Pry lays in a large, comfortable bed. The room around her is decorated like pre-teen girl’s room. Posters, unicorns, a map of the world with Italy and Australia connected by a red marker line.
She rises from the bed, looking at the door. She hears noises, terrible, unforgettable noises. She pulls the blankets up to her chin. She closes her eyes, hoping it will shut out everything.
When she opens her eyes, she’s at the bedroom door. She watches her hand reach for the doorknob. She begins to cry, not wanting to open the door. Not wanting to see what’s on the other side.
Her fingers touch the door knob. She feels a wetness. When she pulls her hand back, there’s blood on her finger tips. The blood moves and covers her hands.
The door bursts open and a man stands there, his body covered in fresh cuts.
Blood jets out of his cuts, showering her in red.
She screams and blood pours down her throat.
Pry opens her eyes.
She sits up, confused by the large and lavish room she finds herself in. Then, she remembers where she is. She tosses the blankets off and swings her legs over the edge of the bed, trying to settle fears and her mind. It takes longer than she’d like, but eventually, she regains her composure. She gets up, grabs her jacket and heads for the door. She walks down the stairs, marveling at the incredible day-time view of the city. Even with the cranes dotting the skyline, she’s still impressed at what wealth and willpower created in the middle of the desert.
She turns her attention from the city to Dane and Michael sitting on the sofa, with Fen laying between them, his head resting on Michael’s lap. They stare at the large screen television, watching Spongebob Squarepants, both laughing at the same jokes.
“Things secure?” Pry asks.
“Uh huh.” Dane replies, absently, not looking away from the TV.
Pry walks over to the kitchen, where Maria stands behind the counter, watching the others, sipping her coffee.
Pry gets her own cup of coffee and joins Maria.
“Morning.” Pry murmurs.
“Good morning.” Maria replies. “Did you sleep well?”
Pry hums her answer as she sips her coffee.
Maria smiles, shaking her head. “Dane and Fen are, quite remarkable.”
“Don’t tell them that. They’ll get swelled heads.” Pry comments.
“All the stories I’ve heard, about the ‘irregular threat’. Obviously its not true.”
“Oh it is.” Pry says, taking another sip of coffee. “They are like humans. Some are good, some are bad.”
“So, what happened in Tokyo and New York City, during the Black Wave Event, people being killed and…” Maria doesn’t finish, disturbed by the mere thought of it.
“Eaten?” Pry finishes for her. “Think of it this way. We eat pigs, cows, chickens, horses, and so on, right? Some people have been attacked and eaten by sharks, bears, tigers, and other predators. It’s eat or be eaten.” Pry pauses before turning towards Maria.” Now imagine animals with human level intelligence and emotions. Imagine being experimented on and tortured. Suffering indescribable agony. Turned into something they know shouldn’t exist because they’re human-level intelligence tell them so. If they can’t kill themselves to end the pain and fear, those feelings remain, building up within them. Imagine the mind-set of someone like that.” Pry pauses, taking a sip of her coffee as she looks over at Dane.
“Oh god.” Maria whispers.
“Now imagine they are set free. The ones responsible for those terrible things aren’t around, so they lash out at the first humans they see. They’re beyond fury, beyond reason, and beyond starving.” Pry looks over at Maria. “Without technology, thanks to the Black Wave Event, people in Tokyo and New York faced hundreds of thousands of genetically enhanced, revenge-seeking irregulars. In a heartbeat, we went from consumer to the consumed.”
Pry finishes her coffee and walks to the sink to rinse out her cup. Maria thinks about what Pry has told her. It sends a shiver through her, seeing both sides.
“How come Dane didn’t end up like that?” Maria asks. She turns to face Pry, who puts the cup in the cupboard.
“Who’s to say he wasn’t.” Pry replies quietly, not turning around. “Who’s to say he didn’t deserve a little vengeance for what was done to him.”
Maria glances over her shoulder, just as Michael and Dane share a laugh at the expense of Spongebob’s pink starfish friend Patrick. “You mean–”
“I don’t know.” Pry cuts her off. Both turn to face each other. “He hasn’t told me what happened to him before our paths crossed. All I know is that without him and Fen, I’d probably be dead.”
The sun arcs across the sky, turning morning warmth into afternoon heat. The air conditioning keeps the penthouse cool, but it doesn’t make it entertaining.
“Mom, I want to go down to the pool!” Michael begs, again.
“Michael, you can’t even swim. Why do you want to go down to the pool? We have to stay in here, ok?” Maria says, her calm reaching the breaking point.
“Why?” Michael asks. “Why can’t we go have fun?” Although he acts whiney, he knows things are different.
“Because…” Maria starts to say, but is unsure what to tell him.
Dane walks over and kneels down so he’s on Michael’s level. “Because there are men who want to hurt you and your Mom.”
Maria looks at Dane, fearful of what he’ll say.
“Why?” Michael asks.
“You know the difference between telling the truth and telling a lie, right?” Dane asks.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the truth, right?”
Michael looks down, sheepishly. “Yeah.”
Dane puts his hand on Michael’s shoulder. “Well, your Mom knows the truth about a very bad man. When she tells the F.B.I., they will put this very bad man in jail. But, until she does, that very bad man will try to stop your Mom. That’s why Fen, Ms. Pry and I are here! Having us here isn’t so bad now is it?”
“No!” Michael replies, happily. “I like Fen! And you. Even Ms. Pry.”
Dane glances over his shoulder at Pry, who’s listening in. She chuckles quietly.
