The wind howls through the darkness, caressing the midnight silence which visits Bushkill on this pleasant August evening. Hazy rays of the moonlight shine through the atmosphere, casting a faint visual of what might be and what might not.
The world is grave-silent and asleep except for the whistling and silent songs of gardens and magnificent building illuminating only shady rays on the moist asphalt.
A figure is seen walking fragilely from the end of the long road. It takes brittle steps, dragging one foot behind as it limps further. From a distance, its amber eyes are visible to sight but filled with only faintness.
Christian lies on the bed, his white pajamas covered by a blue blanket up till the top of his chest with his fingers wrapped against them. Sophie stares at him a little longer, wondering if she should call his name or believe he is asleep. She waits a little longer. His eyes lid vibrates slightly but they don't open. She turns and exits the room just as she shut the door behind her.
Christian opens his eyes just as the door closes. He smiles at himself for a job well done. He is not always lucky to trick her into believing he had fallen asleep on his own when in reality, he will sit up all night doing nothing but staring into space, counting stars, acting pirates or thinking about nothing his twelve years old mind should know.
Today, he quickly tosses the blanket off his body, revealing his fullness covered in smoothing fabric.
The wind is sharp and the whistles almost like the howls of wolves in the distant woods. It is a beautiful night, he admits but the sleepless night did not begin today and no matter how much energy he burns a day or how cold the nights are, he never falls asleep until hours past his bedtime.
He stares outside the window, his mind lost in his own childish fantasies. His hand automatically reaches his chin and he only finds himself gazing into the stars when he decides to admire the entirety of the land dimly illuminated by the half-moon.
His heart jumps at the sight of something in the distant dark. He stares deeper, but the image only remains as fuzzy as it had appeared the first time.
His instincts are singing and the words his mind can register are the fright that now brushes through every nerve and invades his skin in the form of goosebumps.
He pulls away from the window, watching as his heart heaves. Up down. Up, down. Up, down.
He closes his eyes, letting what he's seen register in his mind. He is dreaming. He should curl back into his bed and close his eyes. He never saw anything. No. Mom had caught him pretending to be asleep and forced him into sleep. There's nothing in the distant end. He is seeing things.
He takes a fragile step to the bed but curiosity calls. Curiosity reminds him he will not be able to close his eyes for days if he does not see it through. If he does not see what faintly strides through the dark night.
So he turns again. He does not come to full view. He watches the figure move like the zombies from the video game. It was how the Apocalypse begins. First, a single zombie is seen raiding the streets but just as humans think they had it under control, a pack would lash out of a corner, charging towards them. No! Don't think that. Zombies are not real.
He is patient. His heart is killing him but he is patient. He will see it through. He will see the figure. Slowly, it is becoming clearer. He can see the shape out of the dark. It looks like a human. It is human. But zombies are humans that ended up as lab rats and return to revenge so it is too early to judge. If it is human, why are they out at night, walking slowly from the dark?The house. Towards the house.
It is sure it had seen someone for a few seconds. A boy perhaps. It keeps its eyes on the window but no one comes to sight anymore. It walks past a house with its light slightly contributing to that of the moon, a brighter image of the figure is visible. It is human. A girl. Definitely in her late teens. Her eyes are red as flames. Amber. Her gaze is faint and fuzzy like she can only see what is exactly in front of her. Her dress is white, assuming the dirt and unknown substances are cleaned off it.
He is too young to know the answer. The lady needs help; that's what he knows. She pulls her leg, hopping. Her dress. Christian thinks it's a rag. She is either poor or had escaped something brutal. He continues to study her. Continues to scrutinize her. By the time more is visible. He finds the dress is ripped. The gown is supposedly white but now has a mixture of dirt and something. Something is off about it.
His heart already stops heaving and is immediately overshadowed with curiosity. His only thoughts are, who is she? Where is she going? Most importantly, where is she from?
She passes another building, then another block and now, a fully undoubtedly human walks further and further like the force that keeps Christian on this window watching her when he should be in bed is the same force pulling her to take slow and cautious steps forward.
