“Grandpa!” A woman burst from the door, “Put that gun down!” She pushed the gun away angrily. She stepped between us and Gramps.
“Step away, Nellie. They’z gotta know.”
“Go inside... NOW!” Gramps thought about arguing, but changed his mind. He went without another word.
She turned and gave a super-model smile. The wind played with her long black hair. She brushed her dark strands away from her sunglasses. “Come on in.” She led us inside the gas station. Everything was off. It looked like nothing was working. But why was the gas station shut down in the middle of the day?
“Sorry about Grandpa. He’s been reading those horror books again. I tell him to stop, but he just won’t listen.” She still wore her sunglasses. Strange since it was so dark in here. Dad couldn’t take his eyes off her. She was younger than he was, but not young enough that he couldn’t notice.
“Your sign still says closed,” was all Dad could say to her.
“Grandpa always forgets.” She went and turned the sign around. A wind rattled the door.
“So you’re the new guy? My name’s Nellie.” She held out her hand. She had the longest nails. Even Dad looked at them before he shook her hand.
“Nice to meet you. This is my son Liam.”
“Hello, Liam.” She smiled, but not at me, still looking at Dad, who couldn’t keep his eyes off her. She reached in her pocket and pulled out something that she gave to Dad.
“Here’s the key to your apartment. It’s around the back and up the stairs.”
“Thanks,” Dad said, taking the key. Dad watched her disappear into the back room.
“How come nothing is on in here?” I said looking at the popcorn machine, which had nothing in it. I liked popcorn… a lot. My tummy growled in disappointment.
“It’s Wednesday. Things probably pick up on the weekend. Let’s go see our new home.” Dad led the way outside. We drove the car around the back of the building. The apartment was high above us like a bird’s nest. I hate heights. I froze at the bottom of the stairs.
“What’s the problem?” Dad was already part way up the creaky stairs. He stopped at one of the steps that was loose and looked back.
“It’s so high.” I wasn’t sure I could make it.
“I know it’s not perfect. But it is free. When I get going on the job, we’ll find a better place.” I took a deep breath and started up after him. If I knew what had been waiting for me, I never would have gone up.
“Something is scratching at the door,” Dad said stopping. I was almost to the top.
“Maybe...” I panted, “...you shouldn’t...” Before I could get all the words out, Dad opened the door.
He screamed, “What the...?!”
A huge, scrowling hairball burst from the door. “GRRRRRRR”! And knocked Dad to the side. It plowed right into me.
All I saw was fur. And horrible screeching. And THUMP! That’s all. That’s it. I was gone. Just a sharp pain in my shoulder and Dad shouting, “Somebody get a doctor!”