“For us to keep you and your Mom safe, we have to stay in the penthouse. I know it isn’t the most fun you can have, but until everyone is safe, lets try to make the best of it, ok?”
Michael nods. “Ok.”
Dane smiles standing up. “Thanks buddy.”
Michael slinks off, up the stairs. Fen quietly follows.
“I wasn’t sure how to tell him about all this.” Maria comments as she steps forward, standing beside Dane.
“The truth always works.” Dane says, glancing over at Pry, who works on the laptop.
“It wouldn’t be safe to go down to the pool would it?” Maria reconfirms.
“Nope. Too exposed.”
Maria rubs her face, her frustration matching Michael’s. “We can order room service until we burst, but no pool.”
A smile begins to spread across Dane’s face.
The afternoon sun sinks into the west, clinging to the horizon before it sinks out of sight. The lights of the city begin to flicker to life, bringing its enticing glow.
Michael lays in his bed, playing a hand-held game. Fen lays at his feet, dozing.
Fen suddenly bolts to his feet and leaps from the bed to the door, barking, wanting the door opened.
Michael reluctantly gets off the bed. “What is it Fen? Is dinner here?”
Fen looks back at Michael, excited. He makes a long, drawn out yowl, his tail wagging furiously.
Michael’s eyes brighten. A surprise? What surprise? Michael replies, his curiousity rising. He opens the door and Fen is gone like a shot. Michael walks out to the railing of the second floor of the penthouse and looks down. His eyes light up like Christmas.
The sofas have been pushed aside. In the center of the room, a 12-foot wide pool, with an inflatable ring around the top. Dane stands beside it, holding a fire hose that has nearly filled it.
“A pool!” Michael screams with excitement.
Fen races down the stairs and leaps from the bottom step into the pool.
Michael laughs at the sight as his Mom joins him at the railing. She hands him a pair of swim trunks. He hugs his Mom tight. She hugs him back.
“Are you coming in too?” Michael asks.
“I’m just going to get changed.”
Michael takes his trunk and runs back into his room.
“Don’t go in without me!” Maria reminds him.
“Ok Mom!” Michael replies, closing the door.
Dane finishes filling up the pool and rolls up the hose, putting it back in its wall case. Nearby, Pry watches, an amused look on her face.
“How are you going to empty it?” Pry asks.
Dane waves his hand in a mock-dismissive manner. “You think too much.”
Pry, unable to help herself, laughs.
The rest of the evening is spent splashing, laughing and enjoying the oddity of a pool in the middle of the penthouse floor. Pizza is ordered and floated. But, by the time the movie they rented, ‘Waterworld’, is over, Michael and Fen are water-logged.
The night edges closer to morning. Upstairs in his room, Michael sleeps the sleep on joyous exhaustion, with Fen spread out on his back on the floor. On the main floor, Dane sleeps, his feet dangling over the edge of the sofa.
Only Pry remains awake. She sits on the floor, leaning against the windows, looking out over the city. Dane’s laptop lays on her stretched-out legs. She watches the security programs as they do their regular diagnostic.
She opens Google and types in a name, ‘Caperelli’. Various results appear. She types in the name ‘Elena’. Even less results appear, but one tells of a charity named after a woman named ‘Elena Caperelli’. She clicks the link and skims through the web page. She stumbles onto a picture a kindly woman with a warm smile.
Pry pauses and looks at the picture, intently. Her calmness cracks as a tear spills down her cheek. She closes her eyes.
She hears the ocean. Feels wet sand between her toes. Smells the salt in the air. Laughter comes freely from her lips. Strong hands grabs and swing her high into the air. When she opens her eyes, she sees the sun shining down on Elena’s face. The look in her eyes, the smile on her lips, tell her everything.
“Ms. Pry?” Maria says again.
Pry’s eyes fly open. Her hand jerks, slamming the laptop closed. “What? What’s wrong?” she asks, wiping the tear from her face.
Maria crouches down beside Pry. “I made you some coffee.” she says quietly. She holds out a steaming mug.
Pry nods her thanks and takes the mug.
“I didn’t mean to disturb you.” Maria whispers apologetically.
“Its ok.” Pry replies, still affected by her memories.
“Did you know her?” Maria asks.
Pry doesn’t answer. She just stares at the mug of coffee.
Maria straightens up. “I’m sorry. It’s none of my business.” she turns and starts to walk away.
“I knew her when I was very young. I was maybe three of four.” Pry whispers, not looking away from the mug in her hand. “I have memories of her. Fragmented. They are all good memories. But when I try to remember more, I can’t. Or I don’t want to.” She looks up from her mug, at Maria. Her eyes are large and wet, filling with tears. “Whatever happens, make sure Michael only has good memories of you. Protect him from the memories that he should forget. You won’t be able to protect him from everything, but…” she looks away, as if gathering herself. Her chest heaves, filled with emotions she struggles with everyday. She regains herself and looks back at Maria, anger flaring up. “Protect him, just, protect him. These Feds that are coming for you, they may seem to have your best interests, but in the end, they just want the case closed. No matter what happens, never let you guard down. Never trust them. Never leave your son’s side. Never let him go! Understand!”
Maria nods, afraid of Pry’s intensity, and sensing all of this stems from something much deeper and darker. She turns and heads up the stairs.
Pry puts the coffee mug down, then set aside the laptop. She draws her knees to her chest and does what she can to stifle her cries.
Pry: Rabbit-Sitting Blues Copyrighted © 2013 Mark James MacKinnon. Any use of these characters, without permission, is strictly prohibited. Any similarities to individuals, living or dead, is purely coincidental.