Father started collecting items right around the same time mother passed away. They were all machines, easy to program with the corresponding manual, and yet almost irritating to maintain, especially if sporadic power outages and uninvited house guests happened to filter into the mix. There was an overabundance of both in the first month or so; the cold outside all of our cramped bedroom windows making all of us bored offspring chew our fingernails down to the skin for any kind of sustenance once the first wave of covered dishes needed rinsed and placed on the racks.
It was around this same time that I started looking for pleasant escapes from reality and my childhood home, only to discover that there was a reason why all of us were getting bundled into this shared and terminally reclusive state of mind. Father was preparing us for what was about to come next, almost as if he had seen the picture before its official release date. I didn't understand how much it meant to him that we stay together then. I suppose, being the oldest and everything, there was no reason for me not to rebel, especially since the ground rules were so firmly planted from the start of our evolving home lives.
He started calling off work every other day, before I was the first to realize that his job was no longer a factor. Then came the basement sessions, at first lasting for the majority of the day on weekends, and then sooner than later every single Sunday through Saturday, as if his hidden pet project was going to feed us for the incoming winter. I became nervous by his slurred words as he would hold his fork up above his head during dinner and shout with a mouthful of ideals.
"We are doing the right thing. I am doing the right thing. I am doing what's right, what's good by you, and by your dead slut of a mother, and by this great country we live in."
At first, I thought ignoring such words would help me better settle into what was obviously a much larger problem, but I couldn't necessarily bite down on my tongue and patiently hold it in place for too much longer. Of course, Father sensed such a tainted cell within my brain, and offered up an ultimatum a day before the final event. I was supposed to meet a boy imitating a man on a hill overlooking our town. Father told me that I shouldn't go, considering that some very important shadows would be coming to our house to talk about the future that afternoon
I deliberately disobeyed him, though, feeling multiple sparks of livelihood as I kissed the boy with an open mouth and didn't bother to look out at the tops of all the buildings that contained far too many headcases like the rest of us. They wouldn't understand how much seeing the familiar from a different angle meant to me, and so I was completely okay to be the person who ignored their warnings.
Avoid those that use you. Avoid drugs that soothe you. Avoid views that are new to you, and mind the clues that cows moo to you.
I didn't listen, though. I preferred his tongue in my mouth more than another burnt dinner at five-thirty sharp, and so I ate fast food on the outskirts of town and returned home late, only to find that they were all gone. All of my brothers and sisters had left their bedrooms baron, father packing up the essential heirlooms and driving his red pick-up truck for the first time in over a year.
I stood in the ghostly remains of my former life, wondering what exactly such an exile meant. The basement was then my first and unfortunately last step over the doodled edge, as I walked down and pulled back father's hidden curtain. The blank oval imprint on the floor, surrounded by dust, nuts and bolts was all the remained of his late great secret project, and all I could think was that at least my last few hours had been worth the subsequent disappointments. The next morning would be the coldest and loudest to date.