After everything you went through… you took the money.
With the lonely, droning days of the orphanage behind him – quite literally; were Jonny’s eyes open, he would see the brick fortress getting smaller and smaller until it no longer has the chance to be closer than it appears in the mirror hanging off the passenger door of the car – Jonny is taking a moment to get into the zone so he may converse with God. He doesn’t do this often and doesn’t plan to, especially since God decided to burn his parents’ house down in the night, stranding him in the orphanage in the first place, but since his stint in the wayward home for kids with nowhere to live only lasted a matter of days, he figures he should say something.
When the monotonous hum of the tires rolling down the road all but disappears from his perception, Jonny says, ‘Hello, God,’ and waits for a response.
He gets none.
‘I know I don’t talk to you very much, and I know I’ve been upset with you lately,’ he continues, determined to have this conversation, ‘but you don’t need to give me the silent treatment.
‘Kind’a like the one I’m giving my new Dad by sitting here with my eyes closed and not talking to him, but I’m sure he doesn’t mind.
‘Wait, was that God who said that? Or was it just me?’
‘It was just you, Jonathan Knox.’
‘Oh, okay. I kind’a thought so.’ Jonny goes through a few cycles of breath without saying anything, then, ‘Wait, God?! Was that you??’
No answer. Whether it was God or someone else who just told Jonny he was thinking to himself, the voice isn’t speaking anymore.
‘Why are you so cruel, God?’ Jonny asks, feeling tears leak out from his eyeballs. ‘You burn my house down, you murder my parents, and now you won’t even talk to me. What did I ever do to you, God?’
God says nothing, exactly what Jonny did to offend Him, ‘If He even exists.
‘Listen up, jerk, I have something to say,’ Jonny Knox continues, feeling himself starting to get all worked up. He feels no little paws batting at his brain – the cat must have been afraid of the smell of smoke and vacated the premises – but he can feel it starting to happen all the same, his thoughts going a little too fast, his heart beating a little off rhythm. ‘This is hard for me to say, because I don’t think you deserve to hear it, but… thank you.’
Jonny waits a moment for his alleged God to thank him for thanking Him, but He does not.
‘I didn’t even have to stay in the orphanage for a full week before someone picked me out. Some of the other kids have been living there for years, and some of their parents are still alive. Mister Sir is… well, I don’t know. He took one look at me and pointed at me and now I’m suddenly in his car headed for his house. My new house. My new home. I hope it’s warm there, with lots of carpet and no tile on the floors. I don’t like tile floors anymore, especially not in the kitchen.’
Mister Sir clears his throat, opens his window, and spits into the cool breeze. Jonny hardly hears it over the sound of his own thinking.
‘Sometimes I wonder if it was all my fault.’ This is a lie and Jonathan knows it, he’s just unsure of what else to say. He thought God would talk back to him. ‘Well, God, I guess there’s nothing else to say. Thanks for murdering my old family and giving me half of a new one.’
Jonny turns and faces his new Dad. He’s not old, this Mister Sir, but not quite as young as his parents. Silvery strands of hair flash at the bottom of his sideburns. He’s got a pencil thin moustache and no other facial hair at all. There are cracks in his lips and his shirt is too tight. He’s only driving with one hand. It’s warm in here, it’s too warm, the heat’s not on and Jonny’s too afraid to turn on the air conditioner and it’s hot, it’s too hot, Jonny can’t breathe, he needs to get out I need to escape I’m in a car with a stranger and I need to escape before it catches on fire!!’
But Jonny doesn’t escape, he just sits there feeling all worked up and doing nothing about it. Eventually Mister Sir glances over and sees the wild look in his new boy’s eyes and asks if he’s all right.
“Why did you pick me?!” Jonny blurts as though the question were an explosion he’s been fighting to contain. “And how did you take me so fast? Why did my parents die, why couldn’t I burn in the house with them? Why is God cruel, Mister Sir, and what’s your real name? Did your Mom name you Mister? Don’t you lie to me, I know she didn’t!”
Mister Sir purses his lips and puts his left hand on the steering wheel. Then, “No, my real name isn’t Mister Sir. That’s what I’d like you to call me, though, Jonathan.”
“Oh yeah? Well I’d like you to call me Jonny,” Jonny says, switching to defense.
“No,” Mister Sir says plainly. “Jonny is not the name of a man. Jonny is hardly the name of a boy, and you’re not a boy anymore. Your name is Jonathan Knox, and I won’t call you anything else.”
“Fine!” Jonathan squeaks, then rolls his entire body towards the passenger window, folding his arms up tight like tied shoelaces. Tall buildings zip by in zebra stripes of brick, concrete, and murkily reflective glass. “Where are we going? I don’t know where we are.”
“We’re going to my house, Jonathan, and don’t worry about where we are. You won’t be coming back here.” He looks over at Jonathan’s curled back and sighs. “I picked you because of what happened to you, and I was able to get you out without any of the normal hassle because of who I am. I won’t get into specifics now, nor ever, because my line of work is nothing you need to know about, but I am a very wealthy man, Jonathan Knox. Wealthy and powerful, with the kind of influence which lets me do whatever I please whenever I please to do it.”
