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Perspective is a funny thing.
At any given moment something horrible is happening in some part of the world, yet most people are able to lead normal lives.
Our world is small. Our perspective, limited. We cannot read every single piece of news and there are not enough reporters to write about every tragedy.
So, we just go about our lives, unaware of the many forces moving around us.
Until they are right in front of us.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
My name is Michael Walker and I lived in the small town of Redfield.
With less than four hundred families, Redfield was the type of town where everyone knew everyone. If not by name, then by sight. Many found it boring. My friends, Rob and Eric, often told me their plans to leave for the city as soon as they graduated.
I had spent the bulk of my sixteen years of life within town limits and I had no complaints. Redfield was damn comfy. Like staying under a blanket on a cold winter day. College could wait forever for all I cared. I was happy right where I was.
What can I say? Routine and I got along well. I liked hanging out with the same people, eating the same food, and sleeping in the same classes. Usually Mr. Wagley’s.
That Saturday was not supposed to be different from any other.
As usual, I woke up after ten. Half asleep, I bumbled my way into the kitchen and grabbed something out of the fridge which I’m almost certain went into my mouth. There may have been a shower involved afterwards. I distinctively remember saying hi to my brown-eyed, brown-haired, dashingly handsome (if I do say so myself) reflection in the mirror at some point.
All in all, a normal Saturday morning.
In hindsight, I should have noticed something was odd the moment I failed to find my mother up and about. I should have, but I didn’t. Instead, I just plopped myself on the couch and turned on the DVD player. I had plenty of movies to watch.
Perhaps, the utter lack of concern towards my mother makes me sound a little callous.
I could say I was absent-minded because my girlfriend, Dana, had recently turned into my ex-girlfriend, but that’d be a lie. It had been a pretty amicable break up all things considered.
I’m just not a morning person. I cannot be expected to keep track of everything that happens during the first two hours after waking up.
My mother was a different story.
I cannot recall a single day where I had managed to wake up before her. From Monday to Friday she was always up by five in the morning. On the weekends, she was usually up by eight, which was still abominably early.
Yet this time, I was up before her.
I was halfway through the first movie when the thought hit me for the first time. I did not give it much importance. After all, mom had come late from work last night. If anyone needed the sleep, it was her. I was not about to ruin her well-earned rest.
Like that, I dismissed the issue and kept on watching.
I was about to hit play on the third movie when the thought to occurred me again. This time I couldn’t dismiss it.
Two extra hours of sleep was all well and good. Four going on five was a good way of messing up your sleep cycle. Besides, if she didn’t wake soon she wouldn’t just miss breakfast but lunch as well.
Neither of us wanted me to cook. You can trust me on that.
I bit my lower lip before putting down the remote and leaving the comfort of my couch.
The things I did for love.
I made my way to mom’s room. Like the rest of our apartment, it was small. A bed, a nightstand, and a small closet took up the bulk of the space, making it hard to walk inside.
Fully buried under the covers, my mom slept curled into a ball. She was so small only the slight movements caused by her breathing identified her as a person as opposed to a particularly bulky pile of bed sheets.
“Hi, Mom! Rise and shine!” I said with excessive cheer, as I walked inside.
For my troubles, I received no answer.
It would have been nice if it had been that easy.
“Hey there,” I said, sitting by her side and gently shaking her shoulder. “It’s late already. Time to wake up.”
I repeated this a couple of times with no results.
I grabbed the covers and pulled to reveal her face. From her, I had gotten my hair and eyes, but not much else. She was small, delicate even, I thought while poking her cheek hoping to get a reaction. You wouldn’t think this was a woman who worked two jobs while raising a kid all by herself.
Honestly, it almost made me feel guilty about having to wake her up.
Grinning a little, I rushed to the kitchen and got a glass of water. It was only fair. She had done this to me several times throughout the years. I couldn’t waste such a rare opportunity.
She would probably ground me for this, I thought while holding the glass above her sleeping face. I would probably deserve it.
I poured it.
At once I leaped back, expecting angry screaming.
I got silence.
Not a shout. Not a yell. No movement other than her breathing.
I frowned and put the now empty glass on the nightstand.
Mom was breathing just fine. I could see that.
She couldn’t have been that tired, could she?
“Come on,” I said, shaking her with more force than necessary. “Joke’s over. You had your fun. It’s getting a little weird now.”
She didn’t react.
Acting on impulse, I reached out and put my fingers on her neck to take her pulse. There was little point in it. She was just fine. I could see that. Hell, she was breathing. She was just sleeping. That was all there was to it. No big deal. Just a deep sleep. That was it. I could see her breathing; so, she was fine.
