World of Xetrov

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Time to go

Time to Go

The small downtown area emits gently in the darkness of John’s room. Lush mountains are invisible but he sees their beauty beyond the black night. The conviction of serenity lives in these mountains. Unfortunately, these halcyon moment will end but will transition to a new world beyond the boundaries of Xetrov. Only a few more days of Xetrov then he leaves for good, so he thinks. He wonders if Jessica will leave with him,

In a moment of serendipity the door opens, “Hey, I’m in here” He says quietly.

“Why do you have all the lights off?”

“I just wanted peace and quiet. This may be the last place on Xetrov like it.”

She embraces him.

His hand grasps hers, “We’re far from the overbearing cameras, IP address capturing software, GPS’s, and this strangling government.”

“Is this going to work?”

“I wish there was a yes or no answer to that. But it’s all gray.”

They soak in the atmosphere digesting the fresh serene air. For just a few seconds but it seems endless. Could they echo the chirping birds, peeping bugs, and yearn for moments eternally like these?

Silence is broken as the phone trills.

John reaches for the phone, “Yeah?”

“John?”
“Who’s this?” His eyes search the darkness for the voice recognition.

“Mike.”

Getting right to the point, “What have you got?”

“Same place, but the side view.”

“Give me thirty-five minutes.”

“See you then.”

Both phones disconnect.

He pulls Jessica’s hand away from him. “This is it.” Standing up, “We’ve got all the paperwork and we leave at midnight.”

She peers silently into the darkened void.

“I’ll call you when I am on my way back here.”

No romantic goodbye or loving embrace they are too full of anxiety to lock eyes. A touch would reveal an ocean of feelings and flood their tear ducts.

John breaks the silence, “I remember the night before my parents put the dog to sleep. Somehow the dog, Artie, knew that something was wrong. I kept petting him and saying that the place he was going was better than home. An endless amount of freedom without a leash, no one would call your name to come home. You can run through the yard forever.” John chuckles as he smiles, “But Artie knew, his eyes looked so sad. I think he really knew that it was his last night here. He didn’t know he was going to die, but he knew something. I always wondered how he knew that.” He stands in the kitchen, “Now I know how he knew. I feel the same way Artie must have felt that night.”

The door opens and John gazes back in the dark with sadness to see Jessica motionless. The door closes and he is gone.

Moments later, he drives the quiet back roads leading into the city. As he rounds a corner, he spots a deer on the side of the road sparking a rare smile as he continues driving.

Four years later.

Tanya lifts her hair to cool off her neck from the strangely humid night.

She turns to find an older couple that is staring strangely at her. “Good evening, folks,” Tanya systematically grabs two menus. “I can seat you two right over here.”

The couple shuffles slowly over to the table and the woman never removes the odd stare when she sits down.

“May I start either of you off with a drink?”

The woman remains quiet but the man speaks up, “Yes, we’ll have two glasses of orange juice.”

As she jots down the order she replays his calming his voice clairvoyantly imaging an older version of William. The futurity enlightens her and she glances at the door wondering if he will arrive tonight.

“While I get your juice, you can take a look at the menu.” She is oblivious to the older man bury his face in his hands with despair.

The woman gives a comforting rub on his shoulder. “Don’t worry, the worst is over. Things can only get better now.”

After a few short moments, Tanya comes back to the table with two cups still unmindful of the weeping.

Begins taking notes, “Have you two decided?”

“We’ll just have two slices of apple pie,” the woman says.

“Great, I’ll be right back.” Again she thinks of William and smiles.

Circling the counter she finally catches a glimpse of the man wiping his tearful face clean. She looks away to give him privacy but again thinks of William and his sick father. Perhaps the man is a relative of William’s, maybe an uncle. She hopes to see him tonight if only to hear his soothing voice.

She pulls two slices of pie from the glass case and immediately sprays whipped cream on each slice. As she looks out the front window, she spots a man standing outside. Tingling her insides with anticipation she realizes it is William.

She serves the pie, and awaits William.

It seems like an eternity but he finally enters where she immediately serves him coffee. His mind is distant and voice is soft while staring into the depth of his coffee. Tanya attends to the older couple as they pay their check readying to leave. They make brief eye contact with William but he can only smile helplessly at them.

Approaching William, “Arnie hasn’t been by the diner tonight.”

“Have the questions ceased?”

“I think he gave up after he realized I don’t know anything.”

William remains unable to speak and both sense that something is wrong.

She continues, “Which is strange because I have been remembering a lot more now. You know, since I started taking the pills you gave me.”

There is stillness as she expects a response.

“What is in those pills?” she asks.

He looks up at her with a hint of liveliness, “Nothing more than migraine relief tablets.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean you were having migraines and I spoke with a nurse at the hospital and she recommended those.”

“Oh,” she says surprised and transitions, “How is your father?”

“I think he’s dead.” No emotion.

“What?”
“Yeah” Caught off guard, “You know what the bad thing is? Once he dies, I have to leave Xetrov. My temporary visa expires.”

“But you get to go home” she makes a motion to touch his arm.

Flinching from her touch, he mutters. “Yeah, but I can’t see you anymore.”

