I’m at my relatives’ house, paternal side of the family, but it is a house belonging to one of my father’s sisters. Although the house is theirs, it is not their actual house; however, it is the shape and size of a small, white building which appears to hold eight apartments. There is a party going on and, as always, because of how family can be, it’s a full house. The lawn is kept up very well; the landscaping is precise and the grass looks almost too green. I have to climb up a bit of an incline to get to this house. The white edifice sits high as if it were upon a pedestal, highly revered as if it were a castle or a temple. Upon entering this house, I find the interior layout is not of my relatives’ house, not of an apartment complex, but of my parent’s house. Needless to say, I do not see any of my immediate family members.
I’m supposed to pick my brother up: a quick reminder for myself. Something tells me I’m not going to find him on this floor. I’m three stops from his floor, and if the elevator keeps acting up the way it has I am not going to get there any time soon. You have to love the shortcomings of technological advancement.
Time passes all too quickly. The clock’s tics move up-tempo, and day turns into night suddenly and gracefully. The house transitions completely into my parents’ house; looking out the window, the landscape is no longer the environment before, but the familiar front lawn I grew up lying and playing upon. The house is practically vacant with the exception of a couple of my cousins, who are sisters. The tables have obviously turned.
The house is almost completely dark with the small exception of soft lighting, the electric candlelight exhaling in mists from the kitchen. I stand in the dining room while my two cousins stand on the other side of a threshold. For a moment, everything is quiet. My vision is directed up the staircase, to the light which has exploded out of the bathroom; the door is the first one on the left as you come up the stairs. A head pops out and then retracts, but only to slowly show once again. My friend, Kennedy enters the hallway with a grin on his face and an indistinguishable object in his hand. Another person joins him, but I do not have the slightest clue as to who it may be. It’s definitely not his wife.
Behind Kennedy, two more figures enter the hallway from the master bedroom, my parents’ bedroom, the second door on the left. These two figures loom in the shadows and seem to rock in a back-and-forth motion. They are not only camouflaged by the shadows, but they are, in essence, part of them; they are tall and faceless, similar to taking a blanket and wrapping it around one’s face—you can tell it’s a face, but you cannot make out the specifics. The figures hold objects in their hands. Simply by looking at them, I fall short of breath. As Kennedy retreats into the bathroom, the two objects raise their objects and begin firing.
In response, I immediately dive back into a corner of the dining room, in vision of the living room in order to keep an eye on my cousins; they have ducked behind a couch. They remain quiet in this time of panic. They don’t smile, but their eyes tell all, their uncertainty and nervousness is exploited. After the shots are fired, there are no remnants of destruction or bullet holes in the walls. After a minute of calming down, I allow half of my face to be exposed to those upstairs.
Kennedy is hopping in and out of the bathroom. He still smiles as if he is amused, as if this whole thing is a game. He exchanges words, but I can’t understand him. His voice is muffled. He’s mumbling. The two figures behind him pace back and forth, keeping an eye upon the scenario downstairs, making sure we’re not pulling anything in response. My gaze returns to the girls, who are now no longer behind the couch. Where did they go? I don’t see them anywhere, nor hear them. Did they escape? How come I didn’t hear their movements? Did they get shot? Are they—dead?
I don’t have the slightest clue, but the only thing really surpassing this thought is my desire to escape. Looking out the picture window of the living room, the sun is rising above the horizon, the orange soaking up into the sky. I can either make a break for it, crawling silently through the dining room and then tiptoeing through the kitchen. This way, I’ll have a clear shot of making it out the door to the garage or out the sliding door leading out to the deck. Regardless of these thoughts, I chose a third method: I make a break to the front door and I penetrate the living room, sliding behind the couch.
The movement upstairs has stopped. Looking over the back of the couch, I notice Kennedy and one other person still at the top of the staircase, staring down into the living room. I roll and exit the living room. As if a sudden calm has eased my conscience, I make it a point to put on my shoes before walking out the door.
