Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Time-consuming (02/24/11)
TITLE: Skeleton Silenced
By Kimberly Russell
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What began as a lark quickly became my obsession. I'll admit it: I never do anything halfway so it didn't take long for this project to take over my life. Spare time soon became nonexistent and extended into sleepless nights.
I was consumed.
My quest? Identify the skeleton in our family closet that had accidentally been unearthed: A brother we never knew.
Years before, in the heat of an argument about birth control, my mother spit out that she had given birth to a child as a teenager. Her life turned into a nightmare of shame and guilt since the status of 'unwed mother' in 1943 ranked right up there with being an ax murderer. I begged her to tell me what happened to the child but all she would say was that it had been a boy and put up for adoption. It was a family secret that was to remain buried and she stubbornly refused to discuss it any further. Shortly after that, she attempted to commit suicide.
Fortunately, she was unsuccessful.
In the meanwhile, we shoved the skeleton back into the closet and moved on. My sisters and I went about the business of growing up. Years slipped by and we occasionally talked about the elusive sibling but made a pact to leave the past where it belonged. What was the point of causing our mother any more pain just to satisfy our curiosity?
Even though I went along with the majority, my mind raced like Secretariat in the Kentucky Derby. How could we go through the rest of our lives never knowing about a person that was a part of us? What if he was someone famous or the guy across the street? It didn't matter, they argued. But it did to me.
I never could leave well enough alone.
"The Project" started innocently enough with a few quick taps on a search engine. You'd be amazed at how much information is made public on the Internet, even if it wasn't meant to be.
And the bones of the skeleton began to rattle.
I spent hours in my easy chair, following a path into uncharted territory. Diet Pepsi within reach and the cat sprawled on my lap, I cruised through years of information. Decades passed at lightening speed even though I ran into walls on a regular basis. The Internet became a GPS, guiding me to my destination.
What would I find upon my arrival? By now I was on a collision course with reality and there was no turning back.
Days turned into months as every free moment was devoted to finding answers. My house became shabby, calls went unanswered, and the pets glared. But I was not deterred.
Who was this mysterious brother and where was he?
The big break came on a stormy Saturday night as I tensed in my La-Z-Boy. On a fluke, one piece of information intersected with another and the rest tumbled quickly into place. Months of exhaustive surfing were about to culminate as I prayed that the storm wouldn't knock out my power before I accessed the missing link.
Nausea hit and my stomach rolled as I punched the 'enter' key and the page loaded up. The room began to whirl as my eyes raced across the screen. Then I leaned over the side of the chair and vomited with the clacking of bones echoing in my ears.
The article was from a newspaper clear across the country. Headlines screamed words like capital murder, life sentence, and clemency. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I read about the 1988 murder of his wife and the subsequent legal proceedings that had ensued over the years. After exhaustion of the appeals process, he finally lost his battle and had been executed.
Just two months prior.
Wounded-animal sobs filled the house as lightening flashed outside, appropriate given the stormy condition of my heart. I cried out to God for grace and mercy on the man I never met and when at last I quieted, I shut down the browser and tucked the skeleton in his final resting place.
*Please note that this is a work of fiction.
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