A typical school day starts at seven in the morning: the alarm clock blares in my left ear, I press snooze. Nine minutes later it goes off again. This time I hit the off switch, throw my blanket off, I get up and head to the shower. Just hope I get there before my older sisters do. Alas, all the hot water is gone.
That’s what I get in this dysfunctional family. Fifteen minutes later I’m sitting at the breakfast table and the milk is next to nothing and my favorite cereal is empty. “That’s what you get for being lazy,” Nina, my second oldest sister, sneers.
“Hurry up stupids,” that’s my oldest sister. Yup, the three of us can’t stand one another and yet our parents expect us to walk to school…together…peacefully. “You’ll make me late for class.”
“Whatever,” Nina replied to Mabelle’s selfish demand.
I always have the tendency to ignore their morning custom of bickering, name calling, hair pulling… Welcome to my life.
At eight o’clock I am at school and in my seat in the back of class. From here I can be left to my own vices and daydream of better days. “Ya right, like that’s ever going to happen,” that comment comes from my closest friend, the only one on Earth who seems to understand me. His name? Deth.
My one other friend is Liv. He’s what you would call opinionated, and to the extreme. Liv has the annoying knack for trying to convince me to do my homework, to work harder at school and make something of myself.
Deth’s response to Liv is this: “Why do you even bother? You know his parents don’t encourage post-secondary education. In five years he’ll be done with this place and be done with it all.”
“Always so pessimistic,” Liv remarks.
“And you’re always so optimistic,” Deth’s usual response.
Between classes is not so different than home. As I make my way to my locker to exchange textbooks I find two jocks, two grades ahead of me, blocking my way. “Please move,” timidly I plead. No response, they always pretend they don’t hear me or see me. “Please may I get to my locker?” Again nothing. I begin to push my way past them, and now they hear and see me.
“Watch it, loser,” the team captain pushes my head. He is the taller of the two, with shaggy, dark brown hair, dark eyes that remind me of pure evil, and a goatee. His bodyguard pushes my left shoulder, which I always try to ignore but can’t when he pushes me again and my books fall to the floor.
Now I am late for my second period class. Typical. And even more typical is my math teacher’s response. “Late again,” he says in his east European accent. “What is your lame excuse now?”
“Nothing,” I lied. What else can I say? It’s not like the guards of this prison will ever help me. My bullies always get away with everything and I am left to my own vices. When I want help I don’t get help; when I don’t need help everyone breathes down my neck as if I’m a helpless babe in a cradle.
“Seth to the office, please!” The receptionist’s voice blares from the PA box in the front of the room. Everyone turns around to look at me, correction, to mock me. That’s what classmates are for. Right? Well, that’s what Deth says.
“Be calm and breathe,” Liv is doing his best to calm me. “It may not even be related to that incident.”
“Experience tells me otherwise,” I assure them both.
“Truth be told,” Deth agrees with my assessment.
I get to the office, I sheepishly smile at the ladies behind the desks; I take my seat that is by now well worn by my bottom, and wait. The seconds tick by on the clock and then the minutes disappear. Fifteen of them, to be exact, during which time I could have gotten half a dozen belittling remarks from my teachers or fellow students.
“What a happy life,” I say under my breath so only my friends can hear.
“Sorry?” the older lady looks up from her computer and over her spectacles.
“Nothing,” I lied.
“Better be nothing,” she irritably says. “Now sit down and be silent.”
I nod. I was already sitting, what else do you want from me?
Half an hour past before the principal comes out of his office. To my shock my mom is with him, and in tears. This confuses me, and aggravates me beyond belief. “Seth,” Principal Hiebert says.
“Come in to my office please.”
I follow them in and sit down closest to the door. Mr Hiebert closes it behind him, he sits behind his desk and my mom sits to my left. “It’s been brought to my attention that you are pushing other kids around in the hallways.”
I say nothing… I do nothing… I just sit there and make no signs of agreement or disagreement.
