I remember the white clouds that surrounded me. That is the last thing I remember before waking up.
"It puts you to sleep. You wake up with a killer headache too." Seth says. He wasn't kidding. My head feels like it is splitting at the seams. Seth must have had a run in with the mist as well, which makes me curious.
"How long have you been here?" I ask.
"Two weeks." He is sure of his answer. Knowing Seth, he has probably kept an accurate log of his time here. Two weeks. Why did I not know he was missing? Does anyone know? I wonder if someone is looking for him. He flies pretty low on the radar, so it is possible no one has noticed his disappearance. But I have a job and coworkers that see five days out of the week. I have appointments that if missed someone will ask about me. My parents…They'll assemble a team and come looking for me. Seth is estranged from his family. It happened shortly after Grace died. He probably hasn't spoken to them in months. No one realizes he is missing.
"Do you remember how you got here?" I ask, but the lump in my throat makes it barely audible.
"We'll talk inside. I think you need to sit down." Seth guides me back to the kitchen and seats me in the same chair. He hands me the same glass of water. "You really need to drink." He urges.
"Please tell me what you know." I say. He looks at the glass of water, then back to me. I pour some into my mouth and force it down.
"They got me while I was driving too. The white mist came out of nowhere." Seth says staring at the table. He looks lost in thought. Then his eyes look up and meet mine, "There are some things we need to get straight. First, don't go into the woods. Second, don't go anywhere without me."
His words bring a new sense of fear to me. Something lurks in this place, and it must be dangerous. I consider the possibilities. Wolves. Bears. Zombies. With my luck, it will be zombies. I shudder at the thought.
"Who is doing this?" I ask.
"I'm not sure. I've never been this far out before. There are more houses further in. Some are nice. The fridges are always stocked, there's clothes, running water, everything you could ever need, but the lights go out at night."
"What are we someone's pets?" I think about an ant farm I owned when I was younger. For hours I would sit and watch as they moved back forth, tilling tunnels through the dirt. It disgusts me to think of someone watching my every move and gaining enjoyment from it. "What was that black thing you took out me? And why are there no lights at night?" I ask too many questions. Seth looks at my water and again I force myself to drink.
"Probably. The black thing is some sort of chip. My guess is that it was used to keep track of us. I believe there are no lights at night so they can restock everything without being seen. I've stayed up all night watching, but I never see anything. I slept in front of the fridge and it wasn't restocked until I fell asleep on the couch. I've searched everywhere for candles, matches or flashlights, but they don't exist here." Seth answers each of my questions patiently.
"You said you've never been this far out…How did you find me?"
"I heard what sounded like a plane so I ran to it. And there you were just lying on the ground. I wasn't sure if you were dead or not, so I watched you for awhile. Slowly you came to life." His mouth moves into a small smirk.
"And then you tried to kill me." I state.
Seth's smirk turns into a smile, "Sorry about that. This place is weird. I had to be sure you were really you."
"Who else would I be?" The smile disappears and he looks reluctant to tell me.
"There…are others. We're not the only ones here."
"Where are they?" The suns beams shine through the small window, hitting a glass picture frame hanging on the wall and gleams in my eyes. The sudden brightness intensifies the pain in my head and I groan as I try to move away.
"I'll tell you about them later. You need to lie down." He moves me to a couch. The last thing I want to do is sleep. I'm afraid he won't be here when I wake up. But as my head hits the soft pillow I can't fight my body and I slowly drift into unconsciousness.
Someone shakes me awake. I open my eyes and see Seth standing over me.
"We need to get moving. I don't want to sleep here." He says. I sit up and notice the pain in my head has disappeared, only to be replaced by a rumbling in my stomach.
"I'm hungry." I tell him.
"We'll eat when we get there. It's not that far away."
I follow Seth down the dirt road. All the houses look the same. A layer of dust about an inch thick cakes their outside walls. Each has wooden porches, some are missing shutters, and some have their windows busted out. I hope that wherever Seth is taking me is much nicer. Suddenly I remember he said there were others here.
"Who are the other people here?" I ask him. He gives me a look and I know he had hoped I had forgotten about them.
