Saturday, March 12, 2016

Cautionary Tale (a short story) by Laya Venkatesan

By: Laya Venkatesan
Cautionary Tale

“Mom! An InstaPackage came!” Abby spoke through her AMPLIphone. Kate ran around in NurseCare; she was only 8, while Mark was in his room doing his homework; he on the other hand was 13. Abby was stuck in the middle, being 10. They all went to Greenwood, a private school from grades K-8. Abby watched the box slide through the door swiftly and quickly. Her curiosity tempted her to open it, but she refrained from doing so until her mom accepted.
            “Don’t open it yet! Who is it from?” her mom, Kim, replied back into her speaker, answering Abby’s thoughts.
            Abby’s eyes scanned the box, landing on the bold and imprinted letters, Milena Panova, “It’s from Grandma!”
            Abby could hear Mom’s sigh from the crackling on her speaker. She saw Mom make her way into the family room, staring at the package.
            “Kids!” Mom had her multi-speaker on now, “Come to the family room. Grandma sent us something,” she instructed breathlessly. Her eyes sagged down, but yet she seemed to have her head held high and shook away her lethargy. After waiting for Kate and Mark for a while, she yelled, “Come NOW!” Although their mom usually had a pliable nature, some things put her temper over the top.
            The childrens’ groans were loud and in unison; it was clear that they wanted it to be audible. Kate and Mark dragged themselves into the family room, flopping across the floor. Their dad, Chris, trailed behind them.
            Kim pressed the button somewhat reluctantly, as the package shot open. All Russian pastries were tied together. They were in an beautiful display; each sweet lined up neatly and nicely.
            “Wow! That’s so sweet of Grandma,” Kate snorted to herself, as Abby and Mark shook their head in disbelief. Kate reached for one of the sweets instinctively.
            But before Kate could even touch one, her Mom pushed her hand away and gave her a warning look, “We won’t do anything with these until dinner tomorrow.”
            Kate sighed and took one more look at the sweets, in an effort to be abstemious, “Fine.”
            The curtains shook and the windows creaked, leaving an ominous effect, “It was probably just the wind,” their dad assured, trying more to convince himself than the others.
            Abby slowly made her way to her room, as the rest of the family carried on with what they were doing. She sank on her bed, sighing, not knowing what to do out of boredom. Her phone started flashing rainbow colors; Abby peeked at her phone and saw that it was from Kelsey, one of her friends. She clicked on the big, bright red button, watching an amplification visual of Kelsey pop out.
            “Hi!” Kelsey waved excitedly. She was grinning widely, rocking back and forth on her bed.
            “Hi,” Abby made an attempt to sound happy half-heartedly.
            “What’s the matter? Oh, are you sad because school is tomorrow,” Kelsey nodded sympathetically.
            “What? School is already tomorrow!” Abby gasped, checking her phone to read the big letters, Sunday, November 20th, 2301.
            “Yeah, sadly. Well, did you do anything fun over the weekend? My cousins came over!” Kelsey exclaimed.
            “Well, just now, my grandma sent us some goodies from Russia. I can’t wait until dinner tomorrow!” Abby seemed a little more excited.
            “Yeah, ha-ha. Just waiting to pounce and strike on those poor little guys,” Kelsey played along.
            Suddenly, little crackling noises came on the phone. Kelsey’s eyebrows furrowed with curiosity, staring at Abby.
            “There must just be bad reception,” Abby cleared the confusion, “Okay, so, I’ll talk to you later. Bye,” she waved.
            “Bye!” Kelsey smiled.
            Abby pressed the red button again, ending the call. She heard a slight knock on the door, “Come in!” she yelled.
            “Hi Abby,” her mom walked in, “Is your school bag packed yet?” she asked.
            “Yeah, I think RoboHelper already packed it for me,” Abby replied.
            “All right then, good night,” Abby’s mom said, closing the door slowly.
            Abby released a big breath, falling onto her pillow. Her heavy eyelids closed in on her and the morning awaited her.
***
            “Good morning!” Mark woke up to the sound of perky Kate.
            “Ugh, why’d you have to wake me up?” Mark whined, as his bed escalated, sliding him gently onto the floor.
            “Sorry, I thought you were already awake. And Mom told me to come and wake you up since it’s time for breakfast,” Kate explained, walking to the breakfast table.
            The morning routine went by fairly quickly, and soon, Mark, Abby, and Kate were headed toward the AutoBus. Kate pushed the street button, and an AutoBus came zooming their way. They all jumped on and the bus dashed to their school.
            “Hi!” Mark greeted his friend, Tom, once he got off the bus.
            “Hey Mark!” Tom replied just as enthusiastically.
            Both of them headed to their first class following their daily schedule. At last, it was lunch.
            Mark and Tom headed to the table with all their friends waiting for them impatiently. They sat down, eager to eat their lunch.
            “I have this really cool sandwich. It has everything in it!” Tom exclaimed, showing his sandwich full of all vegetables and cheeses.
            Mark took it more as a challenge than a statement, “Well, I have the best treat waiting for me at home from my grandma,” he commented.
            “That’s cool!” Tom smiled.
            Mark caught something in the corner of his eye near the window on the door. He saw something or someone shaking and moving around.
            “Are you okay? What are you looking at?” Tom asked, concerned, following Mark’s gaze to the window with nothing there.