“What do you have to say for yourself?” my mom asks in German.
I reply in German, “I asked them to move and they didn’t. They’re always making me late for my next class.”
“English please,” the principal asks politely. Well, as politely as his demeanor allows.
“I have nothing to say to you,” I yell in his face. “Whatever I say you ignore,” at this point I am standing and shaking. “You never listen to me.” My frustration level is so high I walk out and slam the door behind me. I can still hear my mom’s sobbing as I stand just outside.
“Now what?” Liv asks.
“The world would be better without me.”
“Not that again. Ending it all isn’t worth it.”
“It may help,” Deth says.
“Not helping,” Liv looks at him in disgust.
It took me all of grades six and seven, and most of the fall term of grade eight to find this secret place. Now that summer’s almost here I will soon be able to get on with my pet project. My life is a living hell: at home and at school.
Like I told you earlier my family is dysfunctional. Do you want to know the extent of it? Well, to be honest, I don’t know the fullest of extent. I only know how it relates to my immediate family, and particularly to me. When I was a small child my mom has been hospitalized many times due to her depression. You know the kind of stories, failed suicide attempts and irrational behavior. At least that’s what my sisters and I were told.
And here I am. “Behave like a good little boy,” my parents always tell me. “Don’t embarrass us,” they demand. And you are allowed to act the way you do? No wonder I want to get outta here.
My norm isn’t fun. “I need to end all of this before it ever begins,” I tell Deth and Liv.
“You do realize, Seth, wherever you go we’re right there beside you.”
“I know, Liv.” I open the door to the rundown and abandoned shed, and before I step in I take a last look around to see if any of my bullies have followed me. So far, none have found my experiment.
“Just be thankful it’s Friday and they’re still in class,” I tell them. “The machine is ready and tomorrow is a new day. A day which I will change my destiny, my fate.”
“Are you sure you want to do this ahead of schedule?” Liv inquires.
“Of course he does,” Deth replies in my stead.
It’s noon. I’ve missed the rest of my morning classes. And I fully intend to do the same this afternoon. If I return home my mom will harass me about the bullies and my dad will do nothing. Not like he cares anyways, whereas my mom only cares about her reputation as far as we kids tarnish it.
I don’t even return home that night. “I’m sick of life!”
“I hear ya loud and clear.”
“Tomorrow may be better.”
“Liv, this has been my miserable life for the past five, almost six years. Nothing has changed and nothing will. The only way for things to get better is to remove the constant in all equations.”
I step on to the crate to get a good view of the neighborhood. The noon hour is coming to a close, and I can see students walking back to school. I sit down and we begin our discussion.
“What now?” Deth asked me.
“I’ll turn the device on and go from there.”
“We need more fuel or else it’ll send us to who-knows-where,” Liv always being the cautious one.
“We have enough for a window,” I reassure him. “I want to see how far we can glimpse before I activate the door.”
“Fine,” Liv is now getting frustrated with me. He’s always been against this plan. The strange thing about him is he has never tried to stop me, and I know he won’t start now. So I hope.
“The streets are clear,” I tell the pair as I peek out the high window again. “We can now commence phase one.”
I hop down and walk around the two-meter in diameter machine. It is two meters high, which is just enough room for one person to sit inside. I open the hatch and sit down. “Alright guys, I’m closing it.” I press a few buttons; the hatch closes and its window displays a small wooded region.
“What do you see?” Liv asks.
“A forest and the houses, on the other side of the street, are under construction.”
“Sounds like seven years ago,” Deth remarks. “Before your family moved here this was yet undeveloped.”
“I remember when these houses were still being built. Seven years isn’t far enough.”
“How far back to you need to go?”
“At least fourteen,” I answer Liv. “Before the constant even shows up.”
I turn the device off and on again. “Just a minor calibration adjustment needed,” I inform my life long comrades. “This time it’ll work.”
“Whatever you say,” Deth says. “If it doesn’t your stuff’s all mine.”
