.......5 hours Earlier......
I was jolted awake by an incessant banging. My eyes popped open as I struggled to remember which day it was.
“Hey V, let’s go!” Marissa’s boisterous tone thundered through the door that separated us.
I groaned and rolled onto my side to check the time. Darn it! I had slept through the alarm again!
“Yeah, I’m up!” I lied. “Gimme 5!” I scrambled to my feet, grabbed my favorite pair of jeans from the corner and wiggled into it.
“V!” Marissa yelled again. “I do not need to get another tardy because of you!” I groaned again and grabbed my temples as I headed toward the bathroom. All this banging and screaming was not a good way to start my day. I wish I could curl up into a ball and go back to sleep. Unfortunately, Marissa wasn’t going to allow that.
For as long as I could remember Marissa and I had traveled to school together. She knew where my mom kept the spare key and she would always let herself in. On days like these when I overslept, I really appreciated having her as a friend. My mom would be livid if the school called her to report my absence. She trusted me to be mature enough to get myself to school on time, and I didn’t want to abuse that trust.
“Here I am,” I announced as I opened the door to my room. “All bushy-eyed and ready to face the day!”
“Uh sure, you’re real bushy eyed,” she responded as she rolled her eyes. I grabbed an apple and we hurried out the door.
We didn’t think anything was out of the ordinary when half the teachers called in sick. We spent most of the day in the auditorium with a substitute who looked like she would rather be anywhere but in charge of fifty 11th grade students. Mercifully, the end of the day finally arrived.
As Marissa and I walked home, I couldn’t help but notice how empty the streets looked. Mrs. Mayweather who lived on Hudson Street was nowhere in sight. She pruned her rosebushes seven days a week, yet today her blue garden shovel lay unattended next to her pride and joy. Mr. Olstead who lived a few houses from her, was also absent from his front porch where he would smoke his cigar and watch Mrs. Mayweather as she fussed over her roses. The house with the bright red door was missing the boisterous toddlers who usually frolicked in total abandon.
“Where’s everyone?” I asked in confusion. I looked around bewildered at our neighborhood that was usually alive and buzzing.
“Maybe there’s a town hall meeting?” Marissa suggested. I nodded forcefully.
“No, I haven’t heard about any upcoming meetings,” I responded. “Something’s wrong.”
Marissa raised her right brow skeptically, “Uhm, maybe you should take it down a notch Mulder.”
“FYI, Mulder was the male character on X-Files, so...” I responded.
“I don’t care! The comparison still stands. Let me spell it out for you, you’re being paranoid!” she shot back.
“Maybe, maybe not,” I shrugged, stubbornly holding on to the feeling that something was amiss.
“I wanna check on my dad. He was coming down with a bug when I left this morning. Gimme 3 minutes tops! I wanna hang out for a bit,” Marissa said as she neared her house.
“Sure, but I’m timing you. I don’t wanna bump into your creepy neighbor across the street,” I shuddered. I checked my watch, crossed my arm and waited patiently. After 5 minutes, I began to get restless. I walked up to her front door and rang the b ell. I waited ten seconds, then rang it three times in quick succession.
“Aarrrrrgghh!” I grunted in frustration. I walked to the back patio and struggled to wrap my head around what I saw. I blinked twice, then again and again, but the image in front of me remained the same. My feet felt like they were encased in cement. Somewhere deep inside, I felt like there was something I should do or say to rectify the situation, however the solution eluded me. Mr. Rodriquez was hovering over Marissa. The sound was jarring and unforgettable; flesh and tendons being ripped to shreds. Finally, I let out a blood curdling scream. His head bobbed up and he turned his eyes in my direction; dead, ravenous eyes. Thick, syrupy blood ran unhindered down his chin. My eyes flicked to Marissa, a lifeless rag doll that had been ripped to pieces.
“We have to run,” a voice whispered close to my ear. I didn’t recognize the voice, but suddenly I understood the wisdom of his suggestion. So, I ran.