My heart was pounding to relive it in my waking world, and I sat back exhausted. I realized I’d been holding my breath for a while and my hands trembled. My stomach growled angrily, and I saw that it was almost lunchtime. I was wondering what to do about food, being alone and having no idea where my family was, when the phone rang. Tripping over my own feet and other objects that seemed to have purposely moved to the middle of the floor, I hurried to catch it before it stopped.
“Hello, this is the O’Meern residence. How may I help you?”
A scratchy and strange-sounding voice answered. “You don’t know me. You never will. They’re gaining on you. Watch your back, 518. You’re next.”
“I’m sorry, who is this?”
The tone echoed on the walls, filling the room with a most hollow and unholy sound. I jumped at the click of the doorknob and the rustling of leaves. The suddenly ominous door swung open dramatically, hitting the wall behind it. Light flooded my vision, and I saw five towering silhouettes engulf the doorway. My knees were on the edge of collapsing.
“Good morning, Sweetheart.”
In stepped my father carrying bouncing, black-haired Umala in his bulky arms and my mother holding Ashlee and hauling a long skinny package that was strapped to her back. Ashlee hopped down, somewhat precariously, from Mom’s arms, and ran to me for a hug. As Mom and Dad set down their other cargo, she whispered into my ear, “We gotta have a meeting after lunch, okay? It’s real important.”
I nodded slightly to show I understood, and she released me to go and help with Umala. Rising rather imbalanced, I futilely tried to clear my head from the whirlwind of questions whizzing around. Ashlee carried Umala to her high chair as Mom set the package down by the island. “Did you have a nice quiet morning, Honey?” Mom asked gently as she walked around me to get a glass of water.
“Um, yeah, I guess. Where were you guys?”
“Just doing some errands. Paperwork fun,” she grimaced. Something else lurked behind that sarcastic smile, but I knew I’d have to find out from a different source.
“Oh, okay. So what is that, exactly?” I inquired, pointing at the tube she’d brought in.
“It’s a set of maps of the city, for Dad,” Mom replied, brushing her sweaty bangs back from her eyes.
“Wait, why would he need maps of the—”
“It’s work stuff, Honey. I can’t tell you about it.” Dad had jumped in. He gave me one of those I’m-glad-you’re-curious-but-if-I-tell-you-then-we-all-go-to-jail looks.
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