Author: Jinxyy PM
When all adults over the age of 20 mysteriously begin to express extreme violence towards all minors, those surviving must ban together to best protect each other. But what if one amongst them begins to feel himself slipping into the same aggressive instincts that the adults around them are showing?Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Suspense - Chapters: 40 - Words: 130,315 - Reviews: 33 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 04-29-13 - Published: 01-25-13 - Status: Complete - id: 3095255
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
People always said that terrible things always began on an ordinary day, and if he had ever really thought about it, Jared Norwood couldn't have been sure why he would have thought any differently. But somehow it just seemed wrong that something so terrible could happen on a day that had been so boring and typical when it started out.
The morning had been no different than it usually was, the day that it happened, with Jared and this three younger sisters getting up at six am to get ready for school. Well, perhaps going so far as to say "all" of his sisters was a bit of a stretch. His sixteen-year-old sister, Lydia, had gotten up when her alarm went off without needing further prodding, but 12-year-old Leigh and 6-year-old Angelina had required a bit more persuasion. As usual, the problem had been resolved by Jared pulling Leigh's covers off her and throwing them to the ground, while Lydia had simply picked Angie up, carrying her on her hip like a toddler, and deposited her in the bathroom while simultaneously sticking her toothbrush in her hand, already aligned with toothpaste.
He and Lydia had learned long ago that if they wanted to have even a slight chance of getting any of them where they needed to be that day on time, those were the methods they would have to resort to.
There had been the usual hassles of homework battles and breakfast- apparently Lydia had discovered that Leigh had lied about her homework being done, and Angelina had forgotten to get something signed. Their mother, Joanna, had headed out the door fifteen minutes after they were up, calling a breezy "bye, guys" over her shoulder before Leigh had even been budged from the bed.
So yet again, Jared had forged her signature for Angelina's paper, as he had done so often in the past few years, and then tried to hurry her through dressing and eating. Lydia had taken charge of fighting with Leigh about her choice of clothing for the day- a low-cut glittery tank top, fishnet tights, and a short black skirt- which Lydia deemed unacceptably sexy for a sixth-grader, not to mention were items stolen from Lydia's own closet. That particular argument had concluded with Leigh locking herself into the only bathroom of their home and refusing to open it for anyone, despite Angelina's urgent insistence that she needed to use the toilet, NOW, and the fact that everyone else was then denied access to the sink, mirror, and shower. Or perhaps that was exactly the point of her stubbornness. It was exactly like Leigh to figure out how to best inconvenience others, if it meant that she could make a point.
The crisis of the bathroom door had been resolved only when Jared finally got a butter knife and used it to pry the lock open through the slit of the door, which had provoked more yelling from Leigh about his "invasion of her privacy." This conversation had not ended cheerfully, and by the time they all were on their way to school, they were not looking or feeling particularly cheerful or well-groomed all around.
Lydia was irritable, her clothing wrinkled, her face free of makeup, dark hair pulled back into a sloppy ponytail, as she hadn't had time for a shower or makeup, and she made it clear that she resented Leigh for it. Leigh was bitter and scowling, snapping at everyone in her indignation at having to wear the jeans and t-shirt Lydia had thrust at her that Leigh had dubbed "baby clothes," and Angelina too was cranky and out of sorts, pouting and refusing to hold anyone's hand. The little girls had just barely made it onto the school bus that would carry them to the elementary and middle schools, and by the time Lydia slid into Jared's car, both were sick of the day before it had begun.
School, though neither were what one might call overachievers in the scholastic realm, was something both Jared and Lydia general looked forward to as a break, a time to be able to talk with friends and relax, to feel less pressure and responsibility than they did in their own homes. Some might point out that they could do with a little more anxiety about their schoolwork; it wasn't for nothing that Jared was a nineteen-year-old senior, having failed his eighth grade year. But this was their lot in life, and though neither was exactly thrilled with the scope of their responsibility, there was nothing much they could do. They had known Joanna Sherwood all their lives, and so far, nothing had changed.
