“Why are you insisting we play a game when our friend has been missing for days? Not to mention that your little sister is missing as well,” said Jona frustrated that Jinórilie didn’t seem fazed by the current events.
“I just want to play, is all. It’s…um, my coping mechanism. I know my sister is missing, but what can I do? There are police searching for her everywhere. As for Derihia, he’s probably at his girlfriend’s,” Jinorilie stood with the controller in his hand, extending it over to Jona.
Jona slapped the controller out of his hand, stood up from the beanbag he had been sitting on, and walked out of Jinórilie’s game room.
Derihia and Jinórilie had been friends since pre-school and neighbors. Both their moms worked as nurses in the local hospital. They worked mainly nightshifts, so their children were under the care of babysitters together. Derihia’s father worked in construction where he died of a heart attack, while Jinorilie’s father was a lawyer who had disappeared in the middle of the night. He had told his wife that he was going out for a smoke—that was midnight. What Tabilia, Jinorilie’s mother, found strange was that the game room smelled of cigarettes, but she didn’t put two and two together.
Jinórilie sat back on his gaming chair and continued playing. He played well into the night until his mother walked in.
“Jinórilie lights out,” said Tabilia reaching for the lights on the wall.
“Mom, not yet. I’m almost done,” said Jinórilie trying to achieve the top score in his game.
Tabilia went to her room, unloaded her work gear, and then entered her private bathroom to shower. She was trying not to think of her circumstances. Her baby daughter had been missing now for a month and her husband had walked out on them over a year ago. She missed work for two weeks straight, frantically looking for her daughter, even getting in the way of the police. The police told Tabilia to go home and resume her life and that they would handle everything. She couldn’t stay home and just wait, so she returned to work. She had a timeline in her office of the events that leadup to the disappearance of her five-year-old Lulayca. She knew that the babysitter said that Lulayca never went outside. Jazrial had locked all the doors from the inside. Jazrial, the babysitter, had been told that Lulayca wanted to play a videogame with Jinórilie, so she let her go into the game room while she went off to wash dishes. Later that evening, Jinórilie went off to sleep; Jazrial thought that Lulayca was still in the game room, perhaps asleep. She went in looking for her, but she was nowhere to be found. Jazrial awoke Jinórilie asking him if he knew where his sister was, and he said that last he’d seen her, she was in the game room asleep.
Tabilia also remembered that her husband had said he was going outside for a smoke but never returned. She remembered that when she walked into the game room looking for him, it smelled faintly of cigarette smoke, but he was nowhere in sight. She had gone outside looking for him and going into the shed where he usually went, but he was nowhere to be found.
After bathing, she went to see if Jinórilie was in his room. She found him getting ready for bed, so she walked into his room.
“Are you fine with what’s going on?” asked Tabilia looking down at her hands while making folds on her nightgown, her voice trembling a bit.
“Sure, what’s up?” said Jinórilie as he put away the game controllers in his closet on a shelf so no one could play unless he invited them.
“Aren’t you the least bit worried about Lulayca? She’s only five years old, and she’s somewhere alone,” Tabilia cried as she spoke, trying to keep calm and not have another explosive conversation with her son.
“It is what it is. She’s probably with dad somewhere,” he casually said as he leaned on his dresser while biting into an apple.
“What about your friend Derihia? Have you heard anything? Did I tell you that his mother was rushed to the hospital the other day suffering from a heart attack?” said Tabilia looking up at him with tears still streaming from her eyes.
“I know, ma, you already told me several times,” he said, tossing his apple into a bin.
“How can you take these disappearances so calmly? I’m here losing my mind, and you are unfazed,” she said, raising her voice with every word.
“What do you want me to say or do? I don’t know the first thing about search and rescue, and perhaps those people don’t want to be found,” said Jinórilie rolling his eyes.
“You mean to tell me that Lulayca doesn’t want to be found? That she doesn’t want to be with me, her mother, the only person she has in the world aside from you?” She rose from the bed where she had sat, looking for some sympathy from her son but finding none. Tabilia ran her fingers through her hair and then turned to face her son.
“I suggest you start acting sympathetic because you could be considered guilty. You were the last seen with Lulayca and Derihia. Come to think of it, you were asleep in the game room when your father went missing as well,” she spoke at first without thinking, just to give him a jolt of sympathy, but it led her down a path that she didn’t know existed.
She walked out furious and headed to her room. Tabilia managed to call the head detective on the search for her daughter before she went to sleep. Sleep wasn’t her friend nowadays. She simply rested her head on the pillow thinking about her daughter and husband. Sleep would eventually overcome her with dreams of her family altogether, dreams that once she awoke turned into nightmares.
Detective Gamilio brought her up to speed on the search, informing her that there were no leads and that everyone in the neighborhood had confirmed that there wasn’t any activity the night Lulayca went missing. The doors had been locked by Jazriel, and she clearly saw Lulayca enter the game room. He suggested bringing Jinórilie back in for questioning and she agreed.
Jinórilie heard the entire conversation before going back to his room to think about what was his next move. Tired from playing video games all day he retreated to his room to sleep.
