“Oh god it is just awful when something happens like that. We will put them in our thoughts and prayers.” Julia’s mother said in a tone more appropriate for saying ‘The garbage trucks never came by,’ or ‘I noticed you got an E on your last math test.’ Julia looked up from her mashed potatoes at her mother’s face with a look of confusion.
“Julia, pay attention when we are having a discussion. Good lord I tell you this almost everyday.” She looked back down and began scooping peas and potatoes onto her fork vigorously. It seemed as though she thought the more she played with her food the more her point would come across.
“John and Barb from down the road? You know them, you used to play with their daughter Melissa. Well, they have become tragic.”
Julia released a sound she had never heard before. A nervous laughter that in no way sounded humourous.
“What do you mean they have ‘become tragic’?”
Julia’s father, who had been checking his email, now decided it was his turn to explain things to his daughter.
“Julia, John and Barb were not the...brightest people in the world. You know that, you went to their house. You saw the way they lived. They didn’t own a single weapon in the whole place. Not even a shotgun. I told them over and over ‘you need to get a firearm because otherwise someone is gonna come into your home and shoot your children dead. D-E-A-D dead and now look what.”
“Joseph!” his wife interjected as color began to rise in her face.
“We do not speak those words. Especially not at the dinner table. There is no reason to say things that will upset people. Especially your own daughter.”
Julia shot her mother a firey look. It did not matter however for her mother was now taking a sip from her chilled white wine to try and calm down.
“Oh Julia knows more than you think she does. I saw her reading...John...Stainbach?”
“John Steinbeck, Joseph.”
“Right, thank you Mary. John Steinbeck that was his name. God I could never understand him. He was too wordy. Just get to the point for God sakes. But maybe you understand what he is trying to say a little bit better than me. I know you’ve always loved english.”
Julia smiled a half hearted smile. Her mind was still on what tragic meant and how had the Johnsons died? Julia’s mother was now shaking her head.
“Julia I wish you would spend less time reading and more time on your computer class. That is a skill that will take you places. You know your uncle is a computer engineer, maybe I should call…”
In the middle of Julia’s mother’s sentence there was a banging on the door. It was very loud and odd. It was dinner time in the suburbs, no one ever knocked on the door at this hour. Julia and her mother jumped but her father looked quickly at the gun hanging on the wall behind him. He angrily grabbed it and said “Who the hell is knocking right now!?”
He left the dining room and as he was walking Julia noticed his hands were shaking.
Julia heard the sound of her father opening the door. Then she heard the sound of the gun shots. Loud and deafening.
Once the ringing in her ears had stopped, she realized she was crouching on the floor. As she tried to get up she hit her head on something. She saw that she had somehow moved from her chair to underneath the table when she had heard the gun firing. As she got out from underneath the white table she could hear someone screaming. A loud wail of shock and despair.
“You monsters! You monsters!” It felt like her mother had been shouting it for hours. Julia ran to her mother who was now holding her father’s dead body. He was covered in blood, and his eyes were wide open, the gun still in his hand.
Sunlight poured in through a door shaped hole in the front of the entrance hall. It was dusk so it was a bit dimmer outside but even so Julia crept on all fours to the porch. She heard someone shouting
“THOUGHT YOU COULD FIRE ME JOSEPH? HUH? WELL NOW YOU JUST GOT WHAT YOU DESERVE!!” The man in the pick up truck shouted as he drove away. An American flag was painted onto the back. Julia was watching the truck drive down the street full of neighbors when she noticed one of the cameras on the streetlights had begun to flash rhythmically. Julia watched it for a while too scared to move when she heard a loud noise for the third time in the last fifteen minutes. Julia quickly sprinted into the nearest room and locked the door. After about thirty seconds she heard her mother shouting her name. She slowly unlocked the door to see a gigantic black metal box that took up most of the room with a huge red plus sign on one of the sides. It’s two great doors opened to reveal a gurney and two humanoid androids. The androids pushed the gurney out of the box and placed Julia’s father onto it. They strapped him down with great black belts and covered him in a black plastic bag. There was no light in the box so once the androids and the bag were inside, the only thing the two women could see were the light of the androids’ eyes. The eyes were there to provide people with a more human presence, but when Julia saw them she only shuddered. The doors slowly closed silently. When she thought it was about to fly out of the hall she heard something printing and saw a white piece of paper coming out of the front of the box which read, “Your government provides its condolences. We will always remember the TRAGEDY that has taken place here. We advise you to always have a weapon on your person and to be thankful for the freedom this country provides...Joseph Smith. Time of death 6:14 PM. 3879 Blue Skies Avenue. You will forever be in our thoughts and prayers.”
The two women watched as the sheet of paper fell to the floor slowly turning from white to red. The drone flew out of the entrance hall, through the porch and up into the sky. Never to be seen again. Julia stood still as a board as she heard her mother get up from the floor.
“Goodness. I need to get a mop to clean up all this...this…”
Mary seemed unable to say the word ‘blood’. She brought her hands to her face, violently trying to brush away the tears that were streaming down. In the process however she had forgotten she had been holding her husband’s dead body and made her face red from the blood. She looked up at the ceiling willing her eyes not to shed anymore tears. Then she looked back at her daughter. Her daughter was standing so still she could have easily been mistaken for a statue. Her eyes so wide you could see the white around her irises at the top.
“What?” Her mother asked with a hint of anger.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
Julia look at the blood on the ground. Then she asked her mother a question.
“What do you think happened to dad?”
Her mother, without hesitation said, “Your father has become tragic. Just an awful thing that I pray doesn’t happen to you.”