By the time Aris and Billy had woken up, evening had come and his parents would be home soon. Aris had not thought about what day it was until Billy’s parents came home.
“I bet you two are excited you only have to go to school for four days this week, huh?” Billy’s father smiled at them, not noticing the worried looks.
Aris faked a smile. “Yeah.” Four days. Tomorrow was the last day of school, which meant that today was…Wednesday. The one day a week her parents made time to see her.
Billy’s dad left the room, and Aris turned to her friend. “Wednesday.”
“What?” Billy was confused.
“That’s today.” Aris began to shake a little.
“What do you…oh.” Billy realized what Aris was talking about. He always forgot family night.
Aris walked away a few steps. “How am I going to face them?”
“You can’t. Just tell them something came up. You have to study for your last finals. Something, anything.” Billy did not want her alone with them.
Aris shook her head. “No, I have to go. I don’t want them to think anything is different.”
“But Aris, if they are doing this, then they know something is different.”
“T-then maybe I can figure something more out.” Aris wiped a stray tear from her eye.
“How? By asking them if they injected you with something that makes you attack things in the dark?”
Aris looked at the ground. “I don’t know, but it’ll be fine. They wouldn’t do anything now. I’ll call you tonight.” She picked up her backpack by the door and left.
With Billy’s words still echoing in her ear, Aris wondered how should could face her parents. She hoped that he was wrong, but if she was honest with herself, she knew it made the most sense. Her parents did experiments on everything they could, including herself more often than not. She wanted to believe that they would never do anything to jeopardize her life, but there was no telling how far they would go for an experiment.
Aris composed herself before opening the door and greeting her parents. They were in the kitchen like always looking for something to cook for dinner. Aris stood at the door frozen; her parents smiled acting normal as if nothing was going on. Maybe Billy was wrong about them being the cause of her problem.
Margret looked at her daughter. “Aren’t you going to come and help with dinner?”
Aris only stared.
“Everything okay, honey?” Robert had the refrigerator door open.
Aris blinked back a couple of tears and walked into the kitchen. “Yeah, sorry, just tired from finals and everything.”
“Were they very difficult today?” Margret smiled.
“Um, yeah.” Aris tried to smile back, but her lips could not curve upward.
“Well at least tomorrow is the last day, then you have the whole summer to sleep.” Robert laughed a little.
“Yeah, can’t wait.” Aris grabbed the dishes to set the table.
During dinner Aris attempted to probe her parents for information about what they were working on, but they did not give any clues to help figure out what they were up to.
Aris took a bite of the chicken parmesan her parents made. She used to love it, but now that she craved something else, normal food did not taste good anymore. “So have you guys been really busy at work?”
“Oh we always keep busy, lots to do.” Margret wiped her mouth with a napkin.
Aris nodded. “You ever find out what attacked Miss. Fluffkins?”
“Ah,” Robert’s eyebrows perked up. “It appears to be some type of wild dog; big too.”
For the rest of dinner Aris picked at her food. She could not wait to go upstairs and get away from her parents. Once she finished she put her plate in the sink, and turned to head to her room.
“Well I have a lot of studying to do tonight, so I think I’m going to go ahead and get started on that.”
Margret patted Aris on the arm. “Alright, maybe next week we’ll go see a movie to celebrate the start of summer vacation, yes?”
Aris tried her best to fake a smile. “Sounds great.”
She headed up the stairs almost running. If her parents did do this to her, they were masters at hiding it. She thought about what her mom said. Would she ever go see a movie again? A dark theater populated by a mass of people. They would all be trapped there, and Aris would become the monster craving their flesh. A normal life seemed further and further out of reach, but Aris hoped that somehow soon she could figure out a cure, and go back to being a boring, normal teenage girl.
She knew Billy would want to know how things went, so Aris picked up her cell phone and gave him a call.
“Hey Aris, everything go okay?”
“I don’t know. I guess. It was just like any other time.”
“So you didn’t find out anything then?”
Aris looked out her window. “No, if they had something do with this, then they’re good at covering it up. I know it makes sense, but I’m not so sure they would have done it.”
“Well, let’s hope you’re right, but I still think we should know for sure.”
“Yeah, we’ll try to get into the basement tomorrow, and settle this.”
“Okay, see you in the morning.”
“Bye.” Aris hung up the phone and got out her books to try and study. That did not last long though because she could not stay focused on one sentence.
Even with the lights on Aris did not manage to get any sleep that night. All she could think about were the shadows creeping in from outside, making her turn into something else; though that something else was beginning to become her normal. Around two in the morning Aris’ stomach began to growl. She had not really eaten much since the night of the incident. Aris got up and headed downstairs to go raid the kitchen, turning on the lights as she went. Just reaching into the darkness for the light switch was enough for Aris to think back to her time in total darkness. It almost felt like a craving.
