Living in Limbo – prologue

It all started with one person. There must have been someone who started it all or was the first to notice. The first to experience the nightmare. It wasn’t long before other people noticed too. Doctors, nurses, family, friends. It was on the TV and in the media. “Hell on earth” “Alive forever”. The headlines were hilarious. But, there was no humour involved and no pranks to announce. It was real yet unfathomable.

Zale can recall the first story he heard. It was midday and the TV was on. He remembers the rain pattering on the windows as he served up his lunch of leftover pizza. Something he ate all too often with no fear of the obesity he will likely be battling against in later life. It’s strange the things you remember. Zale remembers how good that pizza tasted. He remembers yelling at his little sister for being too loud playing with her ponies. She’s wasn’t too loud, he was just an ass. He resented her. His parents spent most of their time yelling at him for wasting his life. No job, no girl, no house. He spent most of his days looking after his sister while they were at work. It’s baffling how in there late 40’s his parents managed to have another kid. People probably assumed that he was Annie’s dad. Sometimes he felt like it. What would they do if he did get a job anyway? They don’t have the money to pay for childcare. He was helping them by staying home and feeding her the healthy crap that was already prepped in tubs in the fridge. His thoughts were so pronounced and important at the time. Now they are his nightmares, his fear, and his guilt. He was binging on his last mouthful of pizza as he was flicking through the TV when for some reason unbeknown to him, he stopped on the news channel and there it was. The headlines “People not dying” “Riots” Stay in your homes”. He should have paid more attention to it. He should have done something as soon as he saw the news. If he had only packed up their things, headed straight out of town or found somewhere safe and barricaded themselves in. Then they might still be alive. He could have done so much more. If only he had known. Only he didn’t have anything other than a feeling of worthless sorrow for himself and his leftover pizza. As soon as he realized what was happening it was wasted effort to try and change it.

His parents called him Zale, it’s a strong name and means power of the sea. Only Zale has never been able to swim and that day he wasn’t strong. They pulled his little sister out of his grasp and corned his parents. He ran without looking back.

Now he was alone in this hell on earth. 

A boxing day nightmare – sneak peak

Jim is just about to put the pecan filled pastry mass into the oven when the power cuts. “Oh for god’s sake!” He slams the pie onto the nearest counter and fumbles around the kitchen looking for a torch. “What did you boys do now! I swear to god if this is one of your bloody pranks!” Catching his knuckle of on one of the drawer handles, his anger bubbles to thesurface. “Screw this” Reaching his hands out, he guideshimself towards the fruit bowl where he threw the phones. Grabbing both andturning one of them on he flicks on the flashlight and takes a moment toobserve the mess in the kitchen before guiding himself towards the livingroom

“Boys?” The light shines first on the sofas where the boys were sitting. Both sofas are empty, cushions left in disarray. “Ethan? Kyle?! Don’t mess around! Where are ya?” Jim is on high alert reading himself for one of their latest pranks. Something jumping out at him, maybe a pie in the face or a masked man, something along those lines and it wouldn’t be the first time.  The powder cut is a new additionthough

THUD 

The same sound from earlier resonates through the upstairs floorboards but then a second soundcan be heard behind the sofa. A scuffle of sorts. “Kyle, I swear togod if you jump out at me you’re grounded for the rest of yourlife!” Shining the circular circumference of the light on thefloorboards, Jim makes his way around the sofa. He gasps, all most dropping thephone when the cat jumps out from behind the sofa. “God damn it,Sammy” 

With one hand on his chest for reassurance, he looks in each room briefly for any signs of the twins before heading upstairs. The bathroom is straight ahead, he checks it first. Other than a few dirty towels there’s nothing to fret about and no prank forthcoming. Leaving the bathroom, Jim stands in the hallway, angling the phone towards each bedroom door in a decision about which to try first. The main bedroom door is slightly ajar, it’s normally closed so Jim assumes that the boys have set up the prank in there. They may be experts at pranks but they’ve never been good at hiding the evidence. For some reason, a bad feeling settles in Jim’sstomach. Something feels wrong and he can’t pinpoint what it is. 

Suddenly, someone grabs his arm and a hand is placed over his mouth. He is pushed into the hallwaycloset. Falling against the wall he tries to pull the hand away from his mouthbut it keeps a tight grip and grabs the phone out of his hand. 

“Dad be quiet”Kyle whispers into his ear as he turns off the light on the phone and removes his other hand from his father’s stubbly mouth. “There’s someone in the house” 

All most as if on cue, a large shadow walks past the door of the cupboard they’re hiding in. Whistling in an eerily happy tune. Someone who is heavy-footed, dragging their feet. The figure moves away towards the main bedroom and the door is slammed shut. 

“Where’s Ethan? Have you called the police?” 

“I don’t know where he is, he might be with him. I was going to call the police but you have our phones” Remembering the phone. Jim snatches it from Kyle and dials 911. The repetitive beeps he hears indicates he has no signal. 

“OK. Tell me what happened?” 

“I was looking for the cat. Ethan followed me and searched the other room.  That’s when the power cut and I heard it. The sound of the axe scraping along the floor. I thought it might have been Ethan so I tried to find my way to the room but then I saw him, dad.” Kyle stutters and his words crumble under his emotion at his next words. “The guy has a light. It was shining on Ethan laid on the floor. He wasn’t moving dad” Kyles lip trembles. “The guy didn’t see me so I hid” He manages to shutter out in one quick whispered breath.

“OK. I need to go and find your brother. Stay here..”

“No, you can’t leave…” Kyles loud words are abruptly stopped with Jim’s hand over hismouth

“Shhh. I have to. When I give you a sign or even shout, I want you to run and find help.Ok? Don’t wait just run. You need to do this Kyle”

Biting his trembling lip, all he can do is nod. Jim steps into father mode and lays a protective hand on his son. A comforting reassuring where no words need to be said. Recalling the other mobile in his pocket, he reaches out and places the other in Kyle’s hand. Then he slowly opens the door and steps out, making sure to close it quietly behind him. His heart palpitates with anxious fear but he focuses his mind on the task at hand. Thoughts of finding a weapon are the first thoughts to settle. He will need something to fight off the intruder. Standing in the middle of the hallway unguarded and without a weapon. He has to make his mindup quick. Taking a moment to listen out for footsteps or any noise to indicate where the stranger is. When all remains quiet he steps lightly into the bathroom, the closest door to where he stands. In the cupboard is a pair of scissors, warn and dirty but still malleable as a tool of defence. Reaching a hand into his pocket he grabs the phone, the screen still shows the symbol for no signal. Placing it back into his cushioned pocket he holds a tight grip on the scissors and ventures back into the hallway, checking around the corner like a policeman holding a gun. It’s impossible to see through the darkness and Jim doubts is own hearing at his age. Oh, how he is wishing the police were here to help now, or anyone for that matter. He would even accept the help of his rowdy nasty neighbour at this point. Forcefully slowing his elevated breathing he heads towards the main bedroom, hands outstretched to feel his way along the walls, where Kyle recalls he last saw Ethan. Unfortunately, it’s also the room they heard the intruder walking into.