“Broccoli?” I mutter to myself, gawking at the green thing in front of me. Broccoli may not tickle my fancy, but my mom…she could have a room full of them and never get tired of eating them raw.
I throw a whole bag of them in my cart, glaring at the package with personal grudge. When I was merely twelve years old, I had mocked Aunt Love for being nosy in EVERY matter. Being the female version of Santa Claus she was, she’d never take an insult to herself. Who were we even kidding; she was the Kim Kardarshian, but well, at the end of the day, it was what defined her and it was at the end of the day, my mom had forced fed me a bunch of raw bro- not taking the name, while I cried a waterfall of salty tears.
After shoving half of the listed items into the cart, I move toward the next aisle, throwing a glance towards the clerk napping behind the counter. A smirk tugs at my lips and I begin searching for the leftover items.
The howling wind sends shivers up my spine, causing strands of hair to erect on my arms. It was a bad choice to visit the supermarket during the crazy blizzard. I could’ve waited for the drama to come to a halt if it weren’t for mom and her br- nevermind.
I tug my muffler closer to my face as I watch the starlit sky, the polar-white snow enveloping the ground, the pine trees and the screeching winds rise up in occasions and when they die, a tomb-like silence haunts over the streets. It frightens me. It frightens me to be the only one stuck in the store. Yes, the clerk’s here, but her presence is better left unnoticed.
I drag my cart to the other aisle, already growing bone-tired when I notice a patch of dark red hue on my shirt sleeve. A woman had bumped into me outside the store; blood drenched her t-shirt, concern and horror shone in her almond eyes. I had gripped onto her arms in alarm as she collapsed against me, whispering please into my ear before yanking herself free, dashing and staggering down the white street. She was my neighbour, Ruby.
Faint footsteps invade my ears, snapping me back to reality. I whip my head around, stillness of the aisle greeting me in return. I heave a sigh, mentally cursing at the blizzard for making me think things. If we weren’t in the middle of a loco blizzard, I would’ve been convinced of this place to be a jinx.
“Austin!” I shriek in surprise as hands thump on my shoulders. Leah, the clerk who was way past forty winks a while ago, beams her stupid grin at me which symbolizes she has some favour to ask.
I roll my eyes, “I told you already, Seb is not free this weekend.”
“I know, I just wanted to ask how you’re doin’.”
“I was fine until you asked.” I turn the cart away and toward the counter with Leah bouncing after me like a bunny. “Now hurry up!”
It takes Leah a millennium to get the supplies in the bag. Being the impatient bloke I am, I continue to burn a hole through her petty head, shifting my weight from one hip to the other and tapping my fingers at the surface of the counter desk when a low sound pricks my ears. I focus on the sound, debating if it’s another trick the tranquility of the store is playing on me. In a trice, the cries shoot up, causing me to flinch at the unforeseen escalation.
Without any exchange of words, Leah and I amble toward the suspected source, nearing a pile of huge boxes. Leah throws the lighter boxes on the floor, estimating where the cries could be coming from. The heavier boxes to the bottom are all sealed with tape except one, its flaps bent and closing over each other in vain.
“Holy marmite!” Leah exclaims, eyes fixed on the box in front of her.
“What’s it?” I scoot closer. The sight I witness leaves me nonplussed, the gap in my mouth expanding enough for a toad to fit right in.
“Aww! Don’t cry!” Leah cradles a pale, rosy cheeked baby of around ten months in her arms, swaying and doing all sorts of actions a mother would do to calm her baby down.
A drop slides down my arm and I realize I’ve been shedding tears in silence. I run my sleeve over my eyes as my vision blurs. My heart skips a beat when the gorgeous baby peers at me, it’s ocean-blue eyes sparkling with tears and it smiles at me, three tiny pearl white teeth lined along the bottom gum, dimples forming miniature crates at the right place. But, my heart burns at the mother’s cruel and gruesome audacity.
Leah looks up at me, her eyes red and damp and looks back at the baby, making it giggle with her baby language. A car’s rough screech pulls our attention toward the streets. A black SUV pulls up in front of the supermarket. Two men clad in dark clothes step out and stride towards us, something unsettling striking about their aura.
They enter the store and with a single glance toward us, swagger through the aisles, surveying the empty boxes, the counter and every nook in the store. I clench and unclench my fists, contemplating what I should do at their feral outbursts.
“You, have you seen William? Twelve months old, dimples and blue eyes.” A man points out at Leah, referring to a picture from a phone with the screen cracked. His bloodshot eyes pierce into hers, a weird symbol painting the side of his forehead.
pic from pinterest;))
“No, I haven’t seen him.” She shakes her head. “You will have to pay for the mess you’ve created, you nincompoop!”
Like a shot, the pounding of my heart spirals, reaching my ears, my fingers tremble profusely. I dash outside, leaning against the chill wall. Breathing in and out, I watch rings of fog form and ebb away into the darkness. I squeeze my eyes shut. It’s clear, they’re after the baby and they won’t retreat without getting their hands on the little one.
A man draws his gun out, pointing it at Leah and shouting things which I’m not able to comprehend as my heart beats even louder, the world spinning around me. Fear propels me out of stillness, but I only manage to shift a spot, if only I weren’t a coward.
A deafening crack of thunder fills the room. My head whips to Leah, her head turned away and hands covering her ears in cringe. The man’s gun pointed toward the ceiling, smoke rising from the nozzle in thin wavy lines.
William’s yammers burst out from the storage room, our attention snapping toward the ceiling. Leah looks at me, her bottom lip trembling.
