What sort of drama is life?
Anyone with any exposure to television would know about those sitcoms and dramas from which people derive so much entertainment. Of course, such shows were obviously planned, written, and staged in order to draw maximum pleasure from the viewing audience. But they still highlighted the best parts of life in their own way, cutting out the boring doldrums of everyday life that the viewers are trying to escape from.
There was no doubt that life was a drama, but what sort of drama was it? Between the comedies and the tragedies, which did a better job of reflecting the true nature of life? Was life something to be laughed at and taken in stride, or was it a struggle that required a serious approach in order to make it through safely?
Everyone and anyone would come to their own conclusion based on the life they held. The extreme examples would be that those who led horrible lives, such as gamblers in debt, would think life was a tragedy while the spoiled people brimming with luck and opportunities would think life was a comedy where you weren’t really living unless you were laughing.
Vasil Kumonov was not in either category of fortune or misfortune, but he would doubtlessly agree that life was a tragedy. In a world piled with problem after problem, with entropy only rising, there could be no peace of mind for him. He had to take every moment seriously, so he felt he had no time to laugh or smile needlessly. But, in all honesty, that might have had something to do with the fact that he was in a state of constant suspicion of the dangers around him, no matter how small.
“He ain’t here.”
“Well he’s gotta be somewhere! It ain’t like he teleported away or something! Get more guys on the streets looking for him—we need that crazy bastard caught quick!”
Vasil clicked his tongue while quietly waiting for the streetlight to change, allowing him to cross the street to the other sidewalk. Four or five guys were having a whispered argument not too far from him, discussing what was clearly a very shady issue. It was fair for them to think that no one would be able to hear them with the noise of traffic and everything else in the city, but Vasil could still hear them well enough that you couldn’t really blame him for unintentionally eavesdropping. Naturally, he wanted nothing to do with them—it made him nervous just hearing them talking about something when he only had circumstantial proof that it wasn’t about him. Should he go and confirm that? Should he warn them that he could still hear them and suggest that they go somewhere else to finish their private conversation?
As if. Both options were insane. There would be no avoiding the clearly dangerous environment that those strangers were immersed in if he did something so deliberately stupid and intrusive. If he wanted to maintain his current lifestyle, he’d have to suck it up, ignore the bad feeling in his gut, and tune them out, not allowing a single curious question to cross his mind. That was how one survived in the world that could chew them up and spit them out.
And so, carrying grocery bags filled with ingredients for his meals for the next few days, Vasil hurried off as soon as the crossing light signaled the okay, relief pervading his body as the now meaningless thoughts of jaywalking left his mind.
Vasil paused his methodical movement of stuffing groceries into the fridge or cupboard of his apartment briefly as he glanced toward the couch of the living room with a raised eyebrow.
“I didn’t stutter. Be more specific if you didn’t understand what I said.”
“You were afraid of a couple of random thugs that may or may not have been talking about you? No, we can pretty much agree that they weren’t talking about you. You don’t interact with normal people nearly enough to make an enemy out of a gang or whatever they were.”
“Why wouldn’t I be scared? I’m unarmed, you know. Sure, if it came to it, I could grab whatever I can, like a rock or a loose piece of metal. But there were four of them. And they were big. As if I could handle even two on my own.”
The look that Vesna Kumonov, Vasil’s younger sister, gave him was pretty indicative of how ridiculous she thought he was being. If there was one thing she was good at, it was making those rudely insulting faces. Being the slim, attractive college girl that she was, she could get most guys at her school squirming in discomfort by giving them that face. The image was only made stronger by the contrast of her absurdly long black hair against her pale skin. The two siblings really had nothing in common. Melanin concentration was about the only physical trait that they shared.
“I swear, if you were anyone else, I’d think you were joking.”
“I hate jokes.”
With a dying passion.
“That’s why I’m so surprised.” Vesna shook her head back and forth in disbelief. “You could easily kill those guys without even blinking if you wanted to. No policeman or detective would be able to trace it back to you. And you could do it entirely unprovoked. And yet you say you’re afraid of them.”
“You definitely read too much. As if a person like me, who’s thoroughly versed in the normalcy of society, could perform the legendary perfect crime so easily. I like to believe that my capacity to juggle the human life is no greater than your average Joe.”
