Just a Suitcase

Bobby’s shared apartment was on the ground floor, and he rarely had any interaction with people from the upper two floors of the halfway house. They came and went, each in their own wounded world. They said hi and bye, and sometimes smiled, but that was it.

One day a teenage boy was waiting with a large black suitcase. He stood with good posture, and looked ahead but also around. He bit his lips lightly and blinked often; a red scarf around his neck made him seem festive somehow.

“Are you okay there?” asked Bobby.

The boy seemed to be drawn out of a dream world. He blinked more rapidly and shook his head. He said, “Oh yes, thank you. I am waiting for someone to let me into the apartment upstairs.”

“Are you visiting somebody there?” People behaved strangely at the halfway house. Unless they were expecting visitors, they ignored the doorbell. They didn’t want to see people. They were ashamed of being stuck here, not knowing if they were going up or even further down.

“No, I have come to stay here. The agent said to buzz and someone would let me in, but no one is answering.”

“Look, why don’t you wait in our apartment. You can have a cup of tea while you wait.”

The boy said, “Thank you,” and lifted his suitcase. It was clearly very heavy; he hauled it up with both hands.

Bobby said, “What have you got in there? Corpses? Are you a teen serial killer on the run?” He reached over to help him, but the boy reacted with alarm.

He shouted, “No! I will carry it myself!”

Bobby backed off. “I am sorry. Okay, I will open the doors for you.”

The boy hesitated. His shoulders hunched from the effort of holding the suitcase up.

Bobby said, “Look, it was meant to be a joke. I was trying to put you at ease. Please come in. I was a stranger too when I came here. It’s nice when someone welcomes you.”

The boy’s shoulders eased. He said, “Thank you,” and walked forward with the suitcase. It’s got wheels, thought Bobby, why doesn’t he roll it? Strange boy. What’s he got in there – Venetian glass?

The boy looked around the apartment. Again, he bit his lips lightly and blinked often. Bobby made him some tea. “Just take it easy, I’m sure someone will be home soon. We’ll see them approaching the door, and I’ll grab them before they go up. What brings you here? We don’t often have such youthful guests?”

The boy looked down. He felt like crying but he had cried enough already. It was time to be strong now.

It was still had to believe that he was one of the thirty-six Righteous Ones appointed by God. Human life depended on their existence. It wasn’t usually a hereditary role, but his father had died young, and in his last days he had passed on the burden that he said was a blessing, to his son. The suitcase contained an armed nuclear bomb that was wirelessly connected to thirty-five similar devices around the world. The activation of one would trigger all the other devices, and human life would end.

Each righteous person was vital. Each could make or break the world.

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