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20 Questions

by Hunter J Purvis 2 months ago in Short Story
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By Hunter Jordan Purvis

Nihil opened the backdoor of his greyish 2020 Land Rover Range Rover and suddenly two little heads brushed under his arm like two little clownfish brushing against a sea anemone.

Liam and Everleigh climbed into their seats and buckled their seat belts all by themselves, which may not be that impressive for two ten-year-olds, but they managed to do it without taking their eyes off their tablets. The ever-growing click clacking sound of Ohma’s heels echoed within the garage.

Nihil quickly shut the backseat door and opened the passenger seat. Ohma passed by Nihil without saying a single word or giving the slightest bit of acknowledgement. Nihil walked to the driver’s side of the car and got into his seat. He buckled his seat belt and looked toward his wife whose face was buried deep into the screen of her phone.

“Got everything?” Nihil asked.

Ohma buried her face deeper into the screen of her phone. Her eyes moved side to side in rapid succession as she tried to absorb all the details of the funny Instagram reel.

Nihil looked in the rearview mirror towards the kids.

“You guys ready back there?” Nihil asked.

A couple of empty moments later, an automated, monotoned, and synchronized “Yeah,” emerged from the pair of fraternal twins.

“Seat belts?!” Nihil asked as he put his aviators on.

Silence echoed. Nihil looked back into the rearview mirror to see if the kids were all buckled up. Their bodies were buckled to the seats. Their minds were buckled to their tablet screens. Nihil turned his eyes toward his wife.

“You look beautiful in your black dress,” Nihil said, with an intense gaze.

“Well of course you like it,” Ohma said, with a bit of passive aggressiveness in her voice.

“You don’t like the dress?” Nihil asked. “The tailor said it was the best dress in town.”

“More like the most expensive,” Ohma said with a little roll of the eyes.

“Well, next time you can pick out your own dress,” Nihil said.

“Whatever, where are we going anyway? I mean it’s like you have us all dressed up for a funeral, or a blacked-out wedding, or maybe church.” Ohma snickered.

“Look, I told you it's a surprise, and it's going to stay that way,” Nihil said. “You will see when we get there.”

“Is it far?” Ohma asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” Nihil said as he rested his forehead on the palm of his hand and ran his fingers through his hair.

Nihil reached into his pocket, grabbed his phone, connected the phone to the car, opened iTunes, and pressed shuffle. “Apocalypse” by Cigarettes After Sex started to play.

He put the car in reverse and started to back out of the driveway. The afternoon sunshine beamed into car as it slowly backed out of the garage. The garage doors automatically closed. He waited patiently at the end of the driveway for cars to pass by.

"Got the music in you baby, tell me why," mumbled Nihil as he vibed with the tunes.

“Oh no! My tablet, it’s broken,” wined Liam.

Ohma turned the volume of the music all the way down and turned toward Liam.

“Your table is what?” asked Ohma.

"My tablet, it's broken!" yelled Liam.

"Don't you yell at me like that again or I will make sure your tablet is not the only thing that is broken," said Ohma as she turned and looked toward Liam. "Do you hear me?"

"yes, ma'am," replied Liam.

“Now, let me see the tablet,” said Ohma as she reached her hands towards Liam.

Nihil put the car in park and turned towards Ohma.

“What’s wrong with it?” Nihil asked.

“It’s dead, but I think I have a charger,” replied Ohma, as she started digging in her purse. “I can’t find the charger. I think I left it inside. Pull the car back up to the house and I will grab it really quick.”

“No, we don’t have time for that, we're already running late. He'll just have to go without it,” exclaimed Nihil.

“It will only take a second for me to get it,” Ohma countered.

“No, there's no turning back now. Maybe if you listened to me when I asked if you had everything, then this would not have happened,” Nihil said.

“Your being ridiculous! We are still in the driveway; it’s not like we're already on the way to wherever you’re taking us. We technically haven't even left home yet,” Ohma muttered with distaste.

“I said no and that's that!” Nihil exclaimed.

Nihil put the car in reverse, pulled out into the road, jerked the gear shift to drive, slammed his foot down on the gas pedal, and accelerated down the road.

“I can’t believe you! You know good and well he's just going to whine and complain the entire time and it’s not even fair for him. Everleigh still has her tablet, and you know they don’t like to share,” Ohma said.

“Take hers too. Neither of them need that garbage,” Nihil said.

“And what are they going to do?” Ohma said.

“I don’t know. Maybe they will use their imagination for once,” replied Nihil.

"Whatever," sighed Ohma as she crossed her arms and shook her head from left to right.

“What are you doing?! Are you going to take her tablet or not?" Nihil yelled.

"I don't know," sighed Ohma as she rested her forehead on her hand.

"Well, if you don't find out in the next five seconds, then I will pull this car over and take it from her myself," Nihil said.