            “Yeah, I’m fine,” Mark shook his head back into reality, “I think I’m just seeing weird things since I’m tired,” he reassured.
            Lunch ended quickly, and before Mark knew it, he was already on the bus with his sisters, heading back home.
***
            “Today’s been a nice day,” Kate shared, sighing.
            “Yeah, I guess so,” Abby agreed, leaning on her seat.
            “Come on, this is our stop,” Mark beckoned, leading them out the bus.
            The bushes shook and ruffled unnaturally as if people were hiding behind.
            “Did you see that?” Kate said in a panicked voice.
            “What?” Abby and Mark asked in unison, stopping in their tracks.
            “There was something in the bushes!” Kate stared at the bushes, breathing heavily.
            Abby and Mark rolled their eyes, “There’s nothing in the—,” before they could finish their sentence, three, tall men jumped out of the bushes, grabbing the children.
            “HELP!” they cried. They exchanged frightened looks, clueless of what to do. The men threw them into their car, handcuffed and mouths tied. Abby struggled to speak, shaking her head violently to rip the cloth that was wrapped around her mouth, while Kate tried helplessly to rip her handcuffs off. Mark groaned in resignation, knowing that whatever he did wouldn’t help. Their debility was no match for the strong, brawny men. They heard muffled voices in the front that sounded harsh and timorous.
            Suddenly, the car pulled up to a curb, as the men grabbed the children and dragged them toward Greenwood County Jail.
            The children stared at the sign in confusion and disbelief. As soon as they got inside, the men released the handcuffs and the cloth.
            “We didn’t do anything wrong! Why are we in jail?” Kate screamed.
            “You are here because of underage threats of weaponry usage,” one tall man replied with a serious and stern look on his face.
            “WHAT!” Abby yelled, “We didn’t threaten to use any weapons,” she complained.
            “We will discuss this in your jail cell. Get ready for an interrogation,” the man warned.
            “Can we at least call our parents?” Mark asked pleadingly.
            “They’re here as well,” the man lead them through a narrow hallway, and pushed them into a cell where their parents were. They looked just as confused as the kids were, but were clearly trying to maintain a calm disposition.
            “We’ll be back in 5 minutes,” the men said, walking back toward the entrance.        
            “Why are we here?” Mark, Abby, and Kate all asked, hoping that their parents would have some kind of explanation
            “We don’t know. They were saying something about the use of weapons, but there’s no need to worry; we’ll clear this whole thing out,” their mom’s convincing tone seemed to put them at ease.
            “Ridiculous, isn’t it? The government is getting crazier and crazier. Lately, they’ve been having everyone under surveillance. That’s the only way they could have come up with such a silly accusation. We came to America thinking we’d have the right to prosperity and privacy. But here we are, IN JAIL!” their dad lamented.
            “How did you guys get here?” Mark asked.
            Kim and Chris started talking, “We were commuting from home today, since we didn’t want to go to work, and we figured we’d just take one of the pastries Grandma packed, and once we reached for the package, those men grabbed us, dumped them in their car, and here we are in jail. What about you?”
            “They kidnapped us,” Kate giggled. Abby rolled her eyes, “They did the same same thing to us, but it was when we were walking home from school.”
            “We’re here for the interrogation,” two men with refined suits and notepads came into the cell, taking their seats. Their voices were abrasive and rough, giving them an intimidating image.
            “What have you been planning and plotting? Who else is in this conspiracy?” one man inquired.
            “We haven’t been planning anything. There’s nothing going on,” their mom ensured.
            “We’ve been hearing your conversations about a package sent from your grandmother with ‘goodies’ and ‘treats’. And that you’re waiting to get your hands on them to pounce and strike on someone at dinner today. So speak up and confess, or you’ll be here for a long time,” the other man cautioned.
            “What, no you----,” before Mark could finish, the other interrogator already cut in.
            “We have narrowed this illegal activity to one of the following---you are either harboring noxious chemicals from foreign countries, or smuggling weapons. Tell us which one it is,”            
            “Our grandmother sent us Russian treats and our mom said we’ll only be able to eat them at dinner today. You took everything in the wrong context,” Abby explained, while the rest of her family nodded.
            The two men squinted their eyes, as if to almost try and see through them to find any hidden lies. They exchanged glances as if saying, “This explanation is plausible, but has to be reassured.” They got up and exited the cell, “Hang on; we’ll send people to check your house and see what was in the package you received. You need to stay here,” the men walked out of the jail cell heading toward the police.
            “Unbelievable,” their dad shook his head in astonishment. Their mom nodded in agreement and rested her head on her hand, showing her blatant frustration.
            A few minutes later, a police man entered he jail cell, “You guys are free to leave. Sorry for the misunderstanding,” he opened the gates, releasing them from the cell.
           
“Man is born free, but always in chains.”            -Rousseau                       

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