"They don't stay where we are going. They live in a more suburban area. I woke up there my first day here. I was on a bed and a girl named Heather was taking care of me." Involuntary jealousy rises in me when I think about her caring for Seth. Then I realize he isn't mine anymore.
"How long have they been here?" I ask.
"Just a few weeks longer. She told me about the food and when it gets dark."
"Why don't you stay there?"
Seth is shaking his head, "They're not right Chelsea. No one tries to escape. They have elected a leader and they follow his every command. Each of them has accepted that this could be their new life. I refuse to think that way."
I've heard stories before on the news about people who've been kidnapped getting used to and eventually accepting their situation. I can't imagine that happening to me. I've only been here for a couple of hours though. As the days go on, how will I feel?
"What about their families?" They must have families.
Seth shrugs, "Don't have 'em. Each say they stopped talking to their families years ago. Sound familiar?" He glances at me. If Seth's family only knew he was here, I'm sure they'd come looking for him.
"Will you take me there?"
"No." he doesn't miss a beat.
"Absolutely not." His voice is stern.
I look down the road, "From what I can see, this road probably leads straight there. It won't be hard for me to find on my own."
"You don't want to go there." He tells me.
"Obviously I do. And I will." My mind is already made up. I want to find out what is causing these people to want to stay. And I want to meet their leader.
Seth sighs and rubs the back of his neck, "Fine. Maybe tomorrow."
As we walk the houses are replaced by fields and more trees. Then rows of brick houses appear. They look to be in better condition, but like the previous houses, each looks the same. Red brick with a black roof and wood front door, and they are small and square. Something about them is familiar but I can't name it. Seth walks to the front of one of the houses with the numbers one and eight nailed to the door. We walk inside and I know I've been here before. It was many years ago, but I've been here.
"This is a military base." I tell him. "I used to live here a long, long time ago."
"You sure?" he asks.
"Yeah. I think we were only here for a short time, but I remember a picture of my parents standing in front of the house holding me. It closed down maybe ten years ago. I forgot about it." These houses were used as temporary homes for military personnel that had been relocated. My family stayed in these houses until they purchased the home that they reside in now. The base is located in the middle of a forest and has been closed for so long, no one even thinks about it as being part of the town.
"Now we know where we are, next we figure out how to leave." Seth says. I follow him into the kitchen where he pulls two bowels and a box of cereal from a cabinet. I sit at a small round table and he sets a bowel in front of me and shakes cereal into it. From the fridge he takes a gallon of milk and pours it into the bowel as well. Seth sits across from me and begins to eat.
"Do you think we've been abducted by…ya know…aliens?" I ask him.
Seth immediately puts his fist to his mouth, I'm sure to keep from spitting his cereal out. His entire body is shaking with laughter. My face feels hot and I know that I am a nice bright shade of red. He turns his head and I see him wipe a couple of tears from his eyes.
"It wasn't that funny." I mumble poking my spoon around the bowl.
"Aliens? Come on Chels." He gives a couple of more laughs. My ears were burning and I know they are probably red too. But I can't keep from smiling. Partly because when I think about it, my alien theory does sound a little ridiculous. Mainly, I smile because I love hearing Seth laugh. His laugh is loud and husky, and it is a sound that comes from deep within his chest. He emits an energy that draws you in like a moth to a light. Every time I hear it I can feel the warmth coming out of his body and washing over me like a giant wave of happiness and comfort. I miss this feeling. Our days together were filled with laughter. Now Seth only laughs on rare occasions. Whenever he is distracted and lets his guard down, allowing the veil of grief that he wears to slide off for just a moment so you can catch a glimpse of the old Seth. The Seth that I was so close to and I thought I knew so well. The day he stopped laughing was the day that everything changed between us.
"I'm glad some things never change." He says.
"What do you mean?"
"You. You're still just as I remembered." I can feel his gaze roll over me. He's wrong.
"I have changed." I tell him. "I finally got my degree and I'm a slave to the time clock…or was. Seth I own a house now…or did. No one can stay the same forever."
