Chapter 17: Screams in the Dark (excerpt)

Michael’s voice came muffled through the thick old wood, “Are you guys all right?”

“Yeah,” Alison called back. “Are you?”

“Besides my head, I think I broke my shin against the stupid bed. Other than that, I’m fine. Let me in.” His knocking sounded urgent.

Olivia hated the lonely feeling of Alison pulling away. She heard her move through the dark. There was a clunk and Alison grunted in pain.

“Now what?” Olivia asked. Her heart felt quick and shaky.

The flashlight came on blinding. “I dropped my stupid phone on my toe.” Alison shined the light down toward her feet. “Aww, man! I chipped my pedicure.”

Michael knocked again.

Stamping angrily toward the bathroom door, Alison’s bare footfalls sounded like someone was punching meat. She slid the bolt. “What do you want?”

Michael stepped in wearing black boxers covered with yellow, skull-shaped happy faces. In one hand he carried a flashlight. In the other hand, he held a fireplace poker like a sword.

Olivia gave a small squeak and ducked under the covers.

“Where did you get that flashlight?” Alison demanded. “Did Penny give you a flashlight?”

“No. I packed it.” His smiled beamed brighter than the light. “Semper paratis.”

“Did you join the Coast Guard or something?” Olivia wasn’t used to Michael quoting Latin sayings.

Michael looked confused. “Huh? It’s from Sharknado. It means always prepared.” Michael shined his light around their room like a detective. “What are you guys doing in here, anyway?”

“Nothing,” Alison sounded annoyed. “Our lamp burned out,” Alison explained. “It just scared us.”

Olivia called from under the covers, “But your underwear is scaring us more.” Olivia peeked out. Alison stood angrily with one hand on her hip, tapping her toes.

“The rule, Michael!” she snapped. “A shirt at all times!”

“Hey, I was just trying to help you,” Michael sounded dejected. “You were screaming.” He turned to leave. “And by the way, you’re in your underwear, too.”

“It’s our room. And we didn’t scream,” Alison said.

“So who did?” Michael stepped back in, bringing the little circle of pale light with him.

“How should I know?” Alison said testily. “Maybe it was a raccoon.”

Michael shook his head and looked at Alison like she was an idiot. “It was definitely a scream. A human scream. And it came from inside.”

“We’re the only ones here, Michael.”

“Didn’t Penny say her niece was here?” Olivia said.

“Yeah. What was her name?” Michael snapped his fingers. “Millie? Michelle?”

“Maggie, genius.” Alison said. “As in Maggie’s Mansion. Don’t act like you don’t know.”

Michael grinned. “The lady also said she was cute.” Michael gave the girls an exaggerated wink. “I’m going to check it out.”

“You’re going to knock on a strange girl’s door in the middle of the night? That’s your plan to get a date?” Alison taunted.

“What are you going to say?” Olivia asked. “Hi, I heard you screaming, so I thought I’d stop by in my underwear?

“I’m not an idiot,” Michael scoffed. “I’m going to put some pants on first.”

“Great plan.” Alison pointed to the door.

“Did it ever occur to you two geniuses that if she was the one who screamed, she might actually need help?”

“From you?” Alison laughed.

“Yes, from me.” Olivia noticed the way Michael’s superhero posture deflated a little.

“Don’t be stupid,” Alison said.

“Maybe we should wake up your parents.” The whole situation was giving Olivia the willies. “How can they even sleep with all this noise?” As she stepped out of bed, she quickly adjusted her nightgown to make sure Michael wasn’t seeing more than he was supposed to.

“My mother has one of those white-noise machines,” Michael explained. “Runs it all night.”

“But the power’s out,” Olivia observed.

“Batteries.” Alison shrugged. “She can’t sleep without it.”

“They haven’t heard a thing.” Michael bobbed his eyebrows like a dare.

“You can’t go, Michael.” It surprised Olivia. Alison sounded genuinely worried about her brother.

“Somebody screamed. We can’t just ignore it,” Michael said, turning to go back to his own room.

“We?” Alison asked.

Michael shrugged his big shoulders, “Do whatever you want. I’m checking it out.”

“What are you, Batman?” Olivia asked, laughing.

“Yes,” he said, faking a gruff, raspy growl. “I’m Batman.”

Tonio Favetta is the author of Falling From the Ground, a Y/A SciFi adventure. He also teaches high school English.

Posted in Falling From the Ground

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