Ryan was asleep in his room. Willy was sitting at the kitchen table, nursing a cup of the strongest whiskey he could find. He stared out into the air, just thinking.
What am I going to do now? Ryan's father is dead. The submarines are destroyed. There is no way out.
He gulped down the contents of the glass and poured himself another right away. A school of fish swam by the panoramic window that provided the apartment with a spectacular view of Puloso. Neon signs lit up the dark ocean. It was just like the night sky of a city above water. He sighed.
A whine coming from Ryan's room made him look in the direction of his door.
Great, another nightmare.
During the last couple of weeks before, Ryan started having nightmares, often waking him up in the middle of the night, crying and sweating. At times, they got so bad Willy even had to calm him down by hugging him or something else.
Willy stood up from the table and shakily made his way up the stairs to Ryan's door. How the kid could whine so loud he could hear it all the way down to the kitchen was a mystery, but that was not important at the moment. He knocked lightly on the door.
"Ryan, are you awake?" he asked, his tongue rolling sloppily around his mouth.
He turned the handle and pushed the door open, almost stumbling on the corner of the wall-to-wall carpet. Ryan's room was, perhaps, the most expensive part of the entire apartment. Mr. Kane's bedroom was sparsely decorated, only containing a small one-person bed, a nightstand and a closet for his clothes. He also had a private bathroom. Ryan's, on the other hand, was huge, the decoration very elaborate, not to mention the gigantic skylight in the ceiling, giving Ryan a beautiful view at the spires of Puloso. Willy supposed the room was one of Mr. Kane's attempts of making up for his absence to Ryan.
Willy made his way up the tiny flight of stairs. Ryan's bed was on a small raised dais in the back of the room. Small whimpers could be heard from the queen-sized bed, and Willy could see the shaking form of his charge, wrapped up in the blankets. He sighed and sat down on the edge. Slowly, he reached out. His fingers almost reached Ryan before he pulled them back slightly. How was he going to explain this to him? That his father was dead? Willy shook his head. It was no use in wondering how. Just do it and be a man. He shook Ryan slowly.
Ryan sat up; gasping and breathing heavily, sweat glistening on his face. His eyes darted around the room before settling on a slightly shocked Willy and hurled himself into the man, who waited with his arms open. Willy patted him on the back, rubbing and whispering into the teen's ear.
"Another nightmare, huh?" he asked.
"Y-yeah," stammered Ryan.
They sat in silence for a while.
"They're getting worse, aren't they?"
"Any idea of what they're about?"
No matter how many times Ryan had the nightmare; he could never remember what it was; only that it was the same with slight variants.
Another few minutes of silence passed. Ryan was still in Willy's arms, but Willy didn't mind. It was an unspoken agreement between the two. They never spoke of it during the day, only right there and then. As much as it pained him to think about, Willy enjoyed these moments. He had been taking care of Ryan since he was five, and had seen him grow up. As he zoomed through his teens, he could feel Ryan slowly moving away from him. It felt…nice, to have someone depend on him again.
I'm an asshole.
"I'm sorry about your friend."
The sentence confused him for a few seconds before his thoughts reached beyond the veil of alcohol behind his eyes and reminded him of the elaborate plan he and Mr. Kane had set up to surprise Ryan for his birthday.
"Oh…yeah," he replied, hearing his own uncertainty in his voice.
"Is that all you have to say? He was your friend," said Ryan, wondering how Willy could keep himself so cold when someone he knew had just died in a fiery submarine explosion.
He was not my friend…he was your father.
The words were screamed in his mind, begging to be let out and inform the kid. Willy couldn't bring himself to do it. The alcohol in his blood also helped a bit, since saying anything was as hard as tying a bow on a greased-up pig. Which was notoriously hard, even by Puloso standards.
"I…don't know what else to say, Ryan. He was my friend, but crying or raging over his death is not going to change a thing. It's not going to bring him back. Besides, I'm not even sure he was on that sub when it…"
"…blew," added Ryan helpfully.
"Yeah…blew. My friend is known for having trouble with showing up when he's supposed to, and I hardly see him, but somehow, I know he's okay. I can feel it here," he patted his chest over his heart. In his thoughts, he was applying these descriptions to Mr. Kane, who was actually quite the survivor considering the things he had been through while building up his fortune.
"Okay," said Ryan and untangled himself from Willy and laid his head on his pillow again. "I think I'll try to go back to sleep," he said.
"Sure thing. Yell if you need anything," said Willy and prepared to leave. Ryan's hand holding his arm held him back.
"Stay with me until I fall asleep?" asked the teen innocently.
Willy sat down again. The kid had just seen his first cases of death…en masse. He needed the comfort. And so did Willy.
The breakfast was a subdued affair, both of them sitting silently, lost in their own thoughts, picking away at the hurriedly prepared scrambled eggs and toast. Willy was reading the newspaper. An article on the exploding submarines had already been printed, although no one probably read it since a very large number of people were down at the docks, protesting and demanding their right to ascend to the surface.
Fat chance when all the subs are gone…
Apparently, no one knew why the submarines had exploded, only that investigations were ongoing and rapidly revealing new clues and leads.
Like always. A whole lot of talking and revealing, no results.