“Get him, Ted.” The man with the stained shirt orders, but before Ted can take a step forward, Leah pounces on them, all three of them collapsing to the ground.
“Run, Austin!” She screams as she wrestles with the men.
What am I waiting for?
I rise up, hurrying inside when Ted growls loudly and bang! I wheeze, clenching my mouth as numbness surges up further through my legs.
The man flips Leah’s limp corpse onto the ground, Ted scoffing and getting up, helping up Riz, if that’s what I heard. Riz’s eyes lock on mine for a brief second before I get on my heels, rushing toward the stairs.
Sorry Leah, I owe you my life.
William still whimpers as I climb up the stairs. My entire nineteen years of life, I’ve been called a coward. Leah had always been an encouraging friend and seeing her sacrifice her life for William has encouraged me even more, to let the world know I am no coward. Not anymore. It’s for William, I am about to give away mine. I clench my hands into tight fists and shoulders upright.
I open the door to the store room, William’s innocent eyes flickering to mine, tears staining his plump cheeks. I gather him in my arms, not sure if I should bring him out in the open. Heading out, I turn off every switch on the switchboard and slink back towards the store room.
Let the game begin for the radges!
The room remains immersed in the murkiness. An icy shudder trickles down my spine; cold, hesitant light streaming through a corner window, casting eerie shadows on the wall.
As I sit in the cramped room, I can’t help but feel eyes on me. The clicking of boots on the floor alerts me. I press my palm against William’s mouth and whisper soft words to him. Riz walks past us, appearing only as a tall shadow as his dark clothes amalgamate with the dim lit room, the patterns of his heavy breathing sinister-like.
“Where are you, boy?” Riz mutters. “You know, you anger me. Trying to meddle with our affairs? We just need William for our little ritual. Afterall, he's witnessed the world for just a few months.”
I watch as Riz nears a stand of windcheaters, searching through it. He straightens up and gives a sharp, weary sigh, his eyes directly where I am situated.
“Kid, do you want me to send a bullet through you like your friend and Ruby?”
A squeak leaves my lips at the mention of Ruby. I knew he had to do something with her.
When the voices subside, the floor devoid of any presence, I get up with William tucked in my arms and descend the stairs in caution. I near the transparent back gate only to find Ted standing right in front and chugging down some liquid from a bottle. I extend an arm out, groping for any sort of wall to make sure I don’t bump into it. Before giving Ted any chance to notice me, I head back upstairs, pain stinging my arms from carrying William for too long.
I press myself against a wall and hold my breath as Riz walks past me, too close to not notice. I crouch and walk toward the attic when a hand grabs my hair, tossing me to the other side. William releases out of my grip, his diaper protecting his delicate buttocks. I throw my hands at Riz, fingers pressing deep into his eyeballs. That’s the only thing I can do to protect William. I shriek as Riz brings his foot down on my ankle, crushing it. I grunt, the torment bringing tears to my eyes. He struggles to get to William when I kick him hard on the jaw. I grab William and limp toward the attic, getting my hands on a sledge hammer in the process.
The attic’s door opens with the inbuilt ladder landing down. I climb up in hurry; place William on a bundle of bubble wrap, smiling as his eyes flicker and shut, a peaceful atmosphere settling around him.
I hiss as my sprained ankle lands on the step with a thud. Riz yanks me down: I land on the floor, my head coming into a harsh contact with it and my hammer slipping away from my hand. His hands wrap around my neck and I struggle to pry his fingers away from my skin. He punches me in the nose and I yell, blood trickling out and going senseless as if it weren’t there in the first place. He gets up and heads toward the ladder. I cough, tracing my fingers along my neck which must have reddened by now. I get up, making sure not to put my weight on my sprained ankle, grab the hammer and advance toward Riz.
The blow on his head comes off really hard, causing me to cringe. He hits the ground, his head swimming in a puddle of blood. I turn around as mismatched and heavy footsteps climb up the stairs. I grip on the hammer with both hands, heading toward the stairs.
Hardly have I taken a step forward, when Ted flashes in from behind the wall and pulls the trigger of his gun. The bullet passes my waist by a nose, considering his as-good-as-dead frame is toxic with alcohol. I bolt and leap onto him, causing us to tumble down the stairs. My hands wrap around the gun before I pull the trigger resulting in William’s cries to rise even more.
I get up, staring at my hands and back at Ted’s bloody torso. I wince as my head throbs with pain. It is at this time, my legs turn into boiled noodles and the world fades out in front of me.
I jolt up, finding myself in white sheets, my head and ankle bandaged.
“Mama!” I turn to my side, William chuckling and playing with the locket of a policewoman.
I smile and my eyes turn to a few people sealing three bags on a stretcher, dragging them into the ambulance.
“I hope you’re alright!” The policewoman with William on her waist says. I nod and glance at William, his dimples tugging at my heart.
“You have no idea how grateful we are. Those men were minacious and they’d been illegally sacrificing hundreds of people for God knows how many decades! We were never able to get our hand on any of them. And no emergency help was available because of the blizzard till morning.”
“Weee!” William squeals and throws his hands at me. I laugh at his adorable squeak. I place him on my lap and meddle with his tiny, cold fingers.
I’m uncertain whether William has a father. But, if it weren’t for broccoli (well, it has now earned its respect), he would’ve never lived to see what surprises life has for him.
a/n: R.I.P. Leah. May her soul rest in peace. She was such a good soul. I shed tears myself when killing her off >_< *wipes away nonexistent tears and blows a perfect dry nose on a tissue paper*