Talisa Sojourner Smith is a woman of considerable beauty whose bones, joints and soul feels and carries the aching weight of age. At this time, Talisa is having breakfast with her two children—Tyla and Devante—and her four grandchildren. The table is set with Talisa’s most salivating and cherished dishes. There are pancakes, large sausage links, golden hash browns, scrambled eggs with sharp cheddar cheese and green onions, and enough grape juice to last a year. Talisa’s face is exuberant, so much so that Tyla and Devante are visibility suspicious.
“Mom?” Tyla said.
“You cooked your favorite foods yourself again.”
“Yes, I did” Talisa said nonchalantly.
Devante shakes his head, “Tyla and I remember what happened the last time you did this. Mom, please don’t—”
“Now, now, there is nothing for you to be concerned about this time.” Talisa asserted.
“But mom…” Tyla lost her words.
There is a slight period of silence. In response to this uncomfortable silence, the youngest grandchild expresses his hunger and impatience by groaning with unnecessary loudness. Talisa looks gleefully at her grandson as she softly chuckles.
“Oh, I know you are. But just because you think it doesn’t mean that you—”
“Speak it” responded the child.
“That’s right! Now let’s get this food on some plates before everything gets cold.”
Talisa hands Devante a few paper plates that he reluctantly takes. Tyla holds back her tongue as she lifts her glass of grape juice to her sneering lips.
Talisa’s family are in the car now. Tyla gazes at her mother through the passenger’s window with a look of worried uncertainty. But it does not matter to Talisa. She just smiles back.
Talisa takes out a red composition book from the drawer of her writing desk. She’s writing now; delicately and with confident conviction. She’s thanking her friends, her family and everyone that has impacted her life whether positively or negatively. After her last sentence, Talisa closes her book and leaves it neatly on her desk.
Talisa is showered and dressed in a black midi dress as she waits for her personal driver for the night to arrive—Twenty-three minutes her app says. She’s sitting patiently on her cool blue couch, though her mind is beginning to drift. Talisa sighs deeply, caressing her straightened hair as she does. She turns her attention to the wall towards her right. Talisa steadily claps her hands—1…2…3…
In accordance, the wall splits in half as a hundred-inch TV protrudes from it. Talisa again motions her hands for a clap (this time with a quick deliverance)—1. 2. 3.
The TV turns on and a very young African-American girl is standing as still as a statue with her head down. The backdrop is black and there is a blue lowlight that illuminates her right profile. It’s a poetry reading and the girl is just about to read her poem entitled “Praise.” She positions her head forward:
We praise, we sing!
We worship the true king!
Whose infinite power and wisdom
Gifted us divine technology
And, our immortality!
The girl’s image cross-fades into a plain white text that reads:
With God’s honor.
Talisa briskly triple claps her hands in disgust and the TV retracts back into its shell. Talisa takes a deep breath in; then, a deep breath out. She’s fondles her hair again as she waits rather impatiently.
There is a knock at the door. Talisa takes out a small oval-like device from her purse. There is a large purple button in the middle of it. She points it to the door and clicks the button. In an instant, the door is transparent. It’s Talisa’s driver for the night. He’s looking up at the sky as his knees bend out and in as if he’s trying to warm himself from the night’s damp chill. He can’t see Talisa, but she can see him.
She clicks the button again and the door returns to normalcy. She places the device back into her purse. She rushes to and out the door; much to her chauffeur’s relief.
Talisa is cruising through the narrow streets of Bavet county. She’s staring at the vast stars that are twinkling against the stygian sky. The car begins to slow.
“Excuse me, miss?” the chauffeur asked.
“We’ve reached your destination.”
The car stops right beside a sizeable lake that is encircled by a multitude of Leyland Cypresses. In the midst of the darkness, the moon reigns sternly while its light reflects upon the lake’s surface which is producing a glistening visual experience.
“Yes, this is it” Talisa said.
“Have a great night ma’am. God be with you.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Talisa removes herself from the car. The chauffeur drives off as Talisa stares at the imposing lake. She’s starting to walk though, very slowly. With each step, the moonlight highlights Talisa’s figure commencing at her feet. After a hundred yards of walking, Talisa takes one more step. Now, she’s staring at the face of the lake and her frame is shining in full.
Talisa smirks—the thought of what she is about to do fills her soul with contentment. She relieves herself from her black high heels. She begins strutting forward—strutting into the belly of the water. The liquid has taken her ankles—it has taken her waist—it has her throat—it has swallowed her whole. The trees rustle slightly against the push of occasional winds. The noise of nearby cars speeding on the freeway comes and goes. But there are often extended periods where the trees, the traffic and the wind seize making sound. Just for a moment.
A loud gasp fills the room. It’s Talisa. She’s inside a hospital room dressed in a white patient gown. The walls in her room are light purple and there is joyous classical music playing with soft amplitude.
A male nurse walks into the room with a file tucked under his arm pits. His smile is exuberant.
“What the hell is going on?” Talisa shouts aggressively.
“You need to take it easy. Your body is still a bit weak.”
Talisa tries to muster up the right words to say, but her breathing is frantic. She’s beginning to hyperventilate and tears are escaping her eyes. The nurse sets the file down on a nearby table and leaves the room in a hurry. The nurse rushes back with a helmet that has a design similar to a spartan helmet. Dozens of strapped wires make up the interior whilst a silver padding makes up the exterior. The nurse places it on Talisa’s jittering head. A locking sound emits three times. Shadows have engulfed her.
