“Get down here and study, or else!”
I scoffed. “Or else what old man!” I screamed back.
Voices chatted quietly downstairs before I had my answer. “Or you won’t be leaving this house until school starts back.”
I just laughed to myself as I looked out the window of my room to the school across the road. Soon the deserted elementary school would be filled with young children screaming and running around. Having fun, something you didn’t do in high school. Something I hadn’t done since elementary school. “Like you could stop me from doing anything I liked!” I shouted hoping my voice carried downstairs along with my nonchalance.
More quiet chatter - what’d they have to hide? “Just come downstairs and we can discuss this.”
Discuss this my ass. I got up from my desk and grabbed a light black jacket to put over my white printed singlet. It read “I answer to nobody but me.” It was truer than true, and my favourite shirt. I slipped on a pair of white converse and descended the stairs quickly. I went into the kitchen to find my younger brother Zeke studying at the dining table. He never stood up to our parents, but I wasn’t like him. I wasn’t like any of my younger siblings.
“Where do you think you’re going?” my mother asked me before I could make it to the door.
I turned around slowly. “Away from here before I end up losing my temper,” I answered.
“I don’t think so,” my father spoke up, his deep voice firm. He stood next to my mother in our kitchen, sheets of paper across his workspace in front of him. I couldn’t make out any of the words, but they looked important, and classified. I wondered why.
I smirked. “Try and stop me.” Before they could respond, I was out the door, slamming it in a dramatic fashion. I quickly ran down the concrete stairs and hit the pavement with a ‘thud’. I turned left and headed east towards Alta Plaza Park. They wouldn’t even think to search for me there. They would more than likely go to my friend Ella’s house to search for me. That was where I usually went when we fought.
I was there most nights.
Ella and I had been friends since I started school. Because I was quite smart, I was put up a few grades in elementary school and ended up going to San Francisco Public High School at age nine. The school was a combination of junior and senior high, junior starting at seven, senior starting at ten. I was about to start my last year of school as a fifteen year old with my long time friend. It would be great, except for the fact that I was constantly picked on and had few people I could truly call ‘friend’.
Most of the others in my grade found it particularly annoying that they were outsmarted by someone three years younger than them. I couldn’t help it! It was their fault they couldn’t answer the most simplest equations in math! Or write an essay longer than a thousand words! Or the fact that they couldn’t remember the protons in atoms! It wasn’t my fault I had an iq that surpassed most people.
As I neared the park, I was out of breath and covered in sweat. After all, it was August. The weather in California not exactly the nicest either. With my hands in my pockets, I descended the steps leading to the park and sat down near the bottom. Before I could enjoy the peacefulness of being away from my over controlling parents, my phone rang. The caller id read “Zeke”.
“What’s up little brother?” I asked him nonchalantly.
I could hear his rapid breathing through the phone. “I’m scared.”
I quickly shot up and onto my feet. “What’s going on Zeke?” I asked my twelve year old brother.
There was shouting going on in the background, glass smashing. “Someone’s here. They found us,” he whispered.
My feet automatically started running back home. Unfortunately, it was a good twenty minute run as it took me about forty minutes to get there. “Zeke, calm down. Where are Mum and Dad?” I asked him.
“Downstairs fighting,” he stuttered as quickly as he could.
Thank god. At least they were fighting off the attackers. “Where are you?”
“In your room.”
“Where are Thomas, Ethan, and Maggie?” I asked him next. They were my other younger siblings. Thomas and Ethan were both eight and Maggie was only a year old. They were more important to me than my own parents.
I heard more banging and crashing on the other side of the line. Screams too. “I don’t know. Please, Bel, hurry. I’m scared. I don’t want to die.” He said in between sobs.
My feet moved even faster as I heard sirens in the distance. “You’re not going to die, Zeke. Don’t worry, I’ll be there soon. Just hide under my bed, ok? Remember that little cubby I showed you a few weeks ago? Hide in there,” I instructed him. I was starting to get out of breath. I was running as fast as I could, my heart hammering away. My legs were getting sore, but I was halfway there. I’d make it in time. I had to.
