Resurrection Bay

Page 8


I turned and ran.
“Anika, come back,” Rav called, but I wasn’t turning around. I burst out into the street, and as I ran I could see the truth all around me now, everywhere I looked.
In one window, I saw the mailman dancing in circles with his dead bride, his hands frozen to the wrist and he not caring in the least.
In another window, Mrs. Mason, my English teacher, spoon-fed a baby in a high chair—a baby that had not survived to its first birthday.
And on a porch, a woman I didn’t even know sat in a rocker, gently creaking—but it wasn’t the wood creaking; it was her frozen bones. She waved to me, smiling that “I know you” kind of smile.
I just wanted to get home now, grab my brother, leave this place, and never come back.
I pushed through the gate and fumbled with my keys at the front door, only to find it unlocked.
“Sammy!” I called as I burst in. I could see that Dad wasn’t home yet. He was still off soaring over the glaciers with no idea what was going on in town. I didn’t know where we could go that would be safe, but anywhere was safer than here. We could leave Dad a note and hide up in the woods until he found us. “Sammy, wake up!” But when I went into his room, he wasn’t there. Sammy loved to play hide-and-seek with me; however, this was not the time.
“Samuel Randall Morgan,” I demanded, “you come out right now.” The one thing that always ended hide-and-seek was calling him by his full name. It was always my admission of defeat—proof that he had stumped me. Then he would bound out of his hiding place in victory. But not this time.
And then I began to think, What if they got him? What if one of those things got him? My head was spinning—I was hyperventilating, so I made myself sit at the kitchen table. They’re not zombies, I told myself. They’re not zombies; you said it yourself, Anika. They’re not monsters; they’re just . . . other. After all, Mrs. Carnegie didn’t hurt me. . . . They won’t hurt Sammy. Still, I couldn’t convince myself.
I splashed cold water on my face, trying to slow my racing thoughts. There had to be a logical explanation for Sammy’s absence. He got scared. He watched something on TV that frightened him, and he went over to one of the neighbors. Of course! That’s what happened! It was just a matter of finding out which neighbor’s house he went to, that was all.
I stood up, steadied myself, and went out the front door.
As it turned out, I didn’t have to look far for Sammy. Not far at all.
“Dad’s gonna do a low flyby and wave to us,” I had told Sammy. “Maybe even take us with him to the ice field.”
And then I had left him alone. What do little kids do when they’re left alone? They come up with ideas, and not all of them are good. It would be hard to see a passing helicopter from a bedroom window—but other places might have a better view. A place like the roof, for instance.
Somehow Sammy had climbed onto the roof. I don’t know if he ever saw Dad’s helicopter go by. Maybe he did. Maybe Sammy got so excited, he jumped up and down, waving. Maybe that’s what made him slip.
While I was off with Rav, Sammy had fallen off the roof. But he didn’t break his neck like I was always warning him he would. He didn’t break any bones at all.
I hadn’t seen him when I first ran into the house because I wasn’t looking, but he had never left home. He had been here all along, speared on Dad’s perfect picket fence. Now he lay there limp, his arms and legs dangling. The tip of a single picket stuck through his torn Spider-Man pajamas. The cloth, the fence, everything, stained a horrible, shiny red.
I ran to him screaming, praying that it wasn’t what it looked like—that it was just a trick of the light. “No! No! No!” I wailed. “It’s okay, Sammy; you’re going to be okay.” Even though I knew it just wasn’t true.
I lifted him off the picket and laid him gently on the ground. “Sammy! Sammy!” I howled, as if screaming his name could change things. As if calling him could wake him up—but not even calling him by his full name would bring him out this time. I knew because his eyes were half open and there was nothing in them. I knew because his skin was as chilled as the night. And I knew because when I tried to stanch the flow of blood, it did nothing—because there was no blood spilling from the wound. Because there was no beating heart to pump out that blood. Because my brother—my annoying, awful, sweet, wonderful little brother—was dead. Dead.
I knelt there and cried. This was my fault. Mine, mine, mine. What if I hadn’t left him? What if I had taken him with me? I was my dad now—a ball of “what ifs” wrapped in regret.
How could I tell Dad? Once he found out, it would kill him. It would worse than kill him! My grief was unbearable, but mine would be nothing compared to his. This would destroy him.
It was thinking about my father that brought some clarity to me . . . and then something occurred to me. Something horrible, but at the same time wonderful. Sammy was dead. His spirit had left him, and with all my heart I hoped that he was with our mother and that she was already holding him in her arms, comforting him, and bringing him into the next world.
Yes, Sammy’s soul was gone. . . but his body was still here.
Somewhere far away I heard the beat of helicopter blades. The landing pad was a good mile from here. Once he landed, Dad would have to drive his date back to her hotel. Maybe I had some time.
I went inside, got a sponge and a towel, and washed down the pickets until enough of the blood was gone that it couldn’t be seen in the moonlight. When I was done, I looked to my brother, still there on the yellowing lawn, and took a deep breath, steeling myself for what I was about to do. I knelt down, grabbed him, and lifted him up in my arms. So many times I would carry him as he clung to me, but now he was a dead weight heavier than a boulder.