Revolver

Καθόταν στο σκληρό παρκέ και δεν μπορούσε να πάρει ανάσα. Αυτό ήταν το μόνο που μπορούσε να θυμηθεί απο εκείνο το βράδυ.

Όταν ξύπνησε δεν αναγνώρισε το μέρος στο οποίο βρισκόταν. Οι τοίχοι ηταν γκρι αλλα μάλλον κάποτε ήταν άσπροι, και μπορούσε να διακρίνει διάσπαρτους καφέ λεκέδες εδώ και εκεί. Ένιωσε ένα έντονο τσούξιμο στους καρπούς της και της πήρε αρκετή ώρα να προσαρμόσει τα δεδομένα που βρισκόταν γύρω της.

Πρώτον, στο δωμάτιο ήταν μόνη της, δεύτερον ήταν ξαπλωμένη στο πάτωμα και τα χέρια της ήταν σφιχτά δεμένα σε ενα καλοριφέρ, και τρίτον δεν υπήρχε τίποτα στο δωμάτιο, κανένα έπιπλο, κανένα σημείο ζωής.

Τότε άρχισαν να παρέρχονται στο μυαλό της ένα ένα τα γεγονότα της προηγούμενης βραδιάς. Το ταϊλανδέζικο φαγητο που παρήγγειλε μαζι με τον πατέρα της, το πως έριξε το κρασί της πάνω στο άσπρο και ακριβό φόρεμα της όταν η πόρτα άνοιξε απότομα και τρεις μεγαλόσωμοι και οπλισμένοι άντρες βίαια μπήκαν στο λοφτ τους χωρίς καμία εξήγηση. Τον πατέρα της που της φώναζε να φύγει απο το δωμάτιο, τους άντρες να ξεστομίζουν βρισιές και να μιλάνε έντονα για λεφτα, την ένταση της συζήτησης να ανεβαίνει όλο και περισσότερο, τον ένα απο αυτούς να τραβάει ένα περίστροφο απο την εσωτερική τσέπη του ατσαλάκωτου σακακιού του, το όπλο να στρέφεται προς το μέρος της, απειλές για τη ζωη της αν ο πατέρας της δεν είχε τα λεφτά τους, ο ήχος της σκανδάλης, το σώμα του πατέρα της να μπαίνει προστατευτικά μπροστά της, αίμα να ποτίζει τα μαλλιά και τη μπλούζα της, αίμα στο πάτωμα, στον τοίχο, το σώμα του πατέρα της να πέφτει και τα μάτια του να την κοιτάνε για μια τελευταία φορά.

Για αυτο ηταν στο πάτωμα και εκείνη, για αυτό δεν μπορούσε να αναπνεύσει, μάλλον θα έκλαιγε και ας μη το θυμόταν. Την νάρκωσαν και την εφέραν στο δωμάτιο, αυτό υποψιαζόταν τουλάχιστον.

Ήθελε να κλάψει πάλι αλλά δεν θα τη βοηθούσε σε κάτι. Τα συναισθήματα της όμως ήταν πολύ έντονα και πολυ αρνητικά και δεν κατάφερνε να τα διαχειριστεί. Ήθελε να νοιώσει οποιοδήποτε άλλο είδος πόνου εκτός απο αυτο που την κατάπινε. Χωρίς να το καταλάβει δάγκωνε το κάτω χείλος της, τόσο δυνατά που είχε αρχίσει να ματώνει, και όσο πιο πολυ μάτωνε τοσο πιο δυνατά το δάγκωνε. Το αίμα έσταξε στο πάτωμα και το κοίταξε με μίσος. Δεν ήθελε να ξαναδεί αίμα.

Κάποια στιγμή κοιμήθηκε και όταν ξύπνησε είχε μπροστά της μια ποπ Τάρτ με γεύση φράουλα την οποία δεν άγγιξε. Ειχε χάσει τις ώρες γιατι το δωμάτιο δεν είχε παράθυρο παρά μόνο έναν αεραγωγό. Πονούσαν τα χείλη της αλλά δεν την ένοιαζε. Ποτέ δεν έβλεπε το πρόσωπο εκείνου που της έφερνε φαγητό και νερό και ούτε της μίλαγε. Της έλειπε ο μπαμπάς της, οι φίλες της, η ζωή της.

Πάντα είχε ότι ήθελε εκτός απο τη μητέρα της που μετα το διαζύγιο ήταν πάντα απών. Όσο ήταν σε εκείνο το δωμάτιο σκέφτηκε πολλές φορές αν άξιζε αυτο που της συνέβη. Αν η αυταρχική συμπεριφορά της στους γύρω της όλα αυτα τα χρόνια και η αδυναμία της να είναι εκει συναισθηματικά για τους άλλους την οδήγησε σε αυτο το δωμάτιο. Αλλά δεν είχε βλάψει ποτέ κανένα, δεν της άξιζε αυτό. Σε αυτό το συμπέρασμα κατέληγε κάθε φορα που έκανε τέτοιες σκέψεις.

Μετά απο κάποιες μέρες έκλαιγε πολύ. Σκεφτόταν όλους όσους ήξερε και αν κανένας απ αυτούς θα ειχε παρατηρήσει οτι έλειπε. Αν η αστυνομία ειχε βρει το πτώμα του πατέρα της, η αν ήταν ακομα εκεί. Αν η μαμά της την είχε ψάξει, αν είχε στεναχωρεθεί για τον πατέρα της και αν είχε ανησυχήσει για την κόρη της.

Όταν την έβγαλαν απο το δωμάτιο της είχαν καλύψει τα μάτια και την είχαν βάλλει σε ένα αμάξι. Θυμόταν οτι ήταν πολυ ώρα εκει μέσα και οτι την ενοχλούσε η μυρωδιά απο τα δερμάτινα καθίσματα. Ίσως και να την ενοχλούσε η δίκη της μυρωδιά. Δεν ήθελε να ασχοληθεί.

Όταν την έβγαλαν απ το αυτοκίνητο και της ελευθέρωσαν τα μάτια είδε σε απόσταση τη μητέρα της να κλαίει και έναν άντρα να πλησιάζει με ένα μεγάλο σάκο. Σκέφτηκε πως σίγουρα θα ειχε λεφτά μέσα. Τα συναισθήματα της ήταν μπερδεμένα. Ήταν χαρούμενη που έβλεπε την μητέρα της, ήταν σοκαρισμένη και επίσης δεν ήξερε γιατι η μαμά της ήταν εκει. Επειδη την αγαπούσε ;

Οταν η μητέρα της την έπιασε επιτέλους στα χέρια της την αγκάλιασε και ξέσπασε σε κλάμματα, αλλα δεν είπε τίποτα. Καμια απ τις δυο δεν είπε τίποτα. Κάθισαν στο αυτοκίνητο και κατευθύνθηκαν προς το σπίτι της μητέρας της.

“Και τώρα τι;” κατάφερε να πει εκείνη μετά απο αρκετή ώρα.

“Καταλαβαίνω οτι η συνθήκες είναι άσχημες, και καταλαβαίνω οτι δεν ήμουν η καλύτερη μητέρα εδώ και πολλά χρόνια.. αλλά πραγματικά μετά απο κάποιο σημείο, όταν ήξερα οτι ειχα ήδη χάσει τόσα απ τη ζωή σου, παρόλο που κατάλαβα το λάθος μου δεν μπορούσα να σε προσεγγίσω. Ειναι δειλό το ξέρω, αλλά δεν μπορούσα. Τωρα λοιπόν ήρθε η ώρα να ειμαι η μαμά σου. Να σε βοηθήσω να σηκωθείς, να είμαι δίπλα σου, να σε δω να προχωράς και να γίνω η γιαγιά των παιδιών σου. Ίσως τα καταφέρω καλύτερα μαζι τους τωρα που ξερω πως θα πρέπε να ειχα ζήσει τη ζωή μου. Θα με αφήσεις ;”

Εκείνη σκέφτηκε για λίγο. Ήξερε οτι θα ήταν διστακτική αρκετά, ίσως και απόμακρη αλλα ήταν η μητέρα της. Μια ζωη περίμενε να ακούσει αυτα τα λόγια και τωρα που τα ειχε ακούσει φαινόντουσαν πραγματικά αυθεντικά. Καθώς σκεφτόταν δάγκωσε καταλάθως τα χείλη της και συνοφρυώθηκε απο το τσούξιμο. Αλλα γρήγορα της πέρασε, χαμογέλασε αμυδρά, και απάντησε…”Ναι…μαμά”.

If She had Stayed

When I was young I was a complicated person, still am, but back then I could make it really hard for people who were around me. I realise now it made them feel like I didn’t want them to be around me, and then why would they want me in their lives? I had difficulties loving, feeling in general. When I was a kid my parents decided they weren’t right for each other anymore and they made me choose who I wanted to stay with. The options were:

a) Mom, completely dependent on dad financially, hard working, not so focused on me.

b) Dad, very well financially, distant and at the same time overprotective if that’s even a combination.

I went with option c) Grandma, loving, understanding and freedom providing. Fortunately my father agreed to fund me. Using my intelligence I managed to make my all time dream come true and get admitted into Harvard Law School. That would mean leaving my hometown, New York, for a couple of years. I’m sure you understand it didn’t take a lot of hard thinking to pack and leave; it’s Harvard.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________I haven’t met a lot of breathtaking people in my life but she was one of them. The first time I saw her was in an Ethics class and she was wearing a high wasted skirt with knee socks. I love knee socks in girls, it makes them look serious but not so much. I was a little bit late in class so when I walked in most of the seats were taken, she smiled at my confused facial expression and moved her stuff over from the free chair next to her. She didn’t talk though, and obviously I didn’t talk either because I’m an idiot, I didn’t even say thank you for God’s sake.

