A family is preparing for a long awaited journey. It is a travel of their lifetime.
|The room is dim lit by noon sunlight and stinking from the unclean plates in the kitchen sink. Murray drew the curtains and in a flash the morbid room gained vitality from the sun rays. Debra was lying on the couch with her head sunk in the cushions. With squinting eyes she sat straight on the couch and asked Murray, “What’s the time?”
“Its half past 12 honey. You have already missed your breakfast. Let me enjoy your company in lunch.”
“I am still feeling full. You carry on.”
Debra was about to get up when something crossed her mind and she flopped back in the couch. Her squinting eyes were now wide open and words came out of her spontaneously, “Oh!!! I almost forgot about the date.” She quickly looked at Murray and asked, “Any news about that? Did they postpone it again?”. With crossed fingers in both hands and earnest plea on her face she told Murray, “Please please tell me something promising..”
“Whoa whoa whooooah!! Hold on Deb. Don't panic.” Murray came near Debra and held her hands firmly.
“It is finally happening. On the decided date. No more stay” assured Murray.
Debra’s sudden panicked face now submerged in calm as she dropped her head releasing the breath she was holding while hearing him out.
Murray went to the kitchen and took out a ready-to-eat meal from the refrigerator. He was about to warm his meal when Debra came to the kitchen sink to do the plates. Murray was surprised and couldn’t help but ask, “I will sort them dear. Leave it for me”. Debra happily replied, “Thanks anyways. But it’s the dishwasher’s job not your’s. Besides I haven’t been in my kitchen for almost a week. I guess.” Murray gave a dry smile and corrected her, “Uh-huh. It’s more than two weeks honey. By the way any luck with your appetite?”
“Umm. I suppose i can have a bite of those granola cookies”, she said it while moving towards the cookie packets strewn on the dining table.
Debra quickly nibbled on a cookie and started walking towards her daughter’s room. It was at the eastern side of the house and its windows opened to a brief lawn that is set against the bright eastern sky. The room is just perfectly decorated with teddy printed pink wallpapers, floral sheets on the bed and mickey shaped lights on the ceiling. While the entire house reflected several days of domestic neglect, this room stood out with its speck less tidiness. Every single object is at the right place, the sheets don’t have a single crease, the air has a sweet lavender scent, even the toys looked well disciplined standing at their respective places like obedient pupils. Debra looked around the room with a strange satisfaction. Her pursed lips gave a brief contented smile, while her eyes looked hollow. She picked up a soft toy donkey and left the room.
Debra came to the living room and asked Murray if he could serve her some coffee. “Yes sure honey. I would be delighted.”, Murray replied with a happy face. Debra switched on the TV set and surfed through Netflix for kids movies. She asked Murray aloud “Do you remember her favorite animated movie?”
“Yes hon. Absolutely. How could I ever forget that evening when she wouldn’t stop talking donkey.”
Debra now grinned as her movie hunt ended and she played the movie Shriek from the beginning. Murray joined her too and handed her a mug of coffee. Her body shook in mirth while she said “Poor Jack. He looked so helpless. He was struggling to get her order”
“Oh C’mon Deb. What would that poor fella figure out from her hee-haws?!”, Murray answered while laughing equally.
The entire evening passed by in watching movie. Both of them stretched out on the couch and kept playing movies. One after another. Occasionally, one of them would take brief breaks for snacking or for restroom and quickly resume on the couch. The bright sunshine that filled the room gradually faded and darkness began to paint the floors, ceiling and finally the walls. Like a lone torchbearer the TV set struggled to keep the living room partly visible with its warm light. Debra was the first to notice the fading light. She sprang up and scooted to her daughter’s room to turn on the light. The mickey light turned on showing an eternally happy mouse. She turned on another switch and instantly a handful of stars were thrown across the room. They kept moving with the rhythm of the calm tune of a piano.
“I turned on the lights for her. It is getting dark”, Debra told Murray as she sat on the couch again. “It’s getting a little chilly too. Let me turn on the heat a bit”, Murray said while getting up very slowly resting his hands on his aching back. He walked towards the heater with an apparent oldster shuffle. A sudden thought crossed Debra and she again sprinted to the star studded room. She turned on the humidifier this time and tiptoed out of the room while softly shutting the door behind. She sighed with a relief and retreated on the couch. Murray returned now and picked up the soft toy donkey from the couch. He looked at it with a suspicion and questioned her, “This seems a bit different. Or is it my eye bluffing me?”.
“You are right. This is the other one. You are talking about the old one. Are you?”, Debra’s response helped Murray remember the day they shopped for the toy. Murray now cuddled the toy and recalled “Oh yeah. Now I get it. Her donkey needed company.” Murray again had a questioning look and was about to ask Debra something when she spoke to him. It was as if she could read his mind at the nick of the time. “Don’t worry. The old one is with her.”. Murray gave a sigh of relief.