“Oh,” Jonathan oh s, uncurling a bit, his face still glued to the window. “I guess that’s okay… I’ve never had a rich and powerful Dad bef–”
“I’m not your dad,” Mister Sir says plainly in a firm voice, “nor will I allow you to pretend that I am. Your dad is dead, along with your mom, along with your old life. This is a new start for you, Jonathan.”
“But I don’t want a new start,” Jonathan says, putting a cloud of fog on the window. “I want a family.”
“Maybe you’ll get one in the future,” says Mister Sir, “but it will not be with me. I will not love you, Jonathan Knox, but I will respect you, and I will ensure you are kept safe.”
“Safe?” The wide world outside the window suddenly doesn’t seem so interesting. “Kept safe from what, Mister Sir?”
“The world,” he says simply, illustrating it with a lazy lift of a hand. “We live in a dark, terrible world, Jonathan. Things happen in the shadows out there, things that… well, it’s better if I don’t get into it. You’ve had your share of experience with just how awful this world can be.”
Jonathan says nothing but agrees wholeheartedly.
“As for why God is cruel, well… some say it’s because He’s trying to refine the folks who most need refining. Others say there is no God, that the world is just difficult and that bad things happen to folks who don’t deserve it for the simple reason that they don’t deserve it, and then some others say there’s a reason for everything, whether God knows the reasons or not.”
The ride in silence for a few. Not even the radio has the chance to speak up.
“What do you say?” Jonathan asks with his wide eyes affixed to Mister Sir’s graying sideburns.
He thinks for a second, just one single second, then, “I don’t really have an opinion.”
“Because it’s so pointless,” with a shrug. “Under some circumstances I would be correct, under others I would be wrong, and I have to imagine under most I’d just be wasting my breath and speaking more to hear my own voice than to listen to what’s said to me by others.”
Jonathan doesn’t say anything to that.
“Your parents’ house burned down because a group of humans with an agenda decided to make a move against another group of humans whose agenda doesn’t jive with theirs. Someone woke up one morning and decided to hide a bomb under the hood of a police car, and someone else didn’t happen to find it before it showed up in your parents’ garage. You just happened to survive, and that’s all it is. If you find it necessary to place blame, then blame the police.”
Despite all four wheels rolling stably in the middle of the road, Jonathan feels the car run over a rumble strip. “The… the police? But, no, but it’s not–”
“It is,” Mister Sir says bitterly. “The job of the police is to protect and serve, and they simply didn’t do their job. I don’t know why the police department of your old town didn’t have a mechanic and an autoshop at their station, but they didn’t. So they pawned the work off on a civilian household and knowingly put the civilians living there in danger. When a local business housing their property was vandalized and they saw their precious cruiser was completely untouched, they merely shrugged their damn shoulders and pocketed their hands and passed the bill. And your parents paid that bill. Your parents paid it in full.
“So if you’d like to blame anybody, Jonathan, blame the damn dirty cops. It’s not the first time a local police department didn’t take its role in society seriously and it won’t be the last, so if you really feel the need then blame them.” Mister Sir takes his eyes off the road and skewers Jonathan Knox with his brown-eyed leer. “But it doesn’t matter, because it’s over now. Your old life is over and you’re with me now, and I’ll see to it that you’re kept safe. Understand me?”
“Y-yes, Sir, I understand,” Jonathan whimpers.
“Good,” as his eyes mercifully return to the road. The conversation seems to be over, though it doesn’t feel over to Jonathan. Doesn’t even feel close to over.
“Where are we going now, Mister Sir?” Jonathan asks again, his voice as small as he feels in the presence of this strange Mister Sir.
“I told you, we’re going to my house.”
“How long until we get there?”
Mister Sir’s right bottom eyelid twitches. Jonathan longs to go back to the night his house burned down and hide himself underneath the police cruiser just a second before the bomb went off.
“A while,” Mister Sir finally says. “A good long while. It would probably be best if you just went to sleep.”
Jonathan stares up at him for a few moments, unsure of what he should say. But maybe it would be pointless to say anything. Maybe he would just be speaking to hear his own voice. Maybe he does that all the time. Maybe Jonathan’s life is pointless in and of itself. Mister Sir took him from the orphanage like he was a puppy out of a kennel, and he said he’s going to keep him safe. He said it’s the police’s fault that Jonathan’s house burned down in the night, and Jonathan believes him. Jonathan also believes it would be best if he just went to sleep. Maybe if he goes to sleep he won’t wake up, and maybe that would be best, too. Maybe that would be best, too.
Putting his back to the window and the world flying by beyond it, Jonathan Knox curls into a ball in the front seat of Mister Sir’s car and forces his eyes closed, keeping them that way until they stop struggling against him. The low hum of roving tires lulls him deep into slumber.
Hello Commons, this has been the fifth subchapter of the fourth chapter of Under the Hood: The Imprisonment of Jonathan Knox, a novel about a man who likes to eavesdrop on his neighbors.
Under the Hood: The Imprisonment of Jonathan Knox is the second book in the W-2222 series, a series of books which take place in Universe W-2222.
Under the Hood: The Imprisonment of Jonathan Knox is available to read for free in its entirety on my website. Click here to check it out.
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