Σάββατο, 1 Οκτωβρίου 2016

ΤΗΕ VOLUNTEER 2 : THE JOURNEY OF HIS LIFE


Τhe shift that night at the Sierra was full of anticipation. He inspected the empty locked offices and his mind was elsewhere. He had won “the journey of his life” and this grandiose characterization only brought him even more childish yearning. On his way back, he remembered the last minute to get the coffee, just before the turn to the house. In the mornings, the city had a different spirit and energy. Harry’s return to the house always coincided with the daily school’s finish and he was always happy to see the children‘s momentum on the streets. Their wild and aggressive nature flowed the narrow streets, with loud voices and laughter, with the boy’s shirts out of the trousers and the suspenders down, with the girl’s socks being loose. A kid fell on him the minute Harry got out of the grocery store. He muttered something that could be “sorry” and burst inside while his friends were waiting for him outside. Harry himself pretty much felt the same. A wild animal that wanted his gift that very moment. He had completely forgotten everything about the contest, until he saw it again in the newspaper. Now, it monopolized his thoughts. He needed some clarifications instantly. 
And the clarifications soon arrived. After a week, on his way to the metro, he met the newsdealer. He took the newspaper and he felt his look staying a bit longer on him. It looked as if the news dealer wanted to tell him something but he hesitated. Harry realized that it had something to do with the contest and he spontaneously asked him:
“Is there something you want to tell me?”
The newsdealer, looking at him in the eyes, muttered almost frightened:
“When you finish work, go to Tamarinia station. Get in the first wagon that will stop in front of you.”
Harry was confused.
“But, Tamarinia is out of order for many years now. It has been completely sealed after the terrorist attack.”
“It is open just for today. In fact, it is open just for you”, he said and he lowered his gaze. “They didn’t tell me anything else.”
Harry believed him, although his words were crazy. He grabbed the newspaper, muttered a “thank you very much” and descended the subway stairs.
On the way, he wondered about the things he had heard. Tamarinia, along with different eight subway stations around the world had been shut down after the simultaneous terrorist attacks of September 22, 2021. Back then, the whole world had frozen with terror by the perfectly organized hit. From Delimar to Krajibol, from one end of the world to the other, metro stations were hit and the victims were hundreds. The stations were sealed of course and had stayed in the people’s minds as the “lethal eight.’ Tamarinia was at the west part of Bowieville. Since it was sealed, there was only the faded sign with its name on the road along with many prohibition signs at the stairs that led to the subway. Of course, those signs could easily be omitted. Nobody wanted to go down the stairs of death. So, having the newsdealer telling him to go to Tamarinia station, was, if anything, threatening. He didn’t know whether he should take his words under consideration. He didn’t know whether he should forget all about this bad joke or go to the police. These dilemmas followed him at the Sierra and found nothing but dead end in his thoughts. By the time he finished his shift, he had made up his mind. He would forget all about it and he would not give the case another shot. He would just ask the newsdealer who had approached him so that he could pay him a visit in order to scold that person. He thought that this was the most reasonable thing to do. He would tell Branca about it, if he found her on his bed, and they would surely laugh about it. But, seeing the kids leaving from school and filling the streets with their raw energy, he started having second thoughts. What would happen if he dared to go? Had he become so conservative and fearful? In the past, it was certain that Harry would take advantage of this opportunity for adventure. And just like that, at the intersection, he turned in the direction of Tamarinia and did not head to the house. 
The letters R and T had completely faded on the sign with the name of the station and a huge « ΟUT OF ORDER” sign along with the other prohibition ones were the first thing you saw at the entrance. He only checked if someone saw him entering and started descending. His eyed got used to the dim light of the subway with that intense smell of dust and mold dominating the place. Bare cables were hanging from the walls and it was as if something was rhythmically dripping in the background. Or maybe, it was his heart beating like a drum. The platform was partly half ruined and piles of concrete rubble stood there in three parts that looked like a wild mountain barrier. The phrase: “It is open just for you” was heard constantly in his mind while he stood still and waited. He looked at his watch. It was a quarter to two. He would wait for fifteen minutes, not a minute longer. If the train did not show up, he would leave. In this way, he would play along but on his own terms. 
Ten minutes had passed when he felt a wave of hot air coming from the depths of the dark tunnel. It was a heat wave along with the engine noise, galloping towards him with a bright slit trying to dissolve the darkness around and inside him. So, the newsdealer had told him the truth. A wagon full of graffiti approached reducing its speed. It stopped in front of him and the doors opened. A feeble yellow light harshly covered the dirty seats, the floor, and the windows. Harry reluctantly entered and noticed two men in dark suits holding newspapers in front of their faces in a way that they were completely hidden. The doors closed behind him and the wagon started his slow course. He approached the two men and sat opposite them. Only then, they put the newspapers down. Harry screamed: “What is the meaning of all this? Who are you?”
The two men wore plastic masks on their heads, resembling the head of a horse, just like the ones the children wear on Halloween. From the holes in the eyes he could see their cold eyes and he was certain that he had taken the wrong decision for once again in his life. 
“Relax, Harry”, the man on his right started talking. “We know that all this must seem at least peculiar but we are going to explain. First of all, let us introduce ourselves. Let’s say that I am John and the man beside me is Doe. The masks are for covering our faces because everything that is going to be said today is a huge secret.”
“I don’t understand”, Harry muttered. “I am supposed to be the winner of a fucking contest in a newspaper read by a bunch of people in this town. What does it have to do with this show of yours?”
“Of course, you won the journey, Harry. Everything is done for that. He, who sends you on that journey, is not the newsdealer but a big pharmaceutical company for which we work. And it will really be the journey of your life, we did not lie about it. It will be the journey that will allow you to go back in various parts of your life and, basically, relive them. We want to study your reactions and decide whether we are going to launch a formula intended for a large group of people struggling with depression.”
The wagon moved on the rails and Harry had lost his orientation. He didn’t know where he was going, he tried to understand what those men were telling him and he was feeling dizzy. 
“This whole program is highly experimental and top secret”, the other man started talking with a hoarse voice. “That means that since you decided to be with us today, there is no turning back. You already know enough and you are expected to complete the mission. From now on, you will continue your daily activities just as you did before, you will go to your job, to Kevin’s bar, you will meet your roommates and Branca but you will have to be prepared. When least expected, you will go back to various important periods of your life, you will relive these moments and what’s most important, you will be able to intervene in them. You cannot talk to anyone about it. I make it completely clear, to anyone. You will know when the program will be completed and then we will meet one last time for typical procedures. Is everything understood?”
“In other words, I am going to be your guinea pig for as long as you wish.”
“Words don’t necessarily have to sound that ungraceful, Harry. You will be a valuable volunteer. And now, I think we have nothing more to say. Thank you very much for your time and decision. This is your stop, you go up the stairs and you will reach the garden of your house. But hurry up, because the doors won’t stay open for long”, said the first man, both raising the newspapers again and hiding their faces. 

Harry got up dazed on the minute the wagon suddenly braked. The doors opened. He got out in a hurry, taking a last look at the two strange men while the subway car got lost in the dark. He was on a platform that was lit in the back by a narrow metal ladder. He went up the stairs and found himself shocked in the middle of the garden, at the back of the house, where he lived.  His heart was about to burst and fall on Sylvia’s roses. The colors began to fade out and the soil was suddenly softer. The twin brothers, on their way back from the university, found him unconscious in the garden, half an hour later. 

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