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Chapter 7: Through the Passage

It was up to the authorities—forensic team, jurors, and kin—to investigate Conrad’s body before the funeral service. Groups of villagers went searching for the passageway hoping to come back with heroic evidence only to find he had passed out from what the forensics said were “hyperbolic respiration caused by poisoning.” It had been apparent suicide, but no one had been able to find the cause of poisoning. The investigators assumed there were prescription drugs or some new teenage experimental combination of prescriptions evidenced that caused similar systems of high blood pressure and heart failure. Never did they recognize the compounds in his system were otherworldly.

Acacia was brought into questioning before funeral arrangements three days prior since she was known to take tetrachloranoma or “berries.” Her testimony she did not kill Conrad held up because his family and the town families confirmed his problems were personal and had more to do with school than the case.

The funeral of Conrad took place at Dominion Church after vespers. The sunset peaked out from waving droves of fog. Two church attendees stood to comfort Acacia at the funeral—Jason and Kazimir. Acacia observed Jason unevenly as he stood in front of her forcing her to pause, otherwise, she would have certainly passed him by.

“I’m sorry though no amount of sorry could do enough.” Acacia, at first, didn’t recognize his aim, but everyone felt sorrow. His empathy was general enough.

“I wouldn’t wish it on any friend of mine,” she spoke sternly as she hesitantly accepted Jason’s embrace. He shook as something else shook inside her. A cavernous hole resided in her chest. She was beyond tears and emotion.

Am I a forgiver or the forgiven?

Ondrea came up from behind Jason, more reserved and obscure than usual in his black suit and camouflage tie.

“Acacia I have something to tell you,” he whispered as Jason returned to lose himself in the masses.

“Can’t it wait?”

“It might not. I’m going in the military.”

“You—gone too? I wish you had said something to say about Conrad!” She kicked him in the shins.

“Ow! Acacia, talk about inappropriate timing.” He winced. When he recovered, he surprised her with a hearty hug.

“But what happened to becoming a doctor?” She said softly. “Do you really want to take a life instead of saving one?”

“It’s not in my heart...Acacia,” he caught his words. “I’m about to graduate Domain Private soon. It was Conrad’s misfortune he would never graduate, but you I have my hopes for even if the town hasn’t any. If I enter the military, that would automatically care for the both of us and your dear friend I could pay for right after this funeral. I would be defending lives and saving them.”

“Right after this funeral? So soon? Where will they send you? We’ve had peace with the Corn Province for a while...”

He smiled and walked down the grassy knoll toward the church. Acacia was last to follow the cortège.

Conrad escaped the passage of time and the young world of responsibilities, but the deed was not taken care of as it lay torn away from Conrad’s crumpled hands. It hid along with the evidence of Conrad’s cause of death. Daphne’s body hadn’t been at the funeral, yet Conrad’s was in peaceful eternity under his memorial stone? There didn’t seem to be a connection, but everyone sensed a connection.

Before Acacia was born, really the only persons capable of entrusting the seal were her parents. Her parents proved themselves by never once speaking to anyone of the court case. However, they spoke of court a little too much with the Malevich’s and for this Acacia trusted Conrad even just a little more. Also, her parents were too quarrelsome with the Drought’s now.

After the funeral the very same day, emotions breached Mrs. Alexander. “You never gave us time to grieve! Please, don’t come to me in show,” she spouted at Mrs. Drought as she was about to get in the car.

“I’m very deeply sorry. We didn’t mean to drag you into this! We are all very deeply sorry for your loss, and yes, our loss, but could we just do this another time?” Mrs. Drought genuinely saddened.

Acacia stepped between the guardians as Mrs. Drought was about to duck into her pricey black vehicle fitted to the occasion.

“I wish them both of you could just stop! Do either of you know how much I’m grieving? Mom, Mrs. Drought is right, let’s do this another time if we must do this.” Acacia, so numb during the service, was finally on the verge of tears but the pain came from rage.

She thought at least this once, a funeral for a quiet boy would keep everyone quiet and tragedy would finally bring them together, but she didn’t have the same scheming hope as Jason. She learned more than ever about Conrad after the priest said his blessings—how he was a private jokester and once rode around after school in a moving garbage bin! His mom had to give him a scrub for days! How he and Ondrea used to play with corn husk dolls while playing hide-and-seek in the cornfield! How he and Kazimir worked on model planes! How him and her splashed through the creek and caught crawdads and fished for creek shells! How he drew the Drought family horses so detailed! How he repeatedly kept disappearing from life and memory...

All before he returned home. Acacia had forgotten about this temporary friend or visitor to Domain until returning to Daphne’s album that one-day Acacia went sneaking in the passageway and everyone met her in the clearing. If it weren’t for the album, Conrad would be all forgotten.

Childhood left too soon and thus being a teenager and now, so had life.

Later into the night, Kazimir suspected a connection between Conrad and the passageway after Acacia and him comforted each other over the phone. This urged him to explore more of the passageway, further violating the breach of the search warrant. He had work to do in another world. Kazimir went without word and this prompted her into further investigation. When Acacia finally reached the end of the passageway, Kazimir was not found but something happened out of a dream.

The constellations spinned in Acacia’s eyes. Her body swam before she remembered her unpacked medication. The only thing she held onto was a quantum mechanics book in her shoulder sack. She knew something was missing. She figured Kazimir also knew something about Conrad. Before she could sense her direction, a flash of light only one sees before death reached her. It took longer to reach the light than it did to make out colors, then shapes, and then the sense of time had been stolen completely. The brightness turned into the same effulgent light that overtook her memory through the blinds on the fall morning of the first court case.

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