The following morning he rose by 6, showered and shaved, dressed and breakfasted, then strolled outside. There was a peculiar feeling in the atmosphere. Maybe it was just him but nothing seemed as vibrant as it should have done; the air around him felt heavier, greenery appeared duller, birds didn’t sound as happy, horses weren’t frolicking across the landscape, sheep weren’t calling their young, and nor were cattle. It was odd; as if nature was aware of mankind’s impending predicament. Kahn wasn’t even sure if mankind was aware of mankind’s impending predicament.
There had been a heavy shower of southwest rain through the night so not only was his garden watered – the prevalence of southwest rain on the Canterbury plains being the inspiration for the garden’s location – but his newly mounted rainwater tank would also have been nearing capacity. Everything looked fine around the property, so he jumped in his ute and drove east. Just over an hour later, having found traffic congestion remarkably light, he pulled into his parents’ driveway. His father had the door open, an expression of glee coupled with wide-eyed relief painted on his face, even before Kahn could turn off the engine. He made his way up the garden path glancing left and right as he walked, a lone wolf preparing to fend off the onslaught from a pack of hyenas. “Place doesn’t feel right, Dad,” Kahn muttered as he stepped indoors.
“I hear you, son,” his father’s gaze lingered on the driveway entrance before closing the door.
“What’s going on, where’s Mum?” Kahn asked.
“Your mother’s not well,” was the laconic response.
“Not well, how?”
“Ah, I reckon it’s one o’ those, whaddaya call ‘em, psycho-sum-matty, or some such things?”
“What’s that?” Kahn had momentarily lost him. “Oh,” he soon caught up, “you mean psychosomatic – but why?”
“Ah, is that what they call it? Well, you can call it whatcha like, I call it excessive empathy mingled with a veritable butt-load of compassion – whatever its technical title, this North Korean conflict is really getting her down.”
“Too much time to think about stuff like that, I think,” said Kahn, “she needs something to occupy her mind.”
“True enough, and without naming names, you moving out to Waddington didn’t help matters.”
“You’re not seriously saying this is my fault?” Kahn said with annoyance, “For Christ’s sake Dad, I’m twenty-one years old, how much longer -”
“Hey, hey, son, calm down, I wasn’t laying blame … It’s just that with North Korea being such pugnacious little pricks, and with you being from North Korea -”
“Technically,” Kahn interrupted with vehemence.
“Yeah, and that’s my point, son, your mother knows how strongly you feel about wanting to, I dunno, say, disavow your heritage, so she understands – or thinks she understands – what a toll this must be taking on you … In her mind, Kahn, you are battling the kinds of demons that, to be fair, I know, you’ve probably never even dreamed of, but she thinks she knows, are constantly at you … I dunno if that makes sense, got pretty tied up there…”
“No, I think I can pick up what you’ve laid down, you’re saying that Mum believes everything negative the North Korean’s do, reflects, or resonates negatively in me, and that’s what’s bringing her down..?”
“You know, for a guy whose first language isn’t even English, you got a pretty good grasp on words, son.”
“Yeah, about that, Dad, how can you consider English to not be my first tongue, when I don’t know any other tongues?”
“That’s a very good point, K.”
“You see, father, just as looking decrepit doesn’t necessarily make you an old man, being of Korean appearance doesn’t necessarily make me Korean – I’m going to see Mum.”
Kahn ducked through the hall to his parents’ bedroom. There was his mother, nestled under the covers, lying prone with her face pressed into the pillow.
“Hi Mum,” Kahn whispered.
She was unresponsive.
“Hey, Mum,” said Kahn a little louder.
The figure in the bed was still unmoving.
“Mum!” this time he didn’t hold back.
His mother jerked awake and quickly rolled over to see her darling boy.
“Don’t you know sleeping on your face ages your complexion, Mum?”
“So does sleeping while your face is still a ski-field,” she remarked with comical nonchalance, “but I did that for years, too, and I know you still think I’m beautiful,” she finished with a tired smirk.
“Don’t fish, Mum, but yes, of course, I think you’re still the prettiest lady who ever walked the planet.”
“It’s so good to see you, baby Kahn.”
“And you – I hear that life’s been getting you down.”
“No, it’s not life’s fault, it’s those darned North Koreans.”
“Yeah,” Kahn jested, “glad I have absolutely no ties to that race.”
“I know,” her face sank and suddenly his mother appeared very old, “it must be hard on you, to see them doing such horrible things to the rest of the world, and when you’re such a sweetheart.”
“Mum,” through his eyes, he wasn’t sure if it was because he had never seen her without makeup or not, but, she looked broken, “that’s not true, I don’t care what those, ‘commie pricks’, as Dad affectionately calls them, do, it doesn’t reflect on me – in fact, it doesn’t affect me at all.”
“My sweet baby Kahn,” she forced a half-smile, “thank you for coming here today – did your father ask you to?”
“No, not at all, no, I actually came today because I was hoping to gain some more intel on the bombing – still have trouble comprehending that someone bombed the US capital.”
“Yes, it is truly a disaster…” her words trailed off as she slipped into contemplation, “You could have picked up the telephone for that though Kahn.”
“Alright, you nabbed me, I wanted to see you guys,” he smiled broadly and lifted his knee onto the mattress, “now come on, get out of that damn bed.”
He went back out to the lounge in search of his father, his mother only a few metres behind. He was nowhere to be seen. Kahn turned back to his mother, looking glamorous in a full-length pink satin robe, a quizzical expression at his brow.
“He’ll be in the study,” she said, matter-of-factly, “on the computer.”
Sure enough, he was in the study, on the computer. Kahn walked confidently up to him to see what he was viewing. His mother stayed back in the doorway. His father’s face was pallid, lifeless. Kahn looked back at his mother. She had begun trembling; she could sense it. He gazed at his father, silently beseeching an explanation. Something had happened, he knew that much, but what?
I wonder how they’re explaining away the disappearances of there buddies. Maybe theres so many of them they don’t even notice. No, they’d have to notice. I’m just glad the septic tank was emptied before I moved in, because I’ve just thrown in another couple of bodies.