But when he approached the door to Ellie’s apartment, Simon felt God’s deaf ear to his pleas for Alec and Kailey’s safety. The door was cracked open and, as it seemed at his place earlier, he believed this a message from his malevolent puppet masters. He felt the circle close in further as he nudged the door wider, and he debated withdrawing the gun from his pocket but reason reigned. His children could be in the living room playing, watching TV or doing homework and his brandishing a long-barreled pistol upon entry couldn’t be explained. Sorry kids. Those cockroaches at home were really huge. Simon still believed the kids were ok, even as frost spidered across his heart when the fully opened door revealed no one in sight.
Now. Now the gun? No. He needed to remain calm. Simon listened. Still nothing. Ellie lived with her mother and her mom’s intimidatingly-tattooed, yet friendly boyfriend. They were usually home later in the evening, Fox News blaring from the television while the kids were sequestered in Ellie’s upstairs bedroom. Nothing now. Just quiet. Where the Hell were the kids?
That’s when he heard the scream. Outside. It was Kailey. Simon’s nerves caught fire and he sprinted past the stairs into the kitchen and toward the open back door, his hand seizing the gun handle. Reaching the storm door he stopped abruptly, his heart pounding lava blood into his throat and ears. The kids were playing tag outside in the small strip of grass between the apartments and the woods, the descent of day providing enough light to reveal carefree smiles. He breathed as if he’d outrun a freight train, relief spreading through his shaking limbs with a divine coolness that settled him, that reassured him that he’d somehow spun off the wheel; that he’d beaten his scripted karma. That’s when he heard the very light creak of floorboards behind him. Footsteps. From the hall. The hairs on his arms and neck stood as if Death himself blew him a kiss. Simon tightened his grip on the gun and pulled it up further from his pocket. He turned slowly, breath once again held in his aching lungs. (To be continued…)