“It’s too small. I can’t fit,” he whispered.
“Zeke, listen to me. You have to get in there now,” I ordered him firmly. He needed to hide. I couldn’t lose him. Not again.
“Ok-” the line went dead.
I swore before I stopped running and checked my phone. I wasn’t out of charge. Something had just happened to him. I had to get there. Now!
I sprinted faster than I had ever before. I needed to see if my family was ok. My feet hit the concrete pavement hard as I just ran. Zeke needed to be ok. He was ok. There was no other option. He just had to be alive.
My brain ran through numerous scenarios about what might have happened, but I only came back to one result. He was dead. But still, I wouldn’t accept it. Zeke needed to be ok, everyone needed to be ok.
As I reached the house, there were about three things out of place. The first were the half a dozen cop cars and two ambulances on the side of the road. The next was the crowd of people gathered on the footpath. I could hear their chatter, but didn’t pay attention.
Before I got any closer I felt ‘something off’ about the house. It felt like there was something still wrong in there. Something not supposed to be there. Instead of dashing through the crowd, I walked over to the school adjacent and waited for about an hour. It worked, whatever I felt left and I approached my house.
“You can’t go in there kid. It’s a murder scene.” A tall, white, female officer tried to stop me.
“That’s my house. I live there,” I said, pushing past her. I didn’t wait for her response as I entered my house. The first thing that assaulted me was the smell. It smelt of death, blood, and other things no one wanted to have assaulted their nose. There was blood staining the wooden floors near the kitchen. The chairs by the dining table were all across the open area in the dining room. I followed the chaos to the kitchen where I found a body lying under a white sheet. Well, what used to be a white sheet.
I walked back out and into the lounge, following a trail of blood and dirt. In there next to the cream furniture was another blood soaked sheet covering another body. This one was the same size as the other one so I assumed both my parents were dead. I didn’t know whether to be sad or relieved. I checked the rest of the first floor and made my way slowly upstairs.
I didn’t notice the cop following me until they ran into me at the top of the stairs. I didn’t care either way though. The destruction kept on to the twins room. In there I found all their books on their shelves thrown onto the ground. The toys that covered their floor were stained red. I found two smaller red sheets in there. Both of them were dead too.
I went into the nursery next. Nothing in there was too out of place. Everything was as it should have been. Books on shelves, clothes in drawers, toys in their place. Everything except the blood trail on the ground leading to the crib. In there was another body.
I continued on, trying to keep my emotions hidden. I didn’t need these people following me, see me break down in tears. That could wait until I held Zeke safely in my arms. I glanced in Zeke’s room to find it completely unaffected by the fight. I made my way to my room and found the door kicked down.
Everything’s fine. That means nothing. I tried convincing myself while trying to keep my breathing under control. I was failing.
I looked around and saw that my bed was in it’s rightful place, no sheet on the ground. That meant he had to be alright, right? I moved the bed away and saw that the little hidey hole I had kept secret for years was slightly open. The piece of loose wood wasn’t fully in place.
I leaned down and shifted the wood to reveal my getaway. In there was Zeke, lifeless and unmoving. I couldn’t see his chest moving. I bent down and checked his pulse. There wasn’t one.
I heard the officers behind me call in another death, but I just ignored them. I collapsed onto the ground on my knees, tears now streaming down my face. I pulled my brother’s lifeless body out of the hole and held him in my arms.
“You’re ok Zeke. You’ll be ok. I’ll bring you back, don’t worry. Just give me a few seconds,” I whispered to myself. Nothing happened.
“Come on Zeke, this isn’t funny! Come back to me!” I screamed, holding him tightly in my chest. I held onto him for the longest time, just crying to him. I had loved my siblings, all of them, but Zeke and I were the closest. He was like my best friend. He was everything to me. Now, he was gone.
I just cried to his dead body as officers tried to get some details out of me. They could wait. I had failed my brother. I promised him I would keep him safe, and I didn’t. It was my fault they were dead. It was always my fault. He was never coming back, none of them were, and my life would be a shit ton more dangerous now. After all, who leaves the last one standing?