I felt the jolt of the car as we raced over a speed bump. I forgot they had those in the outside world. The heavy splatterring of the rain on the windscreen was unavoidable for my ears, as my dad drove on through the grey. The wipers swaying back and forth faster than the tick-tock of the grandad clock we used to have before we were forced to move. Even though my dad has driven plenty of times before, right now it looked like he was trying to read a book for the first time; he had no clue what he was doing, he only knew the direction in which he needed to go. I guess it was the nerves getting to him. I don't blame him. It's good that he's keeping strong or at least he's putting on a half-convincing show for me.
I saw this spray-painted in red onto a billboard we had just passed on our seemingly endless journey, originally showing 'The New Face' of the country. I noticed this in particular because it was similar to the one I saw back in the city, which was also on a bill-board, outside my home. The same message was sprayed over its face.
Home must have been hundreds of miles away by now. I remember the rush, the suffering in the streets. The sights I saw, still occupies an uninvited place in my head. Disorder. My dad thinks the whole thing was a conspiracy. He told me that these days the powerful only care about their own kind. They look after themselves, they take advantage of the disadvantaged, they tamper with the voting poll, they're unstoppable. Dad knew this was coming, he just chose not to accept it until it was too late. Even the crazy man that always lingered on our street and wondered outside our home prophesised the signs:
'The End is Nigh'.
Dad breathes a sorrowful sigh. That is the first sound I had heard from him since the time he yelled 'get in the car' outside our home. Home must be hundreds of miles away by now.
Caught by surprise and taken away from my day dreaming, I don't reply. I keep staring out the window. At this point, it's as if the window is painted with rain drops. Through glassy vision, I remain focused on nature's forgotten space and its unkept grass, as it flies by. I know what he's going to say. I don't know exactly yet, but by that familiar, grave, sad, tone he uses for bad news, I feel that I can already foresee the content of what he will say.
"We're going 'There'"
I stayed silent. Surprisingly, my spirits lift, although part of me still feels sombre. I've just left my home, my everything. I spent my early days, my entire childhood in that city.
I'd heard stories about 'There' from the radio; my dad often listened to the radio in the kitchen back at home. I remember the advertisement emphasised that it's a sanctuary, a haven, a safe place for people like us. The radio would say it was even run by people like us, the powerless. Then a bunch of people would speak of the happiness they are in and the previous suffering they had endured before going over to 'There'. I distinctly remember the people in the radio calling it....
'A bright, new city. A bright, new home.'
We should've gone a lot earlier in my opinion before we had to endure the city's collapse, but Dad's in charge and we must have stayed for a reason. Dad had been in charge at home for a while. Home must be hundreds of miles away by now.
I see ahead we draw up to the place. The safe, large complex. The guards signals at us to stop. We slow, then our car is brought to a halt. Dad breaks the silence and breathes
'This is it'
I have hope. I feel relieved. I look to the rear-view mirror to see if dad is feeling the same way. He's unchanged, grim-faced, spirits still cast away. Dad's been on edge lately, ever since we've left the city. It's as if the troubles have stayed with him. He catches my stare in the rear-view mirror. For those brief seconds, I see through his eyes and know that what could be mistaken as love for me, was anxiety in his soul. It was the same anxious look he gave when we were outside home in the city. I remember he had looked at me with those eyes, before he turned the keys.
'To leave and to not look back'
My dad said this back then, and quietly repeated it now, as if to reassure himself. I can understand his nerves.
The Guard gestured my dad to open the window. He was tall, well-built and wore sun-glasses, even though there was no sun. He reminds me of the kind of kids back at school who thought they were better than everyone else by wearing sunglasses. Mr. Better-Than-Everyone-Else crouched down to the car level. He looks down at us and systematically takes a quick look at our clothes and a loud, quick sniff of our car, or us, I couldn't tell; either way he is instantly taken aback. He is disgusted.
Cheeky bastard - is all I could think of. Dad didn't complain.
'Drive to the Left Gate'
Mr. Better-Than-Everyone-Else sounds very authorative, not in the mood for conversation, or to give us reassurance, or just to give us a warm welcome. He's perfect at fitting his name, this arrogant man. Dad starts fumbling around with documents in the glove compartment as if in a state of urgency. He barely manages to grab one.
'Don't you need to look at our identification papers, or numbers, or documents, or anything?'
'No. Left Gate. Come on! Let's move it along'
Dad slowly drives the car towards the Left Gate and begins to wind the window up.
'Son, as you know, there will be rules over 'There', just like every home and just like every society we live in. It is our duty to abide by these rules. It's the principle of this that counts. It's about Respect. Now having Respect is an important value and therefore we must learn to...'
'...Dad spare me the details, I know! ... Therefore we must learn to appreciate what society gives us and if we do wrong we'll be punished accordingly and we must respect that enforcers of the rules are just doing their jobs and protecting the system. Without rules, society doesn't work, without society...'
'We live in chaos.' Dad finishes for me. He smiles. That's the first smile I've seen in a long while from my dad. I'm sure he knows I can remember all the values he taught me. He's lectured me on each one at least a dozen times since I was a kid. Heck, I can nearly recite every one of them. Yet he persists on presenting the values as if I've never heard them before.
We stop before the gate and the car goes through the routinely Examination Process. As this is being done, I squint my eyes to look through the rain drops on the window. All I see are a few security cameras here and there, nothing else interesting.
'Dad, what was different about the other gate? Why didn't he tell us to go to the Right Gate?'
'Because that's Here. We belong in There'
I have never heard of 'Here'. But just as I was about to ask, as if on cue, Left Gate opens. The microphone, stationed above the Gate on the rail, scatters its screeching, eery, painful and loud noise hinting at the beginning of an announcement, automated especially for our arrival.
'Welcome Home. Welcome to There'