When it started, my life had gotten screwed up big time. I had destroyed my relationship with Jenny, my now ex-girlfriend, and then my grades had begun to drop from A's to C's. There were many more things than that, but those were the worst. In short, my life was a mess. Entirely my fault. I'll take responsibility for that. It was my fault, and no one else's.
My mom and twin brother were the only one's trying to get me out of this rut. My friends were clueless, and it was better that way. I didn't want them to worry about me, since it was no big deal, right? I was only almost at the end of the 12th grade with bad grades. No biggy.
The first time I saw it was on a Friday night. I was starting to leave home to go to dinner with a few friends. We were going later, so that the place we were going would be less busy, but now it was dark. In autumn, night always came too fast. The only good thing about it was the fact you could watch movies earlier.
I walked out of my house, slipping my heel into my sleek black sneakers while also zipping up my coat. I had been dawdling a little too long, and would probably be the last one at the restaurant. I would be borrowing my dad's black Prius, too, to get there. I hadn't asked, but why would he need to go somewhere at this point in the night?
Completing both of my tasks, I approach the car, and open the driver's door. Snap. I hear something break around me, and spin around to survey the small road that was my neighborhood. It wasn't much, and there wasn't anything much to see here, not even now. I turn back to the car, shrugging, and then feel gooseflesh pop up on my arms, and a chill go down my spine. It was like someone had had cold fingers, and then just barely dragged them down my spine. I turn slowly this time, and look across the road.
A man stood there, in the shadows of the old shrubs the house has. It had been for sale for the longest time, and no one seemed to want it. My parents and Joe, my twin brother, called it the Shell.
Well, anyways, this man stood in the shadows. He stood stock still, as if that would make me not see him. Yeah right. Target sighted right off the bat. While I couldn't see him clearly, it looked like he was some bald guy wearing black. Like, all black, but his silhouette wasn't baggy. It was sharp, like he was wearing a suit of some sort. Why he would be, I don't know. I wave, and slide into the driver's seat.
Before I leave, I look in the rearview mirror, attempting to look responsible in front of this weird creeper-dude. I find a note tucked into the mirror instead, shoved between the frame of it and the mirror part. I yank it out and look into the mirror. That guy was gone.
I lock the car fast, and then look at the note. It was like printer paper, just folded into fourths. I open it up, laughing. It must be a note from my dad telling me not to take the car out again. Instead, I find some weird symbol written on the paper. Whatever the hell it was, I've no clue. It just looked like some circle with an X drawn over it. I laugh. Must be Joe, trying to psyche me out or something. Halloween was just around the corner, and I had just watched all three Paranormal Activity movies so I could go see the fourth in theaters.
I shove the note in my pocket, and head out to meet me friends.
The next morning, I try to sleep in, but fail miserably. I wake up at eight, feeling groggy from the night before. I didn't exactly drink or anything, but I guess the pasta I had didn't speed up my thought process.
I slide out of bed and pull on a shirt and some pants, probably the ones from last night. Like it mattered. I never exactly put my dirty clothes in the hamper at night, but then, Viola! The same clothes are now my clean ones in the morning! It's not like pants smell that bad after wearing them, either. Unless you like, leak sweat. That'd suck for you.
At the same time, my mom comes into my room, I guess to try to wake me up or something. Joe's room is right across the hall, so why not? I peek around her shoulders to look into his room, and he's not in it. The windows have their curtains open, and his room is as tidy as ever. I look up at my mom, who is still a little taller than me. "Alex," she says. "Make yourself presentable. We're going to meet the Terry's today!"
I let this statement sink in for a moment. "Where the heck would they move into mom? Are you-?" "Talking about the Shell?", she interrupts. "Yes. Now, hurry up. Their moving cars have gotten here late, and they must be famished, not having any food at the moment. I'm making them some pumpkin bars right now. Now hop to it!" Without waiting for a response, the woman I call Mom left.
I figure I should wear something more decent, now that I'll be meeting these Terry people. I switch into clean pants, and a nicer shirt with a collar. It's a plain, dark blue, and has small pocket on the sleeve. I love it. I nab a pair of socks and head for the kitchen, thumping down the stairs and through the living room.
Joe was at the stove, frying eggs with some weird spice. It smelled heavenly, or was that the pumpkin bars? Who cared? I was hungry. I glide across the wooden floor and next to Joe. "Hey, smart brother of mine. Mind if I-?" "Yes, Alex. You can. I ate already. This was for you, you lazy ass." He smiles as he says it. It's some sort of inside joke between the two of us, I guess. "You sissy!", I shout, and slide an arm around his neck, ruffling his hair. We're both laughing now.
After the giggles subside, all I can think of is that weird note. Wasn't it in my pocket? I check, and then pinch myself. It was still in the other pants. I scurry off back to my bedroom, and then go to the hamper to get my pants. I quickly check the pocket I think it's in. Nothing. I check the other pocket. Nothing, again. I swear under my breath.
Hustling back to the kitchen, I ask Alex, whose now taking the pumpkin bars out of the over. My eggs are now on a plate on the counter. "Alex", I say loudly. "Were you the one who put that note in Dad's car?" Setting the pan onto some hot pads, he shakes his head. His brown hair completely matches the same brown of my mom's bars. "If there was a note, it was probably from Dad, but he's still asleep now. Just let him alone." He looks back up at me, the light dancing off his eyelashes. "How about you eat, and then we go over to see the Terry's?"