Out of all the Norwood siblings, only Angelina still referred to their mother as Mom rather than by her first name, Joanna. For the others, calling their mother anything to indicate that she was their superior would have seemed strange, almost a lie. For as long as he could remember, Joanna had seemed to Jared more of a very absent-minded and distant aunt or sister than his mother. He could not remember a period in his life where he thought of her as anything remotely approaching the stereotypical image of a mother- someone he could count on or turn to for comfort or advice, someone who would fuss over him or show pride in his accomplishments, or even disappointment or anger at his failures. For Joanna to even notice anything unusual about him, or any of his sisters, would have been very out of character.
She was never cruel or abusive to any of her children, but Jared could not remember the last time she had truly sat and talked with them, showed any real interest in their lives or even expressed concern that everything at home was going as it should. Joanna Norwood worked two jobs and had a busy social life as well, often staying away from home until late in the evening or returning in the early hours of dawn, just to head out again in the morning all over again. For almost as long as twelve-year-old Leigh had been alive she had left the children mostly to themselves, providing them with money and necessities, but rarely interacting with them. It was something he was so used to that Jared never truly felt resentment or a desire to see her, not like he knew his sisters did. He only hoped her social life would stop resulting in pregnancies. He hadn't yet figured out what he would do when he graduated…could he really leave Lydia alone with the little girls?
He tried to think of his future as little as possible. It was easy to focus on the present when his daily routine consisted of kids, school, his after-school job at Burger King, and then back to kids again. He had little time to really worry about how things might turn out.
As it happened, no matter what worries he could have come up with, they would have been far off the mark from reality.
Later, Jared would come to the conclusion that he must have been driving when it happened.
It was the only thing that made sense, the only way he could have missed the change taking place in his world. That must have been the case, because until the moment he pulled into the driveway of his house, the moment he stepped through the front door, he was had known and noticed nothing out of the ordinary taking place. In his eyes, he had nothing more to dread at his arrival home than being greeted with shrill female voices as he walked into what would almost certainly be taking place- another argument between his sisters.
Jared had early dismissal on Thursdays, and he had started his shift at the local Burger King at 12:30, getting off at five. The day had been as uneventful as usual both at work and school, and after his shift ended he decided to drive around for a while, just to work off some steam- and delay getting home just a little more. Yeah, it wasn't fair to Lydia to stick her with Leigh and Angelina more than he had to, but then again, he was the one with the job, providing for the family. He deserved some time to himself to wind down, right?
Even as he stepped inside the front door of his home, he had a sense that something was wrong . The house was quiet. With three sisters, a quiet house was so rare as to be unheard of, and Jared tensed before he had entirely cleared the doorway
. Where was the sound of Leigh's blaring pop music, of Angie's cartoons, of crying or yelling, or even laughing? He didn't have a late shift tonight, and even if he had, it wasn't like Lydia could usually manage to get the girls to actually sleep at anywhere near a decent hour. It was just after six…so…what was going on? Were they not home?
Jared frowned as he stepped inside, trying to think through the possibilities. Were they taking naps? Hiding, for some strange reason…to scare him? Actually managing to get along with each other?
That was a thought so unlikely as to be dismissed out of hand, and so he had returned to the other potential explanations as she made his way through the kitchen and living room, finding them too to be empty. If any of them were talking, he would have heard. The walls of their rented home were ridiculously thin, and any conversations above that of a whisper could generally be heard, if only in muffled tones. Could Lydia have taken them somewhere? Where? She had no driver's license and no car, and there were few places within walking distance that they would go to. He didn't see a note on the refrigerator or kitchen table, nor the coffee table, the obvious spots where she would have done so, and Lydia was not the type to take off on impulse without letting him know about it somehow.
That left the possibility of them leaving by car, with someone else driving. A friend of Lydia's? Or had Joanna come home early and taken them somewhere?
"Lydia? Leigh? Angie?" he called, but no one answered his call. It appeared the house was empty.
He stepped into the hallway, turning towards the door to the girls' shared bedroom, and what he saw there made him stop short, his heart leaping to his throat.