I never sat next to her again, it felt weird. But I have to admit I was sitting behind her; I didn’t want to stalk her, I just wanted to be close enough to her but far enough not to bother her with my presence. I always hoped she would turn and look though, but she almost never did. Anyway, I don’t wanna make it sound like I was obsessed with her because I wasn’t. I was living the Harvard experience alright and it was amazing. So amazing that I didn’t think it could turn any better.

A few months after the professor assigned us in groups, and I was assigned – guess with who – with her. Her name was Reese, just like the peanut butter chocolates. We started talking more and we realised how much we had in common, the attraction was huge. I was waking up thinking of her, talking with her so much through the day that we almost forgot to get the assignment done, watching movies together in the dorms and analysing the fucking universe till its very end like we were the smartest people on this earth, which we believed we were; that if me and her were 1 person, this person would conquer the world. It would be the perfect person, we thought we were destined to be, and pretty soon we were a couple.

We fell hard, movie style hard. Holding hands, kissing, sleeping, cuddling, spooning, doing so many things together. We couldn’t get enough of each other. And the sex, my god, was so good. Dating her was paradise. I mean we used to fight a lot but it only brought us closer when we made up. She would yell and I would say hurtful things, but nobody would mean it and we would just end up declaring our love to each other.

Summer came and we spent it all together. It was bliss, I loved her so much, and the mistakes we made seemed so meaningless in front of what we had. Those weeks together, I have never felt I’ve loved another person so much in my life. Nothing else mattered if I knew I had her. She was my angel and I was her knight, as cheesy as it sounds. I knew how devoted I wanted to be to her and I’ve never felt more in love.

September came, classes started again. Me and Reese had similar schedules, only I was busier. Reese had started getting depressed when I was too busy. I’m sure she was doing it out of love but it was kind of tiring sometimes. It didn’t matter though, it would only be until things got in line. We went to nice restaurants and spent every weekend together, already planning christmas vacation.

October came. Reese was diagnosed with lung cancer. She had a healthy life so I couldn’t understand why. Kept asking myself over and over. Her mood and behaviour slowly changed towards the negative spectrum. She was irritable, in pain, angry all the time. We were fighting a lot and the fact that I was holding what bothered me inside just because it felt too selfish, or guilty to express it made her feel worse. I think that’s why she was even bitchier, to test me. She even tried to break up with me, for my own sake I know, but she didn’t, although she didn’t want to put me through that marathon.

I was there. I was there for all the operations, all the crying, the vomiting, the chemo. Over the course of a year I watched this girl, whose aura was so energetic and so dynamic when I first met her, grow into the shell of the girl that I had fallen in love with. I resented myself for hating her because I had become this 23 year old guy with the sick girlfriend who couldn’t have a normal life. She was so needy and I did want to be there, I did love her so so much but it didn’t take away the fact that I was missing on my own life. Months were passing and it’s very hard remembering how we slowly faded from each other’s lives. I needed to focus on school, on work opportunities because when she was gone what would I have left if I messed it up with school?

I got a phone call a year after, from her mom, which I deeply loved. We used to spend a lot of time at Reese’s house, and when she was sick her mom was not just there for her but also for me. She was gone; Reese was gone, she had slowly and painfully left this world. Her mom said the funeral was the following day. I hung up the phone feeling spaced out, so many things going through my mind. I put on my raincoat and went to walk out in the rain and as I was walking I suddenly felt the urge to start running. So I did, I started running faster and faster; I don’t know what I was thinking. Was it that I could run away from this? Was it that I was a runner from the people and the situations I should actually have stuck with?

The next day I went to her funeral. I had no words, I was reevaluating the whole meaning of life. That’s what happens when someone you know, someone you love – loved – dies. What is meaningful, what isn’t? Because if someone would come at that moment, telling me that I could have had a chance and a future with this girl, I would have dropped everything just to be with her. Although she would never have let me drop everything. That’s how great she was. Even in her death the people she loved were her number one priority, which might have been what ultimately faded her. As her mother hugged me she whispered in my ear that I was and would always remain Reese’s great love. The love of her life, the guy of her dreams. I always hated crying and never really used to engage in it, but as her mother hugged me tighter it felt so much like the way she used to hug me before we started dating, always so happy to see me, always so happy to feel me, pulling me close to her for at least a 30 second hug, it was so powerful, almost like she was hugging me through her mom, that I cracked and a hot tear drop left my eye and landed on my lip, where I could taste the bitterness of it.

That night I got ready to sleep, I took two hipnosedon’s to make sure I would pass out, but just a second before I closed my eyes, in the pitch dark, I saw a little sparkle, it looked like a firefly but it wasn’t. It was a small round light that came out of nowhere and slowly landed on my nose. I breathed in heavily and breathed out, then I closed my eyes and slept…and that, was the most vivid, heartbreaking, breathtaking dream I had seen in my endless hours of sleep. I was at a big beach with white, thin sand, wearing an airy white shirt, the sun was coming down so the sky was orange and the water calm and smooth like butter. I seemed lost though, until I saw her sitting on a wood in front of a fire that she had put, warming her hands. She had a flower crown around her head and she was barefoot. I looked at her, “You’re here”, I said. She asked me to sit down next to her and she gave me that look, the one that she had given me when she first told me that she loved me, which was before I did. It was warm and welcoming. I’m here now she said; I asked her why did she leave.

“I had to think about some things”.

“What things?”

She didn’t say anything.

“Reese, are you going to leave again?”

“I have to.”

NO, I told her she didn’t have to leave, that we could stay together forever now. That we could stay at that beach and wake up next to each other everyday, and have nobody to bother us. She smiled again and told me that I would always be her man in her heart. She took out a necklace, she put it around my neck

“To always have me close to your heart” she said…and then she faded and I could not touch her anymore. I didn’t even had the chance to kiss her.

When I woke up I had a strange sensation, a weird weight on my chest, like I could still feel the weight of that necklace on me. I will never forget it. That was when I cried, not just teared but cried. I poured my soul out, I cried and smoked and had so much to drink. I knew I would never see her face again, I would never hear her voice, but besides that I knew that I would never get the chance to tell her everything that was in my heart. How much I loved her, how all of our fights meant nothing, how nothing could touch our relationship, if only…If only she had stayed.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________I am 40 years old now. Turns out I did make it big, I made my first million when I was 27. I guess the view of the top is very beautiful but also very lonely. I did get married, and divorced, because I always try to recreate what I had with Reese, which will never happen. I have a son though, his name is Mike, and I am teaching him how to scan people and when he finds some that he should stick with, to never let them go without a reason. To stand by them, love them and give himself to them, because if we don’t have someone to share what we make of ourselves with, then it’s worthless. Luckily I have Mike to share it with. Oh, and remember when I told you Reese was one of the most breathtaking people I’ve ever met? Mike was the other one.

Now and then I like to imagine what Reese would have done with her life if she had stayed. I’m sure she would have loved Mike, and that she would have been a great mother herself. She would have succeeded academically and professionally as well. She was smart, driven and capable. In my mind she was my other half, and always will be. If I could turn back the time I would have told her that, one last time.

Love Controller

THE BACKGROUND

I remember that I had no friends. The year was 2020, I was 22 years old and I had no friends for god’s sake. I was an overweight grown man, with no friends, no girlfriend and no job, still living in my father’s house spending the greatest part of the day lost in my computer, which of course I had built on my own.

But well! I was a genius right? So who cares! At least that’s what I thought, when I wasn’t frantically thinking about how nobody would care if I were gone that is. Because my father? My father probably wouldn’t notice, he would probably wake up, spend his day in his computer, writing, and go to sleep for days without noticing it until I started decomposing and the smell bothered him, distracted him from his writing, and I don’t think he would even cry.

Maybe the fact that I didn’t have a girlfriend stemmed from my mother’s departure when I was 7. I would never blame her for leaving my father of course, what woman would be able to remain with a man who seemed to ignore her existence? Spent his day looking at a screen, full of letters? What was eating me up inside though was the question of why she had left me there with him?

Maybe if I hadn’t taken after my mother, if I wasn’t drawn into science like her, and I was more creative and I enjoyed writing and philosophy like he did, maybe then he would want to get to know me better as I was growing up. As a kid I had to divert all of my energy to something and since I was living in an environment where communication was no option I never learnt how to communicate with others. Kids at school made fun of me because of my weight and because I didn’t speak much, they used the internet to bully me and make me feel helpless, so this energy of mine went in science. When all the other boys of my class were playing football and baseball I was interested in robotics and computer science. I guess that made other people dislike me even more.

When I was in high school I didn’t care about the fact that girls seemed to be repulsed by my presence, I didn’t feel like dating a girl was something I needed or was necessary at that point. I focused in building models and studying, studying, studying. I had one and only goal and that was getting into MIT. I was so sure that I was going to get in, so sure that I didn’t care about being bullied, I didn’t care that my father’s only interest was spending his days writing at his computer, inside his small stuffy office rather than having dinner with me; because I was gonna get out of there, I would go to college and have a new start with other people who would share the same interests and then I was going to get a girlfriend and graduate on top of my class, get a great job and one day start my own family and be a better father.

I aced my SAT’s and I was so sure of myself that MIT was the only school I had applied to. I will never forget the morning before my interview. My father knew, he knew how much I wanted that, how much it meant to me and of all days, all days that he chose to ignore me, that was the day he chose to make the big revelation. I was carefully picking up my outfit, paying attention to detail; I really wanted to make a good impression. My father knocked on my door three times. He only knocked three times when he was in a good mood, when he actually wanted to interact with me.

