Sunday, August 29, 2010

Challenge 30: Absentee Father

The sky is blue again.

A real blue, not like the shimmering electric blue we have lived with for the last three years. I look at it and breathe in the fresh air, savouring the taste.


Then I think of his absence and I have to sit down. There is a stout wall behind me, bordering the brown lawn that once was C-Block. People are milling there, staring at the sky and exchanging low whispers. His name is ready on their lips. They speak it in reverence still. Perhaps they haven't worked out that he's gone, they don't know that it is safe to speak their minds. Maybe they really feel that way about him, even after everything he did.

I can't stay here.

I walk away, push through the growing crowds, disappear into the old Biology building. There is an entrance to the tunnels there, disguised as a dangerous electrical maintenance room. I remember the day the bubble went up. My lockpick is not needed today. The door hangs open on one hinge. The tunnels are no longer his secret lair. I push past the rubble, not caring that it could all come crashing down on my head. I only go about fifty metres before it's all caved in. The bomb did its work well enough.

It's sad. I would have like to see his lab. He never did let me in there. He didn't trust anyone with his secrets. Not even the man who took mother's place... There are some things I guess I will never know about my father now.

I leave the tunnels, wander home in a daze. I haven't been here since papa kicked me out - or was it me? Did I sneak out and just never work out how to come back?

The front lawn is dead, just like C-Block. We have been without rain for three years and he wouldn't let us waste the water on things like grass. The front door is gone. Half lies in splinters in the hallway, the other half creaks in the unfamiliar wind as it swings open and shut.

Paintings lie on the floor, surrounded by shattered glass. My mother's photograph is the only thing still untouched, framed above the unused fireplace. Maybe he forgot to take it down? I can't imagine he cared for it. When mother lay dying in hospital, he didn't even come.

The stairs creak, but that is not new. I always heard him coming home from work in the middle of the night, no matter how he tried to tread lightly. He didn't hear me leave. He was arguing with Simon, just like mother, just like all the others who tried to take her place. They couldn't see past his dream-filled eyes and words of hope, his way of making you feel like everything would be alright. They didn't wonder why my little brother cringed when papa raised his hand. No. They were all blind.

My room looks just as I left it. Strange, because I would have thought Simon... No, I suppose Simon slept somewhere else. Papa's room is torn to shreds. Clothing and furniture all scattered without definable pattern. His office too. Recycled paper everywhere - written on both sides in miniscule print. I pick up a sheet but cannot make any sense of the equations. The diagram looks something like the machine he built on top of the University library to project the bubble. On the wall, on the roof, everywhere, there is writing. On a whim, I turn and close the door. He has written on the back too - verses from the bible, only strange. I barely recognize them, despite being forced to recite them as pennance for my wrong-doings. Papa would not hit a girl.

The window looks out on the back yard, paved in one of papa's fits of home maintenance. We all slaved over those stones. It makes me smile to see the crooked lines, here and there. They were probably mine. Papa could not abide disorder. Everything was so clear, so well planned. There was not room in his world for dissention. Perhaps that is why we all flocked to become his sheep, trusting him to lead us through the darkness. Perhaps that is why, now that he is gone, we all feel so lost.

I leave the house behind, knowing I can never go back there. I have said my goodbyes. Still, every street in this small city bears his mark. Buildings, simply by standing, are a testament to his vision. I cross the boundary sooner than I expected. Outside the rim of what was once the bubble, the buildings are rubble, overgrown in only three shorts years. Skeletons still lie where they fell on the cracking streets. I cannot look back, because if I do, I will see him there, hovering far above us with a sad, knowing smile in his eyes. How I hated you. But you forgave me that a long time ago, didn't you?

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