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Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I don’t have the rights to this show or its characters (we’d all still be watching them if I did ; p), and the only profit I make from writing this is the satisfaction I get from knowing that in my head at least, this show will never die… So please don’t sue me (I’m just a student and therefore, more broke than you could imagine, you’d probably get more money out of suing an ant to be honest...) but please enjoy and review ; )
By the way, this is my first plunge into the realm of fanfic writing so please share as much infinite wisdom and advice as to how I’m doing… and whether (or not), I should work this idea through to some sort of conclusion… Please, let me know good, bad or ugly… though constructive criticism is always preferred! Oh and I’m an Aussie so if I go getting all “G’day Mate,” with strange spelling or terminology let me know and I’ll try to sort it out ASAP. Thanks for reading.
Ennui is a noun meaning a weariness or dissatisfaction with life, that results from monotony or a general loss of interest. It is synonymous with tedium or boredom, but with a more depressed undertone...
Chapter 1. Yellow.
Jarod lay on his back, his hands interlaced neatly behind his head, counting the render artefacts on the white concrete ceiling above him. With a groan he turned to face the travel clock on the empty nightstand beside the bed, 4:25am. Too late to go to sleep but too early to be awake… He closed his eyes and opened them once more. Still 4:25am…
Jarod sighed, unable to remember the last time he’d slept for a period exceeding 20minutes. It didn’t take a genius to figure out there was something on his mind.
Slowly, Jarod sat up and looked around the bare apartment for something to do that didn’t involve thinking about sleep.
Swinging his bare feet over the edge of the bed, a small smile bit at the corners of his mouth as Jarod’s gaze fell upon the yellow star-shaped nightlight plugged into the power point beneath the window. Even after years of experimenting he couldn’t decide if he liked it to be light or dark when he slept, so at his Sydney’s suggestion, he purchased a nightlight.
Yellow was a colour that the centre had not yet ruined. It reminded Jarod of the sun, the sand, PEZ and a dress he remembered seeing Catherine Parker wearing once… Consequently, yellow was the colour he decided to wake up to. The way he saw it, waking up to a yellow glow was like watching the sunrise and no matter how severe his nightmares were, his ‘sunrise’ would remind him that there was a life out there that was worth living.
Jarod stood up on the cold polished floorboards and advanced on the window that was partially obscured from the outside, by a billboard Jarod didn’t understand.
4:27am was a lonely time. All of the drunk patrons from the pub downstairs had long since stumbled home, it was too early for the birds and way too early for the business district to be conscious, let alone making noise... Even traffic was non-existent, leaving the traffic lights hanging across the street to emit a steady green glow through the thick fog that reflected off the glass windowpane.
4:29am. Jarod stared blankly down at the empty street below him, wondering if normal people lay awake at night wondering who they were, where their place in the world was…
He’d often considered asking Sydney if they did, but Sydney probably wasn’t the best person to ask. Jarod knew that he didn’t get much sleep himself, and the psychological analysis of his fears wasn’t what Jarod was after. No, sometimes, all Jarod wanted, was to be told that he belonged… That he was valued purely because of who he was, whoever that may be… and not because of who he could become or who he could pretend to be…
Jarod made a mental note to choose somewhere near a printing press or a bakery, or even a fish-market to make his next temporary home. Surely they’d be busy enough to be making noise at this lonely hour, and noise lead to distractions and distractions were the only thing that could turn his over-active mind off. Even if they only lasted a few fleeting minutes… or seconds even. At least if he had something else to occupy him, he wouldn’t have to think about all the bad things he’d done, or the bad things that had been done to him and his family at the hands of the Centre.
4:32am. Knowing he still had a few hours to kill before his train would arrive at the station, and having already packed his scarce belongings just over an hour ago, Jarod retrieved his laptop from the small glass-topped coffee table on the rug and turned it on. Sitting on the couch, he opened his latest email account and sent his brother the second of the three obligatory emails they would send one another every week. It was a system they’d worked out that let them keep in touch, whilst ensuring Jay was safe with Major Charles and Emily, in the event that something happened to Jarod.
