Chapter One: First Night

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So what if he was trying to replace my dead father? I didn't like him. I couldn't explain it. Maybe I was too stubborn to let Randy in. It didn't really matter much anymore. I chose to loathe him, and I just couldn't help pointing out everything wrong with my mother's choice for a companion.

I finish with the blankets and swiftly leave the room, heading upstairs to grab the pillows off all the beds. I want to sleep in my own bed, but my mother won't have it. It makes me seethe that I'll have to listen to Randy's soft snores during the night. It's hard for me to sleep as it is, let alone with others breathing around me. The thought makes me frown as I return to the living room and start dropping pillows onto the mats.

"Quit frowning. You'll get premature wrinkles." My mother lifts her eyebrows as I glare at her. She knows I dislike Randy, but if only she knew how much I hate his guts. I force a smile to get her off my back and choose a mat, one near the window, so I can listen to the movements outside and hopefully warn my family if I hear anything unusual. I don't believe I'll be sleeping much tonight.

"Can I watch some cartoons?" Jeremy takes the mat next to me, and I'm relieved I won't be next to my mother, or Randy for that matter. I give him a genuine smile and turn down my blanket, shoving my legs under it before I fluff up the pillow and stuff it under my head. I stare at Jeremy, who's now gotten the remote from Randy and found his favorite cartoon channel still working. The local stations were the first to go, but some national ones are still broadcasting, and a few are reporting on the same situation happening across the Southwestern United States.

"So how long are we holing up in here?" I close my eyes. I don't want to see the agitation in my mother's face.

"I don't know. We have supplies for a few days, but it all depends on how bad it gets."

A screech echoes through the walls, and we all jump. I'm sitting up now, my heart racing.

"That's really close," I whisper, trying to calculate how near the source of that scream could be.

The TV flickers as the lights waver and then go completely off.

Minutes pass, but no further noises fill the silence. The lights finally flick back on, and Jeremy turns the TV right back on as I lay back down and pull my blanket to my chin. The chills running through me can't be warmed, for my soul feels colder than an iceberg.

"What if they come?" I ask to no one in particular.

My mother sniffs. Jeremy hugs his legs to his chest and stares hard at the cartoons flashing across the screen. Randy keeps drinking.

"I suppose we run. That's the plan." Randy snickers at me and drains the last of the beer in the bottle before placing it gently onto the coffee table. Six are already lined up in a neat row.

"Run where?"

He shrugs, scratching his goatee. His scraggly dark blonde hair shakes as he stretches. He's not ugly, but I don't understand what Mom sees in him. He reeks of alcohol, and the smell wafts about the room in waves, making me turn away from him to stare at the wall, crinkling up my nose.

"Probably as far as we can get from the city. My brother's got a cabin up in Mt. Charleston. We can head there for a while. Less of a chance to run into people."

I have to admit, it isn't a bad plan. "What if we don't make it there?" I can hear my voice crack, but I don't turn away from the solid, tan wall I'm studying. Each chip in the paint looks more and more neglected than ever before. We were supposed to repaint the living room once... what was it? Two or three years ago? That was the plan before my father died.

Plans always change, no matter how hard we try to prevent it.

Randy doesn't care to paint anything. He fixes things up all right, but interior decorating is low on his list of things to do.

"Well, April...." He emphasizes my name enough to make me cringe. "If we don't make it, then we won't have very much to worry about anymore, will we?" He laughs and pops the cap off another beer. It only makes me want to grab it from his hand and fling it at the wall.

***

The night crawls on slowly, and I listen to every tiny noise, every creak of the house shifting around me. I can't rest. I don't think I ever will again. Not after this.

A thought hits me for the first time since I got home today. Sarah. Where is my best friend? I've failed reaching her in spite of leaving voicemail after voicemail. I haven't heard my phone go off all evening. The cell towers are probably all down by now.

I scan the darkened room. Only one lamp is still glowing, set on the step up to the hallway. In the sunken living room, I can hear everyone's breaths softly filling the air with sighs and snores. Hoping to not awaken anyone, I slip my phone out from my purse lying next to my head and flip the screen on. The screen lights up the room like a floodlight, and I squint at its brightness. Adjusting to it as I pull my blanket over my head to keep from waking the others, I check my texts and find none from Sarah. No calls. Not even a viable signal.

Great.

I turn it off and stick it back in my purse. It's useless now, a piece of junk plastic and glass. How am I going to get ahold of her now? Could she be dead? I shudder, hoping that isn't the case. There's no way of knowing if anyone is safe unless they're still in their homes and barricaded in. Sarah's house isn't close enough for me to walk to, and I sure as heck am not going to go there at night, not with those creatures still roaming the streets.

The screeches are more distant now, but occasionally, I hear screaming. That, combined with the nearly constant barking of dogs, makes me want to throw my hands in the air and give up on sleeping for the night. The others are passed out cold. Why can't I knock out as easily as they do?

The night wears on, and the lamp flickers a couple times before morning. I watchit, praying the electricity doesn't give out, hoping the night and its demonsdo not yet win. But the day might bring even more bad news. Will we be able tofight whatever is coming? If we fight, is there any chance we could win?    

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