“Fine.” Ohma said.

"Hurry up!" Nihil said with an increased tone of voice.

Ohma looked in her purse for two lollipops, took off her seat belt, and turned toward Liam and Everleigh.

“Everleigh, here is a lollipop. One for you and one for Liam,” Ohma said. Her voice was gentle. “Now, you know you are not allowed to eat candy while using your tablet, so give me the tablet and you can get the lollipop.”

“I don’t want the lollipop,” Everleigh said. “I just want to play on my tablet.”

“Everliegh, if you don’t give me the tablet right now, then you aren’t ever going to get another lollipop, and I don’t mean that you will get not one for a couple of days. No! You won’t get one for the rest of your life.” Ohma said, with the needed amount of intimidation to get her way.

“Fine.” said Everleigh.

Ohma took the tablet out of her hand, gave Everleigh and Liam a lollipop, turned back into her seat, put her seat belt back on, and then looked over a at Nihil.

“That should keep them quiet for a bit,” said Ohma.

“Yeah, sure it will,” replied Nihil.

Nihil turned the music back up. The sound of “Cherry Wine” by Hozier echoed through the car.

“The way she tells me I'm hers and she's mine. Open hand or closed fist would be fine. The blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine,” Nihil sung along to the song in a low whisper to himself.

The Sullivan’s didn’t even make it halfway through the song without an interruption. Of course, Nihil was really the only one who was listening to the music anyway.

“Mom, I’m bored, I want my tablet,” wined Liam.

Ohma turned down the music.

“Just eat your lollipop Liam,” Ohma said.

“I already ate mine,” said Liam.

“Already!?” Ohma said in a shocked yet annoyed tone.

“Maybe, you guys can play a game like you use to before I bought you those stupid tablets,” Nihil said in a suggestive manner.

“Like what game?” Everleigh asked.

“I don’t know, Like, I spy. You guys use to play that one all the time,” Nihil said.

“Boring!” exclaimed Liam.

“Okay, what about twenty questions? We all used to play that together. That use to be the family favorite game,” Nihil said.

“I guess that’s not as boring, but if we play, I want to go first,” Liam said.

“That’s fine by me. Everleigh, you can start with the first question. Liam, just let us know when your ready so we can start,” Nihil said.

“I’m READY!!! I’m ready! I’m ready! I’m ready! I’m ready! I’m ready! I’m ready! I'm ready” shouted Liam as if he was Spongebob incarnate.

“Go Spongebob!” shouted Everleigh The Starfish.

“Shut up!” shouted Nihil

Nihil smacked Liam with his tentacle shaped fly swatter. Liam giggled and screamed.

The spirit of Dumbledore possessed Nihil.

"SILENCE!!!! Everyone will please not panic," Nihil said.

Silence ensued.

"I will not tolerate this misconduct. Now, we will start the game and end the foolishness," said Nihil. "Now Everleigh will ask the first question and the rest of you will shut your pie holes."

“Humm, What could it be? What could it be?” said Everleigh as she tapped her finger on her chinny chin chin.

“Is it alive?” Everleigh asked.

“Yes,” Liam said.

“Is it an animal?” Ohma asked.

“Yes,” Liam said.

“Is it a mammal?” Nihil asked.

“No,” Liam said.

“Does it live in the water?” Everleigh asked.

“Yes,” Liam said.

“Is it a fish?” Ohma asked.

“Yes,” Liam said.

“Is it a freshwater fish?” Nihil asked.

“No,” Liam said.

“Is it a clownfish?” Everleigh said.

“Yes,” Liam said. “How did you guess it so quickly?”

“Well, remember I am your twin, so we basically think about the same things all the time,” Everleigh said

“True,” Liam said.

“It’s your turn Everleigh,” Ohma said. “And I will ask first this time.”

“I’m ready!” blurted out Everleigh.

“Is it alive?” Ohma asked.

“No,” Everleigh said.

“Would it exist without a human building it?” Nihil asked.

“No,” Everleigh said.

“Is it a house?” Liam asked.

“No,” Everleigh said.

“Is it electronic?” Ohma asked.

“Yes,” Everleigh said.

“Is it a tablet?” Nihil asked.

“Yes, how did you guess it so fast?” Everleigh asked.

“Well, that is all you ever think about, so it was not hard to figure out,” Nihil said with a bit of a smartarse attitude.

“Don’t say that,” Ohma muttered.

“Well, it is true. You know what, just forget I said that,” Nihil said. “It is your turn Ohma and I will ask the first question this time.”

“Okay, I’m ready,” Ohma said.

“Is it alive?” Nihil asked.

By artist Rodolfo Loaiza

“Yes,” Ohma said.

“Is it a plant?” Liam asked.

“Yes,” Ohma said.

