Rated PG-13 for violence and a few swears.
The boys are approximately 21 years old.
Ring around the rosie
Pocket full of posie
We all fall down.
CHAPTER 1: IT STARTS
"Eight ball. Corner pocket."
I dismissed Raphael's intentions with a roll of my eyes. "No way. You make that, and I'll go upstairs and get the next round."
Raphael shot me a cocky grin. Leaning his body on the table, I watched him slide the pool cue between his fingers as he lined up the shot. I rarely saw him concentrate on anything so intensely. "Watch and learn Donnie," he quipped, eyes never losing focus on the ceramic ball.
As Casey and I fell silent, the gentle hum of the air conditioner could be heard from the basement storeroom. The tension in the air was almost tangible. Casey's gaze darted from Raphael's hand to the pocket, trying to estimate his chances.
Nothing like a friendly game of pool to send the testosterone level through the roof…
In a sudden outburst of energy, Raphael executed his shot with a perfect blend of power and accuracy. The ball rolled effortlessly into its target.
"Hey Donnie," Raphael mused, whipping the pool cue around his hand, "Grab some pretzels while you're up there."
I heard Casey clear his throat, shaking the bottle he was holding. Only a small amount of liquid swished back and forth in the bottom.
"Don't worry Case." I grumbled. "Is there anything else I can get for your Highnesses?"
"Well, let's see…" Raphael smiled slyly, his mind running through the possibilities. Not waiting for his smart-mouth remark, I jogged toward the stairs, taking them two at a time. The sudden movement made my breath quicken after spending so many sedentary hours in the basement.
The kitchen was dark, the only light coming from the glowing numbers on the microwave. I squinted my eyes, trying to read the time from across the room. 11:48. It was late; I probably should have cut them off two drinks ago. Sighing, I reached for one of the cabinets to begin looking for Raphael's pretzels.
The sound was so soft I almost missed it. Nothing more than a shuffle, a slight scratch coming from the apartment front door. I felt my body freeze, the rush of adrenaline tingling in my finger tips. I stood in absolute silence, waiting for the noise to continue down the hallway.
I tried to suppress the idea that something could be wrong, but my subconscious tugged. It was a warrior instinct, and I'd learned long ago not to ignore it. I felt my heart pounding under my plastron as I crept into the living room, senses on full alert. My hand moved reflexively to the bo strapped on my back.
I positioned myself along the wall, hoping my form would blend into its surface. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I began to make out the fuzzy outlines of Casey's living room furniture. Easing towards the door, I tensed again when I heard another sound. This one was louder; a harsh, rasping noise that seemed to originate in the back of someone's throat. It strengthened, rising in a terrifying crescendo that shook the front door in its frame.
My skin started to crawl.
All at once the door exploded open, thrown backward by the weight of two hulking shadows. Bathed in the yellow light of the hallway, I caught a glimpse of one's face as it stepped into the apartment. It was man – or what was left of a man. One of his eyes was completely missing, the socket filled with a creamy fluid that wept down the side of his cheek. The other eye was pitch black. It contrasted sharply with the paleness of his face, which was punctuated with several red welts. His lower lip drooped away from his mouth, sticky saliva flowing off the end and onto the floor.
It was if something had drained the very essence of the man's soul.
It took only a few seconds for the pair to see me. Limbs swinging wildly, one threw a lamp violently against the wall in a fit of rage. The other rushed directly at me. I had just enough time to let out a startled "Wha-?!?" before I felt my shell slam into the back wall.
Disoriented, I held my bo against the man's throat as he raved and snarled only inches from my face. His breath was hot with the rancid smell of death.
I tried to sweep the man's feet out from under him, but only succeeded in bring us both crashing to the floor. He outweighed me by nearly fifty pounds, and I struggled to breathe as his bulk fell against my chest. His hands fought to pin my arms while his teeth made chomping motions in the air in front of me. I struggled against him as best as I could, panic overtaking me when I recognized that I couldn't move.
Suddenly a scream pierced through the room, an ugly sound that dripped with rage and pain. It was followed with a crunch, and I saw the coffee table collapse as the other figure fell to the ground. His partner whipped his head toward the noise, but it was quickly jerked backwards as a green hand pulled him by the hair. Neck open and exposed, I watched the blade of Raphael's sai slice across the skin, blood splattering around me. The body jerked spastically for a few moments, then went limp. Raphael tossed it to the floor.
