2nd Place – Jan. 2018

Please Don’t Wear Red Tonight

by Alice Marion, 1500 words

 

I turned the key in the lock and opened the door. To my horror, someone or something had vandalized my home. Broken furniture and ripped clothing cluttered the foyer. My hands shook as I flipped a wall switch. The lights didn’t work.

“Kevin? Are you home?” My sixteen-year-old son didn’t answer.

The living room was a black abyss, too dark for my eyes to adjust. I dared not enter. The shaft of light from the streetlamp that normally illuminated the area had vanished. Whoever ransacked the house had drawn the curtains. I would need a light.

Feeling with my feet, I found my way along the hallway to the kitchen. A crunching noise beneath my shoes followed by a strong scent of chocolate made my heart sink. Somehow the two pounds of M&Ms I’d just bought had been scattered on the floor.

Retrieving the flashlight from the utility draw, I shined the light and discovered I’d mashed dozens of bite-sized candies into chocolate pizzas. Blue, green, and yellow bits of colored enamel mixed with brown sullied the white tile. Red was missing. Someone had eaten the red pieces.

An opened ketchup bottle perched on the edge of the granite counter drooled its contents down the front of the light ash cabinets. The tomato-vinegar vapors tickled my nose. A thick river of red viscous sauce still flowed from its mouth.

The hamster’s cage was vacant and I could swear I smelled blood. No beady eyes glittered from my light. The whir from the exercise wheel was silent. Shavings littered the floor in front of the unlatched door. A rodent’s tail hung over its threshold. Our brown and white pet was missing.

The musky scent of V8 juice drew me to the refrigerator. An empty plastic bottle lay on the floor holding the door ajar. The light was out. No electricity. Inside the refrigeration compartment, the food wore spatters of orange-red juice.  What remained of the 5-pound roast I was thawing for dinner marinated in blood and V8. The vandal had taken large bites from all sides, including mouth-shaped chunks from the Styrofoam tray and plastic wrap.

Nearly dropping the flashlight, I collapsed into a kitchen chair.

Fumbling with my phone, I punched Sam’s number. “Can you get home right away? Someone’s vandalized our house and Kevin’s missing.”

“What do you mean Kevin’s missing?”

“I called for him when the foyer lights didn’t work, but he didn’t respond.”

“And the lights don’t work?” He groaned.

“The house is pitch black. I’m afraid to go upstairs alone. You should see the downstairs.” My voice quivered.

“Call nine-one-one and sit tight. I’m on my way.” Sam disconnected.

I dialed 911.

“Nine-one-one, what is your emergency?”

“Someone has vandalized my home and cut the power.” I gave her my address.

“We’ll send a car right over. Stay on the line with me until they get there.”

“No. I’ll be fine. My husband’s on his way.” I wasn’t fine, but I didn’t want to talk to a dispatcher so I disconnected. The phone rang immediately, but I let it go to voicemail. It was the dispatcher.

Sam arrived in less than ten minutes. I handed him the flashlight when he entered.

“Jesus. It looks like a bomb went off.” He shook his head as he surveyed the downstairs. “Let’s check the bedrooms. Maybe Kevin’s wearing his earbuds and didn’t hear the commotion.”

My gut knotted. “But wouldn’t he have notice the electrical failure.”

“Not necessarily, unless his laptop battery needed charging.”

We climbed the stairs, Sam first then me clinging to his belt. My leg muscles quivered. Shredded clothes littered the upstairs hallway. Sam poked his head into our bedroom and the guest bedroom. He found more of the same.

“Whoever did this was looking for something,” Sam said.

My knees buckled when we reached Kevin’s bedroom at the end of the hall. “I’m not sure I can do this.”

“Okay. You wait here. I’ll check first.” Sam opened Kevin’s door. “What the hell!”

“What is it?” I squeeze out the words.

“Kevin’s not here, but you’ve got to see this.”

Kevin’s cave was never neat, but…  “What in God’s name did this?”

His bed was covered with tiny red rat’s nests. All that remained of his knit long johns was one leg and the crotch. His Texas A&M pennant lay next to the window with its maroon edges chewed off. An empty Red Bull sat on his nightstand.

I examined the aluminum can. “Look at this.”

The red bull logo had scratches through it.

