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Chapter One – And So It Begins …
The signs were clear, the sky turned black and the air became dense, the humidity was sweltering the temperature rose at an exponential rate. Thunder rumbled through the air and lightening swarmed the sky. The storm that was brewing was more fierce than any others that Orlando had experienced before. Anthony and Amelia were barely going to make it home in time to get out of the storm. Traffic had seemed eerily quiet as they entered their neighborhood. No one seemed to be driving yet cars were aligned in the streets. There weren’t any neighbors in their yards and the sense of doom hung overhead as they pulled into their driveway and got out of their car.
“Mom, you home?” Anthony called out as he and his twin sister ran into the house from the garage. The lights in the house were all on and dinner was set out on the counter top.
“Momma you won’t believe what Anthony did!” Amelia shouted while she dropped her purse and jacket on the kitchen table.
“Where do you think they are, mom left us food.” Anthony questioned his sister.
“Who knows maybe they had plans. Let’s just eat and watch a movie.”
His sister wasn’t one for caring about the innate details all she cared about was the end result. Anthony worried about everything. His levels of anxiety had always bothered his parents but they had never found a solution for his tendencies to carry the world on his shoulders.
“She made Dad’s favorite.” The lasagna smelled amazing and both twins were starving, their last meal had been lunch at school around eleven that morning. Six hours later they were ready for a meal.
“Dad came home today from his trip don’t you remember?” Anthony pulled two plates out of the cupboard and set them down on the kitchen table. “Wonder how long he will be staying home this time. It’s like he is always flying away overnight. He promised me the weekend fishing trip so hopefully that means he will be here until Monday.”
“He is a pilot Anthony, what do you expect Dad to do, fly only eight hours a day?” Amelia grabbed the silverware their mom had left on the kitchen island and set them next to the plates her brother had just set out.
“Yes, that’s exactly what I expect.” His response was simple and straight forward.
The eye roll that Amelia gave her brother set him into motion, this had been an ongoing conversation in their household between their parents. Mom wanted their dad home more and their dad wanted their mom to enjoy his high paying salary and to just enjoy life.
“Where are they?” Anthony said while he walked around the living room and dining room. “Mom’s purse is sitting in her chair in the living room, she wouldn’t have left without it.”
Amelia walked toward the hall closet and opened the door, she recognized her father’s brief case. “Anthony! Dad’s brief case is in the closet, he made it home.” Her voice was more of the volume of a scream than a loud comment. Both twins were now frantic and running through the house calling out their parents name.
“I found them!” Anthony yelled from their bedroom closet.
Amelia came running into the room and the second she saw her brother’s face she knew it wasn’t going to end well. Tears began to form in her eyes as she shook her head back and forth. “No, no, Anthony no!” She started to cry and fell to the floor. Her brother crossed the room and wrapped his arms around his sister and pulled her close.
“Their dead I don’t know how.” He had tears running down his face too and they both didn’t move for a while why the news sank into their minds.
“We need to call the police. They had to of been murdered but I didn’t see any blood.”
“Maybe they aren’t dead, did you check for a pulse?” Amelia’s anxiousness picked up as she stood and walked towards the closet.
“No I didn’t touch them” Anthony walked behind her slowly. He watched her kneel beside their mother and place her two fingers along her neck and then his mom’s wrist. He knew she didn’t find a pulse, he was right they were dead.
“Anthony call the police.” His sister’s voice was firm and it set him into motion. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed nine one one.
“Something's wrong.” He said to Amelia. “No one is answering.”
“Doesn’t someone always answer at the police station?” She questioned.
“That’s what I thought. I’m trying again and no one is picking up.”
Amelia had checked their father’s body too for a pulse and once again came up short. “What about Uncle Mack?”
“Good idea, he’s a doctor he can tell us if they were murdered.” He pulled his number up on his cell phone and pressed call. When his voicemail picked up he left a message and then turned off the call. “Left a message. He’s probably in surgery or something.”
“I can’t sit here and let them stay like this.” Amelia said.
“We have to, we can’t move them, the police need to see how they were found.” Anthony walked to his sister and pulled her into a standing position, he had turned her to look at him. “We have to be smart about this, because we can’t be the ones to mess the scene up.”
“Mess the scene up, what are you CSI?” She laughed slightly at the comment, their whole family had teased Anthony about how much he loved crime shows and watched all that he could on television. But right now he was right he knew more about what to expect than she did and Amelia didn’t want to hurt anything that could help.
The two of them walked down the stairwell and into the kitchen. Anthony tried to call the police again but just like before no one answered and something in his gut told him this night was just going to be the first of many long nights.
“What are we going to do?” His sister looked at him with worry in her eyes and fear in her voice.
“We will get through this together. Whatever ‘this’ may be. Okay?”
All she could do was nod at him, which wasn’t much reassurance. “Maybe whoever did this will come back and try to hurt us, should we prepare?”