My father’s face was aged, he had wrinkles all over his forehead and the marks of his glasses, when he removed them, seemed to be a permanent part of him. A facial characteristic almost. I always searched in his eyes, strived to find signs of warmness, of nurture but his eyes fiercely projected coldness, or if there was any warmth, it was very carefully shielded behind the metal wall he acquired ever since I can remember him. He had the same facial expression that day, blank and spaced out. He approached me and awkwardly placed his hand on my shoulder while not facing me. “Son” he said, “I think it’s about time I give you this”. My eyes immediately were fixated on the yellowish, obviously once white envelope. I asked what it was and his answer was that he would have given that to me earlier but he didn’t consider it important. He then took one step backwards, turned his back on me and after he walked out of my bedroom he shut the door behind him.

I carefully examined the envelope on the outside, it seemed aged and not carefully handled. My heart started beating faster as I imagined where that letter could have came from. I cautiously opened it without ripping it and I took the paper out. I opened it slowly and as I read the first three words of the letter my breath stopped for a second; my skin felt as if electricity went through it and an intense burning sensation all over my eyes. The paper simply contained one web link and was signed as “Love, Mom” at the bottom of the page.

I rushed towards my computer screen, typed the link and a website with a video popped up right in front of me. It was my mother. I got up, walked out of the room infuriated and went down the stairs to get some water; I haven’t seen her face in years, and this video was probably old, she looked exactly like I remembered her. I sat numb for a few seconds before I returned to my bedroom and even then it took me 3 minutes and forty-five seconds precisely before I could hit the play button.

“ My dearest Son.

 

I couldn’t stay anymore, I felt trapped. Trapped in a reality that wasn’t real.

My love for science couldn’t be expressed anymore through this life.

I needed to escape, I needed to live without it, without the internet, otherwise it would drive me … mad.

Your father and I aren’t each other’s priority anymore, our passion is our jobs and while your father embraces it and is willing to get lost in technology, I am not.

It consumes me, so I need to leave.

I’m sorry for leaving you behind, but I think you got the best of both of us, you won’t let it consume you but you won’t let it drive you away either.

Find your balance because you have the power to change the world now.

 

You know where to look; you’ll find how you’re supposed to make it happen, just use it in a wise way.

 

You’ll always have my love, but I couldn’t stay with you.”

I was left feeling confused and slightly empty. So many questions! Where had she gone? Why didn’t he give me the envelope earlier? Why was she so consumed by technology and the internet to the point where it would drive her mad? What did she discover? And how was I supposed to know where the “instructions” to change the world were hidden? Had my father seen this video? All I could think about was her face and the fact that I would never see her again. That day I ruined my MIT interview. I didn’t get in.

THE ADULT YEARS

Like I said, I was 22 years old without a goal or a path. After my dreams concerning my future were scattered my life didn’t seem to have any quality and I wasn’t a teenager anymore so the fact that I’ve never had a girlfriend in my whole entire life, or the realization that I wouldn’t get a good job, and therefore my life would always look pretty much the way it did back then, slowly drove me closer and closer to severe depression. I looked at my mother’s video sometimes. I don’t know if it made me feel better or worse and I never understood how she expected me to change the world and where was I supposed to look for the answer, I searched for a few years, around my father’s office when he wasn’t home, in his computer, in their bedroom. I never found anything so I gave up eventually.

It was a bit of a gloomy morning, not that it made a difference to me, enclosed as I was in my 4 wall bedroom which I had converted in something like a computer laboratory. I guess it felt kind of good because I had an excuse for staying home and working online. Not that anybody would care if I stayed home or not. The sound of the clock really bothered me; it was a constant reminder that my life online and my life in the real world were connected. I decided to watch my mother’s video again, I had became habituated into watching her face for 3 minutes and forty-five seconds precisely before pressing the play button. I was focusing on her eyes while the video was playing when it hit me. Encoding. It was so obvious now and it had taken me years to realize the simple greatness of my mother’s intelligence. The video was encoded.

I didn’t sleep that night, my eyes really wanted to, but my brain refused. The only thing of hers that I had, simultaneously was the one thing that confused me the most since I was 18, to the point that I had been left speechless in front of the dean of MIT in my interview through skype. What was this secret that would “change the world”, what was the thing she had discovered that scared her so much that she felt the need to leave her child behind? I worked all night and all day until I wasn’t sure anymore which was reality for me and which wasn’t. What I came up with left me with no words. The video contained hidden instructions for a device, a device which usage was unknown and unexplained. The only information about it was how to construct it and it’s name, “Love Controller”.

It was an overall old fashioned-looking device, but that made sense, my mother probably had been working on it since I was a kid. It looked like a laptop but it really wasn’t one. It went far beyond my reach. My area of expertise, even though I have never been to college, was computer science, this appeared to be a biotechnological device, and it even had a receptor for inserting DNA samples. I just couldn’t grasp why my mother wouldn’t include any instructions on how to use the device. I needed to know if it worked, and what did it do. That was the most of excitement I had had in years, so I followed my instinct. I sneaked in my father’s bedroom and stole some hair from his brush. Easy. Once you plugged the device in, it asked for you to create a profile, add your DNA sample, your name, age etc. Then you could create any additional profiles you wanted to. With a lot of hesitance and even fear I created my father’s profile. At the bottom left of the screen there was a little icon called “options”. Once you pressed that you could choose between “adding/deleting relationship”. Everything looked and felt very peculiar.

I pressed “add relationship”; the machine asked for me to insert the desirable names for “relationship manipulation”. I chose my father’s profile and mine, there was a list of relationships to choose from; once you did you had to select “level of love”. I chose 9 out of 10 and pressed enter. I spent the next hour in my room looking at the machine and dwelling about how stupid I was to believe that this was something more than a game, and tried to convince myself that my mother was a seriously disturbed person with illusions of grandeur who probably thought she was a genius. That all was about to change when four knocks landed on my door. Four knocks? My father had never, ever knocked on my door four times.

I didn’t answer, because I expected him to barge in anyway, but when I didn’t, he knocked a second time, calling my name simultaneously. I couldn’t help but feel surprised and still not convinced that the machine had worked. I told my father to come in and the sight of him will always remain pinned in my mind and in my heart. His once ice-cold eyes were now as warm as hot, melting chocolate. He walked rapidly towards me and hugged me, and I felt like he hugged me for all of the times that he hadn’t. He took my face between his hands and told me how proud he was of me and how much he loved me; that he was sorry for all of the years that he let pass without spending them with me. I was overwhelmed with joy, almost tearful.

When he left I was in complete denial. I kept trying to find an alternative explanation of what had happened. I just couldn’t accept that my mother actually guided me through an encrypted video into constructing a device that she had invented, which had the ability of manipulating people’s relationships, because if it did…if I did accept that this was real then it would be real indeed and that would in fact be a world changing circumstance. In a digitized society, where everything concerning safety of information was extremely questionable, due to technology, and privacy online was almost non-existent, people’s feelings and emotions were the only things they were sure of, the only things they were sure that they could genuinely keep to themselves if they wanted to, and were able to make their own choices concerning to the people they wanted to give their feelings away to. What would it mean if that weren’t true anymore? It would mean that a human’s whole entire existence could be invaded, regulated and manipulated.

When I finally realized what I had made, my emotions were extremely mixed. I thought of my father’s hug and warm eyes and I questioned how real it was. Was it real? Because it was something that I commanded to happen. Would it really be fulfilling for a human being if he had someone’s love by forcing it? But on the other hand did it even matter if it was forced? It was there, wasn’t it? Did it really matter how it occurred? I mean, if they felt it and I felt it, was it important where it came from? And if I accepted that it didn’t matter then how ethical was it, forcing a human being to a destiny he didn’t choose? I knew it wasn’t ethical but I was a 22-year-old overweight man without a job, without a girlfriend (like, ever), living in my father’s house. I wanted to use it, I needed to use it. Maybe that’s another negative consequence of technology, one that my mom couldn’t stand as well, it sucked you in, it consumed you if you let it. I needed to use it with care and respect and most of all I could never, ever, let other people know of its existence. I didn’t even want to picture what would happen to the world if they knew something like that was real.

The next few months of my life were a turnover. My need for a woman had started becoming crucial. The only female presence in my life was a girl I had met through a forum about website coding. We had become facebook friends and had chatted for about two years but I never had the courage to ask her out. She seemed like an attractive girl through her pictures and my self-esteem levels were always bellow zero. It was weird though, how this device gave me a feeling of confidence. Just because I knew I could use it to create my desirable outcome it made me more relaxed when talking to her. One day we were analyzing the paths that technology had opened up for us and I remember her telling me about how we would have never met if it weren’t for the internet. I felt like there wasn’t a better moment to arrange a meeting with her; and so we did. Her name was Raven and she lived in a small town about an hour drive from New York, where my father and I lived. I agreed to visit her at her hometown but I wouldn’t dare meet that girl without the Love controller with me.

Unfortunately my increased confidence due to the controller wasn’t increased enough because I completely blew the date but of course I stole the glass that she was drinking from (yes…rock bottom). Upon my return home I obsessively, for hours, worked until I managed to insert the DNA sample from the wine glass in the love controller.

Create Profile à Name: Raven Cooper, Age: 20

Options à Add relationship

Relationship manipulation à Alexander Mills & Raven Cooper

Type of relationship à Romantic

Level of love à 8

ENTER.