“Is it a big plant, like a tree?” Everleigh asked.

“No, it’s a small plant,” Ohma said.

“Is it green?” Nihil asked with a sneer.

“Part of it,” Ohma said as she rolled her eyes.

“Is it your favorite type of plant mom?” Liam asked.

“Yes, it is,” Ohma answered.

“Is it tulips?” Everleigh asked.

“No” Ohma said.

“Is it hemlock?” Nihil asked.

“No,” Ohma said, giving him a stark stare as if he should have known what her favorite type of plant is. “What even is helmlock? I never even heard of that!”

“It is better that you don’t know what it is,” Nihil muttered.

“Shush daddy, it’s my turn,” Liam said. “Is it a sunflower?”

Ohma turned around a looked toward Liam, smiled, and said “Ahh, yes, it is my little Liam, it's a sunflower,” “You know your mother so well unlike some other people.”

“Well, I guess it is my turn then. I am ready. I have been ready,” Nihil said. “It’s your turn to ask the question Liam. You can go ahead and ask it when you have thought of one.”

“Is it alive?” Liam asked.

“No,” Nihil answered.

“Is it a place?” Everleigh asked.

“Yes it is a place,” Nihil said.

“Is it where we are going?” Ohma asked.

“Yes,” Nihil said.

“Is it Disney world?” Liam asked. “I wanna to go to Disney world!”

“No, it’s not Disney world,” Nihil said.

“Is it the beach?” Everleigh asked.

“No,” Nihil said.

“Is it the church,” Ohma asked.

“No,” Nihil said.

“Is it grandpa’s house.” Liam asked.

“No,” Nihil said.

“Is it a mountain?” Everleigh asked.

“Nope,” Nihil said.

“Is it the lake?” Ohma asked.

“No,” Nihil said.

“Is it Chuck E Cheeses?” Liam asked.

“No,” Nihil said.

“Is it the park?” Everleigh asked.

“No, it is not the park,” Nihil said.

“Is it Sarajevo’s?” Ohma asked. “I could really go for some of their lobster right now.”

“Nope,” Nihil said.

“Is it the Country Club,” Liam asked.

“No,” Nihil said.

“Is it the movie theater? Are we going to watch a movie?!” Everleigh asked.

“No,” Nihil said.

“Is it somewhere in the big city?” Ohma asked.

“No,” Nihil said. “That is fifteen. You guys only have five more.”

“Have we been there before?” Liam asked.

“No,” Nihil said.

“I can’t think of anything,” Everleigh said. “Why do you have to make it so hard dad?

“That's not a question,” Nihil said. “Try to think harder. You might be able the get it right.”

“Okay, let me think,” Everleigh said. “Are there a lot of people there?”

“Sometimes, but most of the time there are not many people there,” Nihil said.

“Is it in town?” Ohma asked.

“No, but very close to it. Be careful, you guys only have two left,” Nihil said.

“Is it the Carnival?” Liam asked.

“Noooo, it is not the Carnival,” Nihil said. “You guys only have one question left. One last chance, but we are almost there. I want each of you to close your eyes. I don’t want the surprised to be ruined. Everleigh don’t ask the last question yet. I want you to wait until we get there to make your final guess. I want all of you to keep your eyes closed until I say it is time to open them. If you don’t keep your eyes closed, then the surprise will be ruined. If you don’t keep your eyes closed, then I will never take any of you anywhere again. Once we get there, I will take each of you out of the car one by one and walk you to your seats. Don’t peek. Once you are all in the right place, then Everleigh can ask the final question. And after she asks the final question, then you can open your eyes and see if her guess is right or wrong. Close your eyes now! We are about to arrive at the destination.”

Nihil turned into the parking area. He put the car in park, took the keys out, unbuckled his seat belt, and got out of the car.

“We are here, keep your eyes closed, and remember no peeking!” Nihil said.

Nihil walked each other them to their seats, sat in his seat, pulled out his Air Pods, connected them to his phone, opened iTunes, and pressed shuffle. “Space Song” by Beach House started to echoed in his eardrums.

“I’m ready Everleigh, you can ask the last question now,” said Nihil.

Everleigh paused and slightly peeked.

“Dad, Why is it the graveyard?” Everleigh asked.

“Yes it is,” Nihil answered.

The sound of gunfire echoed through the forest. When the Sullivan's bodies were found, there was not much that had to be done for the funeral. In fact, Mr. Sullivan made sure of it. He made sure they were dressed to perfection. He ensured their headstones were ordered, delivered, and installed. He assured their bodies were properly placed in the coffins. The last and only need was for someone to dump some dirt on this disturbing reality.

Short Story

About the author

Hunter J Purvis

University student. Professional writing major. Minor in philosophy. Contact Info: [email protected]

Here to share content made at Uni or made for fun.

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