The bridge crossed the gorge in all its extension. The father stopped the car at one end and head out. He inhaled the fresh air and walked near the railing of the bridge. There was a big net like structure to prevent people from falling but the view was just outstanding. There was a small river below but mainly trees, a big green mat of big and small trees that covered the valley below. The mother joined him with two small kids, which seemed to have just woken up. They held their mother’s hands and were rubbing their eyes with their free hands.
The family stood there for several minutes, without saying a word. Even the children were silent. Then, a burst of light and smoke appeared far away, clearly visible from the bridge. The father inhaled and exhaled without saying anything, only tightening his hand in his pocket. Then he went back to the car. Mother and children followed. The engine started and they crossed the bridge fast into the highway beyond. They travelled without making a single stop. None of them complained or said anything. They were a family but it really didn’t seem like they were. The kids kept to themselves, not even playing with one another and just looking through the window or looking straight, apparently distracted with the flying dust or the sounds of the car.
Night arrived and the car finally stopped by a roadside hotel. They paid for one room with twin beds, one for the children and the other one for the adults. But none of them really slept. They seemed to be on alert, waiting for something to happen. Every time a car drove into the hotel parking lot and the lights lit their room, they moved, opening their eyes again and shaking softly. That was during the night and during breakfast and a nearby diner things weren’t less strange. A perky waitress tried to cheer up the kids, given them pancakes with faces on it, but the kids seemed not impressed and even worried. After they left, she told everyone that would listen about the weird family that had come in early, with a lot of money.
Because the waitress had seen the father’s wallet and the several bills inside it. He even gave her a big tip but all with that weird face, between worry and boredom. The family kept on travelling by road until they reached the border with another country. The father and mother acted then, hugging and smiling as the immigration agents checked their passports. The mother even bought the kids some chips and candy and the kids laughed and ran. They all behave like a normal family until the immigration officer let them pass. An hour later, the car was as silent as it had always been. The terrain they were crossing at that point was desert with only a few plants to see and even a couple of rocks every few kilometers.
That night, they didn’t stop driving. The father didn’t seem to be tired at all, just going on and on, his legs moving normally and just looking ahead, with a strange look in his face. They finally reached a big city and parked inside a shopping mall. Going inside, they suddenly separated. Each kid, mother and father took different directions and explored the place. The father went to an electronics store and checked out several computers, TV’s and sound systems. In spite of the money he had, he only bought a tablet computer. The mother, meanwhile, was in a department store trying out clothes and shoes. She made the saleswoman bring her so many pairs of shoes but finally settled for one pair she had seen from the beginning. She also bought a flowery dress and went out of the store already wearing it. The little girl went playing to the arcade and his brother entered a pet store and sat down in front of the many aquariums and fish bowls in one end of the store.
They reunited several hours later. None of them had eaten anything but when meeting they went straight to the car and restarted their journey which happened to be a short one. They paid a room for each in a hotel and stayed there for a week until the secret service and other agencies got to them. They were arrested and send back to the country they had fled. There, a hearing was held to read the crimes they were being charged for but none of them seemed to be interested in the matter. They accused them to plan a terrorist attack and bomb a power plant that served millions of people in a large region of the country. Days later, they were presented with a lawyer and the father only told him to ask him about his story in front of the jury and the media.
He did exactly that some weeks later and the father started telling his story. According to him, they were all a family. He knew it didn’t seem like it but it was true. He told everyone his family had been living a quiet life in a ranch not far from the bridge they had crossed to escape. They were happy and didn’t harm everyone. True, with no other relatives nearby and believing in homeschooling, they hadn’t really made many acquaintances. One night, he claims, their home was raided by men claiming to be the military, saying they suspected the home was used as a laboratory to make drugs. They apparently arrested them and took them to a military facility were they were tortured. Not only the two adults, but also the children.
The father stopped his story there and asked if his wife could tell the rest. The judge agreed and the woman stepped up to her seat, not even looking at her husband as he grabbed a seat with their lawyer. She told them they noticed the place was underground, as they never saw any sunlight when being kept down there. She looked at the judge and told him they began another round of tortures, much more medical and even scientific. She had no idea how to explain it but she assured that they had been probed and tested several times. It was then when they all began to feel detached, not a family anymore.
The hearing was stopped them because of the time and rescheduled for a later date, the week next to that one. During that pose, something happened that made the media really pay attention to the case and stop saying they were all acting because their adoration of terrorism had made them insane. The children were held in a facility for abandoned youth. They were being watched at all times but it was too late when, one night, the cop that was in charge of them arrived in the room and realized the little boy, maybe seven years of age, had committed suicide. His sister was three beds away, asleep or so he thought. The boy had planned it all because he knew he wasn’t going to be normal ever again.
When the trial resumed, the girl was put on the stand. She didn’t cry when asked about her brother’s death. Actually, she seemed no to feel anything. It was as if she was made of stone. She told the jury she had been with her parents when they decided to escape the facility they had been held in. Somehow, they were all faster, stronger and much more intelligent than when they were abducted from their home. Something had been done to them that had rendered them better but less of a family. They used these abilities to kill several people and escape. In a matter of minutes, they used the militaries weaponry to make a large bomb and they activated it with a remote control. The facility happened to be beneath a power plant and they had not known they had destroyed it too. They just wanted revenge.
But as the days passed, they realized revenge served no one. Something else had been done to them, much worse than any of the tortures. Somehow, in their minds, they didn’t feel any love or care for any of their relatives. It was, they described it, as looking at someone they had never seen in their life but no one else was there to help them so they united. It didn't mattered who they were as long as they weren't doing mean things to them. They felt there was something, but not enough to make them a family again. The father stated they had stayed in that hotel for a wheel in order for the police and others to finally catch them. Escaping was not their plan all along.
People were divided on their opinions about the case. The owners of the power plant demanded justice to be done for the deaths of several of its workers and the military were rumored to release a statement soon. But none of those things were necessary not mattered. One morning, all remaining suspects, about to be convicted for the death penalty, were dead. The father had cut his throat with a cutter he stole from one of the guards. The mother took several pills she grabbed from the purse of a woman in the court room and the girl drowned herself in a tub.
No one ever knew anything about them. Where they had come from or what had really happened to them, nor where they had gotten all the money the police had found with them in the hotel.But it wasn’t important. They had been killed by guilt, by pain, because they realized their lives would never be the same without their family united.