All it took was a few minutes and my phone started ringing non-stop. Raven was calling me. When I picked up she sounded weird; it seemed like she was losing her words and didn’t know what to say, or didn’t know how to say what she wanted to say???!!! Finally she asked if she could come over to my place, she was willing to drive all the way because she felt that she “didn’t treat me the way I deserved and she felt bad that our date ended in a bad note”. I wasn’t sure if I should take advantage of the situation or not but she was insisting big time so I accepted; plus that’s what I wanted, I guess, since I used the love controller on her. Couple of hours later she appeared at my doorstep holding a pizza box. It was unbelievable, I still couldn’t comprehend fully the function of this device and how could it have that effect on people. Raven, who seemed like she couldn’t wait to leave the diner we met at, a few hours ago, was absolutely smitten with me right at that moment.

Raven and I became inseparable since that day. She was laughing and smiling all the time. Sometimes I felt guilty and I thought that what I’ve done was insanely unethical but Raven seemed happy. I tried my best to keep her that way, and our relationship seemed to build up more and more. I was viewing the love controller as my salvation, it was the best thing that had ever happened to me; my mother’s gift to me. At first I wanted to improve myself in every way. I started living healthier and I enrolled to a gym; the difference was noticeable within a few months. After that I felt ready to finally look for a job but things were not as easy as I thought they would be. Turns out not having a college education is not the best tool for getting a respectable job. I guess I could have kept looking and I could have tried harder but I felt safe, I had my love controller. I did things that I am not proud of, things that my mother wouldn’t have been proud of.

  1. Mayer’s was a very prestigious company, they were experts in researching and producing advanced technological products. I’ve been dreaming of getting a job there since I was a teenager, with plans of getting into MIT. Marc Mayer, son on Jonathan Mayer, the founder of the company, had inherited his father’s position as a CEO after his father passed, and frankly he was doing a great job. He had taken the company to another level, he seemed like a sharp man who knew what was best for his company and was ready to do it no matter the cost. Unfortunately, I had turned into what my mother was afraid she would turn into; I was also ready to do what interested me, no matter the cost.

If a man could be defined from his lowest, most vile action that would probably be it for me. I stalked him. Yes I stalked Marc Mayer for weeks, learned everything about him; where he lived, what car he drove, what time he left for work, what time he went home, how he loved his coffee, which was his favorite bar and what drink did he have when he went there. I was completely consumed by the authority that this device had given me; so much that I let it change me. I was supposedly afraid of the ethical implications of the love controller and that’s why I didn’t want the whole population knowing of its existence and using it, yet I didn’t hesitate for a second to use it in my advantage. I knew that every Friday night, right after he left work, and right before he went to his favorite Jazz bar he always stopped to buy cigarettes. That Friday it was raining a lot. I sneaked out of my car while he was buying his cigarettes and put a hole on his tires, small enough for him to drive a few miles but big enough for him not to reach the bar. I carefully followed him until he stopped his car at the side of the road and helplessly got out of it, stepping inside a puddle, trying to protect his face from the rain.

I parked my car right behind his and quickly run towards him, offering him an umbrella. I offered to help and very conveniently he had no spare tire. Everything was going according to plan, he had to leave his car there and I gave him a ride, he seemed tense so I “spontaneously” proposed a drink to take the edge off. I didn’t want to seem creepy so I let him choose the bar, and then I impressed him by ordering us his favorite drink. We even exchanged phone numbers. I was addicted to it; the power and the control blurred me so much that I couldn’t see how desperate my actions were. I picked up a hair from his suit while he was in the restroom at the bar. When I returned home I didn’t even take off my wet clothes before turning to the love controller.

Create Profile à Name: Marc Mayer, Age: 25

Options à Add relationship

Relationship manipulation à Alexander Mills & Marc Mayer

Type of relationship à Friendship

Level of love à 8

ENTER.

Shortly after that a text message by Marc appeared on my phone.

“Hello Alexander. I just wanted to thank you for the save today and let you know how much I appreciated that along with your company. Enjoyed the drinks, let’s do it again this week, give me a call.

Cheers, Marc.”

It’s not everyday that the CEO of a huge corporation wants to be buddies. I was very careful, I built my relationship with him step by step and tried to complain about my joblessness despite my incredible abilities just the right amount for him to eventually offer me a job. So he did. Just a year after the construction of the love controller I thought my life couldn’t get any better. I had a good relationship with my father, my dream girl, my dream job, a kick ass physique and even friends. I didn’t even question anymore the reality of what was my life. I had decided that even if it wasn’t genuine, I didn’t care as long as I was happy and made the people around me happy as well.

Needless to say I was quite new in the whole “having fun with the guys” thing, so it was slightly hard for me to control myself sometimes under the influence of alcohol. All of those years without people to express my feelings to but a computer. It was incredibly easy for me to open up and become vulnerable, especially to Marc, when we had had a little bit too much to drink. I can recall making plans with Marc and all of the co-workers at my new flat for beers and watching the football match that day. It ended up being just Marc and me. Alcohol flowing along with words. I can’t remember how I blurted it out but I did. It was a moment of weakness and projection of the socially deprived years of my life. Marc laughed for about 10 minutes while making fun of me and telling me to stop drinking. When I brought the device in front of him he seemed rather intrigued than shocked. “Do you understand?” I asked him, “you are my friend now because I chose you to be”.

Marc was too ecstatic. So ecstatic that his brain simply failed to get mad at me because of what I’ve done. All he saw was a scientific miracle right in front of him. He kept telling me I’m a genius so I explained to him that it was an experiment my mother had started and I was just the one to finish it and perfect it. He was getting paranoid and kept asking all of those questions. I’m an introvert from my nature so it had started bothering me and we were both drunk so it seemed perfectly logical back then to go out and test the love controller on any woman we could find in order for Marc to become convinced. That night was a frenzy of manipulation. It felt good to have finally shared my secret with someone, I remember feeling lighter, healthier, like what I was doing wasn’t wrong anymore, because now he knew.

Never have I ever imagined that this lighter, healthier feeling was the feeling of ignorance. This is what ignorance feels like; nice and calm. It’s the truth that sets you free but crushes you at the same time. Crushes you from all directions, damaging you irreversibly. I woke up at Raven’s house happy and amazed with the beauty of my life that day. I looked at her while she was sleeping, her porcelain skin, her black hair tangled around her pillow, her lips slightly opened as she was sleeping next to me. I made pancakes, which we ate while she was wearing my shirt and talked about our careers. My life seemed to be in line and I was seriously considering proposing to her. Her smile was the brightest thing I had ever seen and I couldn’t think of anything better to wake up to everyday. Besides, she had noticed me before I got a job and lost weight, even before I used the love controller on her, we talked on facebook for two entire years.

I left her house feeling rejuvenated. I thought I’d call Marc, ask him to help me find a fine ring for Raven, I wanted it to be perfect, but somebody had different plans for me… The door of my flat was wide open; it was obvious that the lock had been broken. I slowly walked in the house and grabbed the first heavy thing I saw, which was a candlestick, and carefully wandered around the flat. The realization of what had happened was sharp and painful. I run to my office and was not surprised to see that the love controller was gone. Like I said, the truth sets you free but it is painful. The safety I felt, that what I was doing wasn’t bad, because Marc knew and he wasn’t mad at me, was now replaced by the feeling that I was being punished and it was now being proven that you can’t really create a perfect friendship, or relationship whatsoever, that’s why he stole it from me, because his brain, somewhere deep inside, knew that it wasn’t real.

I must have called him at least 40 times, at his home, at his mobile, at the office. Nothing. I was panicking; I could feel my heart speeding and my breath heavier and heavier as I was walking up and down inside my flat with the phone so tight in my hand that my palm was sweating. I was sweating in general, because I was scared. Scared of what I had done, scared of what Marc would do, scared of the world finding out but most of all Raven, scared that Raven would find out. I drove to the office, where of course they didn’t let me in, told me I was no longer an employee of J. Mayer’s and I should leave before they call for security. I went to Marc’s house; more security. My desperation was undeniable. I had started wondering whether I should tell Raven, but I was in such despair that I wanted to believe I would find a solution to this problem as soon as possible. A way out of what I had done.

How stupid had I been? Of course Marc would seize the opportunity, he owned a company that produced innovative technological products, and I introduced to him the love controller? What was I thinking? Within days the first promoting video about the love controller was leaked on youtube. It went viral. People were talking, still not convinced, wondering, what it was, where did it come from. Everyday was a struggle for me, wondering when my name would come out. I was looking at Raven, paranoid, thinking that she would look into my eyes and see that it was me; scared that she would read my mind.

It was all turning against me slowly but steady. Panic prevailed very fast, once the crowds were convinced of the legitimacy of the device. J. Mayer’s started constructing replicas of the love controller and selling it in an incredibly high price, creating a digital divide, allowing only the upper class access to the device. Subsequently, that made the low and middle class paralyze from fear. They felt vulnerable. Their emotions were fully exposed and opened to manipulation and there was nothing they could do to protect themselves. People started guarding their DNA as if it was treasure. The streets started looking more like a ghetto; The love controller had turned into a tool for fulfilling corporate interests and the only person I could blame for that was myself. My mother would be ashamed of me; that was a constant thought in my mind. The power of her experiment had scared her, she didn’t think she was able to handle the responsibilities of what she had created, and that drove her away; but she thought I was. Apparently she was wrong. I was so socially handicapped that my naïve mind didn’t predict how bad love controller could mess up societal norms.

People never felt safe. The rich would never leave their own bedrooms without security accompanying them but the less fortunate were struggling to accept that someone could basically turn them into “robots” at anytime, as long as they had their DNA. What people are afraid of the most, besides death, is not controlling their own emotions. They were getting paranoid, thinking they are being controlled even if they weren’t. Politicians were buying the device and they were trying to manipulate other politicians’ feelings, trying to take over higher and more prestigious positions. Anarchy was dominating, and not just in New York, or even in America, the fear, and at the same time obsession, over this device was universal.

