Written by Nandini Sethi
There is a little family that lives down the road, the last bit of the habitable part of the farm, right by where the smell of fresh grass fades into the scent of cow dung, where the beautiful, endless sky finds an ending. Despite the substandard living conditions, this family of 4 was as joyous as the one that lived up the road, somewhere much more luxurious and welcoming.
Like every other family, they too had their ups and downs, their quarrels, and fights, but they loved each other enough to know that they would get through everything. Together.
It was a chilly evening in November, the sun melting into the colorless sky, and everything seemed to be in place. The two little kids, Nina and Nolo spent every dusk together, playing in the grass, adding some chaos to the too calm.
Dinner, as was every night, was light, followed by a brisk walk outside. There was an unbreakable bond between Nina and Mom, and every night they would spend an hour looking for their after-dinner pudding.
On the dining table the conversation carried on, “Nina, did you see anything interesting today?” Dad squawked.
“Nolo and I found something outside the fenced area, but since you said it was too dangerous, we didn’t wander for too long,” Nina spoke in a language unintelligible to anyone else.
“There are scary things out there- murder, rapes, what not! I hope they haven’t seen you, who knows what they are capable of?” Mom added to the conversation.
“Tell them what we saw!” Nolo spoke for the first time.
What they saw was truly something one-of-a-kind. It was something they didn’t know the name of, but the unknown pulled them in closer. There was a building, moldy and unkempt, compartmentalized, with splatters of red littering the fading grass. There were mechanisms and equipment that looked enticing in a way difficult to describe. All it took was a second of eye-contact between Nina and a stranger that got her to take off.
Her father’s comforting touch disrupted Nina’s negative train of thought. She smiled knowing he would never let anything bad happen to her.
When at night when not even a flicker was visible in the dark house, Nina, still disturbed from the stranger’s eyes, made her way to Mom and Dad’s bed, finding herself space in between the two of them. She sighed contentedly as her father stroked her hair, putting her right to sleep.
Nolo always believed dark, scary things happened only during the night. Always encouraged to wake up at the crack of dawn and start the day on a positive note, this morning was no different from any other. But fate has a funny way of unfolding. It was just after the first rays of sunlight filtered through the glass that a loud thud resounded from the rear end of the little house.
Another echoing boom got him running to the other room where he found his parents howling and cry, attacking two strange men that intruded into our home. But his parents were no match: the masked men, clad in all-black were bigger and stronger, holding guns and knives in case they got too unruly. One look at his parents made him realize they were so frantic for a reason- in the arms of one of the men was Nina, sobbing and screaming, begging for her father to keep her promise of protecting her.
There was nothing the family could do as they watched the youngest member of the family be whisked away by these men. Mom and Dad had told them all about kidnappings and rapes, but never did they once think it would happen to them.
They chased the men outside and saw all the neighbors had gathered around, empathy and tears overflowing in their eyes, but for the sake of survival, for the sake of their own daughters and sisters, they chose to keep their heads hung low.
As fast as their legs could keep up, the family followed the men, still miles apart, still on the “safe” side of the fence. Dad gave a forceful kick to the broken fence and cursed his luck as he continued screaming for his fearful daughter.
They decided to stop chasing at the exact point where their sky ended. The three of them watched Nina being carried into the same building with the splatters of blood on it, the one they eyed cautiously the day before. They watched her give them one last tearful smile as she was pushed into the huge establishment that read in big, bold letters, ‘ S L A U G H T E R H O U S E’.
The tiny little family, the flock of chicken in the neighborhood, they were never the same again. They never felt safe again. All day, all they did was wait to be reunited with their friend again, in a different form, in a different lifetime, somewhere far, far away.