“I don’t think so, I mean, if they wanted us they could have had us at anytime since we came home. Amelia we’re safe.”
“You don’t know that, I’m going to get Dad’s gun.”
“We don’t have the safe code.” He declared.
“I do, I saw him type it in a long time ago and memorized it.” She stood up and ran off into the den. When she returned to the kitchen she was holding two rifles and a handgun. “Here, you take a rifle.”
“This is a bit over kill don’t you think?” Anthony checked the rifle to make sure there wasn’t anything in the chamber and then placed it on the table top.
“Nope, I am not going to be taken by surprise like Mom and Dad clearly were.”
“Well I hope someone calls me back soon. While you were gone I called Grandpa and left a message with him too.”
“He is going to be crushed, Mom was all he had left.” Amelia loaded her rifle and cocked the bullet into the chamber. “But we will be there for him.”
“It kinda creeps me out that you are so comfortable with Dad’s rifle.”
“He loved to go hunting with me. He wanted you to join us every time we went Anthony.” Her voice lowered as she said that, he would never get the opportunity to hunt with their father now. At sixteen they were orphans and everything that they had going for them in their lives was now altered forever.
Anthony's cell phone went off and both twins jumped. He looked at the name that showed up on the front screen of the phone and he shook his head at Amelia. “Hey Sam, can’t really talk right now.”
“What, what do you mean?” He paused and listened to his friend talk and then responded, “Us too, we just discovered. What is going on were our parents out together do you know?”
“Anthony what’s going on?” Amelia pestered at her brother.
“Sam’s parents are dead too and he can’t get ahold of the police either.”
“How can four people suddenly die at the same time?” Amelia asked rhetorically.
“Sam why don’t you and Sunny come over. We are better off as four instead of two.”
“Four?” Amelia questioned, she had known Sam was an only child.
“His cousin is at his house he was going to babysit her tonight. He doesn’t want a six year old to see his dead parents.”
“Makes sense, tell them we have food.”
Anthony nodded and walked into another room and continued talking to Sam. Amelia stayed in the kitchen and now felt like she had a purpose. She looked around at the food her mother had made and decided she would finish setting the table for their impending guests. They had two guest rooms so Sam and his little cousin could stay in their own rooms. She could do this, she could keep things together.
“Sam will be here with Sunny in five minutes he was going to take his mom’s car and come over.”
“Does he even have a license yet?” She asked her brother.
“I am pretty sure in moment’s like this, those small technicalities don’t exactly matter. Especially when the police aren’t even answering the phone.”
“Good point. I’m scared Anthony.”
“Me to sis, but we will manage. Okay?”
She nodded at her brother and then focused on cutting the lasagna into even squares. She made some lemonade and as her new reality started to sink in tears came to form in her eyes once again. The tears rolled down her cheeks at the same time that the doorbell rang.
“Got it!” Anthony yelled as he ran past the kitchen and into the entryway.
Voices drifted through the downstairs and she couldn’t make out a lot of words but she could detect the sound of a little girl crying. She cleaned her hands off on the towel on the counter and then walked into the room and knelt down in front of Sam’s cousin.
“Hi sweetie, I’m Amelia, you can call me Amy. What’s your name?”
“Sunny.” She said as she wiped her tears off on her sleeve.
“Well Sunny I bet you’re hungry, I have some food in the kitchen do you want to eat?”
She nodded and Amelia looked up at Sam and smiled, “I’ll take care of her, you two talk.”
“Thanks Amy,” Sam said calmly.
“No problem Sam, I got her.”
As the two girls left the room Sam shook his head back and forth and then said, “I can't get ahold of Sunny’s parents. I left messages with them and all of our family members in the ninety mile area. No answers.”
“Man this isn’t good. My sister pulled out two rifles and a handgun she's afraid someone will come back and try to kill us like they did our parents.”
“My folks don’t have any gun shots or stab wound, no blood, nothing looks like they were attacked.”
“Same here, it’s the weirdest thing.”
“What do you think it means?” Sam looked at the rifle on the couch and smiled as he shook his head, “Man your sister is a trip.”
Anthony chuckled and nodded, “She is something else but I think there has to be a logical explanation for this.”
“This rain storm outside is getting scary, there could be power outages if it keeps up all night.”
“Got that covered, our dad instilled solar panels on our roof and a solar generator just in case. So we’re gonna be set.”
“Dang man, like your own little compound.” Sam walked to the chair and sat down. “Thanks for letting us come over.”
“I don’t think we wanted to be alone anyway and Amy does better when she has something to do, Sunny will help take care of that need.”
“Guys you hungry?” Amelia’s voice came from the kitchen.
“We’ll be right in.” Sam responded with.
“I don’t know that I can eat,” Anthony said.
“It isn’t exactly about eating but company, I like your sister and she will help make this easier.”
“Be careful Sam that’s my baby sister.”
“You do know I know you’re only three minutes older than her right?”