Even Marc himself regretted his decision to put this device on the market. Obviously the money he made was insane, but it didn’t take long for him to knock on my door. He was hopeless, crying, and speaking very fast, apologizing for stealing the love controller, promising that he hadn’t told anybody that it was me who created it. He kept saying that it wasn’t worth it, that he had ended up twice as rich as before, but alone and scared of his own shadow. He couldn’t sleep at night without sedatives and he barely came out of his house.

Raven and I lived together. I didn’t want her being alone in the middle of this “civil war” that humanity was experiencing. She was very scared, and I felt responsible for that; I almost couldn’t live with myself or look her in the eyes, and she was feeling sad and lonely, because I was getting depressed and distancing myself. She thought I didn’t love her, but how could I tell her that I was cold because I felt guilty? She was in pain, I could see it, and after a while she couldn’t keep it together anymore. She broke down emotionally and that was when I knew that I couldn’t and shouldn’t keep the truth from her any longer. I would tell her what I had done and I could only hope for the best.

I spent hours in front of the mirror trying to find the right words, the words that would hurt her the least but it was hopeless. Better phrased words wouldn’t take away the amount of responsibility I had for the destruction of society as we knew it, for millions of suicides, for people going crazy, for chaos, for her getting hurt. When she came home I took her by the hand, led her to the living room and sat her on the sofa and I started talking.

“Before I start talking I want you to know that you’re the best thing that ever happened to me, and the last thing I ever wanted to do was to cause you pain. The only thing I wanted was to make you smile, and if I knew that I would ever be the reason for you to hurt I’d never do what I did”

Raven seemed confused.

“You know my story, you know that my mother left when I was little; what you don’t know is why. My mother spent years researching in biotechnology and eventually she invented a device which controls relationships and the level of love between people”

Raven seemed even more confused.

“My mother got scared over how powerful what she invented was and wanted to banish herself from technology. She believed I would be able to handle it more successfully so she left me an encrypted video with instructions on how to build the device”

Raven was laughing now.

“Please, listen to me. When I managed to put it together I was in despair, I had no life. I used the device on you Raven. I’m so sorry, you were just the first person who showed interest in me and I found you so amazing. I thought I could only make you happy.”

Raven had realized I wasn’t joking by then. She stared at me with wide-open eyes for about ten seconds and then stared at the flood. I could see that she was on deep thoughts. “So, do I really love you?” she asked, and there was a tear about to fall from her left eye. I really did not know how to respond to her question. “I think you truly do, but I don’t know if you would if I hadn’t made you to,” I finally said. Raven didn’t lush out, she didn’t scream and yell, she didn’t swear at me, she didn’t even hate me, that wasn’t who Raven was and that was one of the many reasons why I loved her so much; but Raven got up, wiped up her tears and told me she wouldn’t share her life with someone who didn’t respect her basic human right to make her own decision, to form her own emotions. She left that day and I never saw her again.

New York was dark and gray. You looked around and you saw no future, only gloom and darkness. People had shifted their attention from hunting and stealing money to hunting and stealing emotions. There was no democracy, no restrains, and no second thoughts about manipulation; there was just a battlefield. The battle was between each person’s humanity and their basic instincts, and instincts really seemed to be rising above. After I lost Raven, my job, my friends, it felt like I was right back to where I started. My efforts to fix what I’ve done were meaningless. I was trying to find controllers, to destroy as many as I could, but New York is very small compared to the world.

Chaos was always there, people just learned how to live inside of it, how to desensitize themselves to it. They had no option anyway, nothing they could do for protection. The situation went on for years…I found a small, meaningless office job and like the rest of the population, surrendered myself to any fate that was in store for me. I got lost inside my routine and miserably like that, many years passed in the new “emotion-enslaved” world.

­­­­­THE RECOVERY

 

It’s been 17 years since humanity’s switch towards darkness. Some things have changed and some others haven’t. Humans still use the love controller, crimes still occur over it and over emotional manipulation but people are not shocked about it anymore. They have accepted the danger of it as part of their life, they’ve found ways to protect themselves, they’ve tried to reconstruct their life around it; life with the love controller is the only life that the new generation knows and people like me tell their kids stories of how the life was before it, like old tales, lusting for that kind of life again.

My life was pretty much the same. Mostly lonely and conservative, it would be characterized as miserable by many. One day, while I was researching ways to destroy the controller I heard a knock on my door. My first thought was to keep quiet, pretend I wasn’t home, but the person behind it was persistent, the knocks became more frequent and louder. When I opened the door, behind it stood a young girl with long black hair, a red cap and a denim dress. Her skin was white and her eyes seemed familiar although I’ve never seen the girl before. I sat there looking at her.

“Hello,” she said.

“Who are you?”

“My name is Katie, I think you knew my mother, Raven? Raven Cooper?”

Raven…it had been years since I’ve heard that name. Raven obviously had moved on, she had a daughter, which looked just like her, but why was the kid knocking on my door?
“Indeed, I knew your mother.”

“May I come in?” I didn’t want her to come in, but I said yes. I offered her some tea and awkwardly sat on the armchair across the sofa, where she sat.

“So? What brings you here Kathy?”

“It’s Katie.”

“Yeah.”

“I…was looking for you, for two years.”

“Looking for me? Why?”

“See, my mom died two years ago, when I was 15,” my heart stopped right there. Raven was dead? “and I’ve been looking for my biological father ever since.” I was still shocked by Raven’s death, too shocked to realize where she was going with this.

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“See, I’m pretty good with technology, I researched a lot, and it all led up to you.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re my biological father.” Shock, denial, emotions, tears. Those words that came out of her mouth changed my whole reality, made my life for the past 17 years a lie, meaningless. How could Raven hide that from me, but I guess I deserved it. I had a daughter; a daughter that was good with technology.

­­­­­­­The girl was life itself. I was trying to get used to her existence. It wasn’t that hard, a part of myself felt strongly connected to her, it wasn’t so hard for her to break my shield of misery. She was so much like her mother. I took her in my flat, I got used to her schedule, she went to high school, she knew that it was me who created the love controller, her mother had told her that her father was the creator of the device, and surprisingly Katie didn’t hate me for that. Technology was in her DNA, she felt admiration towards me and after I told her the story, towards her grandmother as well.

Katie wanted to study biotechnology in college, she had found a way to hack into love controller devices and permanently deactivate them. She wanted to create a team of scientists, share their findings and start a revolution against the “emotion-slavery”, try to restore the purity of the world, like the old tales about how life used to be that her mother talked to her about.

Katie was the living example that humanity, even in the worst and darkest situations, when there doesn’t seem to be any hope for revival, will find a way to rise above. Humans will dig and find this one little hope, they will grab it, and they will never let it go until they find their way back to the top. In a world of fake emotions she was the most real thing I’ve ever encountered and she is proof that what technology has done, technology can also find a way to undo.

Katie and I are currently discussing with scientists all over the world who are also researching and have innovative ideas about how to change the world, again. Hope for humanity’s forthcoming has returned, and so have the smiles of the people. The future is unknown, and nobody is sure whether we’re going to be successful, but what has been proved is that having a negative attitude towards technology didn’t help anybody. Emotions may have been stolen but optimism is the way to be. We hope for the best; and like my mother used to say aim for the top to reach at least the middle. If we succeed, privacy of emotions is never going to be taken for granted again, and perhaps humans are even going to be more careful even with privacy of their data.

I would never say I feel proud of what I’ve done, but at least humanity’s dark years can serve as a lesson for future generations to use technology wiser. Meanwhile the creator of the love controller remains unknown to the world, and Katie, the daughter of the person who destroyed the world, is going to be the one to save it.

Salt Water Teaser

“Elena” she said with a trembling voice, and as she did, he realized he was still holding on her elbow. He let go of her and she, slowly this time, walked away with the shell in her hands.

“Elena…” he repeated, with a spark in his eyes, looking towards the open sea. She had stormed into his life like a hurricane and he was sure that he wanted her to remain there. He wanted to know her; he wanted her to look into his eyes with joy and excitement this time, with trustfulness.

On the way back his friends mocked him and yelled at him.

“How long does it take to pee you joke?”

He ignored them, followed them around for the rest of the day, did his duties until they were back at the camp, then he knew what he had to do. In the whole camp, there was only one approachable person who could speak both Greek and German and that was a teenage boy, orphan, they had taken pity on him after his parents were killed by German soldiers and took him in the camp. He knew German because apparently his mother was German but she was considered a defector. The boy didn’t speak a lot and wasn’t joyful at all, he barely ate and had no communication with anyone whatsoever. Niklaus had a kind soul so he was careful on how to approach the boy. He brought him a bar of chocolate, you could rarely find chocolate in this island.

“Boy, what’s your name? I am Niklaus.”

The boy stared at him for a few seconds but did not respond, he was sitting in a corner with his arms around his knees.

“Here boy, this is for you, don’t be afraid, I only want to ask you something.”

The boy seemed kinda hesitant but he replied this time.

“Manos” he said. “What is this?” he asked in German and Niklaus was surprised by how fluent he was.

“It’s chocolate, it’s sweet, try it. How old are you boy?”

“14” he said and then tasted the chocolate. His eyes opened widely and he licked his lips graciously.

“Well, Mano, I need a favor. I need you to teach me Greek, do you think you could do that for me?”

The boy laughed, “Do I have a choice?”

Niklaus was surprised by the question, it brought to him a flashback of the brutalities this boy and tons of other Greeks were experiencing, made him think of how much he didn’t want to be the person he was expected to be.

“Of course you have a choice.”

“Then I want to make a deal.”