Sleep eventually overcame Tabilia, but this dream wasn’t normal. In the dream, she was definitely in her house, but she kept hearing her daughter and husband screaming for help. She searched, but every step she took led her back to the game room. Awaking with a scream she found herself covered in sweat and trembling. Sleep was no comfort so she started her day at 4 am only having slept 3 hours.
Tabilia searched the game room from top to bottom, knowing that Jinórilie wouldn’t awake so early. She felt the walls searching to see if the walls had been disrupted somehow. She looked under the sofa and around the love seat for clues. Tabilia removed all the cushions, looking, searching for any sign that could help find her family. She put everything back before Jinórilie would awake and settled in the kitchen prepping for breakfast.
On this day Tabilia had called off work to take Jinórilie to the precinct for more questioning. His demeanor seemed too calm for a teenager that is missing his younger sister and his father not to mention his best friend. Something was wrong and Tabilia wanted to get to the bottom of it.
Jinórilie was awakened before he could even invite his mother to a game.
“Get up. We have to go somewhere,” Tabilia said as she walked past Jinórilie’s room.
Jinórilie arose without having his little sister come in screaming for him to wake up instead it was his mother. He missed his girlfriend, it seemed that the mornings were when he thought of her the most. Many nights she would sneak into his room and spend the night without his parents knowing. One night, as Jinórilie remembered, he was helping Kainara, his girlfriend, climb out the window when he heard his father in a heated conversation with someone on the phone. Normally, Kainara would stay up until the sun rose, but this time she had decided to leave sooner. It upset Jinórilie that she wanted to leave so badly, but eventually, he gave in and let her leave. As she walked in the opposite direction from where his dad was talking Jinórilie managed to get closer to hear the conversation.
“I don’t care if you’re pregnant, I am not leaving my family for you,” Quinton said into the receiver after blowing out some cigarette smoke. The plume encircled his head in a halo. Accidentally, his finger somehow hit the speaker button and Jinórilie heard the woman say, “Kainara is here, I have to let you go.”
“What is Kainara doing there and so late at night?” Quinton said as he smashed the discarded cigarette under his foot and did not bother to silence the speaker.
“She and Derihia have been dating lately. She’s been sleeping here for over a couple of weeks now.”
Jinórilie turned and went up the trellis and into his room; he had heard enough. He recognized the voice to be Derihia’s mother even before she mentioned his name. That night Jinórilie decided to go play a game in the game room. His father walked in telling him to go to sleep.
“I can’t sleep, must be pre-S.A.T jitters. Wanna play a game?” Jinórilie extended the controller toward his father. Quinton grabbed the controller and sat next to his son.
Jinórilie knew of the powers of the controller and so started a horror game. His father started the game and soon he was sweating up a storm. He pulled out a cigarette and started to smoke not realizing that he had pushed the wrong buttons making him lose the game. Suddenly, a whirlwind of dust came out of the controller and surrounded Quinton. When the dust cleared Quinton was gone. Jinórilie picked up the dropped controller, turned off the game, and went to his room. He knew that he needed to wait at least a year before he would play with Derihia.
A year later after having broken up with Kainara, Jinórilie invited Derihia over for a game. Derihia felt horrible for sleeping with his best friend's girlfriend and so had decided to come clean after so long. Derihia arrived at Jinórilie’s house and they quickly settled into the game room. Derihia wanted to get the secret off his chest, but Jinórilie insisted they play a game before they spoke about anything so serious. At one point Jinórilie thought that he’d lose to Derihia, but quickly the game turned in his favor and Derihia lost. Once again a whirlwind of dust came out of the controller and enveloped Derihia.
Lulayca had been such a bother to Jinórilie that he decided on getting rid of her as well.
When Jinórilie exited his room he smelled the aroma of sweet bread and pancakes. He rushed over to the kitchen to find his mother at the kitchen table waiting for him. His plate was in front of her facing the empty seat.
“Why are you here? You don’t work today?” Jinórilie said pulling the chair out to sit in front of his mother.
“I told you that we have to go somewhere,” Tabilia said trying to eat as calmly as possible.
“Okay, but where?” Jinórilie said looking straight at his mother.
“To the precinct. Detective Gamilio wants to ask you some questions,” Tabilia said, swallowing hard on her pancakes.
“Can we play a game before we leave? It’ll be a quick game.”
“You know very well that I don’t waste time on those games. Now hurry up we need to leave,” she arose dumping the rest of her food into the sink and down the garbage disposal.
Detective Gamilio told Tabilia to leave Jinórilie there and she would be called when they were done. Jinórilie thought that his mother would wait for him until he was done, but instead, she left to search his bedroom for clues.
Once back home Tabilia rushed to her son’s bedroom. There she found a bag of weed, which she didn’t even know that her son was getting high. What else could he be into? thought Tabilia. She went to enter his bathroom when suddenly the doorbell rang; it was the police. They had issued a search warrant and were going to do it while Jinórilie was being questioned. Tabilia welcomed the help. They searched his room and found the many controllers in his closet, several porn magazines, and a bent-over spoon with burns on the bottom. Tabilia knew exactly what it was for.
While the search was being done one of the officers accidentally dropped the controller breaking it into two pieces.
“It’s okay, don’t worry he has enough controllers,” Tabilia said worried as to what her son had done.