In an instant, there is light! Talisa is currently in a time long ago, yet her near youthful beauty remains strong. She is sitting on a loveseat inside her first home with her first husband. Talisa is holding a ten-month-old infant firmly in her arms. It is her first child—her daughter Tyla. In spite of her confusion, Talisa smiles from ear to ear.
“Hi my sweet baby” she whispers, “I love you; I love you!”
“I love that smile” her husband said.
“I know! Isn’t she precious?”
“Yes, she is. But I was talking about you, love.”
Talisa warmly gazes and smiles at her husband. This is one of Talisa’s happier memories. A reminder of a time where the world was—at least to her—simple. She continues to whisper words of endearment to her baby.
Suddenly, like a flip of a switch, Talisa’s world becomes dark once more. A locking noise clicks three times. Light takes dominion again. The nurse—holding the helmet in his left hand—is standing on Talisa’s right side. In front of her are two tall men wearing black coats. Talisa takes a long sigh and places her head in her hands.
“Miss Smith, I wish I can say it’s good to see you again, but I must admit that I am very disappointed in you” one of the men said.
“Officer Davis. I can’t say it’s good to see you either. How you been John?”
John quietly snickers, “Good. You remember Cain?” John points to his partner on his left.
“Of course. He was here last time” Talisa said.
“I was, wasn’t I?” Cain said.
“Look, I already know what ya’ll are gonna say.”
“Is that right?” asked John.
“You’re gonna give me the same spill about God and how living is my divine duty and all that bs, but frankly…I am tired of it.”
The officers look at each other with concern. Cain brings his attention to the nurse.
“Can you give us a moment please?”
The nurse nods his head and exists the room, closing the door behind him.
“Talisa?” Cain asked.
“You’re only two hundred years old. There was a time when people couldn’t even dream of living that long, much less having the level of beauty that you do right now.”
“It wasn’t that long ago when people had the right to choose if they wanted to.”
“Talisa,” Cain steps up towards Talisa’s right side until they are within arm’s length, “I’m sorry, but that’s against the law and you know that. The fallout from the first two times you tried to do this were manageable, but we’re going to have to take certain measures for you now.”
The room is quiet. Talisa turns her head away from the men. She’s looking out the window that’s on her far left. John walks next to Cain.
“I understand this is hard for you. This time we’re getting you professional help whether you like it or not” John said.
“John?” Talisa asked.
“What is it?”
“It should have worked this time. How am I here?”
“I guess you haven’t watched TV in a while? We put you in a Graham chamber.”
Talisa draws her attention to John, “A what?”
“We’ve finally done it! Up to this point, we’ve only ever been able to keep the living, living. But now we’re capable of making the dead alive again!” John enthusiastically said.
“It’s a blessing” said Cain.
Talisa appears to be staring emotionlessly at the two men, but internally there is nothing but hurt. She feels as though her heart is weeping. Her soul has never felt more weighed down with sadness. Talisa lays her head back down as she glues her eyes to the ceiling. John and Cain give each other a look disappointment. John steps outside and calls for the nurse while Talisa keeps her gaze at the ceiling. John and the nurse walk back inside the tense room.
“Okay! So, everything is good here?” the nurse asked.
“Yes, we’ll be making our way out now” John said.
John exits the room. Cain walks to the door and stops abruptly. He looks back towards Talisa.
“God bless, Talisa.”
Cain steps out the door. The nurse picks up his file from the desk and starts flipping through the thin stack of papers.
“Do you approve of your room, Miss Smith? We tried our best to coordinate a color scheme that would ease your distress.”
Talisa stays silent. Her mind has drifted off onto another plane—somewhere she feels calm and secure.
“If not, I can change the color or arrangement for you? It’d only take a second.”
“It’s perfect. Thank you.”
“Well, alrighty! So, I got some good news…you’re going home today! In just a few minutes actually.”
Talisa looks at the nurse, “Is my daughter picking me up?”
“We reached out to her, but she said that she’s preoccupied at the moment, so I arranged a ride for you.”
“Thank you, sir” she said quietly.
Talisa is back at home. The house is as empty and soundless as she left it the night before. She is alone. This thought nearly brings her to tears. However, Talisa shakes her head and whispers “It’s okay” to herself repeatedly. She walks into the kitchen and to the dark purple fridge.
“Open fast food” Talisa commands.
There is a loud beep followed by the opening of the fridge’s door. Sitting in the middle of the fridge is a single plate of leftover food from the morning before. She doesn’t feel like eating, though eating is the only choice that she can make for herself at this moment. That’s what she thought at least.
Talisa picks up the leftover food and places it on the counter top. She’s just looking at it now. Her eyes are blank and squinted. Her head is filled with so many dour thoughts that a migraine has snuck through. Talisa massages her head with her somewhat shaky hands. She has so much energy to move but her mind is holding her back.
Talisa finally picks up the plate, but she’s heading towards the trash can. She’s standing in front of the garbage, holding onto the food with trembling. Tears finally fight their way out of her eyes.
“Open trash” she cried.
The lid readily opens up. Talisa closes her eyes as hard as possible. Then, she tosses her food in. Though only a small can, it feels as though the trash bag extends far past its relative length. To Talisa, the leftovers continue to go down and down.
Kevin Jackson is an African-American filmmaker and writer based in the Inland Empire. He loves all forms and genres of literature, but he especially loves work that deals with the macabre. He also hopes to win an Academy Award in the near future.