Someone had attacked the door with a sharp weapon of some kind, most likely a knife. There was a hole through the wood, as though someone had reached open the door to unlock it. And the door was open.
For a few moments Jared couldn't bring himself to move. When he finally stepped forward into the room, it was with the dazed, slow motions of a sleepwalker; his legs felt too heavy to lift, his movements not entirely within his control. And when his eyes came to rest on the figure sprawled across the bedroom floor, his breath caught, and bile rose in his throat. It was all he could do to remain on his feet.
His sister Lydia was lying in the middle of the room, just before the bedroom door, her eyes open but unblinking. Her dark hair was piled in a mass around her head, her features rigid, the mouth open. Something about her eyes looked strange, as if they had fundamentally shifted in their appearance so as to no longer look human…and she wasn't, anymore, when it came down to it.
Lydia was dead, blood soaking her clothing, torn and disarrayed by the force of the multiple stab wounds covering her torso. His sister was dead. His sister had been killed.
His sister had been murdered.
His joints creaking, muscles taut with his shock, Jared slowly knelt beside her, a trembling hand reaching out to touch first her wrist, then her neck, pushing her hair aside to feel for a pulse. There was none, and her skin was growing cool. Lydia had been dead for some time. All that time that Jared had been just driving around in his car, doing nothing, going nowhere in particular…his little sister had been murdered. All that time he had delayed coming home, his sister had been dying.
His heart slamming against his rib cage, mouth going so dry Jared nearly choked when he attempted to swallow, Jared stood, momentarily lightheaded, and began to call his sisters' names with sharp anxiety in his tone. It did not occur to him to worry about his own safety, that whoever had killed Lydia could still be in the house, waiting for his return. It did not occur to him to call 911, to let the police handle this. All he could think about were his other sisters, his other sisters he did not see, his other sisters who were so damn quiet…
"LEIGH! ANGELINA! LEIGH, ANGIE, it's Jared! Where are you…Angie, Leigh!"
There was no reply. There was no answer sound of any kind, and as Jared tore through the house, calling their names, throwing open doors to rapidly look inside, he saw no sign of them. There was no more blood, no signs of an intruder, just…nothing. His sisters were just gone.
He passed the telephone in the kitchen three times before its presence registered, but on the third time he snatched it up, dialing 911 with his own pulse roaring in his ears. The phone rang eighteen times with no one coming onto the line. Pulling the receiver away from his ear, Jared stared at it in disbelief, then hung up the phone, assuming he had dialed the wrong number, He tried again. Again. This time the phone rang 26 times before he hung up, stunned speechless.
What was going on? How the hell could no one be available on the emergency line?!
He ran through the house one more time, still shouting his sisters' names with no reply, before stumbling out to the front porch of the house, eyes darting wildly but taking in very few details around him. Trying to take a deep breath, to slow down his racing thoughts and galloping heartbeat, and knotting his hands into fists at his sides, Jared briefly closed his eyes, picturing his sisters' faces. What if they had been kidnapped? Or worse…what if-
No. No, just think. Think…if they were hiding…if they had run…where would they go? Where might they be, where no one would see?
And then an answer came to him. There was a small door around the left side of their house, leading underground into a crawlspace of sorts. The door was mostly concealed by bushes, so that most people would not even know of its existence. It would take a lot of effort for Jared to get himself through, but Leigh used to hide beneath the house every time she was pouting over something, and lately Angelina had taken to copying her. If they were alive, this might be where he could find them.
Jared wasted no time in sprinting around to the other side of the house, finding the right bush and holding back its branches to fumble with the latch on the door. Holding the bush back with one hand, he squeezed through the narrow opening and then shut the door behind him with the other, squinting in the darkness as he called his sisters' names a final time.
"Leigh? Angie? It's Jared…are you in here?"
Even before his eyes adjusted to the darkness he saw a slight movement, then made out the outline of their forms, off in the furthest corner from the door. The pungent scent of urine and something unidentifiable, something salty and sour, hit his nostrils, and it took Jared a moment to identify it. Fear. He was actually smelling his sisters' fear.
