Exodus by Kaan Yilmaz

Heath’s eyes snap open. They dart around the room. Left-right-up-down. Hands quaking. Teeth chattering. A trickle of cold sweat seeps down his bony forehead. He slowly and fitfully sits up in his ice-block bed. Another nightmare. Another night of torment and suffering. These terrible ordeals have polluted his sleep for a week now. Maybe more. Definitely more. Yes, more. It has to be. A frightened Heath gazes slowly around his barren room, with the alarm clock casting dim shades of light on the walls. Why is it him? Why does he have to go through this punishment? After a quick peek at his alarm clock next to the bed, he realises he is late again. Late for another day of sorrow.

He shakily hauls himself out of the bed, as if he was about to collapse under his own weight. The moment he stands up, his vision seems to blur. He is not looking around his gloomy room. Heath’s eyes are telling him that he is back in “the days”. He is suddenly craning his neck to look up at his father. A tall, corpulent man with beady eyes and a thick moustache. His father is yelled at him, blaming him for “all of this”. By that, he meant all of the disputes and feuds in which his parents had expressed their absolute disgust and hatred towards one another.

“Oh, yes,” drones Heath aloud to himself. “I remember…”

This was the night that his parents had the argument. It was a rampage that had lasted for perhaps six hours, without pause for a breath. The feud had spilled out into the frostbitten streets of Richmond. Broken glass. Broken bottles. Broken hearts. Neighbours peered through their curtains, looking both irritated and fascinated. His mother was lashing out curses to the man. He did not respond with his own words, but with every single punch and kick that he could muster form his boulder-like body. To escape the hostility that was bubbling on the street, Heath had shut himself into his bedroom. It was consumed by dust and the window was jammed. The paint on the walls was chipping and peeling off, but it was his only safe little corner of what seemed to be an unwelcoming world. He can still hear these shrieking voices that haunt him from time to time.

As Heath fumbles around with a frozen piece of butter and a stale piece of what could barely pass as bread, he attempts to regain his focus and pull his thoughts away from the flashback while trying to make his ‘breakfast’. He has been trying to concentrate on combining the bread and butter without a knife, and is deep in his thoughts when out of the corner of his eye, he picks up the subtle movement of his tea cup. His eyes widen. His hands freeze. A shiver rockets its ways down Heath’s spine. His father is holding onto it. Grasping it in his claw-like hands. Surely he is imagining things… Heath blinks. The man is now tipping the cup. Out trickles the vile, green liquid like teardrops from a mourner. A frightened, petrified Heath shifts his eyes from the cup to the man. His father is now pointing to him. His eyes hold him captive. They make his arms twitch. They make his knees shiver. They make his mouth tremble. The father appears to be accusing his own son of something that he could not comprehend the reason of. With that, the devilish man vanishes. Dissipated. Gone. Not a trace of his presence left. To Heath’s amazement, the cup is left untouched. It has not even slid out of place. Just another hallucination. The frightened man hastily clashes the bread with the butter using his bare hands, and wolfs it down. He stares hesitantly at the cup for a while, but this was the only beverage besides water that he could afford to drink.

After his rather unsatisfying meal, Heath decides to take a sick leave from his depressing work at the receptionists’ desk at the hospital. During his walk, he tries to make sense of why he is seeing these disturbing images of his parents during any daily activity. Why is his past trying to haunt his future? There are many questions left hanging unanswered in Heath’s mind. But he cannot not ignore that same nagging feeling forever. It is the same as ignoring a stone in your shoe, a crying baby left unattended, or… anything. But this is far more serious. It is threatening to destroy his future. His livelihood. His hopes. His dreams. His very existence. He needs to stop this agony before it consumes his mind.

“There must be some solution,” he says, lost in his thoughts, “and every problem has a way to fix it. I just don’t understand how to fix this one.”

Out of nowhere, a large shadowy figure emerges like a viper from the shady trees above Heath. It cannot be. Not for a third time. Heath’s father is grinning. Not a bright, happy grin. A devious grin, that is. This is surely a sign of Heath going crazy. There is no way that this is possible. The ground quakes and shudders behind him. Another vessel of sadness. The two identical copies of Heath’s deceased father extend their arms in a hugging motion. They are slowly, but surely, pacing their way over to Heath. He cannot move. The fear has eaten him up. His legs are planted to the ground. Heath’s heart starts pumping. His breathing is getting faster by the second. Hands clenched. Throat dry. Teeth gritted. Eyes wide. The ‘fathers’ finally grab hold of a writhing Heath from either side of his body. In unison, they sink. Ever so slowly, into the ground. It is too late.

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