“Is that why you’re upset?”

He pauses to look her in the eye bracing for a speech. “I really don’t have a home anymore. Back in Canada, I did nothing but odd jobs and bump from hostel to hostel.”

“Why couldn’t you find a job?”

“I did. I worked, but never seemed to get anywhere.” He shifts in his seat struggling to explain the story.

“Did you have to speak French?”

“Most people are bilingual, but they preferred us to speak French.”

“Say something in French”

“Quelque chose”

“What’s that?”
Something.” Laughing slightly, “I literally just said ‘something’ in French.”

She chuckles, “No, I mean something concrete.”

With a smirk he says, “Retourner avec moi et ma vie sera complète.”

No smiling this time, “Thank you, that sounds sweet, what is it?”
“You want a translation? Wow, you want it all.” He finishes the rest of his coffee, “Tanya, I have to leave Xetrov.”

“I know.” Her knees bend towards the floor, “I’ll miss you.”

“Let me see you outside the diner.”

“William,” Pausing emotionally, “I’m married. Besides we have done nothing we have to explain. We can part and never feel guilt or shame.”

Slides his cup forward, “Are you going to the hockey game tomorrow?”

“Yeah, with my husband.”

“Where are you sitting?”

“No, don’t-“

“Just meet me at the bathrooms near section three-sixteen.” Attempting to lock eyes, “Meet me at the end of the second period. That is all I ask.”

He calls out one last time as she walks away, “Can you at least try?” A car drives into the lot as he turns to open the diner’s front door. He cringes in fear.

“Get in,” says Rob.

The harsh words resonate quickly with him immediately harboring thoughts of their father, “What’s wrong?”

“What are you doing?” asks Rob nodding in Tanya’s direction.

Sarcastically, “What?”

“Don’t,” Pausing to emphasize, “She’s married.”

“I know.”

“To a cop.”

“I know.”

Rob stares him down briefly, “Sgt. Smith called.”

Four years earlier.

The dark alley leading to the meeting hall is empty shielding John and Mike, “If he called me at work he knows where I live and likely all my whereabouts,” whispers John.

The night covers Mike’s eyes calmly saying, “All the papers are inside. We’re going to distribute them amongst the other guys.”

John opens the door, “There’s is a plane leaving for Newfoundland tomorrow at six a.m.”

“Yes, we have you on that flight.”

John is nervous, franticly pacing from side to side before entering. “How many of us are going?”

Mike hands an envelope to him, “You three” he then turns and hands out two more, “Then sixteen more.”

A couple of other members begin making their way over to pick up the packets containing papers and passports. Chatter amongst the members forces Mike to walk towards the window.

“Alright guys,” he begins, “Now you have your stuff, it’s time to go.”

John approaches quietly, “What about your packet?”

“I already have it, besides I’m the later flight to Halifax.”

They nod.

Sticking his hand out, “So as they say in French,” Begins Mike when their hands connect, “A bientÔt.”

John smiles, “A bientÔt.”

The two back doors suddenly smash open and police burst through the side window. Shouting and screaming blares out and stuns everybody around.

Over the din, John can hear a cop yell, “You’re under arrest for crimes against the government.”

John smashes a side table into a small police officer named Smith. Muffling of glass and en eerie hush occurs as they notice of each other briefly before John slides through a broken side door.

His eyes expand adjusting to the darkness of the alley as he bursts into a sprint. On pure adrenaline, breaking free past the scrub beating the pavement with his feet he wastes no time speeding across the street past the alley.

He runs downhill towards downtown where he easily blends in with a crowd of people standing around a coffee shop. There is a small dimly lit parking lot near a bookstore and he walks over to pick up pay phone.

A moment of ringing passes before Jessica answers.

“Jess, it’s me.”

“Are you okay?”

“No. Cops busted the place. I’m on the run, but I have all the papers. We need to get to the airport a.s.a.p. Can you meet me at exit twenty?”

“Yes, there’s a gas station there.”

“Perfect!” His excited voice pierces the airwaves, “Jess, you have to leave right now. Get there as fast as you can!”

“I will!” Her voice cracks with emotion.

John hangs up and jogs softly across the street to the bookstore parking lot with his keys out as he approaches the driver’s side door. There is no meditative sequence just instinct; start the car and drive. Luck holds, as the first traffic light is green. But unknown to him there is cop car waiting at the red light a block over.

Staying inconspicuous, it does not emit any blue lights. Inside sits a young and bright-faced Arnie with his perfectly pressed uniform and neatly trimmed haircut.

“This is one-L-nineteen, possible 10-15-8-14 vehicle match. Proceeding with caution, I need a plate check.”

“Ten-four” comes back over the radio.

Red turns green and Arnie prepares to follow John.

Four years later.

Mike stands and stares out the window of the church. Age has relaxed him. Years of meetings and his riddled past create circles around his eyes.

Jen enters the room, “Not yet, no one knows where he is.”
He looks over his shoulder but avoids eye contact with her. “What about the diner?”

“She’s not working tonight. She’s at the hockey game.”

Mike looks ponderously at her remaining speechless.

