by Mr. Bean
Does this style work? Going between first and third person. All critiques are welcomed.
It is not the chill in the air that summons the winter season. Many a night I recall being wrapped in a blanket, roasting marshmallow’s by the campfire with my parents. My sister giggling and laughing as we stared up at the late July sky, watching the disappearing act of the lights behind summer leaves as the wind danced through the branches. I long for the comfort of my family and the safety that I felt back then.
Now I sit here, staring out of a dusty window watching the lights again flicker. It is not the leaves that they hide behind today, for the leaves have since fallen to the ground giving way to the true change of seasons. Nor is it the sky I am looking at. I can see through the stands of trees without interruption, perhaps 100 yards. It is there I can see the lights peek out from behind trunks and dance their way to hide behind another. The air is cold, but that is not why I am frozen in place. The flicker of my candle does nothing to warm my senses; I stare silently gripping the tattered blanket tightly, hoping those lights move on. Seconds seem like minutes, minutes like hours. I douse the tiny flame, silencing my shadow that clung to the wall behind me. There are three beams, and they are moving with purpose through the woods. I again hear laughs, but these laughs are not of my darling sister; her blonde pigtails and red ribbons are many years removed. These are deep foreboding laughs and they are coming in my direction.
The darkness of her room envelopes me, yet I feel the breath that hangs in the air will give me away. I slowly move off of the mattress inching away from the window. My only hope is the fence will deter them. Standing in the corner I watch them all approach the chain link, clumsily letting their flashlights scan the backyard as their gazes penetrate to my side. The beams first swung past the abandoned shed that once housed our bikes but now sat empty. The lights are scanning the yard, stopping in the overgrown and dying grass for a moment, then continuing on their path. The men are searching cautiously and quietly, contrary to their approach, and briefly end up on what remained of our old trampoline. The cool air has not stopped the beads of sweat that have begun to form across my forehead. The panic is gripping me and my stomach starts churning as I see Amy through the broken glass, still in those pigtails, bouncing after church in her Sunday best with mom and dad watching from the house. Her smile was amazing and her happiness infectious, her time with us way too short. I can see her carefree and dancing, near moms’ prized flower garden, lush woodlands behind. Amy, a memory bouncing where nothing but a broken, metal frame remains.
The summer before it happened I helped my dad put in a gate so we could have easier access to the woods. The housing association forbid modifying the fence line but in my fathers’ eyes, he bought the fence with the house, and it was his. I recall him telling my mother as he watched Amy staring into the woods from our side of the fence, “No one is going to tell us what we can or cannot do with our property.”
As we cut the chain links and installed the entryway, Amy watched and smiled, anticipating her new world. It was with this new freedom we created the Explorers Club. It was such a simple name that she came up with. But it was more than just a name, it meant so much more.
After breakfast, we would lace up our oldest shoes and stay out there for hours. We searched for treasure, looked for trees to build our fort. Amy would watch the chipmunks play tag amongst the leaves and under logs, always giving them names. We had contests of walking across those same logs seeing who had the better balance. I lost almost every time. After all, is that not what big brothers are for? Once we had our daily fill of the outdoors (we were hungry), along the fence and through the gate we marched, triumphant again, the Explorers Club.
It is that very same gate that the three men just slithered through into my family’s former backyard.
Alex thought he heard voices coming from the wooded area down at the end of the moonlit street. He stopped immediately staring in the direction he was travelling, waiting to see if he heard it again or if the lifeless night was again playing tricks on him. He crouched down slowly, staying close to abandoned Fusion which sat permanently in the street. He planted his right hand onto the cold concrete for balance and the other he reached out for Harley, never moving his locked eyes from the homes ahead. His backpack weighed heavily in this position…… The darkness was almost complete now, the cool day giving way to another cold night. It was when he started moving at night that he realized how shadows toyed with your head or simple noises caused your eyes to dart in all directions. Over time, he learned to slow down or even stop in order to process his surroundings. Allowing time to take in the movements mostly created by the wind, the shadows became just that, shadows. Was it not for Harley, Alex would have chalked this up to another fleeting mind game. Underneath her soft, silky coat he felt her muscles tense and warm, her body nothing but a statue, her gaze fixed on the colonial just up ahead.
“What is it girl? You hear it to?” Alex whispered never removing his eyes from their target.
With that Harley let out a soft, muffled bark as if answering yes. They both watched and waited for a couple minutes before Alex rose up relieving his cramped legs. The silence once again took the night and Alex urged Harley on with his hand. “Our minds are getting the best of us girl. Let’s just see what we can find in some of these homes.”
Harley glanced up towards Alex with a disapproving look as if to say, “Are you serious.”
Alex returned to look with a smile replying in the most unconvincing voice possible, “It’s ok girl, it’s just the wind.” His attempt at reassurance was more for himself than his German Shepherd. “That house there” his finger stretching out off to the left side of the cul-de-sac “let’s take a look inside. After all, with a BMW out front, I’m sure the house has to have something worth our while inside.”
Alex walked through the night with Harley in tow keeping close to anything that may lend itself to hiding behind, more as a habit than an immediate necessity. The house they approached was at one time a beautiful ranch with manicured flower beds and a lush, green lawn. Even in the ashen shadows Alex could tell this house had once been taken care. Beds that once contained flowers now had nothing but overgrown shrubs lining them. Even the weeds had taken over, jutting out between the once level landscape bricks and continuing through to the cracks in the cement. The windows were untouched and the door still looked completely intact. Alex had a good feeling about this neighborhood when he originally scoped it out. The fact this house along with most of the others all seemed untouched gave him hope. Harley must have felt his confidence since her demeanor changed from nervousness to curiosity as she paced forward onto the porch through what once was a white railing which stretched the entire length of the house. Alex considered picking up the wicker chair that was tipped over to have a seat but decided against it. He eyed Harley who seemed rather anxious to get inside. “Ok, ok. Let’s see what we have behind door number 1, shall we girl?”
Her tail gave the answer as his hand reached for storm door. He gripped the dingy brass handle and turned it slowly. Almost as if on cue, the loud screech of metal on metal pierced the cold air. Harleys head spun away from the house while Alex stood frozen in place, shocked from the noise. His immediate thought was to let go of the door and disappear into the shadows. How could he have been so careless as to make that loud of a noise. But this was not his doing, the sound had come from behind the house that stood next door.