No matter how ‘strong’ or ‘skilled’ a person was, there was still the barrier of humanity that prevented them from just going out and killing another person. Even if you had a gun in hand, you’d be extremely reluctant to pull the trigger when aiming at a human, or even a small animal like a rabbit or dog. In order to break free of those restraints, one had to be pushed past a certain limit—a limit most people never approached throughout daily life.
Of course, one could bypass those basic rules of human psychology if one worked on a fundamentally different wavelength than the average human. But being born human—no, just being born as an animal—made the odds of you possessing a unique psychology astronomically low. And usually ‘being different’ was more than enough to get society to isolate you against your will.
Vesna’s condescending gaze made it clear what her feelings on the matter were. She slipped her legs off of the couch she was sitting on to sit properly and very seriously pointed with one hand toward the nearby wall. Hanging there, right next to the pictures of all four members of the Kumonov family, was a single newspaper, properly framed and hung on the wall. Having seen it countless times for the past many years of his life, Vasil didn’t even need to read the small print from this distance. He knew exactly what it said and what Vesna was getting at.
Sometime in the past, an event now known as the ‘Self-Talk Epidemic’ occurred where countless children all over the United States of America were brought into psychiatric care, all within the same year. Each and every one of these children, ranging from the age of ten and younger, had begun to spontaneously speak to themselves as if it were totally naturally, holding conversations in public, replying abruptly when no one had been talking, and carrying on in an improv scene that should be beyond the scope of child acting. In a sense, a whole fifth of an entire generation of children in America had developed an imaginary friend around the same time. The event was both a scientific and social phenomenon, with many psychological studies being done everywhere. The media followed the story like hounds, reporting something on the topic every day as children were studied and observed for months on end.
And at the end of it all, research turned up nothing. Nothing supernatural and nothing scientific. There weren’t even any noticeable links among the children—they all had wildly varying personalities, background, and ethnicities. They had about as much in common with each other as two random strangers pulled from the streets would. So eventually, these children were released back to the wild, returning hope to live their lives as normally as they could. While there was no amending the social issue surrounding these children, the internet exploded with discussion and insane theories, as expected. It was only now, in the present, that these children could really relax, their imaginary friends forgotten and their past behind them. They were a lot like child celebrities in that sense.
About now, those children would be somewhere in there twenties. If you were opened minded about how many were really affected at the time, you could say that the age range was ten years—twenty-eight to eighteen.
Twenty-seven year old Vasil Kumonov shook his head, as if to rid himself of unsavory memories.
“That’s a moot point, Vesna.”
“Just because there was no answer found doesn’t mean that it was really all random coincidence. The odds that a large sum of lonely kids appeared at the same time within the borders of a single nation aren’t just astronomically low for fun, after all. There’s a reason for that. A reason that goes beyond our ken.”
Of course, Vasil was curious about that reason. Vesna knew that. She also knew that he didn’t like to needlessly compare it to the fictional universe she found in her books. Rationalizing wasn’t going to give him an answer. Nor was her intellectual way of speaking. She was just as socially awkward as he was, using vocab no college student should use, so clearly it was hereditary.
The doorbell rang loud and clear through the apartment and Vesna reclaimed her lazy position on the couch and pointing toward the door with one foot, making it clear that she had no intention of getting up. Vasil clicked his tongue irritably and obediently headed for the door, deciding that arguing with her would expend far more energy. When he opened the door, he found a familiar wrinkled face gazing back at him.
“You’re still here, grandpa?”
“Your grandmother didn’t want to wake up early for a flight home so we booked a later one.” Koyl Kumonov sighed pitifully with a shrug of his shoulders. Vasil stepped back to make room for him to enter the apartment, but Koyl shook his head. “I came by earlier to speak with you, but you were already out. You rise earlier than the sun, you little shrimp. Anyways, I asked Vesna to call or text me if you came back before my flight. And so here I am.”
My little sister is texting her grandfather? Or rather, my grandfather is text savvy?
“I’m sure you’ve already heard this from the others, but I feel I should check on you, too. Everyone’s still in shock—being forced to have a family reunion a year early for a funeral would be hard on anyone. I hardly got to have a proper conversation with anyone else.”
Naturally. With that depressed funk that was weighing everyone down, casually trying to strike up conversation was impossible. It wasn’t even discussed if the family reunion would be rescheduled or if it was still happening in a year’s time.