The next day was a busy day for both Murray and Debra. They both got up early in the morning. It was not the alarm clock or any phone call; they barely slept through the night on the recliner couch in the living room. Debra was pacing up and down the hall trying hard not to forget the stuff she has to carry today. They are packing up for a long journey to a state secured building. Both of them looked restless while they gathered documents and driving licences. It was a fat bunch of papers they were carrying along. Debra scurried to their daughter’s room before leaving. She picked up a little blankie and hurriedly returned to the car. Murray was just about to move the wheel when Debra frantically spoke aloud,”Oh! Stop stop stop. I am so sorry. I forgot to buckle her car seat.” She finished her job and settled cosily in her seat and they left.
They started from their downtown home, leaving behind all the hubbub and commotion of a city. Sky high buildings and wide highways were gradually replaced by thick forests and slithering mountain roads, as they traveled towards their destination.
After a drive of 4 hours, the car came to a halt before a humongous gate. The walls on the either side were gigantically high and continued endlessly towards the horizon on either side. The ghastly white walls were spotless with no Halloween graffiti on them, yet they vibrated an eerie feeling to any beholder. In a moment’s time the gates unlocked automatically. The mechanical maneuvering made loud noises that sounded like a roar of a hungry ogre, opening his jaws to devour his first morsel of manly treat. The car smoothly entered through the door into a world of profound silence.
Debra and Murray were received by a crisply uninformed person who led them to a hall. The passage leading to the hall had several uniformed people. The people here not just share the uniform, their faces reflect the same placid mood. Debra and Murray met Col. Joseph in the hall and they shared greetings to each other with a customary smile. Within moments Debra peeled away from them and headed towards the seating area. Joseph looked at Murray into his eyes and formally asked, “Does she know about the new development?”. Murray was caught off guard and felt awkward. He finally managed to reply, “Yes. I guess she knows”. Colonel curtly replied to it “I am hoping she will be aware before the final call. Just be here for now. I will be back soon”. Col. Joseph exited the hall and Murray looked tensed while he started to walk near Debra.
All this while Debra was pensively sitting on a chair in the corner. She looked at a picture frame in her hand with unblinking eyes, which soon welled up. Murray came near her and cleared his throat before speaking to her. “Honey. I know you opted for this yet I am asking you for the final time. Do you really wanna go ahead. You can still backout”. The spooky silence of the huge cavernous hall ceased in second when Debra reacted harshly to this statement. “Aren’t you Murray Wilson, the father of Jennie Wilson? Wasn't it a mutual decision? As much as I remember we both agreed to it. And now you are asking THIS??!! Okay. I am asking you the same and let me hear your reply. I will follow suit”. Her sound reverberated all over the hall and so did her brimming annoyance. Murray felt too weak to argue and hung his head down. Finally he mustered some courage and took a deep breath to speak again. “Well. In that case let me tell you they are going by the secondary method. Those drugs are tough to procure.” He looked at Debra now and firmly said, “So. I am hoping you are prepared now.”
“Not just prepared Murray. I am feeling contented. Drugs imply peace. And since the last two years, I had only one wish - a bizarre and painful end”. Debra’s words could barely be differentiated from her constant sobbing, yet she kept speaking her heart out.
“I know you will call me vindictive. But I don’t care at all. All I want is an ideal closure. I see it coming now. I see it”. Murray brokedown now as Debra's soaring voice and swelling emotions filled the hall with echos. She took a minute to mellow down and with a trembling voice and firm attitude she spoke to him again.“I am fine dear. I know it makes no difference today. No matter what, I can never see her dirty room again. But this is essential. For all of us. Let us all witness it as a family”. She handed over the frame to Murray and both sat together in a trance looking at it.
Soon, two cops arrived in the hall and led both of them inside a room that is similar to a mini theater save a few exceptions. The seat count is just four and the screen before is a glass pane that displays another room. The room through the glass pane has electrical equipment neatly fixed on one side of the wall and in the center of the room sits a chair with multiple straps on its backrest and on each hand rest. Soon the cops brought a man inside. Once a tall and robust man, he is showing clear signs of weight loss through his lanky body. He stooped towards the chair while his flushed face incessantly got soaked with tears. He kept ranting to all the cops nearby, who were indifferent to his words. The cops are programmed today to act like humanoids, performing every task at the ticking of the clock. Finally, the crying man, wearing an orange jumpsuit, takes the seat in the center of the room. He is Franco Willies, who has been found guilty of multiple murders by the court of law in Virginia State. His last victim was Jennie Wilson, the 5 year old daughter of Debra and Murray.