The first thing I remember when I think back to the first day was the birds. My family and I lived in the top apartment by the San Francisco beach. Our apartment building was towards the outskirts of the city, an abandoned warehouse sitting behind us, just blocking the ocean. Most of the time I climbed out on the fire escape to elude my parents' screaming but I came out to watch the sprawling city. The seagulls tended to chatter around my head, but that one day the air was quiet and still like the hour before a storm. This storm would be one to remember...
"Shayla?" said a small girl, leaning out of the window, "Come back inside." I turned to my sister, shaking my head. "Shayla please, there's something on the television," she begged. Hearing the fear in my five year old sister's voice made me break. I nodded briefly, glancing out at the setting sun and the unusual quiet sky. I climbed inside the window, taking my sister's tiny hand in my own.
"Show me Charlotte," I murmured quietly and she pulled me to the small television set in the room. The news channel was on, strange. I picked up the remote, clicking the buttons a few times but the same program was on the next channel and the next. My mother's shouting slid underneath the door, curling in my mind. I turned up the volume, intent on hearing the bland newscaster for once.
"-strange outbreaks of this... disease have been spreading throughout the world. Many researchers are studying the compounds of this disease but apparently, the cells die as soon as they are removed from the subject. However, we have gotten a report on what this disease in fact does." The newscaster disappeared, replaced with a video clip with a LIVE icon flashing in the corner. Three men in white lab coats were surrounding a table with a young woman. Her eyes were closed, tubes coiling out of her arm and leather restraints were on her legs and arms. One man began addressing the camera.
"This disease travels through the blood cells, circulating quickly," he began before a large shout was heard behind him. The woman's eyes snapped open as she struggled violently. The restraints snapped underneath the immense amount of pressure and she leaped at the two men beside her. She tore out their throats and broke the thirds neck. The cameraman had dropped the camera, fleeing for his life. Out of the corner of the screen you could see the girl snap the cameraman's neck.
Charlotte let out a cry and buried her face in my shoulder. I stroked her dark red hair soothingly, still watching over her shoulder. The clip had ended; it was now back to the newscaster who was looking pale and nauseous. The door opened and my father walked in, staring at the television screen. My father was a tall, thick military man who was often away doing operations that we weren’t allowed to know anything about. The less information we knew, the more riled up my mother got and the fights grew worse. Staring down at me and my hysterical sister, my father gave a small grimace before turning and shutting the door behind him.
“Hush sweetheart. Hush,” I murmured, holding her closely as the television station switched to commercials. “It was just a cruel joke, okay? That wasn’t real. There’s no monster, sweetheart.” My head was still reeling from the footage but my emotions had to be kept under control for now. Once I was able to disentangle from Charlotte and set her up with one of her nonsense cartoon movies, I bent behind the television and unplugged the cable. If there was another broadcast, she wouldn’t be able to see it. Kissing my sister’s forehead and telling her that I’d be back soon, I stood up and walked into the next room, carefully shutting the door behind me.
Crossing my arms and leaning on the granite counter, my gaze focused on the semi-closed door that led to my parents’ room. Their hushed voices were frantic but too soft for me to pick up on anything. Releasing a forced breath, I attempted to calm my quaking hands by gripping the counter tightly. What the hell was that on the news? Distracted by my own thoughts, I jumped slightly as my father touched my shoulder.
My mouth opened to question him about the news, ask whether or not it was real but I could tell by the deep fear seated in his eyes. “It’s nothing,” he said in his deep tone before pulling me into a comforting hug. “You three will be safe, do you understand?” Nodding as he pulled away from me, I paused, catching glimpse of my mother sitting on the side of her bed, her head in her hands.
“You’re leaving again, aren’t you?”
“Only to protect you.”
“You know I can’t say.”
“Then just leave already.” I muttered, stepping away from him, a scowl on my face. Picking up a black suitcase and draping his coat over his arm, my father took one glance at my mother before walking out the door.
After an hour or so, I snagged my green jacket off the table and threw open the door to my mother’s protests. “You can’t go out there!” There wasn’t an update about the city not being safe. So slamming the door in my mother’s face, I stalked down the staircase, a firmly placed grimace on my face.
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