He sighed and put the paper down. He ate the last pieces of egg on his plate and carried it to the sink. Distilled water washed away the crumbs and took them away down the drain, presumably to be burnt or recycled. Recycling was popular in Puloso, and Willy supposed it would be even more now that their connection with the world on top had been cut off.
Or has it?
As far as Willy knew, the only way to contact someone topside was to send messages and mail along the subs. Radios, it was decided, were too dangerous to the security and secrecy of the city. Puloso was built as a refuge for those who needed to get out of the searchlights, such as celebrities. As the demand grew, the city was expanded to accommodate the people of the richer persuasion, those seeking jobs when they were turned down everywhere else, and people like Ryan's father: businessmen with large monopolies. He supposed it all belonged to Ryan now, provided he'd make it to the surface. He glanced at the heir in mind.
Ryan had been uncharacteristically quiet. He was staring out in the open air, his fork gliding around the egg, just stirring it around, never picking anything up.
"Why don't we go see a movie?" Willy asked, wondering if he could get a reaction from the boy.
Ryan slowly turned his head to look at him. "Got school," he said. His tone was low and monotonous.
Willy picked up the paper again and riffled through the pages for a bit. "Not according to this," he said and pointed to a small notice that said the school was closed for the day so the grieving families could mourn their lost. "Besides, the teacher called and told me that he wasn't coming in today, and quite frankly, I'm not in the mood to teach you anything today. Come on, it's no good sitting around here. You should be glad no one you knew was on those subs."
And now I'm lying to a kid. Geez, Willy, you sure have sunk low now.
"Don't wanna," Ryan shook his head.
Willy sighed and stood up from the table. He picked up Ryan's plate after asking if he was done with it and dumped the contents into the garbage can and washed the plate and placed it on top of the other. The view of the city did not seem so vibrant and colourful as it had done the evening before. If he squinted, he could see people walking through the tunnels that lead to various places. The station seemed to be completely filled to the brim with protesters.
Not a single sign of the leaders of the city noticing the explosions had been seen at all, the ever imposing doors of the council hall remaining firmly closed.
"Well," he said as he put his coat and hat on, "I don't know what you will do, but I'm sick of this apartment. I'm going out for a while. I'll be back in a few hours."
Ryan gave no sign of even hearing him.
He stepped out of the door and waited. Inside, he could hear furious footsteps. Walking to the closet…back to the kitchen…rattling of keys…shoes being furiously put on…The door opened, revealing a flustered Ryan with one shoe hanging off his foot.
"Took you long enough," said Willy and walked off, Ryan trailing behind.
The otherwise busy shopping streets were unusually quiet. Only a few people were out browsing through the various fashion shops, and even their moods seemed to be down low in the dumps. Many shops had closed early, or not even opened at all. Overhead, the large windows showed nothing but murky dark-green water, the sunlight unable to penetrate the depths. One of the glass panes had a large crack in it, Willy noticed.
They approached the Coliseum Cinematograph. The large, glowing letters were dark now, and the lights that usually illuminated the façade of the grand movie theatre were shut off. Willy knocked on the window where the clerks were usually found, but it yielded nothing. He walked around to the side entrance, closely followed by Ryan, who seemed especially clingy today. Willy knocked on the heavy steel door. Someone could be heard grumbling and cursing from the inside. A small slot on the door at about eye height slid aside and Manny's gruff voice rang out from the inside.
"What do you want? The cinema's closed. Go away." The slot slid closed again. Willy knocked again. "Didn't I tell you to go away?" roared Manny.
"It's me, Manny. Let us in."
"Mr. Kane is with me."
The door was opened, creaking as its hinges protested against not being oiled for a long time. "Come on," said Manny, "before anyone comes by."
Willy found it odd, but went in along with Ryan.
The corridor was as simple as it could get in terms of staff exits. The walls and ceilings were just concrete, with little to no decoration. Dark spots in the ceiling signified that the staff often smoked in there. Manny looked awful. His tuxedo – which he always seemed to wear – was crumpled, and his carefully managed facial hair was sticking out in odd directions. There were dark bags under his eyes, like he hadn't slept in days.
"What's the matter with you?" asked Willy.
"Nothin', just been a rough night s'all," he replied and led them along the corridor. Open doors revealed, among other things, the store rooms where films and old projectors were kept. Eventually, they reached an office at the end. Manny closed the door behind them and sat on a chair behind a large desk. He gestured for them to sit down in two chairs opposite him.
The office was tastefully decorated, unlike Ryan's apartment. All-wood panel floor and walls with a dark brown ceiling. Pictures, mostly framed-in movie posters lined the walls. Reels of film leaning against the wall here and there gleamed in the light from the ceiling.
"What can I do for you?" asked Manny.
"Nothing, really," replied Willy. "Just here to talk." He gestured to Ryan. "He wanted to come along."
"Fine by me," said Manny. He turned to Ryan. "How's your father? Haven't seen him in a while."
"He's fine, I guess," said Ryan, looking around the office. Very few people knew, but Ryan was actually a movie enthusiast. Willy thought Ryan only enjoyed films because many of them involved people getting shot or blown up, but Ryan actually studied the angles that were used, the effects, the acting…everything.
Willy shook his head to himself. If only he knew…God, what am I doing?
"That's good. Let's just hope this submarine business is sorted out soon. I'm sure he's anxious to see after this."
To be continued...
Why is it that I feel a need to have crying kids in my stories? Why? I can't stop myself...