It has been eight months since Laura and Tim have had sex, and both of their children hate them, but no one is very surprised by either of these facts. Both Laura and Tim are not supposed to be on this earth. They are not the fittest, and therefore they should not have survived. Societies have rules, rules to which this couple fails to oblige. Laura drinks her milk with ice and Tim eats his Kit Kats whole; Laura pours the milk before the cereal and Tim lets his soak for too long. She dips her Oreos in water and he drinks orange juice after brushing his teeth. Tim is a businessman who only shakes with his left hand; Laura is an interior designer who leaves her Christmas decorations hanging year-round. Laura and Tim kiss their family on the mouth—that is gross. Laura wears blue eyeshadow. Tim wears white after Labor Day. Tim never removes his sunglasses, a $5 pair of black aviators with a purple trim. Laura has the same glasses. She only wears hers on Thursdays.
They lead a life of blasphemy and it has put their children to shame. Little Tim and Tiny Laura are sent to school with wet cereal and watery milk and for this they are shunned. The children at school do not come close, for their parents have warned them that Little Tim and Tiny Laura come from a home that one cannot trust. Little Tim and Tiny Laura have explained to their parents that they must cease their sacrilegious behaviour, that the way they act is cruel. Little Tim and Tiny Laura want to live mundane lives. Days spent at the park and on the swing. They want slushies and ice cream on sticks. They want ham sandwiches and PB&Js; they want crayons and finger paints. They want to be invited to play. Little Tim and Tiny Laura are upset, so they send their progenitors to Away. Laura and Tim are now at Away, and in this place called Away, they are climbing on rocks.
“Reach!” Tim yells, plunging his pudgy finger into the sky.
“I’m trying, you stupid turd!” Laura yells down, fire raging in her eyes behind the tint of her shades—it was a Thursday.
Laura likes calling Tim a stupid turd; she thinks it is an astonishingly accurate description. Tim does not like it when Laura calls him a stupid turd because he agrees that this is an astonishingly accurate description, and Tim does not like to think about his stupidity or his turd-like qualities.
Laura’s body quivers as she clings to the crumbly rocks. Hot from the sun, her hands are clammy and wet. She struggles to find a grip. When she looks up, she sees a cockatoo fly across the sky. She drops her head and whispers to herself, “Bird.” Laura brings a hand to her face and feels a cloth on her eyes. Where did this blindfold come from, she thinks. I swear it was not there before, she thinks. She whispers to herself again, “Laura is confused.”
Tim, who is also confused, looks to his left and to his right and he sees that there are other couples around him. They are confused. Everyone is confused. A squat woman belays a lanky man. This man’s name is Steve: Tim knows this because the woman is screaming on repeat, “S-s-s-steve! D-d-d-don’t f-f-f-all!” When Tim looks at Steve he notices his arms. Tim thinks they look like wet noodles and soon he is sure: this man, his arms are not arms at all but noodles, moist noodles. Then there is Savanna, whose name Tim simply knows. Tim is creepy like this. Savanna is on the ground. The soil beneath her has turned to soap. How odd. Then there is Sasha, who is with Savanna. Sasha yells, “Anything but soap!”
A voice booms from behind the group, its depth echoing off the cliffs around them.
“Couples! Please. Be calm. Please. Communication is key. As you guide your loved one across the rocky territory, use motivational speech. We are trying to work together.”
Focus Tim, focus. He tears his eyes from the soapy earth and looks back at the wall of rock, then up at his wife. “Climb!” Tim yells with such force that his face turns red. Tim is unattractive when he does this—he is always unattractive, even when he does not do this.
“I’m trying!” Laura replies. Saliva launches from her mouth as she spits the words toward the ground. Laura looks like a duck, but when she spits like this, she looks more like a cow. Laura is more attractive than Tim, but Tim is very ugly. Laura can sometimes be pretty. Today she is not pretty.
The instructor, a tall man with large muscles, approaches Tim. Tim is a small man with small muscles covered in layers of fat. Tim is fat not because he eats Kit Kats but because he eats them whole—he deserves this misfortune. The instructor turns to Tim and begins to speak, but then decides otherwise. Shivers run down his spine and he steps back from Tim. Tim is not safe to be around, he thinks. He has an inkling, an inkling that tells him that Tim is a businessman who only shakes with his left hand. That is wrong, he thinks. This is a dangerous man, he thinks. He shudders and retreats.
Laura is frozen on the rocks, her body tense. She screams. Tim remains unphased.
Tim looks down at his shoes. His childhood flashes before his eyes—he watches himself eating soggy cereal, buying his first pair of glasses, kissing his mother and father on the lips. He returns his attention to Laura on the rocks.
“Laura!” he yells.
“Tim!” she yells.
They are good at names.
“Move your body up!” he yells.
“Up, where?” she yells.
They are good at yelling.
Tim looks at his hands and sees that they are empty. But he was belaying Laura, he thinks to himself. Laura’s rope dangles down the rock’s face. It goes nowhere, and is held by no one. It is a magic rope. Laura does not know about her rope. Laura is instead thinking about her feet. Laura’s feet are bare and the rock’s surface gouges her skin, cutting deep into her flesh. This hurts Laura. Tim knows this hurts Laura.
Tim is still confused. He does not know what to do or what to say or how to say it. “Just up!” he squawks, a twitch in his voice. Tim yodels insecurely. Tim does this when he feels insecure. Tim is a stupid turd.
“Why, why do I have to go up?” Laura’s question is caught in the wind and Tim does not hear her.
Tim is not paying attention. Tim is trying to remember how he got to where he is. How did I get here, he thinks. Where is here, he thinks. “Tim is confused,” he whispers as his eyes dart across the landscape.
Laura tears the blindfold from her face and in rage, she throws it into the air. The cloth erupts in flames. It evaporates, leaving smoke in its wake.
Laura broke the rules of the game. She cannot take the blindfold off once it is put on. Laura does not know this. This is not good news. This is in fact bad news. Tim and Laura do not know that they are in a game. But it is true that their life is just a game. And you see, when you break the rules of the game, you lose the game, and when you lose the game, you die.
You do not want to be sent to Away.
The rock Laura was holding onto turns into a snake, and she briefly reflects on the cliche qualities of the moment before letting go of the surface. She tumbles in the air and begins to fall. When she hits the ground, she plunges into the earth and disappears. Tim is standing next to the wall of rock until Tim, too, is sucked into the ground below his feet. He disappears.
Tim and Laura descend into a darkness. They hurtle through the air for eternity, a limbo they must endure.
It is a sunny day, and Little Tim and Tiny Laura are at the park. Their legs dangle above the ground as they sit on the swings, holding ice cream on a stick and PB&J. They look at the playground—the seesaws and the slide. Across the field there is a game of soccer, and by the hopscotch, other kindergarten kids are waving at them to come play. Tiny Laura and Little Tim take a bite of their PB&Js. They turn to each other, feeling the the weight of their sandwiches in their right hands and their ice creams in their left. They look at each other and slowly smile.
Yes, think Little Tim and Tiny Laura. The progenitors deserve this misfortune. Yes, think Little Tim and Tiny Laura. These people are a disease in our communities. Yes, think Little Tim and Tiny Laura. They will suffer for their social violations. They will pay for their offenses in this world. Yes, think Little Tim and Tiny Laura. They have died. Yes, think Little Tim and Tiny Laura. They are dead.