Christian does not think of it. He almost has been too immersed in his curious thought but now she is closer. She had not made turns or, as much as, stop to check where she is headed but just keeps walking—further.
It is when it dawns on him she is just a couple steps away from their gate.
"Mommy!" he screams.
He pulls away from the window this time, not to his bed. "Daddy... Mommy..." he runs out of his room into the corridor, then towards their room. One screams replacing the former. He reaches the door to his parent's room, turns the knob.
"DADDY..." Michael jumps off the bed as the voice of his screaming son shakes him off the peaceful sleep he was previously enjoying. His wife's response is exactly the same. They are seated on the bed, eyes wide open, staring at their fretting son, evidently struggling to say what he had woken them up for. And then...
"There's someone outside...I...I...don't know her but hurry!" Christian finally manages to make some sense, beckoning his parent and almost bouncing off his feet as he gingers for them to make haste.
"What are you talking about?" Michael questions his son but he doesn't take it lightly. His tone shows interest and his question doesn't stop him from pulling his glasses to his eyes and stepping out of the bed to follow his Christian to see what had gotten him worked up that he came barging into their room.
Christian pulls his father who grumpily follows behind to the front door.
"Open it, she is outside, I swear." Michael opens the door. He trusts his son. If he says he saw someone and did run into their room fretting as a result, then it should not hurt to check. It should not hurt even though he is yet to comprehend what Christian has been blabbing about.
The door pulls open and twistedly, Michael's expectation to see the disappointment in his son's eyes when they find nothing is replaced by a "Bloody hell." alongside a "what the fuck" from Sophie.
Their jaws remain on its fallen state as they stare at the familiar yet almost unrecognized girl barely standing in front of them. Michael feels his hands turn cold and sweat suddenly form balls on it and he is for once, unsure whether to dash towards the person or remain still.
The lady staggers for a bit, just as if the wind had increased its momentum. She begins to fall backwards and all barriers freezing Michael's body suddenly let loose and he is running towards her.
She collapses in front of him, her amber eyes fading into its shell as he held her head up.
"Call 911," he screams, his tender eyes brimming with concern and fear as they take a quick scan around, searching for answers he knows he isn't going to get until some goddamn thing is done about the strange girl.
"Call a fucking ambulance, Sophie! Call 911." he looks back at her. He is unsure of what to do. How to carry out a CPR. Is CPR even needed for this? He only holds her hair. Holds her head.
"Call 911" he continues, his fear and apprehension now doing the talking as though he needs to smack her on the ears to help with her hearing.
￼ There's nothing beautiful about hospitals. Not the glittering white tiles from brick to the floor, not the mixture of bright sight of blue and fish tanks or even the flowers set equally outside and in.Christian knows this. Michael knows this. The Browns know this. It is not their first time being here. It is not the first time they walked into a hospital waiting room with their fingers in their mouths and conflicting thoughts jumbling their minds till they totally forget about the fragrance of an expensive hospital with the little antagonizing medical stench.Christian stands by the transparent glass, almost like he is standing too close to the television screen watching a series his mom must have told him a thousand times not to see but this time, it isn't a TV series. It is real this time and even with the fright choked up in him, he also feels the tingling excitement cur
￼Twelve years past since the Browns lost their daughter. Twelve years since she was snatched by men inside a black SUV. Unregistered, fake plate number and totally untraceable but it was not until the sixth year since the Browns stopped to mourn. It was not until the police had told them, upon their money and fame, upon the whole county's interest, it was above their power and as much as they would like to have faith, it was aimless to point at any direction.All private investigators had turned down the case on the first ring and now here they are.Here they are again all over the news and flashes of light capturing their house in its troubling bliss."Why now?" Michael says out loud to nobody. He is alone. He is sitting on the neatly made desk at the centre of his office where there is a swivelling chair behind it and a beautifully designed shelf coate