“It must be especially hard on you. Kratz and Julia moved all the way out here where none of their family would ever dream of coming, so you don’t really have family to rely on nearby.”
Hopefully it would be rescheduled. Vasil wasn’t really looking forward to a reunion so soon. He loved his family, but in small doses.
“You know that you can always call us if you need to, right? You might live far, but you’re still family. Financial help, emotional help—you name it. Don’t hesitate to ask.”
Vasil sighed heavily before letting a small smile grace his lips.
“Thanks gramps. But you’re already helping pay for the remainder of Vesna’s education, aren’t you? That’s more than enough. You already know that I’ve got enough royalties to lie back on for the next many years and Vesna’s guaranteed to get a job before she moves out. If there’s one thing your son and daughter-in-law taught us, its independence.”
Vasil’s grandfather stared intently into his grandson’s face for a few seconds before smiling back, his shoulders relaxing in apparent relief.
“That’s true. That boy wasn’t the best father, but he knows how to build character. He was my pride. I have no regrets about marrying early because of him. I’m sure he feels the same about you.”
“I sure hope so.”
Koyl Kumonov shook Vasil’s hand firmly with a smile and waved once to Vesna before turning and heading back down the stairs to the apartment room, heading to the parking lot. Vasil watched him go quietly before retreating and shutting the door.
“I want to thank mom and dad for not aborting us to maintain their social status.”
Vasil gave no reply and headed back into the kitchen to grab a random fruit shake from the fridge, downing half of it in one gulp.
“Not just because I’m some conservative who thinks they wouldn’t go to heaven if they did, but because I’m proud to know my parents know how to handle consequences. Life happens. So does death. People cry because they know that and hate it, but are forced to accept it.”
Vesna stared right at her brother while continuing to recline on the couch. Her silver eyes bore into Vasil like lasers, but he was long used to the feeling.
“That’s why everyone’s so concerned. It’s great that you care and all, and it’s your business how you mourn, but it’s troublesome when you don’t show it.”
Vasil threw away the empty fruit shake bottle and grimaced.
“What do you mean?”
“My brother hasn’t shed a single tear for his dead parents. I had to lie and tell our family members that you’re dry from crying the day it happened. I know you’re not some evil hell spawn with nothing but malice in your heart, but after being questioned so many times, even I have to wonder. Do you really regret what happened?”
“Of course I do. I didn’t want them to die. The fact that I couldn’t do anything to help them and the fact that I couldn’t even see this coming pisses me off. Maybe I’m just too angry about it to cry.”
Vesna raised herself slightly from the couch, propping herself up on one elbow.
“Then prove it.”
“You don’t want to cry for the dead? Fine. You’re mad that you let them die? Fine. I can only take that to mean that you won’t ever sit back and watch your family die of unnatural causes when you’re around. But I won’t be able to rest at ease until you prove to me that you’ll go through the trouble. So start now. There are some troublesome people between here and the airport. Grandpa is headed straight there, so he’ll probably be fine, but I get the strong feeling that something is going to happen. I don’t want to see another one of my family members die, so go escort him. Now.”
Vasil gazed back into Vesna’s eyes for several long moments, not daring to believe.
“This is why I hate joke—”
“Do you think I would joke to you about my grandfather being in danger, no matter how unlikely?”
Those words were enough for Vasil. He turned on his heel, grabbed his phone from the counter, and strode right out the door. He was sure Vesna managed to catch a glimpse of his face as it contorted into something ugly from his frustration, but she was decent enough to let it go without comment.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
“Hehe…hehehehehe. Hehehehe! This place’ll work. Yeah, it’ll work great.”
And why do you think that? I would agree, but it’s hard to believe that you picked it out on your own. What drew you to this place?
“Can’t you feel it? Can’t you hear it? And you call yourself a god? I can hear it loud and clear. It’s deafening! It’s defying! DE-ear-ifying!!!!”
…Of course it is. Anyways, let’s get started while we have a head start. There’s no telling when those annoying inquisitors will catch up and we’ll definitely have to deal with them after the fact, so there’s no point in wasting time.
“I’ll show them…I’ll show them all! Hehe! I’ll prove to them that I’m no witch! I show them in hell! I’ll offer all of their souls up to you, Isis, so you better keep your end of the bargain!”
Sure. If I can.