The eggs were great.
Walking up to the Shell with pumpkin bars in hand, I wasn't too happy with myself. Up close, the Shell looked even worse than it was. Or should I start saying the Terry's house? I'll stick to the Shell.
I have my mom and Alex with me, but as I walk up I feel a little queasy. Whenever I meet new people, I guess I do. I try to shove the feeling down, try to kill it, but it only grows until I feel myself not breathing. I suck air in through my nose, then blow it out my mouth. Alex smiles at me. "Now, now, you're not nervous, are you, Joe?" I snort. "Like hell I am." My mom shoots me a look- she was never fond of our language- and then knocks on the door.
I don't understand why she did that, since workers were going in and out around the house. I see some guy on the inside, not wearing the uniform the other workers seemed to be wearing. He starts walking towards us, and I see he's wearing sweats and some old play t-shirt. Not cool. After me dressing nicely, not cool at all.
My mom smiles and waves. "You must be Mr. Terry! It's nice to meet you. I'm Lucy Summers. We live across the road." Mr. Terry smiles back as he reaches the door. "Don't keep yourselves outside", he rumbles. "Come on in! It's not so clean at the moment, but grab a box and have a seat."
So, we enter. The house is a lot bigger on the inside, I notice, and I look around. Workers are working like worker bees, and all are busy. I see some girl kneeling next to a box, opening it, closing it, and then trying to lift it. My mom must have seen me looking, because she muttered, "Go and help her, Alex. Are you seriously that lazy?" Mr. Terry overhears her and laughs. Holy c-r-a-p. I thought this guy's voice was deep, but he sounded like some wise old wizard. "That's Madison, my daughter. You can help her, if you want, young man." I grin at him, and hold up the pumpkin bars. "I'm Alex, and I'd love to, but I'm currently holding a peace offering."
Mr. Terry smiles, and nods. "Alex. Nice to meet you." He takes the pumpkin bars, and then proceeds to compliment my mom on her cooking, and how he loves pumpkin, etc. I move away as quickly as possible, leaving Joe to listen to Mr. Terry and Mom.
I approach the girl, and about as soon as I open my mouth to greet her, she starts talking. "Hey," she says. "I don't know who the heck you are, but could you help me with this?" She looks up at me. I'm mesmerized by her dark brown eyes, and her straight black hair is like the other side of the spectrum compared to her pale skin. I nod dumbly, not trusting my mouth to make the right words.
I kneel down, and pick up the box, nearly dropping it. As I try to situate it on my knee, I blurt out, "What the hell do you have in this thing?! Rocks?" She smiles a little at me. "Nearly, I guess." She picks up two smaller boxes, and then begins to round a corner in the house, and up some stairs. I try my best to follow her, but by the time I reach the top of the stairs, I'm near exhausted.
I drop the box on the floor of the room Madison has led me to, and then lean against the nearby door. I look at Madison, and she is already unpacking one of the boxes. She does so with really nice accuracy and speed or something, and I noticed she's putting books onto some bookshelf in the room. She pauses and looks at me. "Oh, thanks. Sorry, I had you bring up my hard cover books. They tend to be a bit heavier." She pulls out a few books from the boxes, sliding them into place on the shelf.
I sit up, and begin to open the box I carried up. Sure enough, the books are all hard cover. I slide the box closer to the bookshelf, and then sit next to Madison, putting books on wherever. "So," I say. "Uhm, what books are you into?" She smiles, and then shakes her head. "Everything. Children's, sci-fi, non-fiction, anything, really. You?" I shrug. "Whatever the majority is reading. Have you ever read Lord of the Rings?" She grins. "Only six times! I love the dwarves." I look over at her. She still hasn't looked at me since I moved closer to her. I turn back to my box, and notice a pinkish book. It certainly wasn't hard covered.
I pull it out, and almost open it. I look over at Madison. "Madison, what's this book? It's not a hard covered one." Madison flicks her head in my direction. "What?" Something flashes in her eyes. Was it hostility? Like hell I'd ask her. I repeat myself. "What is this book?" She forces a small smile. "Oh, that piece of shit? That's just some old story I wrote. You can read it. Better yet, keep it. I don't want it." She grabs the last handfuls of books from her boxes, shoves them on to the shelves, and then runs out of the room, past me and down the stairs.
I try to follow, but am too slow. I reach the ground level, and then see my Mom and Joe. Joe turns to me. "Oh, Alex? Are you ready to leave? We were just about to." I nod. "You betcha."
When I get home, it's about eleven. I trudge up the stairs, and try to forget about the two- possibly three – new neighbors across the road. Madison, who was fit to be a supermodel if her creepy mood swings were cut out of the picture, and her giant of a father, who voice would fill the Grand Canyon with no effort at all. I try to forget, but the poking sensation of the small book from Madison keeps me remembering.
I pull the book out of my pocket. I notice now that the book isn't paper back, but has a cover made of leather. It may have been red earlier, but now was more of a pink. I crack open the cover, and look. Nothing. I flip the page and freeze. It's that symbol again, but this time, less neat. It's more splattered, than anything, in a dark brown ink. I think about it for a moment, and then turn the page. If that last page made me freeze, now I was dead from hypothermia.
The page said : You're not going to live much longer.