The boy seemed sharp, smart, he was taking a risk but Niklaus knew it was just because he had given him the right to.

“I will teach you Greek” he said,” if you bring me this chocothing every time I teach you something new.”

Niklaus couldn’t help but laughing this time. He thought the boy would go as far as to ask for him to set him free, take revenge for his parents or something like that, but no. All he wanted was more chocolate. His mind couldn’t help but admiring the simplicity of this young person’s soul. His past was shadowed but he wasn’t bloodthirsty.

Without even realizing it he had formed a small routine that he was practicing everyday. He managed to convince Kristof, Fabian, Johann and Thomas to switch shifts, from morning to afternoon. He was waking up in the morning along with everyone else but then their ways separated. Niklaus took off early before the hot sun was out, he had a lot of walking to do and with his heavy clothes it wasn’t the most pleasant thing in the world to do under the sunlight. Sometimes he stole figs from the trees and ate them on the way to the beach. He always arrived there earlier than her; he hid behind some trees and waited. He rested there looking at the sky changing colors until she always showed up adding one more vibrant color into the sky. She was always sitting on the top of the cliff for a few minutes, staring at the sky as well, looking down bellow the sea. Then she was climbing down the stairs and taking off her sandals, caressing the golden sand with her toes, as if she was painting images. It always took his breath away when she was taking her clothes off. He was staring at her naked breasts, giving away that she wasn’t a little girl at all, but it was more than physical desire that drawn him, because even though he couldn’t see them, he kept imagining her eyes while she was letting her hair down of her braid, imagining how the rising sun would make them glow. He watched her swim and then she always disappeared for a while, he couldn’t figure out where. The first time he got scared, he thought she was drowning, but then she appeared again, swimming towards the shore, and then she lay naked on the beach. Her hair was long, becoming one with the sand like the first time he saw her there. He didn’t want to talk to her again, scare her, unless he could communicate decently.

When he was patrolling with his friends in the afternoons they asked him where he was running off to every morning, if he had found a mistress. He was a clever man so he had said yes. He had told them he was seeing one of the German women that they had brought along as secretaries, maids and other responsibilities, he didn’t tell them who, obviously because it was none of them, but he claimed he didn’t want to expose her.

After their afternoon shift he was visiting Manos. He brought him a bar of chocolate and the boy taught him Greek.

“What do you need Greek for?” He had asked one day.

“It’s non of your business boy, your job is to teach me.”

“You met a girl, didn’t you”?

“Shut up kid, just teach me Greek.”

“You can tell me you know, I’m not like your German buddies.”

The kid was smart. Probably he had matured before his time, he appeared to have some kind of wisdom, and surprisingly not just wisdom but peace as well. How could a person who lost both of his parents and is practically being captured by their killers be so peaceful? Niklaus felt some kind of jealousy for the kid because he hasn’t had such a hard life and yet he couldn’t find his peace.

He was somehow drawn to him; he wanted to talk to the boy about his life.

“Do you ever picture your life? How it could be now, if…you know.”

“If my parents weren’t killed and I wasn’t forced to live here for the rest of my life you mean?”

“Yeah I think you pretty much covered everything.”

“Well no, what would be the point? I can’t change anything can I?”

“I guess not.”

“What about you. Have you always wanted to join the army? Does it run in the family?”

The realization of how the Germans were perceived by most people came like a lightning. Manos must have thought they were monsters. That he was a monster; that he spent his days kissing a picture of Adolf Hitler as if he was a god and hating on everyone but Germans. He must have thought that joining the army was his dream come true.

“You know Mano, I didn’t have much of a choice.”

The boy blinked.

“My parents were wealthy you know. I grew up with Egyptian cotton sheets and all the luxury in the world. I had the best education.”

Niklaus seemed spaced out, like he was taking a trip back to the past.

“So what happened then?”

“My parents are good people, supportive people. They made sure I had all the love in the world while growing up but that resulted to me being very shielded. This Nazi philosophy caught me by surprise; I had different plans. I was preparing for university; I was going to be an architect.”

Manos looked surprised now, as if he was trying to fit all of that new information in the image of Niklaus that he had in front of him at that exact moment.

“Then one day my mother came up to my bed, I had turned 18 just two days before and she came to my bed crying. She never used to come to my bed. She was holding a paper, my recruitment. I was just a kid, with a lot of dreams.

The next day they came to pick me up, I didn’t even get the chance to say goodbye to my father. He is a merchant and he wasn’t in town. They took me to a big room with white walls and marble floors, it was empty of furniture and very cold, also there was a smell of mold.

The room was full of boys and men.

I had wavy blonde hair and they shaved it all off. They made us take off our clothes and stand next to each other while they were inspecting our bodies, looking at us as if we were some kind of meat being judged on its quality. Bastards.

I spent 3 years in training, 3 years in a brainwashing environment, trying to turn us into pathetic little chessmen, teaching us how to hate.

That’s when I met Kristof, Fabian, Johann and Thomas. They all come from such diverse environments. They didn’t have the proper education to be able to distinguish the amount of propaganda around us, everyone was reinforcing hostile behavior towards anyone but Germans, we were all kids and it was easier to go by the rules, and when the guys were praised for doing something which in your eyes would seem terrible they could only think it was a good thing.

It was a matter of survival for them, but they ended up liking what they did.”

“Don’t excuse them.”

“I’m not, I still think it’s terrible, their beliefs, their way of thinking, but I can’t really blame them. Not everyone is strong enough to maintain a clear vision under circumstances like those.

Anyway, when we we bonded. This Nazi philosophy changed them radically though, and there was nothing I could do about it. It has become a lot worse since we came here; they think it makes them manlier acting this way.

I had started thinking that there was something wrong with me. How could I not enjoy doing the things they enjoyed? And then I saw that girl Mano. Then I knew why; I am meant for different things. You can’t possibly conceptualize her, her eyes are so sad but she shines so bright Mano. So bright. She is the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen! I just want to make her happy!” Niklaus exclaimed.

“You know Mano, for me the fact that she is Greek means that if she ever loved me this war would mean nothing for me and her. Symbolization that there are more important things in life than a country and pure emotions are the only way out of the darkness.”

They boy patiently listened to everything he had to say but didn’t complain about his own life, not even once. He only said one thing but it was enough.

“You can’t change the world, but you can change YOUR world and live in it, the way you want.”

Summer’s Last Tango

 tango-lesson

Sometimes life makes you believe in fairytales

Ariadne always loved her name, she always thought it gave her a mythical twist. She was a difficult girl, one could say she couldn’t find love in the face of anybody she ever met. Nothing besides excitement, but she was always drawn by romantic gestures and they were carved in her heart the same way teenager couples carve their initials on old trees. The person usually is not as important as the gesture itself and its certain sweetness and warmth. Maybe she expected too much, maybe she had seen too many movies. No, she didn’t wait for her prince charming but most certainly her standards were pretty high.

Her mother’s hometown was a small town in northern Greece. She didn’t like it much. See, Ariadne was raised in Athens, the magical capital of Greece, the city with the historical alleys and bright, beautiful, majestic lights. She didn’t like going at that town, it was too small, boring, full of people so narrow minded, she only visited for the sake of her family. It was mid-August when Ariadne decided to take the train and go back to her beloved Athens. The closest train station was two hours away, at Meteora so her uncle decided to drive her there. Meteora is one of the largest and most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece and they are located on the top of some very high rocks who seem as if they are “suspended in the air” or “in the middle of the sky.” She was very happy that she was going back home, she could already see the city lights in her head and she was looking forward to her sophomore year in college. She felt so fulfilled, that summer had been very generous to her, she felt grown up but young at the same time. Ready to take on the world, in for the big shot.

Needless to say, Ariadne was extremely confident. She was only wearing her worn out jean shorts, a white sleeveless shirt and her hair was on a braid up to her shoulders, but when she walked into that train looking for her seat she could steal a look, or the attention of any man she wanted in there. It was something about how she looked at them. She was more than a distinct face that you don’t see everyday, more than beautiful eyes, nice hair and body. Something about her made people want to be around. She sat next to the window, it was a 6 hour trip and she wanted to look at the window. She always thought Greece was incredibly beautiful, she almost felt bad that she would leave after graduating but it was her dream. She was convinced that she was made for bigger things. There was something else about Ariadne, everything she did, even the simplest thing, like sitting and reading a book, projected “classy.” Just by looking at her people knew she was the kind of person you could have an actual conversation with about something meaningful.

Indeed, there she was, right by the window, reading her book in the train until this handsome man approached. He placed his bags right above the seat and took his place next to Ariadne. He was a man of average height, his skin must have been originally white but it was August and he was in Greece, so he was very tanned. Ariadne took one look at him and she could distinguish his french characteristics. Yes she was sure that he was French. Time was going by and Ariadne was not only bored but she was also trying to find an appropriate way of approaching the french tourist. Maybe because her options were limited and all she could do was sit in a train for the next 6 hours, but he had distracted her. She couldn’t even read her book anymore, she was just looking outside the tremendous window to the fields, all dried up from the warm summer sun. She couldn’t find any interesting topics about talking to him so she decided to go with spontaneity. Ariadne turned her head to him and directly asked him if he was french. He smiled and agreed. His name was Serge, he was 29 years old and he was from Paris. He was travelling the world, sightseeing all the beauties of it. In his judgement Meteora was one of them. He had gone around Greece and now he was going back in Athens for a tango festival and back in Paris the day after. What is more interesting than a handsome, well educated man who loves traveling and dancing?