“Over my dead body,” I glare at him through the window. Deth and Liv are standing side-by-side facing me.
He smirks, his evil little smirk. I see he’s laughing. Yup, that’s exactly what he’s thinking: over my dead body.
Yesterday afternoon was another productive day. The third test was a success and gathering more fuel was the easiest it’s been since the machine was completed. Last night we remained in the shed in order to begin early. Today is the ultimate trial run. “To live is to die, as the saying goes.”
“Actually, to die is to live,” Liv corrects me.
“I like his rendition better.”
Liv shakes his head at Deth, and I begin the last minute system’s check.
“All is green,” I report back to them.
“Please reconsider this,” Liv pleads.
“I never knew you to try to stop me. You’re desperate, aren’t you?”
“The constant doesn’t need to be removed from the equation. All it needs to do is change.”
“Like I keep telling you, six years of hell and nothing has changed,” my tone rises. “I can be as nice as I possibly can. They,” I point towards the door leading to the real world, “they will not change and never will. My school sides with the jocks, and my parents side with themselves.” I shake my head in disgust and notice my fists are so tight they are now hurting. “That is the life I have. I am stupid and a loser. And if they bully me it’s ALWAYS my fault! There’s nothing I can do to change expect for this,” now I point the opposite direction, towards the time machine. “This has to work. The world is better off without me.”
My two friends remain quite. They have nothing else to say.
I hop into the machine for the last time, close the hatch and activate the ultimate ignition. “Time to go,” I tell them. I type the desired date of June 4th and the location being in the middle of the city. “Here we are,” I say aloud. “We have arrived.”
The place looks alien to me, old fashion cars driving along the TransCanada Highway, and the river parks are different than I remember. The last time my family’s been here was before we moved out of the city and into the small country town. I look around and don’t see anyone in the vicinity.
“Good, I’m alone.”
“Not really,” Deth and Liv say simultaneously. Well, that is a first, they are actually agreeing on something for a change.
“Where now?” Deth asks.
“There,” I point to the large, white building across from where the Assiniboine empties into the Red River. “That is our final destination.”
“Ooo, I love hospitals almost as much as morgues.”
“Okay, that’s disturbing,” I want to throw-up at the thought of dead bodies. I never was into that kind of stuff, and I am not going to start now. “Anyways, back to the mission. This is the place my mom’s been spending a lot of time before the move. I know she’s here.”
“When does it happen?” Deth asks me.
“An hour before midnight,” I tell my best friend. “We have half a day to plan out phase three.”
“What was phase two?”
“Getting here. You knew that, Liv.”
It’s only three in the afternoon and I’m getting anxious. Will I succeed today? Or will it fail? Liv hopes for the latter while Deth is cheering for success. I’m with Deth on this one, erasing the constant within the equation is my sole priority.
“How do we get in?”
“That’s the easy part,” I reply. “But not getting caught may be difficult, Deth.”
Indeed getting in is easy. We wait outside for a young family for us to blend in with, and it doesn’t take long for that to happen. A father with two toddler girls walks in through the main doors. I follow them as if I am one of the clan. They head to an elevator and up to the third floor.
The lift stops and they step out, as the door closes I put my hand out to stop it and walk into the busy corridor. “Just my luck,” I whisper. “No one will notice me now. I’ll go to the nearest washroom and wait for the place to be shut down.”
“Two more hours passed,” I tell myself. “I’ve got another six until it happens.” I can feel my pulse quicken, and my breathing is heavier than normal.
“I can’t believe after so many years of planning this is actually happening. The world will be a much better place without the constant.”
“Keep dreaming,” Liv says. “Your family won’t be happier, not by a long shot.”
“Oh, come on. This is what he’s been wanting for so long.”
What I’ve been wanting for so long. I sit back, lean against the wall with my eyes closed, and smile. What I’ve been wanting for so long. That definitely has a good ring to it.