“Mike, she’s with her husband.”

Motionless.

“Mike,” she continues, “His father died this morning, she is at a hockey game with her husband, the cop, need I remind you.”

“That won’t stop him.”

“You wouldn’t risk all that? For me?” She asks softly, “Would you go through that risk for me?”

“He is a better man than me.”

She sighs and begins exiting the room.

“Jen, we need to find him.”

“As you know we lost surveillance. He is slick, he dropped from sight.” Says Smith readying his command at the station.

“But Sarge,” begins one soft-spoken cop. “His father died today, the funeral is in two days, and he leaves then. Is this worth pursuing?”

“This man,” Smith shouts, “was part of an anti-government group four years ago. He was let back in Xetrov to attend to his ailing father, not to dig up old skeletons.” Smith pauses to make his point. “When someone commits a felony in Xetrov, we capture and convict them.”

“Alright,” Pacifying Smith.

“Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Now,” Smith starts again slicking his gray hair back gesturing, “We have reason to believe he may be in attendance at tonight’s hockey game.”

“Sir, there’s fifteen thousand people there.”

“That’s right, and we have people in the field, plus cameras throughout the arena. We spot him and quietly take him into custody.” The detachment shuffles in place awaiting direction.

Mike realizes the foot race against the local police; find William before Sgt. Smith and his stalwarts do.

Mike scans his members for trust but sees only lackeys.

Jen sees his cold stare and reads his mind, “No way.”

With his arms folded Mike ignoring her cries looks over at a man who is engaged in a conversation, “Chris.“

Chris walks over, “Yeah, Mike, what’s up?”
“Remember the guy from the other night?”

“Yeah.”

“We need him here. He’s at the hockey game. I need you to find him.”

“Mike there’s like thousands of people in there.” Chris is confused with the Sisyphean task.

“Try checking section three-sixteen. Start with that.”

“What makes you thinks he is there?”

Even Jen looks baffled at Mike’s idea.

“He’s a creature of habit, and stubborn. He’ll be there.”

“I’ll do my best,” says Chris turning to exit.

Lastly, Mike turns to Jen with a stone face and statuesque posture, “He better be there.”

William checks the time on the four-sided clock hanging over the ice. Six minutes left in the second period. Thoughts about this moment developed all night magnifying his anxiety.

Time passes during a television-mandated timeout stopping the hockey game allowing him to stare out into the half-empty stadium remembering the days of packed arenas and screaming fans. It’s amazing what a high-scoring offense and strong defense can do. Now, things have changed, fans tend not to watch sub-five hundred teams. He remembers the passion of the game. So much so, it was a team slogan. That idea transitions into the passion he has for Tanya, he can wait no more and he stands and readying his way towards the aisle as yet another stoppage in play occurs, this time for a sluggish icing call.

It is quieter in the back corridor of the upper balcony. He passes the smells of overcooked food and alcoholic beverages that fetch as much as a man’s hourly wage. As he turns the corner to enter the men’s room he nearly bumps into Chris. The note Chris hands him shatters his happiness.

“Meet me – -“ signed, “Mike.”

He looks at Chris in silence.

“After the game,” Handing the card back entering the restroom. With the sound of the whistle signaling the end of the period, Chris makes a quick turn and strolls down the stairs.

William has a glow about him as he washes his hands. Fans begin filing into the men’s room, shouting and jostling each other. William squeezes his way past some intoxicated fans and lands outside. The corridors are jammed with people as far as his eyes allow him to see.

Beyond the madness he spots a small figure moving between overweight men in too-small hockey jerseys. Her blond hair bounces on her shoulders with every step.

With a shrug of her shoulders, Tanya smiles. William steps away towards the side door leading to the stairs. As she approaches closer they each have a look of tender passion in their eyes.

Despite the danger, they embrace. His arms wrap around her and slide to the front of her rib cage. She reaches up to his shoulders to bring him closer.

With his eyes shut he whispers, “I knew you would come.”

“I knew you would be here. I’m so glad to see you,” Mimicking his look.

He reaches down and pulls her hand towards him, “Here,” he opens the side door to the hallway.

The door slams behind and William says gruffly, “I’m proud of you. You showed your guts tonight. I knew you had it in you.”

She reaches up sliding her hand on his cheek, which is softer than she imagined. William always seemed rugged and uncouth.

He tightens his arms around her.

William breathes the spell, “I’m so sorry, Tanya.”

“It’s okay.”

“I have to leave tonight. I’m sorry. I just wanted to see you one last time.”

“Don’t worry, it’s okay.”

Pulling her close again and whispering, “I will never forget you.”

Tanya wishes she could say the same, flashing to the car accident. Memory cannot be retained for long. At least she can remember the strength and passion William brought to her. If only she had met him under different circumstances.

They pull away, “William why does being with you feel so right?”

Smiling through tears, “Because it is.”

Now her eyes fill.

Walking slowly away, “One last thing. Check out the napkin dispenser on our table.” Smiling and descending the stairs, “I left you a present.”

She watches him walk down the stairs oblivious to the closed circuit camera behind her recording their meeting. Silence and he is gone.

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