attack after all. It’s more an offering of peace. You doubt whether to take it or not. You swallow hard and hold your breath. Finally you accept his offering. You mutter something intelligible that sounds the way ‘thank you’ does.
You sit at the curb to eat it. After all these years you have not get used to this stuff. All those chemical products they use and what for? At least they could make something with a better look and taste than this. He sits beside you. You’d prefer to be alone. Not now please. That’s what you say to yourself. You try to ignore him and for quite a time you manage to do it. You don’t need it but some creatures are not so good at taking hints. Or perhaps it is that you’re not so good at expressing them.
He continues babbling and chatting about a lot of things that doesn’t interest nor concern you. He offers you something to drink but you decline. You don’t want to be drunk and all he can offer you contains alcohol in some degree or other. You have to be sober. You stand up ready to go. You start walking and he imitates you. He’s following you. You try to get rid of him. Your walking is brisk. He’s doing what he can to adapt his pace to yours while he keeps on talking. What’s with him? What does he want?
You hope sooner or later he takes the hint. Until then you go directly to your objective. You know where it is and you cannot wait much longer. You carry with you what they need. Something you stole from them. If you want some answers you better give them something in return. And what better than what you took from them? Otherwise you won’t have any chance. Any threat is punished with death. But you know there are worse things than death. Living in this hell is one of them. You contemplate it like a relief and not a condemnation.
Before you realize it the other guy has vanished. When did you last hear him speak? Where did he go? It doesn’t matter now but you’re glad he disappeared. Inexplicably for you, incessant memories come to you in flashes. It’s because you have less and less time. They don’t follow an ordered sequence. They appear randomly. It’s a rewind of your mind taking gold treasures from an ancient chest. You see yourself at different ages. When you were a small kid there was the latent promise of hope. A hope that never came to you.
But it’s true that you didn’t know the meaning of the word disillusionment. You had other plans back then. Is it funny? Because right you, you are laughing. But no. A tear slides down your cheek. It doesn’t make you laugh but cry. You lost more than you gained. It’s not fair. You walk faster now. You can feel your pulse in your temples. It looks like a headache. A hammer hitting on your head. Rushes of blood through your veins. The pump of your heart. Feels you’re going to explode like the tick tack of a bomb.
You came here with nothing and you have nothing to lose. They took everything from you a long time ago. And you left. You left because you needed to know what they didn’t tell you. They owe you an explanation. You are determined to get it one way or another.
You continue walking all along the street. You know something was not right. You were wrong. It wasn’t ‘something’. It was all. The human race was doomed since the very beginning. Why? You’ll soon gonna find it.
You’re getting impatient. With every step you take your anxiety grows. Remember the photographs and the old videos? It was you all over. The main star. You at age five, seven or ten. Complications came in your teens. Cables connecting your head to a machine. Electroshocks paralyzing your brain activities. The last sessions of psychiatric violence made your body convulse. And you became an enemy of the system. The system’s a friend and you’re not. Who’s gonna buy it? Who can tell?
Lobotomy, long prohibited, was put into practiced again. You were about to being readjusted. Your brain was being reprogrammed. But you escaped in time. And now you live to tell. There are not many who you can tell. When everything failed most creatures where on the road to perdition.
The streets are always this empty except at some places. Desperation is what remains. You’re beginning to run. Like a madman. Maybe you are. Otherwise you’ll turn away because there is nothing you can do to change the rules. But at least you wanna try. There’s a spark in you that has been keeping you alive, protecting you until you get what you came here to do. You were born with a mission in anticipation. Only you didn’t know it until you were fourteen. And you were a rebel. An exile in this town. Looking for somewhere to hide. Racking your own brains.
Do you hear that? It’s music. A product of your imagination? It’s very distant. One immortal song is guiding you. The song of your younger years. Could it be a trap? You follow your instincts like a mouse follows the smell of cheese. Confusion’s been a long-time partner of yours in those days when the only thing you were able to distinguish was a blur. Nonetheless you keep going. What to expect? The other version of the story perhaps. The version no-one has told you yet.
Your elders have tried to protect you while others have tried to harm you. You long for a different world. This is a different world but not the one you wanted. And now, though you’re still too young to die, you won’t cease to pursue what pushed you to be here. Either it’s too early or it’s too late for you. Your opinions are not going to change much that matter.
Almost without a single breath in you, you stop. Only a few more steps and you’d be officially in their domain. The high fortress with its higher vigilance towers rises in front of you. Probably the biggest inhuman construction since the dawn of man. You’re not afraid of what’s going to happen. You’re afraid of what’s not going to happen. Silence is more terrific than the deafening sound. You want to go on but you cannot move. What’s wrong now? You’ve spent all your brief adult life waiting for this moment.