Mr Williams, Karl, to his friends, was new to the concept of fathering a child; newer still, to the idea of doing it alone. Compounding the struggle, piling straw after straw upon the camel’s back, was the irony that now, more than anything, the man just wanted to be alone. He was mindful of how awful this nagging desire for solitude sounded in his own head and could only imagine how inhuman he would sound should it ever cross his lips; nevertheless, he knew that if he was not allowed both adequate time to mourn the loss of his beautiful young wife and to regain a semblance of mental structure in his own head, he might very well end up resenting this innocent child.
Internally, psychologically, Karl Williams was a broken man. It was his fault his wife had died, because it was his seed that had been growing inside her. It was his seed that grew and grew until it was ultimately responsible for her demise. It was his seed. His seed. He had planted the seed and it had grown into a destructive monster. Now he needed to be apart from that monster, at least until he could be certain he wouldn’t attempt to vanquish it as it slept. He could appreciate that the murderous thoughts which held arbitrary assaults on his mind were somewhat removed from that of a balanced man and could appreciate furthermore that all it would take for the life form in the crib next to his bed to go from the ‘despised big ugly monster’ to his ‘cutest little baby monster’, would be time.
In the eyes of others Karl Williams was a good man. Anyone who was lucky enough to have dealings with him was quick to bestow endearments of ‘kind’, ‘honest’, and ‘pleasant natured’; attributes he used to his advantage when it came to his job. Never a manipulative or duplicitous person, he enjoyed a solid reputation both within his company and throughout his client base as someone who could invariably be trusted to display up-front honesty and wholehearted forthrightness. It was precisely this likeability that lead to Karl recently being named Salesperson of the Millennium; after receiving the annual award every year since joining Long White Cloud Travel at the age of 20 on the company’s first day of existence in 1982, management decided that 10 consecutive years of awards was approximately tantamount to the big one, therefore despite still being eight years shy, at the mid-year office party in 1992 Karl was presented with the Millennium award.
He glanced wistfully at his thousand-year trophy glistening high on a shelf in the far corner of his bedroom, dreaming of happier, simpler times, then stared down menacingly at the wrinkled little face of the monster that had shown no compunction about exchanging the life of his beloved wife for the life of his own. He had told them this would happen; they had told him it would be fine. That’s what they always told him: “It’ll be fine, Karl”, or, “It will all work out in the end, Karl, you’ll see”, or worse still, “Don’t worry, Karl, just have faith, God has a plan…”
God, he felt like throttling the ignoramuses who said that. God? What the hell’s God got to do with anything? He might as well have put his faith in Santa Claus and seen how many gifts turned up.
He was bitter, he knew that. He needed to cool down, he knew that too. He needed to turn his back on the cards life had dealt him and walk away from the table – but he couldn’t, could he? There was someone depending on him, wasn’t there? Karl couldn’t understand them leaving him in charge of such a helpless soul when he’d so clearly told them that he was unstable; but “No”, they’d said, “You’ll be fine”, they’d told him. “A new life is just what you need to help you move on from the loss of your wife”, one of them had said. What were they insinuating, that he should just accept it as an exchange of life; a fair swap? Fair? It was unjust, that’s what it was, and the loathing that he felt – towards the baby in part but mostly towards himself – was almost unbearable.
He needed to get out.
During his ten years of loyal service to ‘New Zealand’s Premier Travel Agency’, the one thing he had never done, although after five years employees were entitled, was take a company funded, annual holiday.
It was exactly two months after the death of his wife, September 10, when Karl Williams contacted his boss to request his rightful yearly holiday along with an extension to his paternity leave; expectedly, his superior did what he could to lighten the load on the bereaved solo father.
Departure: October 24th, 1992. Destination: Pyongyang, North Korea.