My eyes snap open at the sound of the sirens. The first thing I see is my living room, washed in a sea of red and blue flashing lights. They’re so bright that they make me wince and close my eyes. Aside from the sirens is the sound of someone wailing. Of people shouting orders.
As I slowly look around to figure out what is happening, my throat throbs with pain. When I attempt to swallow, I cry out at how badly it hurts. A man in white approaches me. A paramedic.
“Miss, you okay?” he asks, flicking on a flashlight and shining it into my eyes.
I cry out again and fling my head to the side to avoid the onslaught of the bright light. Where am I? Slowly I look up. There’s a framed picture way above my head. Sunflowers. The sunflower picture. I’m laying against the wall. From here I can see the side of the couch. Beyond that are a group of police officers.
“Wha—“ I start to ask the man next to me, wincing at how much it hurts to even say that.
“What’s going on?” I finally manage in a hoarse voice. He doesn’t answer and I’m not surprised; he probably can’t even hear me over these sirens, of the wailing, of the officers talking. He starts to check me out and I let him, figuring it’s easier that way. My head slowly swivels back to the group of officers. They separate after a moment and I can’t help gasping.
My mother is suddenly visible, turned in my direction. Her arms are behind her, probably in cuffs. The first thing I notice is the blood all over the front of her nightgown. The sight of it fills me will revulsion. For a moment I can only stare at it. There’s so much. What happened? Dumbly I look down at myself and notice that I’m covered with blood as well. Am I hurt? Aside from my throat, I don’t think so. It’s the only thing that hurts aside from a dull throbbing pain growing at the back of my head.
Mom takes a staggered step forward. Her dark face is wet, as if she’s been crying. Had she been the one wailing? My mouth opens and closes, wanting to know what in the hell is happening. Why is she covered with blood? Why am I covered with it? Where’s Dad? Lyon? Sydney? I attempt to get up but the paramedic puts a restraining but kind hand on my shoulder.
“Just take it easy. Leo’s bringing you a stretcher, okay?”
I don’t need a stretcher. I need to know what’s going on. Where’s my dad? Where’s my siblings? My stomach begins to churn uneasily.
“Why, Darlene? Why?”
I suddenly spot my father standing in the throng of officers, staring at Mom’s back. Mom bites her lip, looks down, and starts crying. I swallow, forgetting my throat, and grimace at the pain. It doesn’t hurt nearly as much as my heart. Dad doesn’t look hurt at all, which means…no. No!
Before I can do anything else, another paramedic, Leo, I’m assuming, comes over with a stretcher. Figuring it’s no use arguing, I let the two men help me onto it. Nothing else seems to be wrong with me at least, though my arms hurt a little. I can see the couch area a lot better now. When I see what’s going on, I suddenly wish I couldn’t.
Between two police officers are two black bagged lumps on the floor. Another officer is sliding a bloody knife into an evidence bag. Blood is splattered all over the beige carpet. There’s a barbie doll and an Ironman figurine laying on the floor among the blood. No. Oh, no.
The paramedic from before tries to make me lay down but I use all my strength to resist him, shaking my head.
“Lyon! Sydney!” I scream, my eyes fixating on the black lumps. Body bags. No. This can’t be happening…this is a nightmare. It has to be. That can’t be them. Not my little brother. Not my little sister. No. I want to wake up now. Now!
Squeezing my eyes shut, I re-open them but I’m still here, on the stretcher. My dad is leaning against the wall with his hands covering his face. His body shakes and the sight of it stuns me. I look back to my mother. She’s staring right at me. A tear zigzags down her face before she looks away.
The energy evaporates from my body and I fall back onto the stretcher. The pair of paramedics say something to one another before rolling me away. I stare up at the ceiling, feeling numb. This isn’t a bad dream. It’s real. I squeeze my eyes shut again, one more attempt to wake up from this horror. Of course I can’t, though; I’m already awake.
The pain in my throat intensifies and I clutch at it. I can feel a tickle in the back but I try to resist it, knowing how much it’s going to hurt. The pressure gets worse and a moment later I begin to cough so hard that it feels like my throat is on fire. The paramedic shoots me a worried look as we emerge outside into the night. I look up at the moon as I continue to cough. It’s full and bright.
Then I’m struggling to breathe, the pain so bad that black dots begin to blur my vision. I can hear the paramedics shouting but I can’t make anything out. I’m loaded into the back of an ambulance and just when I think I’m going to pass out, an oxygen mask is fitted over my face. I breathe in the sweet air and want to cry.
My dad is suddenly beside me and seeing him makes the tears hiding behind my eyes break loose. His face is as pale as flour but his eyes sparkle like he’s been crying too.
“You’re okay, London,” he tells me, gripping my hand tightly. I squeeze back, wanting to speak but the mask prevents that.
“We’ll be okay,” he whispers. I want to believe him but the image of those black lumps flashes back into my memory. I’m not sure I will ever be okay again.