Twenty Four Years Ago
A loud bang jerked Trevor out of a deep sleep. A bedroom door had been slammed, and the sound reverberated down the hallway. Through the thin, hollow walls, he could hear his parents argue from their bedroom next to his.
At ten years old, Trevor was no stranger to hearing his parents disagree. They usually kept their voices down to an intense, but elevated whisper, but the walls did little to mute the sound. Most of his parent’s arguments revolved around their work and the project his dad headed up. The project. The one that he had spent most of his life on.
Despite the project being called top secret, Trevor had been able to pick up bits and pieces through various overheard conversations. He knew that they were on the verge of success and that this made his dad increasingly nervous. Several times over the past few years Trevor had heard his dad question the ethics of what they were doing, the frequency of which had been intensifying over recent months. Typically these concerns were brushed off with a line his mother repeated just as often. “It’s not our job to worry about ethics,” she would say. “We go wherever the science leads us.”
But tonight, Trevor heard his dad say that he could no longer accept that. That he no longer wanted to be involved in the project, and that he could not continue in good conscience.
But without his involvement, his mother argued, the project would be set back months, if not years. It was just as much her project as his and he had no right to take this success away from her–or the rest of the team.
Trevor listened as his parents argued back and forth. Usually, their disagreements ended well. In the end, his parents respected each other’s opinions and never let their differences get between them. Agreeing to disagree, as his dad often said.
But not tonight. Trevor knew this was more than a simple disagreement when his dad stormed out of the house before they made up. Trevor’s body trembled uncontrollably as a cold chill ran down his spine. He lay on sweat-soaked sheets, fearing the eerie silence that seemed now to suffocate him.
Trevor breathed deep and called out from the darkness, “Mom?”
“It’s okay, Sweetie,” came the soft, reassuring reply. “Go back to sleep.”
Trevor waited for his mom to come and comfort him. He lay in bed, hoping his mom would come through the door kneel down beside his bed. Instead, silence permeated the air, punctuated only by the occasional sob that escaped through the walls from the other room.
Eventually, Trevor drifted back into unconsciousness, but with a head full of troubled thoughts. He had barely nodded off before a second bang jolted him awake again. Trevor shot upright in his bed as several toys fell off the shelves in the corner. He initially thought his parents were arguing again, but quickly realized that this was something else.
It wasn’t uncommon to hear an occasional blast ring out from any of the labs where his parents worked down the hill, but this explosion was bigger than anything Trevor had heard before. The entire house rocked as if caught in a mighty storm.
Shaking in fear, Trevor called for his mom, “What was that?”
No reply came.
He mustered up the courage to throw off the covers and run through the darkness to his parents’ bedroom. The door was open but the bed was empty.
Trevor yelled out again, his voice trembling “Mom?!”
He turned and ran downstairs. At the base of the stairs, he stopped, noticing that the front door was wide open. On the porch, through the dim glow of the moonlight, was the silhouette of an unknown figure.
“Mom?” He asked, unsure.
When she didn’t respond, he slowly walked closer. Once he confirmed the unknown figure was, in fact, his mom, he rushed up beside her. Grabbing onto her arm, he gently tugged it to get her attention, but her eyes remained fixated on something down the hill. Trevor followed them with his own, to see what she was looking at, but didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.
“What’s going on?” He asked her.
This time she gently took Trevor’s hand in hers but continued to star down the hill without saying a word. They stood in silence for several minutes. Then the sound of boots on pavement filled the air, and men with flashlights appeared on the streets below. Then, just as quickly they disappeared into the very lab where Trevor’s dad worked.
Trevor could see the lights bouncing around inside the lab. It took him a moment to realize that he was seeing them through a large hole in the side of the building–a hole that wasn’t there yesterday. He could now see streams of dark smoke making its way out.
Seconds later, more smoke poured out the other side of the building, followed by a dozen of the security guys. Orders were being barked at them and then they scattered in all directions, weapons at the ready. Trevor watched as they methodically moved through the streets below; in, out, and around the surrounding buildings, fanning out further and further from the site of the explosion.
“Where’s dad?” Trevor asked looking up at his mom. He had never been so scared before in his life.
The next morning Trevor woke covered by a blanket on the couch. He remembered his mom leading him there after the commotion had died down last night. He curled up next to her, as she gently stroked his hair with her hand.
Whenever Trevor was scared, it was usually his dad who comforted him. He would tell Trevor to be strong and face his fears; to control them rather than be controlled by them. But his dad wasn’t with him last night, and despite being with his mom, Trevor felt very much alone. And even more scared.
His mom went through the motions of comforting him, but to Trevor, it didn’t feel like her heart was in it. Eventually, though, he had fallen back to sleep, his head resting in her lap.
Now, sitting up on the couch, Trevor heard a male voice in the kitchen. He jumped up and ran toward it, expecting to throw himself into his dad’s arms. But when he reached the kitchen entry his dad wasn’t there. Instead, he saw his mom talking to Dr. Garner, the assistant director of the facility, along with a bald-headed security officer.
Trevor’s mom saw him approach and softly cleared her throat. Dr. Garner stopped talking and turned to see Trevor standing there in his pajamas. He turned back to Trevor’s mom, “We’ll keep you in the loop if we find anything. I’m very sorry.”
With that, he and the head of security turned to leave. On the way out, Garner stopped and knelt down in front of Trevor. “No matter what, stay strong. Help your mom. She needs you.” He stood, ruffled the hair on Trevor’s head and left.
News of what happened came in bits and pieces over the next several weeks as the security team investigated the incident. It was determined that at 10:47 pm, Dr. Hill–Trevor’s dad–swiped his security card to gain entry to the lab. The door had not opened again until 11:55, when it is presumed Dr. Hill left, and then swiped his card again, re-entering at 12:16 am.
As near as anyone could tell, no one else had been in or out of the lab until the security team arrived at 12:35 am, eight minutes after the explosion. Within the hour and thirty-one minutes he was in the lab, Dr. Hill sabotaged the machine he and his team had been working on, destroying it along with a significant portion of their research.
By the time the security team arrived, Dr. Hill was no longer in the lab. In fact, he was not found anywhere on campus. He managed to escape unseen, even evading the security cameras around the campus perimeter.
Every day Trevor expected his dad to come walking through the front door. Every night Trevor would go to bed in tears. It would be months before Trevor stopped crying himself to sleep, and years before he stopped praying that his dad would return–or even call.
He never did.
That night, not only did Dr. Hill destroy his life’s work, but he destroyed his family as well.