Crawling towards them, he saw that Angelina was huddled against the older Leigh, the younger girl's blonde curls blending into the older's brunette locks where their heads pressed tightly together, eyes closed. Their arms were wound around each other so tightly it was difficult to tell where one girl ended and the other began. It was a mark of their terror that they would sit so closely, let alone embrace. Jared could not remember the last time he had seen his youngest sisters remain in the same room without fighting, let alone touch each other willingly.
As he approached, saying their names again in a much softer voice, their heads jerked up, and he could see the whites of their eyes glowing in the darkness. Angelina's face was mottled, the makeup that Lydia had forbidden Leigh to wear smeared around her eyes and streaking down her cheeks. Leigh's mouth opened, but it was several moments before she could speak, her voice emerging hoarse and tremulous.
"Yeah," Jared whispered, coming to squat right in front of them.
His lips pressed together into a thin line as he swallowed, finding it difficult to look them in the eye. He could feel his body tremble slightly, in relief as much as anything else. They were okay. Well, maybe okay was a stretch…but they were alive.
Hearing his confirmation, Angelina sobbed aloud, then struggled to free herself from Leigh's grasp, crawling towards him and burrowing into his arms. Jared hugged her tightly, barely noticing her dampness or smelling her stained clothing as he looked over her head to Leigh. Slow tears ran down the older girl's face , and in an extremely uncharacteristic gesture, she moved in against him too, pressing her face against his upper arm. Jared shifted Angie to include Leigh in his hug, the lump in his throat difficult to speak around as he tried to soothe them.
"Shhh…shhh…it's okay. It's okay, we're going to be okay."
It was a lie and they all knew it, but what else could he say?
After a few minutes, when Angelina's tears had been reduced to tired sniffs, Jared tried to talk to them, already dreading their answers before he spoke.
"Did you see…what happened to…"
He stopped, unable to bring himself to say Lydia's name. To say her name would be to bring her staring eyes into his mind, to again feel her dead flesh against his fingers.
Angelina did not answer. He could feel her shaking, pressing her forehead more firmly against his arm. It was Leigh who looked up at him, who spoke up through trembling lips.
"Joanna did it," she whispered, and Jared's stomach dropped.
He could not have heard right…it was simply impossible. Leigh was mistaken. Leigh was the drama queen of their family, the one who was always willing to stretch a story to her own purposes…she was wrong.
Whatever had happened, their mother had not done this to Lydia. Whatever her faults, whatever her indifference….Joanna would not kill her own child.
"What? What…no," he said, uncomprehending, and he shook his head, simply unable to believe. "No, Leigh, she…that's not what happened. She…you're…"
"Yes she did," Leigh said with surprising ferocity, lifting her head from Jared's shoulder and looking up at him with a spark of anger standing plainly along with the grief in her eyes. "She did. She was going to do it. She was going to get her, and us too. Both of us."
She looked down at Angelina, giving her a brief shake as she said to her urgently, "Didn't she, Angie? Tell him I'm not making it up! Tell him!"
Angelina said nothing, burying her face more firmly into the Jared's armpit, but Jared felt her nod. She too was confirming this.
"She did," Leigh continued, her voice growing louder, insistent, but still high-pitched enough in volume that it was clear she was holding back tears. "She did! She came home, she called us, she said come here, I need to talk to you. We were in our room and Lydia went out in the hall and Joanna had a knife. Lydia, she came back in the room and she said, she locked the door and told us go out the window, run…so we did. I got Angie, and we ran, and we came here, and Joanna was trying to get her, she was putting the knife in the door and telling us open up…"
Her words broke off as she began to sob, her question almost unintelligible as she pleaded for him to tell her, "Did she…Jared, did she hurt Lydia? Did Joanna…did she kill her?"
As he stared down at his sisters, barely feeling the weight of six-year-old Angelina in his arms, the warmth of twelve-year-old Leigh pressed against his side, it occurred to Jared slowly that this was it. The one defining moment of his life, the one that everyone always talked about and waited for…this was it.
This was the moment. But it was far from the end.