My eyes met my brothers, watching him pant with shock and exertion. Raph held only one weapon, and I realized that the other was impaled in the chest of the second body. He must have heard the crash from the basement; I silently thanked God that the alcohol hadn't affected his speed.
"You okay?" Raphael asked me, kneeling by my side. I didn't move. I was still trying to get over the disbelief of what I just saw. The whole attack had lasted less than a minute. Even though they were dead, I couldn't shake the fear that was still radiating through me.
"Yeah," I managed to whisper. I concentrated on my breathing, trying to calm myself.
Raphael offered me a hand, and I allowed him to help me off the floor. The two of us stood, back to back, studying the bodies in front of us.
"Hey Don?" Raphael paused, gaze transfixed on one of the men's faces. "What the hell just happened?"
"Do you mind?" April asked, holding a pillow just above my lap. I shook my head, watching her stretch her legs out and lay down. Her hair tickled my skin as it spilled across the pillow.
The soft glow of the TV lit the room, mixing with the moonlight that streamed in through the window. The volume was up high, probably too high for the late hour. But April insisted, saying that her neighbors always went out on Saturday nights anyway. Plus, she'd added, the true glory of Top Gun could only be appreciated with the loud booming of the airplanes. And Tom Cruise's sexy voice.
I had to admit that I was having trouble concentrating on the movie. Even before she was laying on me, the smell of her perfume kept drawing my attention away from the TV. Feeling her so close to me now was making my breath catch in my throat. I knew I didn't have a chance with her – I would never be considered more than a friend. None of my brothers would. But it didn't change the growing effect that she had on me.
Without warning, everything stopped. The screen went black and the room was consumed by darkness. Even the street lights outside flickered briefly, then turned off.
"Great." April said sarcastically, lifting herself off of my legs. She started feeling her way around the furniture as she moved toward the window.
"Looks like the power's out," she whined. Her forehead was pressed against the glass as she stared out the window.
"What was your first clue?" I joked, watching the curtains billow around her shadowed silhouette. She didn't answer my question, standing in silence for a few moments; then I heard her gasp.
I knew that sound. Fear. I was at her side almost instantly, trying to see what it was that had caught her attention. My eyes probed the street, scanning the shadows for signs of movement. I didn't have to search very long.
A group of people were chasing a woman and a child between the parked cars. The woman held the little boy's hand, jerking him up the curb as she dashed down the sidewalk. Her effort was in vain. The leader of the group caught the boy's shirt, dragging him from his mother's grasp. I watched her stop and turn, just as she was tackled by another two group members. They sat on top of her, pinning her to the pavement.
I couldn't believe what was happening. My eyes were riveted to the scene, like a bad car accident that you couldn't look away from. One of the men had his jaw locked on the child's shoulder, throwing him against the window of a red truck. The mother was still on the ground, the two figures trying to push each other away as they wrestled with her. As I watched, another big group of people poured from the front door of a building across from April's. They fanned out into the moonlit street, trying to decide on a direction to go. While they paused, a long haired woman grabbed the base of a streetlight, shaking it viciously. A feeling of horror spread through me. Another one of them was missing an arm.
What was going on?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
April must have seen it too. She staggered backward, her legs buckling under her. I thought she was fainting, but her breath stayed ragged as I caught her.
"M…Mike…" She whimpered, on the verge of hyperventilating.
I couldn't find my voice to comfort her. Panic was filling my chest as I continued to observe the events outside. The crowd had finally decided on where to run.
Up the front steps of April's apartment building.
Author's note: A little short, but I wanted to see how people would react before I post any more. This is going to turn into sort-of a cross over between the movies "28 Days Later" and "Dawn of the Dead". If you're confused, don't worry – all will be explained (eventually). Take things in context with the title.
While planning this story, I've realized that both movies have significant plot holes, which I think I've come up with reasonings for. You'll just have to work with me. There's been a lot of brainstorming between me and my husband today!
And don't worry Leo fans; he will make a glorified entrance in the second chapter…