Already lost in the maze of that implausible mansion, Vincent and Ava Fargo’s child, Frank, explored the rooms with the adventurous confidence a child can only get by putting himself in the fake shoes of whatever assortment of brave fantasy characters he has been spoon-fed in infancy. Saturated with freckles, with brown almond eyes exuding the glee of a constant sugar-rush, Frank opened and closed doors, taking less than a second to assimilate the contents inside those rooms weren’t of interest to his young imagination. His parents seemed so far away in another corner of the house that his impulse for mischief became urgent. On the inside of the hinges in one of the doors, he drew a little snake with an old green crayon he had been carrying in his pocket. He then smiled graciously; satisfied with the fact that he now had a tiny secret to keep from mom and dad.
“Vinnie, where do you want to keep your guns?” asked Ava, in the kitchen, as labeled boxes began to fill the entire first floor. Mr. Fargo shrugged and said he would take care of them later.
The couple took a break from unpacking and toured their new home in a virgin state. Deposits had been made and all the barriers of Bureaucracy trumped, all that was left now was making that bare edifice of gargantuan proportions their own. Trucks arrived with fragments of past lives and plastic-wrapped pieces that were to construct new ones. A couch here, the king-size bed there, careful with that, it was my grandma’s! A three-meter glass panel was carefully laid on a couple of baroque iron legs to make a grand dinner table in the center of a brightly sunlit room.
“Frankieeeeeeeee!” called Vincent, hoping in vain his echo would travel across the halls and alert his son. It must have died somewhere in the middle of its journey. The father sighed and set to look for Frank in the building, and Ava followed from behind, keeping one eye in the situation and another one in the incoming furniture.
An open door at the end of an adjacent hallway instantly signaled the position of the child. Both mother and father crossed the threshold into the room and joined him as he stood in the center, contemplating in awe at the imposing dome that enclosed him. “Oh. This is exactly what we wanted to show you, puffin!” exclaimed Ava. Vincent traveled to a corner of the room and in front of a panel with buttons.
“That room we went into when we took you to that attraction park… uhm…”
“Funville?” Frank asked, his eyes glimmering with nice memories, before his father could untangle his speech.
“Look at this, son! It’s the first one of its kind in a private residence!” Vincent muttered in stately pride that statistic, which confused his child, ignorant of context and just curious about what stood above and in front of his eyes.
“Come on, Vinnie, turn it on!” cried Ava with excitement, metamorphosing herself into a creature no older or more mature than her offspring.
The touch of a few buttons transformed the world. Projections of light shoot from every angle and a vibrant luminescence engulfed the family of three into the sphere of a new existence. Sounds came to life, starting with an embryo of loud and indistinguishable electronic hums and branching into a complex orchestra of highs and lows. The spectrum of saturated wavelengths danced in the pupils of the youngster as his parents split their focus between expectancy for his reactions and their own senses being overcharged with a cavorting spectacle of sights and harmonies. Then the seemingly incoherent choreography of shades started organizing itself into recognizable patterns, at first blurry, then as sharp and defined as the eye could catch. The symphony dumbed down and only a subtle group of isolated sounds remained, synchronizing with the image. The light blue background was no longer a light blue background; it was a clear summer sky. The streaks of yellow and orange were no longer just streaks; they were wheat growing in a field. A couple of cumulous of deep, luscious green became trees in a distance. The sparks of black became the figures of birds acrobatically swinging around the forces of a very real wind, a wind that could actually be felt on the surface of the skin, messing around with hair and wrestling with timidly reclusive eyelids. And it could all be heard: the calls of the avian creatures crying for attention, the friction of the wheat straws touching one another subtly whispering in the background, and the gusts of frantically moving air shushing everything as they crashed against the bodies of the family. The house atop a hill in suburban Westport packed with boxes was but a recent memory, vanished for the time being from the totality of the existential plane.
“¿See that Frankie?” Asked Ava, anxious to shed light on that curious unfolding of audiovisual events “This is a Virtual Reality Dome. You control it through those buttons. You can program it to sync with the TV so you see what happens from here. We can call your friend Mitch and you can play here!” her voice tone became rushed as she became impatient to see a positive reaction come from her son. But he just gazed at her in a confused expression, then took a peek at the panel and slowly wandered towards it. Vincent gestured his wife to leave the room. Maybe Frankie would like to appreciate some privacy to play with that new, massive beast of a toy. “Call us if you need anything, Frankie!” And then, with the thump of a door, a little boy stood alone, accompanied only by his immeasurable imagination and a mighty tool to let it all come true.
Outside the house, in the dying forested hills that enclosed the wooden chalets of the quietly rich, a trail of footprints slithered among the white blanket of snow. Each one had been heavily engraved onto the ground by the soles of après-ski boots, carrying in their markings the weight of grief and vengeance. The night was closing in, and the moon arrived to witness that shady presence, to try and illuminate it and remove the shade of secretiveness that covered it.