But lately, this process had become really hard on Jarod, and the toll was showing in his extending pattern of insomnia. Sending coded emails back and fourth was safer for everyone... Jarod couldn’t live with himself if the Centre ever caught Jay because of him… but at the same time, Jarod knew what he was missing, and it hurt to have to have contingency plans where they could never know where each other were… where they could never just be together… never be a real family…
Jarod kept his message short, and sent the email before he could reveal where he was, or where he was going.... He couldn’t trust himself of late, and noted the same patterns in Jay’s messages. Their correspondence was getting shorter and shorter, limiting itself to everyone being ok… despite the obvious fact that, that was just a lie they passed back and fourth in the hopes that if they said it enough, that it would become true…
< ~ >
4:40am. Jarod considered hacking into the Centre’s mainframe again, he’d had made lots of trips into the centre’s mainframe of late, and wondered if Broots had found his smiley face virus yet, or if none of the Centre’s upper echelon had felt compelled to use any of Jarod’s files since he’d planted it.
He smiled to himself at the thought of who would be the most angry after opening one of his files and finding a big yellow smiley face in it’s place, that would simultaneously appear on every Centre networked computer in the country.
Gut instinct told him that Miss Parker would be the first to find it and Lyle would be the first to go to Broots. Sydney would find it funny, and Broots would too, when he found the coding behind it that was...
Jarod nearly entertained the idea that it would be worth going back just to see their reactions… Nearly…
Instead of looking for the digital archives that would confirm his instincts, Jarod decided to put his time to good use and search again for his mother. Knowing deep down that the four hours since his last search really wasn’t long enough for his mother to suddenly appear out of hiding… But Jarod pushed these thoughts to the back of is mind and resumed the search for Margaret, hoping beyond hope that she would suddenly appear, and that he could reunite his family, and together they’d disappear into the sunset, the Centre being nothing more than ancient history.
< ~ >
5:45am. After searching every database he knew to exist, for any signs of his mother and coming up empty once again, Jarod turned off his computer and retired to the shower with the aim of wasting the next fifteen minutes, after which, he’d head on to the train station and wait for the first interstate to arrive and take him to his next temporary residence.
Playing with the new shower fittings until he found just the right temperature, Jarod hummed the nursery rhyme he often used to remind himself to keep going. Lately, not being able to see his family was making it harder to get up in the morning, harder to sleep, harder to keep track of himself. He found himself turning to the nursery rhyme more and more, and gaining less and less strength from it.
Leaning against the shower wall, Jarod slid down to the floor, wrapping his arms tightly around his knees, watching the water running down the drain. He’d just given someone back the life that had been stolen from them and should be happy, but all he could think about was the life that was stolen from him… The life that was still being stolen from him…
Was this all there was? Was this what his life had become, the same song playing over and over to an off-beat tune.
< ~ >
6:01am. Jarod swung his backpack up onto his shoulder and took one last look at the apartment he’d resided in over the last two weeks. When he’d first arrived it had been a dilapidated mess of Leon’s previous life, the life before the armed robbery that robbed him of his wife, his ability to walk and hence, ability to climb the stairs to his home.
When Jarod had first met Leon, Leon was essentially homeless, going through the motions of a divorce, and struggling to manage the bar he’d owned for over 20 years.
Jarod had decided to help and smiled at what he had achieved. He’d completely re-furbished Leon’s apartment and successfully found a couple to be tenants who were only too happy to help Leon run the bar. He’d converted the back cellars into a wheel-chair accessible apartment for Leon, and had restored the bar to its former glory, complete with growing patronage and profit margins.
Jarod made his way downstairs and stopped at the photograph of Leon and himself that hung proudly on the wall behind the cash register. Jarod smiled at the picture, remembering the look on his new friend’s face when Jarod told him he was actually a builder that was between jobs and homes. Leon had offered him a place to stay without hesitation and in return, Jarod had given him his independence and accordingly life, back.
Leaving the apartment keys next to the cash register with a note he’d written and few hundred dollars of the Centre’s cash so Leon could go and visit his daughter, Jarod slipped out into the dense morning fog, taking one last look up at the billboard that had puzzled him for the last two weeks.
