Enki and his friend hopped aboard the birail pod that would take them back towards their prefecture. They rode along with seven other passengers in the quiet stillness that comes over people during travel. Enki gazed out the window at the passing buildings and structures. He was always fascinated by the geothermal plant, with its confusing complex of pipes and tanks and its constant low humming. He marveled at how such a simple concept could provide energy for so many people. It simply used the heat from below to create steam which powered turbines. The steam was turned back into water and the process repeated over and over, infinitum.
Enki and Su’in arrived at the platform where they would have to part ways. They exchanged good-byes and trotted off in their respective directions. A pan-handling musician was playing a woeful tune and the air smelled of rotting trash from a nearby compost bin. Enki strolled down the familiar sidewalk towards his family’s apartment. He thought about how he would be moving out in a few months and how great it would be to have his own place, even if he was going into his conscription year.
As he turned the corner towards his apartment, Enki saw the flashing red lights of the enforcers. His heart sank for a moment. “I wonder what’s going on. Can’t be anything good,” he thought to himself. As he got closer, he noticed they were parked near his apartment building. His heart-rate increased as he approached. He sent a message to his mom, “Everything okay?” and walked up the staircase.
As Enki came to the third floor, an enforcer stopped him and asked him, “Do you live here?”
“Yes, I live in apartment 31B. Is there a problem?” Enki replied.
The Enforcer looked serious and scanned Enki for his ID. He frowned and said something inaudible into his communicator. “What’s going on?” asked Enki.
“There’s been an incident. We need to take you in for questioning,” responded the enforcer.
“Where are my parents? Are they okay? I need to see them,” said Enki, trying to remain calm but clearly worried. He looked over the enforcer’s shoulder and saw that his family’s door was ajar.
The enforcer led Enki back down the stairs and into his quadcopter, ignoring Enki’s repeated questioning. Enki checked his wrist for any response from his parents through watering eyes. He tried messaging his dad.
When they arrived at the headquarters, they confiscated Enki’s communicator and wallet and led him down a dimly lit corridor that looked to be hundreds of years old. A short, stout, graying old man sat down with Enki in the interrogation room. It was a small, gray room, with blank walls. The only furniture was a table and two chairs. The man sat opposite Enki and introduced himself as Ralf. He said he had some bad news. Enki’s stomach felt like it was twisting inside-out.
Ralf frowned and said, “I’m sorry to inform you, but your parents have died.” He paused for a moment to let Enki react.
“No, that can’t be,” Enki said, shaking his head. “How could that happen? Are you sure?”
“Yes. I’m sorry. Namu and Utu are gone. They were poisoned.”
Enki’s ears started ringing and he doubled over forward and collapsed.
When he came to, three men and one woman were standing around him, holding him up. He stopped reacting to anything that was said. He stared off into space like he was daydreaming and hoped it would all go away soon; like it was all a bad nightmare. The enforcers questioned him for several more hours, but it was no use.
They put Enki in a padded room. He could only hear the indecipherable sounds of muffled voices outside the door for some time. Finally – he could not tell if it was minutes or hours later – a slender, blond woman entered the room and talked to Enki, asking him if he wanted to talk. “I... Su’in. I need to talk to Su’in,” he finally blurted out.
When Su’in came to visit, Enki looked at him but could not meet his eyes. Su’in embraced him without a word and Enki sobbed uncontrollably. When he had finally regained his composure, he asked, “Why?”
Su’in replied quietly, “I don’t know, Enki. I don’t know, but I’m sure they’ll find out. They always do.”
When the enforcers had verified that Enki was mentally sound and not a suspect in the case, they released him and gave him temporary housing. It was a simple apartment with just the basic necessities. Enki’s school teacher called him, gave him his condolences, and said he could take the next month off for grieving. Enki collapsed into bed and stayed in his room for days.
A week later, a young enforcer came to Enki’s apartment with boxes full of his parents’ belongings. The enforcer said, “These are yours now. We don’t need them anymore.” He had Enki sign some forms and then left.
Su’in came to visit.
“What are those boxes?” Su’in asked.
“Just some stuff from my parents,” Enki replied.
Su’in asked, “Can I look at it?”
Su’in sorted through the contents of the box: some bowls, some eating utensils, a tablet, two communicators, some clothes, and a Book of Ensu.
Su’in asked, “Are you going to the funeral?” and handed the holy book to Enki.
Enki threw the book across the room, yelling, “Frack!” The book hit the wall making a loud thud, but otherwise remaining intact. This only made him more furious. Su’in watched blankly, not knowing what to do to console his friend. Enki slammed his fist into the cabinet, denting the metal door. This seemed to calm him down somewhat.
Su’in walked over to the book. A small note had fallen out written in Namu’s handwriting. Su’in read the note to himself. It said, “Bring it close to heat. Talk to it. It’s not Enlil.”
“What is it?” Enki asked, hands shaking.
“It’s a note from Namu,” Su’in replied and tried to hand Enki the note, but he refused. Su’in read him the note and asked, “Do you know what it means?”
“I don’t,” Enki replied. “I lost my fracking parents, Su’in. Do you have any idea what that’s like?” Enki asked, glaring. Su’in shook his head.
“I’m sorry. You should leave,” Enki added.
“Okay. Look. I don’t know what it’s like, but I’m here for you. Message me if you ever need to talk,” Su’in said. He stopped for a moment by the doorway. Then he opened the door and walked out.