What Really Happens in Utopia
-A short story by Aayush Yadav
It’s pretty late in the night; even the birds are sound asleep. The street is lit by the city lights. You don’t see stars very often in Detroit. Everything is rather quiet and still except for the occasional chirp of a cricket. A low humming of a rather powerful engine- A Ford Grand Torino pulls into the driveway of 11, Motor Street, East Boulevard Avenue. A tall man gets out of the car, black hair, thick rimmed spectacles, dressed in a lab coat. He seems stressed, overworked and really tired. He unlocks the door, makes himself a drink and sits down on the sofa to quietly read The Reader’s Digest. But it doesn’t take him long to fall asleep.
Dr. Benjamin Trump is a young scientist at Ford Motors; his house is big and so is his bank account, his wife was the high school prom queen and as told earlier- he had a Grand Torino. And though all seemed well, things hadn’t quite been going his way. His research work hadn’t been giving any results, there had been too much pressure from the bosses lately- the Ford hadn’t been performing on track- he was trying but things weren’t working out and of course, his wife, Jennifer, was on a business tour. He had no one to share his problems with.
The Reader’s Digest slipped from his hands and fell on the carpet. Soon he slipped into the world of dreams. Initially they were hazy images, reminiscent of the last few days that he wished had never happened, and then- things became clearer. There he was, sitting in his little boat in the Belleville Lake, beer in one hand and a fishing pole in the other. He would come here often- he had brought Jennifer here after the prom on his first date ever. The place was special, sacred even.
Something, however, did not seem right. He could see a man peeking from behind the tall fir tree. His eyes were sunk deep into the sockets and his clothes were torn. But there was something even more peculiar about this man; his expression was rather odd- his face showed signs of fear, anxiety, remorse- insanity. Ben signalled to the man, but the guy ran away.
‘That was spooky’, he thought to himself. The line became taut; the fish had taken the bait. Ben pulled with all his might- the fish seemed rather big.
‘What a prize this one’s gonna be!’
Then he loses his balance and falls into the water! The fish had taken the bait. For some reason he held on to the pole as the fish, which he could tell now was an ordinary trout, pulled him deeper- too deep for a lake.
Flash! He finds himself chasing the man he had seen earlier … where had he seen that face?
‘Curses! The guy runs fast’, he thought … but he ran. The chase leads him to his house. The man is gone, Ben sees his wife tending to the rosebush, a flick drops from her tied hair and onto her forehead, beautifully golden and curled. The sight of her by the rosebush is like sunshine in the late winter, she is breathtaking! Just then, someone creeps in from behind her. It is the man.
‘Jennifer!’ Benjamin screams. Somewhere a dog barks. The sun light is gone; it is a starless night now. The man brings a gun to her head. Ben is flummoxed. He runs to save her. He shoots. She falls. The man runs away. He really loves running away it seems. By the rosebush lay Jennifer’s body.
‘Jennifer!’ Benjamin screams again. He gasps and wakes up.
‘Just a bad dream, only a nightmare’, he says to calm himself.
But he can’t be sure unless he has spoken with her. He picks up his mobile phone and dials Jennifer’s number. The phone rings but no one picks up. Ben gets really worried now. He dials the numbers of a few of Jennifer’s co-workers he knows. Finally Emanuel picks up-
‘Hello! Ben? Long time man!’ says a deep, husky voice.
‘Hey bud! All good?’ Ben replies, ‘Listen man, is Jen around?’
‘Uhm … no, she is in a meeting right now. Any message for her? I hope all is well!’
‘Yeah, just ask her to call me back when she returns. Thanks man.’
Ben breathes heavily; it’s more of a sigh. He knows that Jen is safe. But what did the dream mean? It could have meant anything or could have meant nothing.
Quite obviously Ben hoped for the latter. After 8 years with her, she was the most important person in his life and he could, literally, go to any extent to ensure her safety. For now, though, he could only hope. But hope is a powerful tool, especially for a man in such a predicament.
He takes another deep breath; the birds outside chirp excitedly.
‘Sunday!’ he exclaims. Maybe he’ll go to the lake to investigate. Then again, Benjamin Trump isn’t a detective, so maybe he won’t. After all it takes courage for a man to face his worst nightmare.
He decides to relax for a while and turns on the radio, tunes into the Classic Rock station, picks out a beer from the fridge and sits on the new recliner.
A Pink Floyd song is playing. Jen loved Pink Floyd and she’d always wanted to go to one of their concerts. Who doesn’t?
‘Why am I being such a bum?’ He thinks out loudly, ’have I not lived without Jen before?’
Well he had, for quite some time. He didn’t know that yet. The thing was that everything had been reminding him of her lately. The Pink Floyd song was the last thing he could stand now.
He gets up heavily, takes the car keys, a case of beer and slams the door shut. He drives the Grand Torino to Belleville. With very little road traffic, boy, must have been some day! Maybe things were soon to change. Maybe, but Benjamin Trump isn’t in the forecast department either.
Ben parks his car between a camper van and a Mini Cooper. Being a Sunday the premises was full of families, but Ben went to the western end of the lake. No one really went there. Ben always went there. He places his picnic chair near the water and sat down to quietly recollect what he had seen in the dream.
The water seemed a little to clear. He could even see the trout family metres below.
BANG! A gun shot, from somewhere in the woods. Impulsively, Ben runs towards the source. On his way he breaks off a branch from a young tree, who knows what to expect.
BANG! Another shot. Ben runs deeper into the woods and who he sees wouldn’t be a surprise to us. Ben, however, was confused at the sight. In a heap of dead leaves lay something, something perhaps defines it better than any other word. Whatever it was, it seemed to be evil, evil in its purest form; and on the other side stood the man from the dream.
Ben looked at him, only a few metres away from him. He looks at Ben, and his eyes! His eyes, to Ben it seemed, stared right through his soul. It was absolute insanity. The face, however, was familiar.
‘Where have I seen this face before?’ Ben says again, this time with a sense of urgency in his voice.
The man screams, asking Ben to look out. His voice, like no other, so calm, so deep, so insane! Another one of the “something” leaps at Ben. Ben is engulfed in darkness. Silence.
Then it happens. He sees her. Jennifer in her ball gown, the one she had worn to the prom. She was sitting with him in the woods. It must’ve been the prom night, because he seemed so nervous, but he was happy. Then they come- four hooded men, baggy trousers and crazy in their heads. They said mean things to them. They tried to take Jen away, she was theirs, they kept saying. He opposed. He was beaten. She was killed that night. It was the prom night.
Benjamin Trump is numb. A bead of tear drops down his cheek. He wakes up in a blindingly-white room. The room was familiar to him of course. He had spent most of his life here now. Ever since Jennifer had been murdered, and ever since people began saying that he was losing it’, ever since he could remember. He goes up to the basin and looks up into the mirror … his face; of course, this is where he had seen the man. He sighs and returns to bed. Somewhere in the corridor a Pink Floyd song plays, “wish you were here” sings David Gilmour. And Benjamin lies down again to gently weep himself to sleep. His dreams were, perhaps, his utopia.