It was a huge photograph of a woman’s mouth smiling, with the words “Get it?” posted above. Jarod didn’t get it but smiled at the thought of the virus it had inspired.
Maybe that was it’s point, that there was no point, that the advertisers just wanted to see how many people they could get to smile. In any case, it made Jarod smile every time he saw it, and for that, he was grateful.
Maybe it was the fog, or the millions of thoughts running through his mind, or the billboard that distracted him, but Jarod failed to notice the familiar face watching him from cross the empty street. He of all people should have recognized that face. That face should have sent him sprinting in the opposite direction quicker than the duracell bunny…
Instead, Jarod continued on down the sidewalk towards the train station, oblivious to the fact that he was being followed at a distance by familiar foes.
< ~ >
Taking his seat next to the window on the train, his back to the direction of travel in the statistically safest spot for train travel, Jarod stared out the window at the yellow line painted on the platform to let people know when they were too close to the edge. Yes, he thought to himself, yellow was a safe colour.
Jarod grinned to himself when a short kid wearing a yellow hooded jumper that Jarod figured could be no older than twelve years old, took the seat next to him. Jarod smiled openly when the kid offered him a PEZ from his basketball-shaped dispenser.
Jarod held up his Daffy Duck, “It looks like we have something in common.”
The kid smiled back, “I’m Max.”
“I’m Jarod,” Jarod replied, watching as Max pulled a deck of cards out of his bag.
“Do you know how to play ‘go fish’ Jarod?” his eyes lighting up as he asked.
“I’m sure you could teach me,” Jarod smiled as Max pulled out the tray in front of him and the train left the station. There wasn’t anything that Jarod couldn’t be taught.
< ~ >
After several hours of chatting and playing card games with Max, Jarod sat watching the landscape flying past the window. Max had fallen asleep on his shoulder and his soft breathing was making Jarod remember just how tired he was. Looking at his watch, Jarod figured he could afford a few hours of sleep and settled himself into the seat, careful not to disturb his newest friend.
After all, max had taught Jarod how to play snap, his new favourite card game. It didn’t matter how smart you were, a kid could always genuinely beat you at snap, and that’s why Jarod loved it. Card counting and probabilities couldn’t be manipulated in your favour. Snap was a random game of chance that the person with the quickest reflexes was destined to win. It was perfect in all of its simplicity, and Jarod had to admit that the hour they’d spent playing snap was the most fun he’d had in a long time.
Settling into the swaying rhythm of the train carriage, Jarod found himself drifting off into a deep and dreamless sleep, the very kind his body had craved its whole life.
< ~ >
Jarod woke to the jolting motion of the train pulling into station. He went to scratch his forehead as he watched the platform come into view, but was stopped by the scarily familiar feeling of metal on his wrist. Confused, he stared for a second at the handcuffs that were tightly chaining him to his seat.
“Did you see who did this to me?” He asked Max, who was visibly urging the train to come to a halt so he could get off. Jarod grabbed his wrist as he stood up, “Max?”
Max pulled away frightened, “…I’m sorry Jarod…” he was on the verge of tears, “…He said he’d give me two hundred dollars if I put it on when you were sleeping… I’m really sorry…”
“Who’s he?” Jarod asked letting a very frightened Max’s wrist go.
“Him,” Max pointed to a man dressed in a suit that was standing on the platform.
Jarod started to panic as he stood and watched Max expertly weave his way through the other passengers, towards door, “Max!” Jarod yelled after him as he watched Max’s backpack bobbing through the crowd on the platform towards Sam, “Max!”
Jarod watched helplessly as Sam handed him the cash and Max pointed to Jarod without looking back. Sam smiled and left Max standing alone on the platform whilst he disappeared from Jarod’s line of sight.
Jarod started to sweat and sank back down into his seat, where he felt the cold barrel of a gun being forced sharply into the back of his neck, “Boo.”
Jarod didn’t need to turn around to recognize that voice.
“Bet you weren’t expecting me Wonder Boy.”
The train begun to accelerate away from the platform, “I hope you gave him his money,” Jarod snarled, glaring angrily out the window at his diminishing freedom.