Once in the kitchen Aris perused the cabinets with no luck for her appetite. She moved onto the fridge where she found a steak left from dinner a few nights before. It was soft and pink, sitting in a pool of watery blood. Aris could not take her eyes off it; she grabbed it out of the fridge and sniffed it. It was no Miss. Fluffkins, but it would do.
Aris tore into the meat and did not stop until she had swallowed every last bite. After the steak was consumed Aris stared at the empty container that once held the meat. She had just devoured it like chocolate cake. That scared her a little. Aris threw away the container and headed back up to her room. She lied down and shut her eyes hoping to get a bit of sleep in before school the next day.
Sleep did not happen, but Aris did feel a little more rested. She got up and got ready for school, glad the last day had finally arrived, but also upset that her only distraction would disappear. Not to mention her plan after school to find a way into the basement. Her parents were already gone, to her relief, so Aris headed out to the front steps and waited for Billy. She closed her eyes and let the morning sun soak into her skin. She wished sitting in the light could somehow take everything away, but the sun almost felt cold now. Her eyes leaned towards the shadows from the tall trees around her, Aris craved the darkness. Soon enough Billy showed up and Aris slung her backpack over her shoulder.
“Hey.” Aris jumped down the steps and walked next to Billy.
“Sleep last night?”
Aris shook her head.
“What’d you do all night?”
“Tried studying, but then…” She thought about how hungry she got in the middle of the night, and what she found to eat.
Billy looked at her. “Then?”
“Then I couldn’t quit thinking about all this, so I gave up on that, tried sleeping, but just laid there.”
Billy nodded. That was enough to get him to not ask questions.
When they got to school, the two headed to Science where they had a free period since they had already presented their projects. In the middle of class however, the principal came over the intercom.
“Sorry for the interruptions during finals, but it would appear that your classmate Simon Edwards has been missing since Monday morning. If anyone has any information regarding Mr. Edwards and his whereabouts, please come to the office before the end of school. That is all, thank you.”
Aris and Billy both looked at each other while talk began to fill the room.
“Probably ran away.” One of the more snobby girls scoffed and her friends agreed.
Aris leaned in. “You think they’re right, that he ran?”
Billy shrugged. “Maybe, wouldn’t be surprised to be honest, he hates his house, and school, just thought he’d mention something.”
“Seems like I’m not the only one who’s falling apart.”
Billy nodded and changed the subject. “So where should we look for the key to the basement?”
“Not sure, we’ve checked the house before, and we’ve already established we can’t pick locks.” Aris smiled a bit.
“Yeah, how long did we work on that?”
Billy smiled at the memory. “Well, it’s got to be somewhere right?”
“That it does.”
After what seemed like a very long last day of school, Aris and Billy walked to Aris’ house trying to figure out a way into the basement. It was the only way they could get answers. When they approached Aris’ driveway, they saw her parent’s car. Billy stopped.
“What about their car?” Billy turned to Aris.
“You think they keep a spare key in there?”
“Why not? They keep stuff from work there, and they are constantly going back and forth.”
Aris nodded and pulled on the handle. “It’s unlocked. Keep watch.”
Aris opened the driver’s side door and began to look through the middle compartment, there was not much in there, so she leaned over and opened the glove box. There were papers in there, mints, a tape measure, and a couple other random things. Aris reached her hand to the back of the box and felt something metal. A ring of keys. Their house key was on it as well as a few others. Aris carefully shut the car door and held up the keys to Billy.
“You think it’s on here?”
Billy looked at the shiny keys in Aris’ hand. “It’s worth a shot.”
Aris put the keys in her pocket and turned towards the door. “We’ll wait till they leave again and try.”
The two sat in the living room watching TV until Aris’ parents said they were going to the lab across town to work. As soon as the car pulled out of the driveway, Billy launched off the couch and looked out the window. Aris went to the basement door and started trying the keys. Once Billy was sure the Walkers were gone he joined Aris by the door.
“Find the key?”
Aris looked at the lock on the door and at the keys in her hand. “This one looks close.” She put the key in the lock and turned it. The door opened.
Billy watched Aris push the door open, but not take a step. “What are you waiting for?”
“Our entire lives we’ve wondered what’s been down there, and now that we’re about to find out, I’m not so sure I want to know.”
“Aris, we have to go down there, it may be the only answer.”
“I know, but if they did this to their own daughter…what else could they be capable of?” Aris’ hands shook.
Billy did not know what to say. She was right, God only knew what kind of weird things Aris’ parents were up to. He went ahead of her and flipped on the lights. Aris followed, not looking forward to what could be down there.