“Baby sister is a baby sister, do not hurt her.”
Sam grinned and saluted his friend, “Will do chief.”
The two guys walked into the kitchen to see Amelia and Sunny sitting at the table eating. “Smells good sis.”
“Mom made it so you know it is.” She smiled a half smile at him. “Sunny seems to like it.”
“It’s really good.” Sunny said with a grin.
The two guys grabbed a glass of water and sat down at the table where the two other untouched full plates sat. The four of them ate in silence. No one knew what tomorrow would bring but one thing the four kids knew, they were all going to stick together.
Amelia set Sunny up in the guest room next door to her room. She knew that the little girl was scared and Sam had never seemed like the overly companionate sort of guy. This would give her plenty of things to keep her mind off of her dead parents in the room down the hall, tending to Sunny. Sam had been friends with her and Anthony for almost all their lives, they went to school together since daycare as toddlers. Having another guy in the house made Amelia feel safer, especially since she had her father’s guns.
The only problem was that she was the only one who knew how to really shoot.
Their parents had always joked about preparing for the apocalypse which suddenly didn’t seem like much of a joke at all. Amelia tried calling the police again and just as before there was no answer. Along with her grandfather and Uncle Mack. There was something very strange going on and for whatever reason Amelia knew deep in her gut that life for all of them was never going to be the same again and she didn’t mean just with being orphans.
“Knock knock” Sam said as he walked into her room.
“You all settled in?” She said to him in a low tone.
“Yeah, tomorrow I think I am going to drive out to Sunny’s parents place and grab some of her things and then go back to my place and grab my stuff. Would you mind watching Sunny?”
“No problem, I like her she is a sweet kid.”
“She really is, of all my little cousins she gets my nerves the least, that’s why I don’t mind babysitting her.”
“Were you able to get ahold of anyone in your family yet?”
Sam shook his head, “No, that’s why I don’t want her coming with me when I go get her things in case we find the same situation. What do you think she will need?”
“I’ll make you a list of stuff. But I certainly think we are better as four instead of two and two so let’s call this place home base since we have the guaranteed power source and your house doesn't.”
“Anthony and I already talked about that a bit ago, he is going with me and we’re going to pick up supplies from my house to bring here so we are set for a while until we figure out what’s going on.”
“I think it would be best to leave first thing in the morning, as soon as the sun’s out.”
Sam tilted his head in question, “Why do you think that?”
“’Cause, what if my dad ended up being right and it’s the zombie apocalypse now, you don’t want to be caught out at night do you?”
Sam laughed and shook his head, “Amy, you seriously are just like your dad, always jumping to extremes. But sure I will leave with Anthony right after breakfast.”
“Sleep well Sam.” She smiled at her friend.
“You too Amy, I’ll be two doors down if you get scared.” He winked at her.
Amelia laughed and walked over to him and lightly pushed him out into the hallway, “You’re always nothing but trouble. Goodnight.” After she shut the door she inhaled a deep breath, she was scared but she could never really let that show. People were depending on her now and it was up to her to make sure everyone was taken care of until they all could figure out what was going on.
Her sleep seemed to go well for the first night without her parents, or as well as it could be. She mostly laid in bed and starred up at the ceiling thinking about the last time she saw her mom and dad. How she knew they had loved her but that life would forever be different now. Would Anthony and Sam find the same thing tomorrow at Sunny’s house? Was this why the neighborhood seemed so quiet? What had happened that caused people to die and were the four of them next?
She wanted to dwell on these things but decided sleep would be a better friend. There was a feeling deep in her gut that this disaster was just getting started and each day would be worse than the last for quite some time.
Around three in the morning there was a light knock on her door that jarred Amelia out of her slumber. She saw the door start to open and light shined through the crack.
“Amy I’m scared.” She heard Sunny say in a soft and shaken voice.
“Come in sweetie you can stay with me.”
The little girl ran to the bed in a quick step and Amelia barely had enough time to pull the covers back to welcome the young child in with her.
“I don’t like not being at my house.” She said while looking up at Amelia with tears in her eyes.
“It’s scary I know, but we got to all be brave together Sunny. You have Sam and me and my brother. We will all look out for you.”
“My dad lets me watch The Walking Dead sometimes, is that what is going on outside, are people turning into zombies?”
The question caught Amelia by surprise and it took her a moment to answer it. “God I hope not, my parents are in their room still. I am pretty sure that zombies can’t exist sweetie.”
“But people don’t just die for no reason.” Sunny insisted.
Which was true there was always a reason. “I know but for now let’s just worry about a good nights sleep, that way we can handle whatever comes our way in the morning, alright?”
Sunny nodded and then curled up next to Amelia squeezing in tight to cuddle. The older girl wrapped her arms around the child and held her tight to her body. The action wasn’t just a comfort to Sunny but a comfort to Amelia as well.
“Goodnight kiddo, try to sleep well.”