Nia knew that life was taking a terrible turn, but she didn't know just how terrible until her best friend disappeared like all the others. What's more, why was she hearing all those voices in her head?
Every one hundred years, a force comes to the little town of Vanport and takes the residents away, Nia thought as she remembered her history lesson. Disappearances increase and anxieties swell, sending waves of panic over the whole town and its people. Even so, Nia did not quite understand how her life could have taken such a dramatic turn. It was difficult to say when it all began, but she knew that it must have begun after the start of this New Year. People disappeared one after another, without a trace. No bodies were found and no evidence led the police to where anyone vanished. The force plagued nearly every family already. There were only a few families left, and day by day the numbers slowly dwindled. Several of her friends were missing. Only one of her friends from her group remained. And every day Nia waited to hear about her disappearance and stayed up late at night, waiting by the phone for Mariah’s call. Mariah called every night at midnight to assure Nia that she was still alive and well in the comfort of her own home and so Mariah would know the same about Nia.
But now, in the darkness of her room, with the consistent tick-tock of the clock in the hallway, she watched her digital clock change to 12:01. Maybe she fell asleep, Nia thought, trying to calm her concern. Maybe her phone died. Maybe her mom is talking to her. Maybe she had to feed the cat.
Another minute passed, and then another, both clocks mocking Nia together. Tick-tock, Mariah’s gone. Tick-tock, Mariah’s dead.
Nia sat up in her bed as the clock struck 12:04. The realization that she may be the last one left hit her with a force that plopped her back down on her bed and brought tears to her eyes. Mariah. Nia dialed her number, but she received Mariah’s answering machine. She tried again. No answer.
12:05. She waited long enough. Nia wiped the tears from her eyes and shuffled out of bed, putting on her jacket. Opening the window as quietly as possible, she crawled out and made the tiny jump from the window to the ground. The chill of the evening wind blew past her face as she began to run through the overbearing grass of her backyard.
As she ran, however, she heard screams. Distant screams of all different pitches and decibel levels. Male screams, female screams.
“Let me out, let me out!” they shouted. “Oh, God, please!” The faint sound of whispered prayers scattered itself amidst the shrill shrieks.
She had heard the voices before, and it had started indistinct and quiet. Now, she could hear their exact words, causing her head to throb with every step she took. Nia kept running despite the screaming.
When she made it to Mariah’s house, she rushed to her window and peered inside. The room was pitch dark, and she couldn’t make out anyone or anything on the bed. She called Mariah’s phone again, hoping that if it was in the house, it would illuminate the room. It did, but the room was void of her presence.
“Hi, this is Mariah’s phone. Leave a message.”
“Mariah…where are you? Please…you’re not in your room and your phone is just sitting there. Where are you…Mariah?” Nia fell to the ground below her. All of her friends were gone and may never come home. She tasted her own tears as they fell down her face, still on the line with Mariah’s answering machine.
Suddenly, Nia heard Mariah’s voice, “Nia? Nia? Oh my God, get me out of here!” and then a scream.