The feel of her pulse comforted me a lot more than I should have.
I was a heavy sleeper but this was something else.
Maybe, she was really tired.
Like, really, really tired.
Would it be really that weird? She was the breadwinner of the house. The only source of income really, and her work schedule showed it. Having the entire weekend free like this was rare for her. Maybe all the work was crashing down on her. Accumulated exhaustion or something like that.
Maybe it was only that.
Five minutes went by as I sat by her side, trying to think what to do.
That was not exactly a 911 emergency.
Why was I even worrying so much anyway?
She was just asleep. That was fine. People slept. Every day even. Nothing weird about that.
I bit the inside of my cheek.
I didn’t like this.
I didn’t like this one bit.
I… I needed to talk to someone.
I snatched the phone from her nightstand and dialed to call Mr. Wagley. My math teacher was consistently boring, but he was also consistently reliable. I put the phone on my ear and waited to hear his voice.
There was only static.
I leaned away and stared at the phone with furrowed brow.
That was not right.
I hanged and tried again a couple of times. I checked to see if everything was plugged in right then tried again. The result was always the same. Static.
I took a deep breath and left the room to look for my smartphone. Maybe it was the phone company. Maybe something had happened to our phone line. Right. That could be it. It didn’t matter. I had left my phone charging last night. I could use that.
My heart sank the moment I picked it up and saw the screen.
There was no signal. Not even a single, tiny bar. Even the Wi-Fi was down.
I moved around the apartment with my phone held up to see if I could get a better signal to no effect.
With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I went into the living room. I turned on the TV and switched the screen display from DVD to plain regular TV.
The screen showed nothing but static.
I gritted my teeth and flipped through the channels.
Nothing again and again.
What the hell?
Something was wrong with the antenna… and the phone company… and my cell phone company…
Maybe it was just some sort of freak accident!
Yeah! Some sort of weird static messing with all the signals. Or something. Maybe, if I waited things would go back to normal all on their own.
How did the words go? One is an incident. Two is a bizarre coincidence. Three… three is a pattern.
A worrying pattern.
I really needed someone to talk to.
I vacillated for a moment, before grabbing my keys and walking out of the apartment. I didn’t like the idea of leaving mom alone, but I wasn’t spoiled for choices at the moment.
The sooner I could get some help, the sooner things would be okay. I hoped. Besides, it’s not like I was travelling remotely far.
Outside, the bright, summer sun shone on empty streets. I hadn’t minded the lack of noise while sitting in my couch. Now? Not so much. I took a deep breath and walked to the apartment next to mine, Mr. Wyatt’s apartment.
Mr. Wyatt was not quite a friend, but we had said hello to each other enough times to qualify as friendly acquaintances. We even had conversations once or twice. The old man certainly felt comfortable enough with us to ask a favor every now and then.
I rang the doorbell and waited.
After a minute with no reply, I tried again, then two more times with the same results.
I frowned. Was he not in? No. He wasn’t exactly the outdoor type. Especially not in this sun.
Maybe, he just couldn’t hear me?
Regardless, I needed to get in. Tentatively, I reached under the welcome mat. It was kind of a long shot but to my surprise it worked. I snorted as I pulled out a key from under the welcome mat.
They key to Mr. Wyatt’s apartment.
I suppose I shouldn’t complain, but hiding the key under the welcome mat? Really?
Redfield was a quiet, little town but not the quiet. The old man needed a better hiding place. I sighed. Oh well.
I opened the door and walked inside.
Mr. Wyatt’s house smelled like old man and looked the part, which wasn’t to say it was messy or ugly. Not at all.
It was just old.
Clean yet faded. That about summed up the state of the furniture. Someone had gone to great lengths to keep them in shape, but there was only so much one could do when faced with age. The newest thing in the apartment had to be a decade old at least.
Except for the TV.
50 inches. HD. Flat Screen. LED. The old man liked his movies. The few short conversations we had while waiting for the bus taught me that much about him. On Saturdays, he liked to sit on his aged couch and watch his favorites. I could call him a cliché, but as a fellow Saturday couch potato I had no right to throw stones.
However, this Saturday Mr. Wyatt was not in front of the screen. He wasn’t in the living room at all.
“Mr. Wyatt,” I said, raising my voice. “Hello! Is anyone here?”
“My. Wyatt!” I tried again, moving deeper into his apartment. “I tried the doorbell but you wouldn’t answer. I… kinda need your help with something? Hello?”
As I went through the apartment I started to think the place was empty… until I reached Mr. Wyatt’s room.
I found him there and wished I hadn’t.
The sixty-one year old slept peacefully in his bed.