The two people started having conversations and Ariadne found herself incredibly enchanted by him. Of course, she didn’t show it, she always managed to maintain her rather distant and mysterious veil that made people want to explore her. Thanks to him those 6 hours were over as fast as a cigarette. They talked about everything, their life, their goals and dreams, their passion for elegance and fashion, he told her she was ready for Paris.They discussed about their philosophies, but most of all they discussed about his great passion, Tango. “Tango is like fire” he said, “If you get very much into it you will get burned.” His passion was inspiring and contagious. Ariadne knew that this was a cliche but she couldn’t stop picturing Serge dancing tango in a hot summer night under the Eiffel Tower. The scent of the french cuisine coming from the small bistro nearby, the lights of Paris, and Louis’ Armstrong  “La vie en Rose” smoothly playing in the background. Ariadne’s romantic side has been awakened. The warmness that this handsome stranger was projecting couldn’t leave her unaffected , she couldn’t ignore the fairytale unfolding right before her eyes. It was getting late.

Ariadne was getting hungry and there was not much that you could find in a Greek train. She suddenly remembered the two sandwiches her chef uncle had prepared for her, the mouthwatering sandwiches with chicken and pesto sauce. Serge hadn’t eaten anything this whole time as well so Ariadne kindly offered him one of the two sandwiches and as she had predicted he accepted. He was a gentleman though, he wouldn’t let her kind gesture unrewarded. He offered her a tango lesson as soon as they arrived in Athens and spent the rest of the trip preparing her by showing her tango music. This sexy but at the same time extremely romantic music that indeed makes you wanna dance all night under the moonlight. It was the best possibly way for Ariadne to spend those 6 hours. They had finally arrived in historical Athens. Serge acted like the gentleman he was and helped Ariadne carry her luggage around the underground subway of the city. She accompanied him to his hotel where he requested for her to change into shoes with some sort of heels because that’s the way to dance tango. She patiently waited for him at the lobby while he was changing into sweatpants in his room. While she waited for him the times that she fought to herself what was she doing in a hotel with a French stranger were not few. It was the last day of the summer though and Ariadne could not reject this miraculous event, she wanted to live her magical fairytale.

Neither of them had slept through the night, they were both exhausted by this 6 hour trip, they were carrying around heavy bags in the crowded subway of Athens, but they were still psyched about tango dancing for the rest of the night. They explored the tiny streets of Monastiraki. The smell of evening primrose was hovering in the air but also the smell of different local dishes when they were walking next to traditional restaurants. And then they found the street. It was small and surrounded by Ivy in both the right and the left wall. A bit further there was a small balcony with metal enclosure, a bit rusted from the years that had passed by them. On the balcony you could distinguish the figure of a striking chair. Ariadne could easily picture the image of a young mother putting her baby to sleep on that rocking chair and singing lullabies to it.

Serge set up his small iPod with some portable speakers, loud enough for them to dance; but not too loud. His arms were strong, “Tango is all about leadership,” he told her. And he was, he really was the leader and she followed. He covered her eyes with a blindfold and told her that all she had to do was to trust him, to let him move her body, to let him be in control; so she let him. She let him move her around and throw her back and lift her legs up while still keeping them tight to his body. His arms were strong and no matter how many times he lifted her up she wasn’t scared, she was having fun, she was laughing, she was admiring his passion. They were dancing for two hours until they run out of breath. They were sweaty and tired but they were so attractive like that, two travellers, a dancer with his student, two young people with chemistry amongst them, two people attracted to each other.

When the music was over the magic was completed. Serge let Ariadne slide back and told her to stretch her legs on the front so that she would fall further down and he would be the only one holding her weight. When she did that she opened her eyes and looked at the handsome muscles around his face, which didn’t seem to be struggling, and his smile. “Who is holding who?” he said and then she told him that he is holding her and that she trusted him. That was when he leaned in and kissed her plump, reddish lips. He pulled her back up and gave her another kiss. One on the lips, then one on her cheek, then one on her neck. Soft though, like cotton’s touch, and she just stood there letting him kiss her once alabaster, now tanned skin, giving him control. It was when sharply he pulled her close to his body that she grabbed the back of his hair and kissed him hard, giving him back some of the passion that he had transmitted her through the tango. When they stopped to look at each other Ariadne decided to take his hand and started dragging him around the city.

He was laughing now, he was stopping sometimes when he wanted to kiss her badly. “What is this place?” He asked her. She helped him find solid rocks to step on in order to climb and before he knew it they were up on a hill, under the starry sky, the moon was shinning on her face and her hair and then he pulled her close and danced some more with her, without the music this time. The music was the wind caressing the leafs of the trees, the crickets and their breaths synchronising, that was all they needed. It was there, under the starry sky and the bright moon, under a sycamore tree, that he softly removed her clothes and she removed his and none of them cared that they didn’t know each other because the chemistry they had was beyond all of this pointless little details. Besides, who is the one setting the societal rules? Who is the one telling us that knowing a person for a bunch of weeks makes it okay to give yourself to him whereas a person who you just met but seems to understand your passions and share your spirit is off limits?

“You are beautiful” he told her. It was unconditional, nobody had expectations, all they wanted was to make the best out of every moment they had together. When the shinny moon started to fade away and the sky became red and pink and orange all together they got dressed and left. They stopped at a 24/7 creperie and had chocolate crepes, without caring about how terrible they both looked and then he walked her and waited with her until she found a taxi. Ariadne’s eyes were glowing, she knew what it was and she didn’t want it to be anything more or anything less. For her it was pure magic and when he told her that she is never going to leave his mind and that from now on Greece is associated with her in his mind she gave him one last kiss and whispered in his ear, “don’t get burned in the fire, you have many more starry skies to sleep bellow.”

That was the last time Ariadne saw Serge, she didn’t want to ruin the magic so they agreed not to exchange any contact information. They would always keep that image intact no matter what. I am not saying that it was love on the first time or that they were crazy about each other, but the truth is that they were each other’s summer miracle and they both knew that a movie like experience like theirs doesn’t occur multiple times in a lifetime. After that day every time Ariadne would hear about France or tango Serge’s smile and sparkly eyes would come in her imagination and she would always consider him as her personal fairytale.

The Illusionists’ Safe

A picture is worth 1000 words. This safe has been through a lot. Tell its story.

Image credit: “safe” – © 2007 Paul Keller – made available under Attribution 2.0 Generic

19nth Century.

The night was still young, the two friends were obsessively seeking for new tricks, they were performing in a small pub just a few hours before midnight. They were so not looking forward to seeing all of those drunk faces. Same old faces always, the ones who wanted to forget their concerns and the ones who wanted to create some. They were drinking cheap wine and expecting to be entertained. Their idea of entertainment was the illusion of causing pain to somebody else. But wasn’t them all along seeking for hope of the impossible into non existent realities by trying to create them from scratch? Looking as if they were creating the impossible made the two friends feel they really did. They hated performing for those drunks, in the trashy pubs of London, hidden in dirty, dark alleys, where only middle aged men with missing tooth and disease spreading prostitutes knew the way to. No, they had bigger plans. Theatre, big stages with audience who would wear their haute couture, at that time, clothes and watch their show with their breaths taken away. They wanted the elite but they were well aware of the starting point. They had no family to sustain, but they had to survive themselves. It was hard not to starve at those dark and greasy times of London.

Carter was a tall man around 24 years of age. He was born in a village in Scotland, his mother passed while giving birth to him. His father was a drunken, he gave him away to a millers’ family in order to raise him and when he was old enough put him to work. He was 8 years old when he decided to run away. Ralph was 21 but their main difference was that he was “highborn.” His family was one of the richest of London, invested money in many constructions of the town back in the days. They were on their way back from a construction in Cornwall when they were attacked from thieves. They murdered his parents and stole their carriage. Ralph was 6 years old, the construction they had signed to invest in was completed but they were never able to pay the money, consequently their fortune was seized and little Ralph was sent in an orphanage, that’s where he met Carter, after he had searched for a shelter in some farmers house, they sold him in a traveling group of magicians who wanted him as a part of their show, they taught him about illusions until they couldn’t feed him anymore and one day left him outside of the big wooden door of the London orphanage a year after. The two kids were connected and little Ralph has been given the spark of magic, a gift from his brotherly friend. Once they had come of age they were released from the orphanage, responsible for their own future paths, which they decided to unite into a common road.

It was a rainy night, the dirty men in the pub brought along mud. The different scents of mud, wine and humans who didn’t wash themselves very often were combined and while emerging in the hectic little pub it made it very difficult to work. The screams of the men, the women, usually ugly or mediocre looking, walking around the room with their dress’s torso lowered leaving their breasts exposed and no panties, providing easy, immediate access to any drunk man who could afford the cheap price of a disgusting prostitute. Those scenes always brought back memories for Ralph, memories of drinking tea from porcelain teacups when he was still 5 years old, vain memories. Sometimes he used to look at this scum people and pity them, not for their financial misfortune, because himself wasn’t in a good position, but for their animalistic lifestyle. He did the same that night, he looked at every single one of them and everyone provoked the feeling of vomit except of one. She came in front of the tiny makeshift stage and looked at them with excitement while everyone else was yelling like cannibals and acting like they were in a ancient Roman fiest, only with diseases served instead of grapes. She had a bit of dirt on her clothes but her face was clean. Her breast was covered, she had red hair in curls falling over her shoulders and big but a bit hazel brown eyes with big eyelashes. What was she doing in a place like this? He couldn’t talk to her, he was performing. Soon enough a skinny guy around 30 years of age, young compared to others in the pub, grabbed her arm and sticked some money in the torso of her dress, then he pushed her on a wooden table, pulled up her dress and roughly penetrated inside of her. She didn’t make a sound, she turned her head away from him and looked at the rotten ceiling and Ralph could do absolutely nothing to stop it.