"But you are still you." He sees I'm not grasping what he's saying and explains further. "Up until you came here you still did your laundry only on Sunday evenings, and on Saturdays when you didn't have plans you still went to the pet shops just to look at the animals. Your favorite color is still yellow, you throw loose strings from your clothing on the ground for birds to make nests, and you still don't go to sleep without saying goodnight, even if you have to say it to an inanimate object."
Wow. He's right about everything. I had no idea he knew me that well. For months I've been thinking that I've turned over a new leaf. I began to take charge of my life and focus on me. It turns out I'm still predictable and read like an open book. Same old Chelsea.
"It's not a bad thing. You're just dependable." Seth tries. My face must be showing emotion. Same old dependable Chelsea. "So…you bought a house?" he asks getting away from the previous subject that is making us both uncomfortable.
"Yeah." I say simply.
"Is it big?"
"No, just two bedrooms and one bath. I got it for a great price. It's in the historic district."
"Is it haunted?" There is excitement in his voice.
I laugh, "Could be. I never spend much time there. I don't like-" I cut myself off. I don't like living alone. I lived with my parents growing up, then I college I lived in a dorm with a roommate until I met Seth. After a year of dating he told me not to move back into my dorm and I stayed with him instead. It was Seth, Mark, and I for two years in one apartment. When Seth and I broke up, for the first time I had to live by myself. Adjusting was hard. I hated the silence and constant feeling of emptiness. I compensated by spending more time in the library, and when work came I spent the majority of my time in the office. I look at Seth, he is as still as a statue staring into his bowel.
"Six moths is a long time." He says breaking the silence. So he knew how long it has been too. Seth looks at me but I look away. My heart aches. Every barrier I worked so hard to put up is crumbling down. Maybe it will always be this way. I will always have these feelings and will always love Seth. If he doesn't want me I can still survive just like I was doing before coming here.
The lights begin to dim, "What's going on?" I ask him. Then everything goes dark.
"This is what I was talking about earlier." He says. I hear him leave his chair and drop his bowel into the sink. I try not to panic. There is something Seth doesn't know about me.
"Where are? Please don't leave me here!" My voice is frantic and I am grasping onto the edge of the table. I hear water running in the sink.
"Calm down I'm right here. Wait…" Realization hits him. "Are you afraid of the dark?"
"Please Seth." I'm begging him. Yes. I am terribly afraid of darkness and currently I am paralyzed by the pitch blackness that is surrounding us.
"You're about to overcome you fear." I can hear the laughter in his voice. His hand grabs my arm and pulls me up from my chair.
"Stop being so rough." I say pulling away but his grip is too strong.
"Chelsea…" Something in Seth's voice is wrong. He called my name from the other side of the kitchen. If Seth is across the room, then who is pulling me? I scream and begin flailing my limbs.
"Get down." Seth demands and a hand on my head pushes me to the floor. I crawl until I bump into what I think is the legs of the kitchen table. My eyes haven't adjusted to the darkness yet and I strain to make out shapes in the darkness. Muffled sounds of metal pounding something solid echo throughout the room, then I hear footsteps stomping across the linoleum floor. A door slams and the locks click.
"Chelsea where are you?" Seth calls.
"Under the table." I can see his outline in the darkness and he walks towards me and crouches down.
"You can come out now." I hear his words but I'm not moving. He reaches for my hand and helps me out. The adrenaline and fear is causing me to shake. Seth sits on the floor and pulls me onto his lap. His thumbs sweep across my cheeks wiping a few wet drops away. I must be crying.
"I've got you." He coos as he strokes my hair. "No one is going to take you away." I lean into him, placing my face in the crook of his neck and shoulder.
Finding my voice I ask, "You'll tell me the truth right?"
"Of course." His voice is still soft.
"Was that a zombie?" Seth's chest shakes as he laughs. So maybe that is a ridiculous idea. But I can't shake the feeling that Seth knows more about what is going on.
"I've missed you." He says pressing his cheek to the top of my head. I can feel him smiling. A spark of hope ignites inside of me. We should have reconnected sooner. Six months is too long. I still don't know if he ever moved on and found someone else. But in this moment with his arms around my waist, holding me, I know what we had can be salvaged.
I sigh into his neck and close my eyes, "I've missed you more."