I walk down the street contemplating my disregarding my conscience telling me to not wander too far from the door leading me to the elevator. A friend of mine, Jason, pulls his car up and slowly rolls alongside my walking. He’s in the car by himself, which automatically makes me wonder where Andrea is, but I decide not to ask him. He asks me where I am headed. I respond with telling him that I don’t have the slightest clue and that I’m just walking. Jason tells me he is driving to the airport, because he is going abroad, specifically Europe, but no place in particular. He asks me if I want to go, and I agree as I get in the front seat.
We’re on the highway towards the airport when he tells me that one we’re over there that it would be my responsibility to make the arrangements when getting back to the states. Hearing this makes me anxious. I don’t know where we’re going. I know I’d have to get to an airport eventually, but how will I get there? How will I hurdle over the language barrier? I sit nervously in the passenger seat, staring out the window, not saying anything. I raise my hand and cover my mouth as I stare out the window at the scenery. We pass hills and lakes. Houses nestle into the drops of wooded areas. Everything is at peace. My anxiety has subsided.
Before any conversation is exchanged, there is an explosion. We don’t hear it, but it can be seen jumping into the sky as a fiery balloon for at least a mile ride. I jump in the excitement, but this is cut short into solemn dread. I have been here before. My anxiety returns. Over there, in the distance, live more of my family members. I inform Jason of the concern going through my head, and we head in that direction. I tell him he doesn’t have to drive me all the way to the house, but to leave me off at the most convenient location and I could walk the rest of the distance.
When I leave the car, I travel up a hill to my Jersey relatives’ house. Although it looks nothing like their house, with the exception of the apparent size, it looks more or less like a combination between my paternal grandmother’s house with my aunt and uncle’s—the ones mentioned earlier—actual house. The backyard was wooded and very small. It was as if the trees restricted passage into the surrounding area. Everyone is sitting at long tables, eating.
Determining the size of the explosion, everything in this area would have been taken out. The house should be in smithereens. There shouldn’t be anyone or anything living. Where the house rests should be a giant crater. Of course, it isn’t. The only significant distinction is that the ground had been flooded. It’s not deep, but more like a wading pool. This like standing in a puddle after a summer rainfall, except deeper and up to my ankles. Taking off my shoes to continue walking, stepping on flat stones to maintain balance, I feel the water is comfortable, because it has been heated a little from the ground.
I still can’t recall exactly where I am. This time, the notion of everyone’s gathering here is for celebration after a funeral. I have no idea who has died. The feeling of death is in the air. I think I’m going to stick it out for the rest of the day.
The familial party continues on into the night. There are a few of us hanging outside, having fun while playing games. Dusk is deciding to venture into night, and the standing water has attracted bugs. A few of us venture closer to the house, which is currently surrounded by a fence of those bug repellant torches. We’re safe now. Four of us sit next to the deck in some sort of enclosure. There are a couple sets of seats, each set fitting only two people. A table sits in the center for our convenience. A discussion takes place, but I don’t partake. I don’t pay attention. Something else has caught my eye.
About thirty feet from us, I come to realize, stands a figure. This figure is a tall male in dark clothing and shoulder length dark hair. He’s staring in our direction. I wonder what he is doing, what he is thinking. He’s like a shadow in the light, keeping himself distant and his identity blurred. He’s looming, camouflaged in the dark. His face is stern, and staring at it long enough, his face seems to go blank. While keeping focus on him, I feel short of breath.
He followed me.
My chest starts to burn and I honestly don’t know why. He is keeping an eye on me, but not for my benefit.
Close your eyes.
He cannot be real.
Close your eyes and count.
Am I with his girl? Am I supposed to watch myself? I can’t do anything stupid.
This isn’t real. Close your eyes and it will go away.
I close my eyes and take a deep breath.
I open them and I’m in the elevator.