The door wasn’t locked. In fact, it wasn’t even closed, as Ellen discovered when she kicked it hard with her foot, hoping to get one of the kids to come open it for her. It swung open, creaking eerily, into the empty foyer. The silence that followed was palpable. An apartment where three children live is never silent.
Ellen crossed the foyer cautiously, still carrying the heavily loaded basket of clean, folded clothes. The quiet grew, becoming a living thing that seemed to swallow everything, consuming birdsong, engine noise from the road outside, even the sound of her breath. A sharp gasp at the sight that met her eyes momentarily punctured that bubble of silence.
The living room was a disaster. The desk had been rifled through, papers and knick-knacks scattered about, a lamp knocked over, the TV, the computer and even the wooden box containing her mother’s wedding silver, gone! Wires hung from the wall like mindless tentacles, disconnected from the appliances they served. And, OH GOD! the sturdy body of Jesse, her 9 year old son, was lying half on, half off the couch, his head tilted at an unnatural angle. He seemed shrunken somehow, and his pale skin had a bluish tinge.
In shock, she turned to her right; her daughter, Miriela, aged 11, sprawled on the dining room floor, beneath an overturned chair, blood pooled beneath her head from a hideous gash above her left eye. Farther on, in the hallway, was her youngest, Christopher, hardly more than a baby, perhaps caught in the act of running from his assailant. He lay all askew, crumpled like a marionette dropped by a careless child, one little shoe cast off, resting on it’s side near his body.
As if in a daze, she walked slowly down the hall towards the bedrooms. Christopher almost seemed to twitch as she passed by, but she appeared to be in some altered state, oblivious to the children or to any of her surroundings. Ellen set the basket down on the bed. The silence lengthened.
Then, incredibly, there was the sound of humming, a minor key, no-name tune, and drawers being opened and closed, as the clothes were put away.
From the dining room, came a loud Thud! and a staccato of footsteps. Miriela ran from the room, her face dripping with Vampire Gore.
“Darn it, Chrissy! I TOLD you she’d guess if you didn’t keep perfectly still!”“I did, M’wela! I didn’t move at all, not even a tip of my toe!”
A smaller Thump!, this time from the living room, and here came Jesse yelling, “You did too, Chris! You’re such a baby!”
Before the pummeling started, Ellen peered around the corner from the bedroom door. “It was much better than last year, when y’all put salt in the sugar bowl and sugar in the salt shaker! Though, it was worth something to see your father’s face, when he took a sip of his coffee.” She laughed at the memory. “Now, you children clean up this mess and put those things back where they belong, before Daddy gets home! I swear; I don’t even know how you managed to get Nana’s silver down from the sideboard or carry those heavy things. You are all very lucky nothing got broken!”
Chorus: “Awwwwww, Mom!” The children rumbled together, down the hall towards the bathroom, to wash their faces. Miriela was a genius with make up.
“Safe.....until next April,” Ellen sighed, turning back to the bedroom, to finish putting away the laundry.