By Art Vandley
The father unlocked the door to the kitchen. It was early in the morning, his boy was still asleep, and so it was the perfect time to create fresh water.
His kitchen was an ordinary one in every conceivable way; pans and wooden spoons hung above the stove, pictures of hand drawn oven mitts adorned the walls, the day’s first rays of sunshine bathed the polished sink.
The father gazed out the kitchen window. By now he was almost used to being greeted by the site of the wreckage. The destroyed jet fighters and great swaths of military machines blended in seamlessly with the city rubble, as it was all man made, after all.
But the other mess…giant, dark red and purple slimy things strewn amongst the ordinary ruins; as if a primary coulored fever dream brazenly splattered across the dreary reality of a common human disaster.
The father shook his head. It was useless to dwell on things that were far beyond his understanding of reality. He and his boy need a fresh glass of water. That was an undeniable fact, planetary invasion and destruction or not. He placed the plastic bottle under the tap and turned the knob. A viscous violet coloured fluid flowed from the faucet and steadily filled the bottle.
With the bottle in hand, the father unlocked another door that led to the basement.
The basement remained desolate and dim. Some boxes filled with his wife’s clothes occupied a lonely, dusty corner. The box containing the little creature was located at the centre of the room. He flicked the light on and it illuminated the elfin creature inside the glass box. The rest of the basement remained shrouded in darkness.
The little creature was roughly human looking – bipedal, a head, body, and four limbs. The infinitesimal creature heralded from an ocean of galaxies and celestial beings that had transcended human comprehension of beauty, and so it could best be described as a human shaped fountain of incandescence. The father had found it difficult to grasp that such an angelic creature was one of millions who were responsible for the end of the world as he knew it.
He grabbed the hose-like apparatus connected to the box, and placed it inside the plastic bottle filled with thick alien fluid. He gritted his teeth and pressed the small button on the box.
The little creature paced around its glass cage. Its glow flickered as its pace became quicker, more agitated. It clawed at its own face and let loose a silent scream. Its glow and beauty completely faded, and so was reduced to a howling, desperate little beast heard by no one.
It hopelessly pounded its hands against the glass in a fit of violent protestation, as if something intangible and essential was ruthlessly wrung out with no more ceremony than that of a wet cloth.
Its gaping mouth, a small portal to infinity, reminded the father of Edvard Munch’s The Scream.
The father watched it writhe in agony. Each time he inflicted pain on the creature, he recalled holding his ruined wife as the world crumbled around him. Draining the creature wasn’t merely a necessary ritual to purify the violet ooze – the act also temporarily healed his heart that was marred by grief and hate; he needed to face the boy each morning with eyes that were as fresh and clear as the glasses of water.
The father tore his gaze away from the glass and checked the bottle. The viscous violet fluid had transformed into fresh water. The intense pain that consumed the little creature had purified the toxic substance. The father immediately disconnected the apparatus and pressed the button; these creatures were not different from human beings in that they had a threshold for pain. Unlike human beings, anything past that threshold and they withered and crumpled into dust, as the father discovered from his first captive.
The creature collapsed.
Its glow and beauty would return, but for a while it would lay immobile, ugly, and unutterably violated.
The father, holding two glasses of fresh water, locked the kitchen door behind him.
The father gently shook his sleeping boy awake and handed him a glass of fresh water.
The boy, understanding the scarcity and value but not the price, of fresh water, took three small sips.
The father took one medium sized gulp.
Violence, death, and starvation loomed over their heads every day, and so it was important they begin each day enjoying a glass of fresh water together.
The boy asked the father why the door to the kitchen was always locked. The boy asked the same question every morning, and the father gave the same answer every morning – Because I love you, the father replied.