As Sam reached for the can, someone pounded the front door.

“What’s that?” The hair lifted on my neck.

“Easy Rae, it’s probably the police. You go.”

“Who is it?” I shouted from the stairs.

“Dallas Police,” an officer announced.

They entered waving a large spotlight. “Holy cow. Ma’am, are you alright?”

I nodded.

“Wait until you see the kitchen.” Sam said as he joined us in the foyer and handed me the light.

“This way.” He guided the officers around the downstairs, pausing at the hamster cage and returning to the foyer.

The officer with the light flashed a beam up the stairs. “How about up there?”

“More of the same. Our son should be home, but we can’t find him.” Sam’s voice dropped. “He’s sixteen.”

“Was he supposed to be home?” an officer asked.

“He had a date, but promised to be home an hour ago.”

We followed as the police inspected the upstairs bedrooms, including Kevin’s cave.

“It looks like a red-seeking bomb went off,” an officer observed.

“What do you mean?” Sam looked at me.

“Well, everything destroyed was red.”

Until the police officer’s observation, I hadn’t noticed the color selection; except for the missing red M&Ms. Our intruder had a vendetta against crimson. Then I remembered the teeth marks on the roast. “They were eating everything red.”

The three men stared at me.

Thump. Thump.

“What was that?” I clutched Sam’s arm.

An officer shined his light toward Kevin’s room. “It came from in there.”

“Maybe it’s Kevin.” I bulled past the officer into my son’s room.

Thump.

“It’s coming from the closet.” The ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign wiggled on the doorknob. “In there.” I illuminated the sign.

Sam opened the door and bumped into a mirror blocking the entrance. A message scribbled with scarlet lipstick covered the surface. “Play ‘Yes, It Is.’ by the Beatles and think of forks.”

“What’s does that mean?” An officer snapped a picture.

“Kevin. Are you in there?” I tugged the mirror, moving it enough to look inside.

“No. No. Don’t come in.” Kevin whimpered. “Follow the instructions on the mirror.”

“Sam, quick find the song.”

Sam pulled out his phone and started searching.

“Let’s get the kid out of the closet,” an officer said.

Kevin must have heard him. A stifled scream emanated from deep inside closet.

“Oh God, Kevin. What’s wrong” I leaned against the doorframe and directed the beam of light into a far corner. A lump in a sleeping bag writhed and thumped. “Kevin, is that you?”

“Oh…” the squirming mass moaned. “Uh huh.”

He’d zipped himself inside, head and all. “Kevin, please come out.”

“No. No. No.”

His determined tone scared me.

“I’ve got it.” Sam played the song.

Please don’t wear red tonight. Remember what I said tonight…”

            “And think of forks…” I repeated.

“What do forks have to do with wearing red?” Sam asked.

It hit me. I went to the closet. “Kevin, did you keep your date after school today?”

“Yes.” Kevin’s voice was barely audible.

“With whom?” I suspected, but I wanted him to tell me.

“Aprl Cllen.” The sleeping bag muffled the words.

“April Cullen?” I asked.

“Uh huh.”

“The new girl from Seattle?” Sam raised his eyebrows.

“Uh huh.”

“Are they that weird family that bought the Thompson house?” an officer asked.

I nodded then whispered into the closet. “What happened on your date?”

“A lot. Oh…” He moaned.

“Kevin, Why remember a fork?” I was pretty sure I knew, but I ask anyways.

“Not a fork. Forks,” he choked.

“Like Forks, Washington?”

“Uh huh.”

The refrain from the song played again. “Please don’t wear red tonight. Remember what I said tonight…”

I leaned into the closet once more. “Were you necking with April?”

“Uh huh.”

“Are you a newborn?”

“Uh huh.” He hissed and snarled. Then I heard the sound of ripping cloth.

Sweat ran down my back as I frantically dragged Kevin’s desk to barricade the closet. “Have you guys seen the Twilight movies?”

“About vampires and werewolves?” Sam’s eyes widened.

I pulled Kevin’s dresser to the barrier. It caught on the rug and nearly tipped over.

“What are you saying?” Sam helped push.

“Remember what your parents said during a frightening scene in a film?”

The men froze.

“Don’t be afraid, it’s only a movie.”

The men gaped.

“Forget what they said. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Run for your life!”

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