Sebastian's life a few days ago has been normal and as happy as it can get. He had just celebrated Hope's birthday with his wife and a cake. Their daughter had laughed and played with her father almost all night till she was too tired to even giggle. Every happy moment comes to an abrupt stop. Sebastian knows that. He has learnt to accept it and although the weight sometimes weighs on him, he knows the world is a shitty place with a lot of shitty people.Now, Sebastian is seated in the sitting room of a two-bedroom flat. The television has today's news on it and while the woman goes on and on, skipping scenes that not only features the Browns but also himself, he is lost in the oblivion of thoughts. His eyes are fixed on the woman and his ears are open enough to hear every word she speaks but just as the vision in front of him is fuzzy and unworthy of his attention, his ears automatically lock the voice out. Why the Browns? Why return her after
￼The Browns have lived in peace. At least they have lived in peace away from the crows that now stands outside their home flashing their cameras on every moving thing, looking for a story. If peace is external quietness and clearly surviving through the next day with elegance and pleasing sights, then we can say the Browns had done a great job for a while.Not anymore!Not with reporters clustered around the house. Cameramen flashing their lights and taking videos. Buses parked outside the big mansion and not even the television set can be turned on without news of the Browns popping up.Radio stations all have their eyes on the house, newspapers and magazines.Is Laurel Brown still the same?Brown former princess returns.Sebastia
￼Getting a go-ahead to involve a therapist was not half the process Sebastian remembers it to be. He assumes it is because the whole county is watching but he cares less about why they are more inclined to let the case move fast. He only cares about catching the people that did this. He will not admit to himself that it has suddenly become his new obsession other than the late-night drinks he normally takes before bed.Today he had not had a single word with Maria neither did he kiss his daughter good morning but here he is again, staring at Christian, exactly his daughter's age.“Did you see anybody walking down with her?”“No. I didn't even see her until she got very close. Like I knew there was someone there, or at least, something but I couldn't see it.”“And what time was this again?”“
Sebastian is a man of straight vision but the Browns case is already as foggy as it gets. He knows what he was getting into long before he accepted to handle the case again. He knows he will go down as the Detective who could not crack the most important case of the year and the criminals automatically become public figures. He knows the precinct will be taken for granted and crime rates against the rich will heighten over the years and while all these are facts, he also knows nothing he knows about the case is a fact. For all he knows, he can as easily also say the lady they now see is not Laurel Brown. Figuratively and literally.He had woken up with the whole house to himself and although the awkward quietness around hits him, he is totally unbothered by the whereabouts of his wife. He is seated in the dining room, a laptop carefully placed on the round shiny table and a cup of coffee by his hand. He searches through the prec
￼It is the most comfortable office in the precinct. To be realistic, it is the only office. The rest are just desks filled with piles of papers and files. Sometimes, empty mugs. On a few are desktop computers looking like the first-generation computer and are just about the same on the inside.The office Sebastian now sits in is not his. It is the Chief's and as their discussion has gone on for almost forever, with the Chief replaying everything Sebastian narrates to him and then a call from outside interrupts and again, they start from the beginning.Sebastian is slowly gaining more confidence and reassuring strength, at least, he wishes he is.The window makes half the office and the air conditioner makes about a little percentage, except it is no longer functional.What remains as a tangible part of the office is the swirling ce
￼The wind is gravely quiet and the night is peaceful. Sebastian should be on his bed, wrapping his wife in his arms and reassuring her he loves her but he is somewhere in the middle of the streets, his car piercing through the night and curiosity blazing through every nerve in his body.His gun is carefully sitting beside him as he drives just in front of Wilson Avenue, a few blocks away from the Mansion and the exact point where Laurel resurfaced. He steps down, observing the camera positioned at the rear end of the street. Walking down the street, he observes every building.He hears the bleating of goats and whistling of the wind as they brush against dry leaves. The ground is a sticker and Sebastian is sure he stepped on animal waste. Fuck.He arrives in front of an old house and roof made of palm fronds and striding farther, the blasting of