“Actually, we doubled it.” Sam interrupted, taking Max’s empty seat next to Jarod.
Jarod watched the trees flying past the window, desperately trying to free his wrist from the handcuffs.
“It won’t do you much good. That kid has talent,” Sam admired the firm application of the handcuffs, “But we wouldn’t want to risk another escape attempt now would we?” he pulled a loaded syringe from his jacket pocket and made a show of attaching a 22 gauge needle to the end.
When he motioned to grab Jarod’s cuffed arm, Jarod grabbed Sam’s wrist with his free left hand, and felt the gun being jammed painfully into the top his left shoulder, and heard the hammer being cocked back.
“Please let me shoot. It’s been entirely too long since I’ve gotten to inflict pain on you, and yet you manage to make every waking moment of my life a living hell,” Jarod reluctantly let Sam’s wrist go, knowing Lyle wouldn’t hesitate to shoot him and winced painfully as Sam vengefully stuck the needle into the basilic vein of his right forearm, at the point just before it became the brachial vein, distal to the hinge joint of his elbow. A small tear escaped his eye and ran down his left cheek falling silently on the black leather of his jacket, as Sam emptied the syringe expertly into his vein.
“Fine. But don’t go thinking that I’m not going to play with you when we get back to the Centre. In fact, we’ve had a whole new playground built just for you…” he patted Jarod on the shoulder, “The smiley face was a nice touch though Jarod. Who knows, perhaps I’ll have one painted on the wall of your new cell.” Lyle re-holstered his gun and sat down in the seat directly behind Jarod, kicking it for good measure as Sam pushed Jarod’s head back into the seat and removed the syringe, “Sleep tight sweet prince. You’ll be home before you know it.”
Jarod bit his lip hard as he felt the drug making it’s way to his heart where it would be distributed all over his body and he would be unconscious before he knew it. Stealing one last look at the freedom of the outside world, Jarod felt his eyelids grow heavy and the bite he held on his lip grow weak. Taking a deep breath, Jarod smiled to himself at the thought the Jay was safe. All the agonizing over the past few months had been worth it.
Jarod let himself fall asleep, no longer caring about his future. His brother, sister and father were safe and in three days, had they not received an email from him, would be driven so far underground that no one would ever find them again.
< ~ >
By underground, I wasn’t intending to imply literally underground as in under the dirt, but rather living under the radar and in secret, as in moving to another country and completely changing their identities.
If the response to this story is positive I’ll post more and hopefully it’ll make sense then… Sorry if it wasn’t clear.
Also for anyone unfamiliar with some of the references I’ve made…
The Duracell bunny: Duracell is a brand of battery that features a battery-powered pink stuffed rabbit as a part of their advertising campaign. The general idea is that Duracell batteries make this rabbit faster, stronger and superior, to the non-energizer powered bunnies/rabbits.
Safest spot for train travel: Its actually been proven that in the event of a train crash, it’s safer to sit with your back to the direction of travel (and yes, I’m a nerd if you didn’t pick it already).
Go fish: A card game that involves a regular four suite deck of cards and involves players being dealt a hand from which to select any pairs. Then the players then take it in turns to ask their opponents for any cards that pair with their own eg a queen. If their opponent doesn’t have a queen for example, the player must add another card to their hand from the deck. The objective of the game being, for the player to get rid of all of their cards, and obtain a greater number of pairs than their opponent.
Snap: Seriously is the greatest card game ever… until a four year old beats you… Basically, you take it in turns to flip the top card from a deck and create a new pile. When you spot a pair on the pile, you yell snap and cover the pile with your hand. The objective of the game is to gather the greatest number of cards from your opponent.
22 gauge needle: a pretty thin needle (pointy stainless-steel hollow tube), (generally as the numbers go up the needle gets bigger in both diameter and length), but more than enough to bring out that sinking-stomach feeling in anyone with a fear of needles.
Basilic vein, brachial vein: veins that drain your hand and forearm taking the blood back towards the heart and lungs for re-oxygenation. The basilic vein is one of two branching veins visible on the back of the hand (that curl around to the ventral side of the forearm) used for IV lines or taking blood.