“Is this rational?” Liv demands. “Is this the only way to change things?”
We both look at Liv. “Umm, yes?!”
He stands up and paces the small washroom. From the window to the door, back and forth, with us on one side, and the sinks and mirrors on the other. Five minutes passes and he’s still pacing. “Liv, please stop,” I ask him kindly. “I, we need to think the next step of this mission.”
Another five minutes pass, and he’s still pacing.
“I’ve an idea,” Deth stands up.
“What is it?”
“Seth, do you even know in which room it’ll take place?”
“Umm, not really.”
“Let’s go scout the place. Perhaps we’ll discover the secret.”
“Good idea, let’s go.”
“Not so fast,” Liv stops Deth. “You’re staying here. I don’t need you to get close to anyone else.”
With little protest Deth agrees. “I’ll wait in this cubical.”
“Thank you! Come on, Seth.”
The morning came and we weren’t caught. “Just great,” I slam my fist into the wall, “we missed our opportunity.”
“Not so fast,” Deth yawns. “Think about it, how quickly do they get released?”
“Days, maybe weeks? I don’t know. Why?”
“Most likely the constant is still here.”
This time Liv allows Deth to accompany us to the ward. There it is, or should I say there he is. He’s fast asleep. How do I get in? I hadn’t thought this part through before. Liv has an idea.
“Seth, you need to think this through logically and rationally. Why does this have to happen? Is it for their sake or for yours?”
I couldn’t. My mind was set on this action for years. “I need to end it before it even begins.”
“Why? Is your life really that bad?”
“Liv,” I turn from the window to squarely face him, “you see how everyone treats me at school and the teachers always side with them. You know no one ever wants to hear my side of the story. This is depression! And it needs to stop!”
“Let me show you something.”
Everything goes black and for a moment my vision blurs. I can see shapes and colours, but nothing concrete. Then a dark sky with greenish clouds, tornado weather, comes into view. I look out across the street to see two girls walking. Each is wearing a downtrodden face, ragged cloths, and no lunch bag in hand.
The other children leave them alone, but from a distance they whisper to one another. They whisper insults, conjuring up rumors about the sisters.
“What’s this?” I ask Liv.
“This is what will happen if you continue on with your mission.”
“Why are you showing this to do me? Who are they?”
“Don’t you recognize Mabelle and Nina?”
“Those are my sisters?”
“This is seven years from your birth.”
“Why are they like this? This never happened.”
“No? Let’s see your dad.”
The scene before me changes to a run down house in the middle of nowhere. Inside sits an old man, at least he appears older than he is. “This is your father,” Liv, palm up and fingers outstretched, points with his entire hand. “This is what he has resorted to if you succeed. Because he is like this your sisters are in the care of your grandparents. And you know how little they care—Does this makes that reality seems like a blessing?”
I can’t imagine my grandparents caring less. “Where’s my mom?”
My friend replies with silence. And the scene changes again. I’m now standing in a graveyard in the middle of the city. “Read this one,” he is pointing to a headstone that is standing between us. No flowers, no cards…Nothing! No sign anyone even cares for this individual anymore.
I bend down on one knee and read the tombstone, “Martha, beloved mother and wife.” I look at the date of death, “One month after my birth.”
“One month to the day after your death,” Liv says sorrowfully. “Deth had the time of his life with this one. Death came easy to an already troubled mind. She lost her son and her will to go on.”
“She actually succeeded.”
“Now can you see the illogicalness of erasing the constant?”
The scene changes back to the hospital, we are standing in the corridor outside the ward. I am looking into the window at myself. Not my reflection, but at my newborn self. I am now looking at the most troubling scene ever, Deth, my old friend, is standing beside the infant with his right hand hovering over the child’s face. On Deth’s face is the most sinister grin.
“He’s enjoying this, isn’t he?”
Liv nodded, “The Angel of Death is always ready to take you under his wings.”
Just then everything goes black—I see nothing… I feel nothing…