Saturday, February 10, 2018

We Thought We Were Safe

To keep us safe from the virus, my dad moved us to the farmlands of the eastern shore, away from the crowds of the city.

The researchers called it Konadai, a disease that turned people into mutated monsters. The virus killed thousands. It was said that those infected would come back hungry. I didn’t believe people actually reanimated from the dead and mutated into beasts. It’s not like I ever saw one.

After a year, I got used to our country home and dirt roads. Dad worked on the large sheep farm down the road while mom focused on giving my kid sister and I a proper education. She sucked as a teacher, but at least she tried to make it fun. My little sister, who was only ten years old at the time, loved having mom at the house all the time.

We were Pyro Dancers, people that could use fire magic. The powers were passed through my father’s bloodline so mom didn’t have a clue how to teach us about it. Dad was too busy to offer any advice. Mom didn’t want us using it anyway, saying we’d burn the house down. Since I couldn’t learn how to use my magic, I turned my attention to shooting. Dad kept a few guns in the back shed, claiming they were for hunting. He kept his favorite shotgun behind his bedroom door. I made him promise to take me out into the woods and teach me how to shoot, but he never did. My sister wanted to go too, but mom said guns were for us boys only.

Guns always interested me ever since I saw a group of soldiers in the back of a truck. I wanted to be like them, a hero to the people, protecting civilians from who knows what. If dad ever taught me to shoot or even how to use my fire powers, I could grow up and join the city’s guard.

When mom wasn’t paying much attention, my sister and I would pretend we were soldiers, using sticks as weapons. Somehow, she ended up being in charge. Whatever kept her from crying and tattling was fine with me.

My parents’ possessive fear of us getting sick left them paranoid. My sister and I never had any friends. We would speak to some of the other farm kids but that’s as far as it went. Some of the other boys my age would invite me to hang out, but I usually turned them down. Mom didn’t like me being away from home for too long.

One night, my mother got sick. No one knew where she caught the virus. It's still a mystery. Next thing I knew, I woke up to the sound of my sister screaming. I remember falling asleep while listening to dad in the other room reading her a story for the fourth time.

I threw back the covers with sweat building on my forehead. It could’ve been a bad dream. She had plenty of those since moving from the city. I’ve never heard her scream like that, though.

I crept out of my bedroom. The light in my parents’ room lit up their end of the hallway. They never slept with the lights on. Are they awake? I’m sure they heard the scream, yet neither of them appeared in the doorway. My stomach churned, twisting into knots. A strange feeling nudged at the back of my head telling me not to go into their room, but my feet kept dragging me forward.

After swallowing the lump in my throat, I tiptoed to their bedroom. The stench of blood slapped me in the face. Lying on the floor was my father, drenched in his own blood holding his hand to his mangled neck. He reached out to me with wide eyes, begging for help. I stumbled back, slamming into the doorframe. My heart pounded against my ribs. Each breath cut against my throat like knives. When I tried to hold it, the pain intensified. Helpless, I sat holding my chest, watching him choke on his blood.

Some weird growling sounds grasped my attention. I scrambled to my feet grabbing dad’s shotgun from behind the door. As I ran to my sister’s room, the growling turned to gargling. I stopped outside the door. In the darkness, an odd figure stood lumped over my sister’s bed. Her foot dangled off the side. Every ounce of me told me to run or cry or do something other than stand there shaking. Without thinking, I aimed the shotgun at the dark figure and squeezed the trigger. The kickback knocked me to the floor.

The humanoid thing cried out. Loud speeches echoed through the hall. It spun around flashing its sharp, pointed teeth. A long, thick tongue dripping with drool hangs from its mouth. I spin my head around, trying to find the shotgun. My hand lands on it just as the thing lunged forward, slashing at me. I shot it again before its long claws made contact with my face. I stood up and kicked the beast to make sure it was dead. Black blood oozed onto the hardwood floor. Its dark skin looked almost like rawhide.

The damn thing smelled of rotting flesh. I wondered how it even got in the house, but it didn’t matter. I rushed into my sister’s room hoping she was still alive. Part of me wished she had died before the beast started eating her.

I flipped on the light and almost puked at the scene. Blood soaked her bed. The monster tore off one of her arms while the other arm had chunks chewed out. Her tears mixed with the fresh blood on her face and I wanted to cry with her.

“I don’t know what to do,” I said taking a few steps toward her.

She turned her head toward me revealing a large gash in her neck.

“It hurts…so bad,” she cried.

There wasn’t anything I could do for her. The monster tore her up so bad she may as well had been a pile of ground meat. I brushed blood-stained hair out of her forehead and stepped back toward the door. “I’m sorry, Beth.”

Holding up the gun, I shot out two rounds. This time I was ready for the kick. One hits her in the head, the other dug into the wall.

I rushed back to my parents’ room wondering where mom could be. Did that thing eat her? Was she downstairs bleeding to death? Dad lay on the floor, his dead eyes staring at the ceiling. I remembered the stories about the Konadai virus. If the monsters bit you, you didn’t have long before you turned into one. Held up the shotgun and aimed at my father’s head. With my eyes shut I squeezed the trigger. The gun blast rung in my ears, but it suddenly felt natural. The recoil no longer bothered me.

I slouched against the doorframe with my arms wrapped around the gun. The farmlands were supposed to be safe. That thing took my family. How did that thing get inside?

For the rest of the night, I searched for my mom, not wanting to admit that she was the monster I killed. After searching through the house and around the one-acre property, I couldn’t find any sign of her. I slumped down onto the porch swing with the shotgun at my side. I became numb to it all, but there was no way I could sleep in that house. Not with the smell of my family’s blood ruining the air. Clutching the gun, I started walking. It didn’t matter where. The house, the blood, my dead family, it was all left behind. I had thought to torch the place and watch all my pain go up in flames, but then no one would believe what happened. I’d be an angry kid who murdered his family.

That night should’ve destroyed me, but instead, it gave me power. I vowed to destroy every last one of those things. One lesson was learned, the monsters do exist.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Overall, it's an interesting read. I understood some of the 80s references, but a lot went over my head, sending me on a Google search spree. Personally, I would've been okay without all the 80s nostalgia. The writing wasn't award-worthy itself, but the plot made up for that. I'd say it was a FUN read. I'm giving it 3 stars. My personal opinion as I know a lot of others will and have rated it higher.

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