He went back to that pub, did multiple performances but she wasn’t there and he had never talked to anybody about her, not even to Carter, his brother, friend and according to him, his guardian angel. It’s been weeks that internally he wished he would come across her but he didn’t, until that night. Their savings were enough to buy themselves a better equipment and the mayor had agreed to let them perform for an upcoming celebration in the main square. Ralph was coming home late in the afternoon, he had gone to make amends with some constructors of their stage. He never expected he would come home to find Carter with a woman. He always knew that he would pay for girls from time to time, only the good-looking and clean ones, sometimes he saved food money in order to do that, but he had never seen him with one. The woman was completely naked and Carters’ body was hiding her face. When Carter quickly got up to cover himself, Ralph was surprised to see the face of the redhead he was looking for all of those weeks. Her hair was messy this time but her eyes still hazel. He was shocked as he didn’t expect to see her again while a man was paying for her services. She got up, looked at him in the eyes, got dressed and left. She did everything slowly, like she wasn’t ashamed, like a lady, but the look in her eyes was confusing, it showed a bit of shame and a bit of helplessness as well. It was the look that made him follow her out the door, Carter hopelessly tried to stop him by saying it was just a whore but Ralph didn’t listen. He went out, asked her to stop, he said his name was Ralph and asked hers. Her name was Roxanne she was 19 years old and she was from Ireland, she had travelled in Britain on her own, left her family behind and sent them money every month. He asked if she liked this job and he proposed a better one, working with them on their performances. She gladly agreed but they had both forgotten to include Carter in this arrangement.

The world had started to value the extraordinary talents of Carter and Ralph, surely the company of a beautiful smiling assistant was helpful. The income was raising, small theatre owners wanted to purchase performances and the three partners were studying new tricks and illusions. The audience wanted to flirt with danger, to feel as if someone’s life was threatened and in the end achieve the feeling of redemption, that everything was an illusion and nobody was really in danger. Amongst rusty sets, backdrops and other useless broken stuff, there was a metallic safe, about 1.70 tall, in the basement of the small theatre. It was Roxanne’s idea, she had seen it when she was younger while she sneaked in an old theatre back in Ireland. They could make her vanish, she would enter the safe, they would seal it and when they would open it again for the world to see Roxanne would have vanished, only to come back the second time they opened the safe. Carter hated Roxanne, he hated that it was her idea, that she would be the centre of attention in this illusion, but most of all he hated the obvious emotional and sexual tension between her and Ralph. The two of them were having fun modifying the old safe together while Carter was researching ways for the illusion to be conducted and presented. His head was boiling in hatred and jealousy but he had to admit Roxanne was very profitable so he wouldn’t dare fire her, he could only advice Ralph multiple times not to get involved with her.

It was their opening night in the small theatre. Roxanne was wearing a black corsage leaving her well shaped legs uncovered. Her red curls over her shoulders, so long that they were reaching up to her hips. Her lipstick was red too and when she looked into Ralph’s eyes they both knew it was inevitable. He complimented her, took her hand and kneeled while tenderly kissing it. The performance was majestic, even though the theatre was quite small it was surprisingly full of people. Cleaner people this time and better dressed. When Roxanne came out of the old safe the audience was speechless, she was stunning and everyone started cheering out of excitement. It didn’t take long after the performance that a big theatre’s owner came along with his proposal to grant them his space in exchange of 40% of their profits. It was the best deal they could ever find so they signed the contract, which of course included all three of them. 

Ralph insisted to walk Roxanne to her house, the night was too dark and dangerous for a beautiful girl like her. Even though she was used to drunken men, those days of her life were over. Her place was small, but enough for a girl like her, she didn’t spend so much time in her house. They were standing there, right outside her door, Ralph was telling her about how beautiful and amazing she was but when she looked at him with those hazel eyes he couldn’t help himself but touching her lips with his. It was tender the first time but as he looked at her again the next kiss became more passionate and he felt every inch of his body pulling him towards her. She quickly opened her door and Ralph pushed her against the wall without stop kissing her for a second, only when she was kissing his neck. She led him to the bed where he pushed her on while removing each other’s clothes. He touched and kissed every inch of her body before starting making love to her. It was hot and sweaty even though it was cold outside. It was nothing like Roxanne has ever experienced before. He didn’t care about not being her first and she actually felt like he was. It was perfect for both of them. They made love again and again until the morning light, until it was bodily impossible to make love again.

The more times Roxanne was coming out of that old safe looking like a red fire, the more Ralph was falling in love with her over and over again and the more Carter was growing that hatred inside of his heart. He advised Ralph, he told him this is reckless, that they were both kids and that she was a dirty prostitute but in Ralph’s eyes she was nothing less than a red princess who had stolen his heart. Soon came the day of their marriage and Ralph with Roxanne moved in together in a new, bigger house while Carter was left with no smile on his face and even though plenty of women that enjoyed their performances were practically throwing themselves at him he didn’t even have the mood and the energy for them. He himself had started to become confused, why was he feeling such jealousy for his childhood friend? Was it because he was feeling abandoned once again, just like with his father or was it something more than that? Carter brought back memories of how sleeping with any of the women he had wasn’t emotionally fulfilling for him, in contrast with the feeling his friend Ralph was giving him. He became even more confused as it had never crossed his mind that his feelings for Ralph could ever take a turn like that, and how could a man desire another man? Even the thought of it caused him unconditional shame and disgrace. 

The situation was getting worse along with the time that was going by. Carter wanted her gone, he was barely even talking to her when it didn’t have to do with work and even then his words were sharp and rude. A few months after Roxanne’s belly started to grow, her and Ralph were flying in the seven heavens, their happiness was beyond everything they have ever imagined. It has been 2 years after their first meeting and everything was so different, their artistic success was perfectly accompanied from their interpersonal one. Even Carter was happier, not because of their upcoming child but because they would have to find a new assistant which meant he didn’t have to interact with Roxanne daily. The following months went by smoothly in every domain, the performances were not as successful as with Roxanne as the star of the show but they were profitable enough. The nine months went by and a beautiful little girl was brought into this world, spreading some light in dark London, named Bridget. To his surprise even Carter couldn’t resist to loving this child. She was a distraction to him and helped him suppress whatever he was feeling for Ralph. It is mother natures’ way of providing means to survival to every newborn creature of any kind, making them cute, so that they become protected.

That’s pretty much how everything was flowing until Bridget was old enough and Roxanne has gotten her shape back, so she could return in the theatre and the performances with her black corsage and her magic old safe. That brought back the hot spark between her and Ralph but also the spark of jealousy in Carter’s heart. Every time she was coming out of that safe, stunning as she was, and Ralph was looking at her as his own personal goddess, Carter wished she would just vanish as she was supposed to in some alternate reality and never come out of that safe again, because the more time was passing, the more he realised that he was looking at Ralph the same way Ralph was looking at Roxanne. It was the last show of the first week that Roxanne has returned to the theatre. She has gone home right after the performance to prepare her young Bridget for bed, leaving the two friends to celebrate. She always turned her head into Carter’s hatred, pretending she didn’t know. The two friends had consumed enormous amounts of wine, therefore they were drunk, and Carter felt as if his emotions were becoming this huge torrent of water that couldn’t be held back anymore. As Ralph was speaking about his daughter and his love for her his eyes were glowing like amber, Carter couldn’t help it, he followed his drunk instinct and he moved his face towards Ralph’s reaching for a kiss. Ralph was agitated, he quickly pushed him away, they both got up and he punched him, then he left the theatre. His mind couldn’t process such information, that his one and only best childhood friend could possibly view him in that way. How could he look him in the eyes ever again?

After that day they were strictly professional, no further interactions. Carter was slowly dying inside and shutting himself from everything while Ralph and Roxanne were perfectly happy with their little girl. It was eating him up inside, it transformed him, it consumed him, until one day he decided that he couldn’t hurt anymore no matter who else did. The illusion with the safe worked in a simple way. It was connected with the floor and the floor had a trap door to the basement. Roxanne would step in, press a lever to open the trap door and fall on a big inflated bag, then use a ladder to quickly climb up again. Carter was blind of jealousy, minutes before the illusion he removed the inflated bag, replacing it with the big water tank they used for other tricks.

Ralph was looking at his red fire smiling, inserting in her old safe, everybody had his eyes on her, everybody wanted her but he was the only one who had her. He was happy, she was happy too. The door of the safe was sealed and she pressed the lever, but when Ralph opened it Roxanne was nowhere to be seen and gunfire sound was coming from down bellow. Ralph quickly rushed at the basement and what he saw neither his eyes nor his heart would ever forget. Carter’s lifeless body was fallen on the floor while his brains and blood were painting the basement wall in morbid pattern. Roxanne was hovering in the water tank with her eyes opened and her soul long gone from her body. He screamed, he cried, he took the gun and shot at Carter’s body again and again until it was full of holes and the river of his blood reached Ralph’s shoes. He approached his body and wished him to go to hell while he was still sobbing.

Ralph took all of their life savings and his four year old Bridget and vanished from London. He would never return to this graveyard of people he loved or used to love. His daughter looked just like her, her hair were red and curly and her eyes were big and brown. She was all he had now, and he promised to protect her from any pain for the rest of his lonely and miserable life, she would be the only light.

The government took everything from the theatre, all of the machines and the sets along with the old safe which was modified and used from the police as a storage for files. Later it was sold to a junk dealer and was left to be rotten. That’s how this safe, like everything glorious in this world, went from the centre of attention to junk. It went from having all eyes on it, from everyone’s heart pounding while the red princess was expected to pop out, from being the symbol of a great love, from being glorious, to a meaningless junk which was left to be rotten and was found centuries later in a dirty alley of London.