But the moon could not. Even the silver glowing stroke of luminescence retreated fearfully at the sight of such menacing eyes; eyes that harassed the forest asking questions and demanding answers. They were the only part of his body that made contact with the frozen wind. The rest of him was covered in heavy layers of dark-colored fabric. A black wool scarf kept his breath warm. A hat, also black, hid his hair and kept it in place against the pestering wind. The gloves protected his precious hands against the rough surfaces of the forest and the aggressive sub-zero temperatures. On his left hand he held the semi-automatic pistol. Whatever he intended to do with that tool of death was left to the mercy of ambiguity. An ambiguity that could only shield his motives for so long as he approached the Bauhaus palace atop the hill that looked so out of place among the oversized suburban cottages of wood and stone.
He climbed the steep slope of slippery rock and found himself in a backyard. The translucent exoskeleton of crystal teased the private insides of the mansion. Every lit room in that place seemed completely devoid of activity, empty of furniture and desperately clamoring to be inhabited. His predator eyes scanned the windows until they were drawn by movement, like a snake to the thermal waves that radiate from a mouse. He focused on the far right corner of the first floor. It looked to be a kitchen. Among a pile of yet-to-be-distributed cardboard boxes, a couple faced each other, separated by an island; only a glass panel separated that fragile pair, blissfully covered from the snow inside their manufactured oasis, from the gun he squeezed in his frostbitten fingers, itching to set a hurricane of bullets free.
One foot in front of the other, he approached the window, but took a small detour as he detected a sliding door on the side he could use to enter the kitchen without being noticed. His footprints still burned in the snow as he crossed the backyard, his stealth tainted by a crippling impulse to slam full force into the house and wreak bloody havoc without any care in the world. But the infliction of death is a task that demands patience and poise. The silence of an inert body, shut down for good as the essence of the person it supports vanishes in a blanket of perpetual nothing, is best appreciated in calmness. So he skipped not one step, and with a calm and assertive stroll found himself in front of the door, with his hand grabbing the handle, pulling it ever so lethally slowly.
Ava gawked at a TV screen with a sick expression. “I can’t believe they haven’t caught this psychopath.” She turned to her husband “He was last seen in Stanford. He wouldn’t come here… right? Vincent …” words struggled to surface from the mouth before drowning in her own paranoid thoughts.
Vincent was indeed about to calm his wife, about to dismiss her fearful rhetoric with a condescending micro-speech about the very slim, pretty much non-existent chances of serial killer just wandering into their address and turning them into corpses. “Plus, remember your dear husband has a collection of guns and is not afraid to use it” he would say in a vague attempt to cement his position as the alpha male against a hypothetical murderer who would stand right there in front of them, provocatively exhibiting whatever his weapon of choice was. Then, a startling bang, and Vincent lay in the cold linoleum, the lead lodged into his head, a waterfall of red flowing from the top of his scalp.
Pulses of heat ran through Ava’s veins as she, with a shriek of horror, dashed out of the kitchen, chased by a surge of broken glass caused by two failed shots the killer tried to take at her.
The predator did not, for one second, lose his temper. One foot in front of the other, he followed the distressed housewife onto the living room, his boots spreading on the spotless tiles the partially molten snow that had accumulated on his soles. The game of cat and mouse was on.
His eyes veered swiftly from corner to corner, lurking for even the tiniest flicker of movement, even the most minute shadow changing its place by a millimeter. A mortal silence filled the space as the air became heavier.
Drops of sweat became rainfall; the sound of breathing became a deafening vacuum cleaner and the hands on a clock lay still. The universe held its breath, everything waiting for that lethal catalyst to begin pulsating again.
Then again, one foot in front of the other, as a shivering pair of fingers teasingly allowed itself to be seen from the side of the couch. “Crack” screamed the floor of wooden boards, and for a moment, as Ava desperately got up and tried to sprint to safety, it seemed almost as if the universe had resumed its run.
And then a second bang ended it all in fiery red and a full stop of quietness. The woman’s body laid head down in a growing puddle of crimson liquid, the fingers at the end of her stretched arms twitching a couple of times, as if trying to hold on to mortality, before succumbing to the ultimate sleep. And yet again, one foot in front of the other, now towards another distant corner of the house.
Frankie could hear the steps from outside; the rhythm became progressively more frantic and hurried. His exaggerated mind of tan archetypal child sensed the danger and set to run towards a fictional safety, before realizing his body was between the only entrance door and a spherical dead end.
The door swerved open and a beam of incandescent light penetrated the dark dome. The silhouette was larger than life and paralyzed the infant in fright.
“Is everything alright sweetie? I heard some loud noises!”
Frankie quickly pressed the button on the remote control to shut the system off, and as Ava walked towards him her face became a frown of disgust and shock as she caught the last glimpse of her bleeding body stuck to the ground by the forces of lifelessness, before it dissolved into particles of virtual light. Frankie hid the semi-automatic pistol he had stolen from his father’s labeled box and welcomed his mother with a shivering smile.