The first sign that something was wrong was how quiet the house was. There were the usual sounds, like the fridge humming to itself and the clock in the hall ticking away the seconds without a care in the world, but it was so eerily still. Like the rest of the world had fallen away from us the moment we walked in through the front door. I glanced at Maxxie; the discomfort I felt was written all over his face too. I wasn’t being paranoid, at least.
Motioning for him to be quiet and stay by the door, I crept through the ground floor of the house, finding nothing out of place. I wanted to call out, but the words stuck in my throat and nothing came out. I didn’t want to go upstairs. I felt sick to my stomach, like whatever was wrong, I’d find it up there.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, trying to filter out some of the tension in my muscles before moving back to the hallway where Maxxie was waiting. He gave me a questioning look, silently asking if I’d found anything. I shook my head. He glanced up the staircase like he was reading my mind.
“Want me to come with you?” he whispered, in spite of the fact that his body language told me he really wanted to stay next to the closest escape from the house. I shook my head, noticing as he visibly relaxed.
When I reached the landing, I felt so stifled, like someone had stuffed invisible cotton wool all around me and turned up the heating.
I could smell it before I could see it. The blood, I mean. Suddenly afraid of what I’d find, I froze. Whatever was waiting for me up here wasn’t good. Scenarios flashed through my mind faster than I could process them, one mangled corpse after another, burglars, rapists, vampires. Maybe it was the intruder’s blood I could smell. Maybe my family were okay. Annie and mum and dad were safe somewhere, waiting for the police. With that thought in mind, I took care not to touch or move anything as I forced myself to creep forward again. One tiny half step at a time.
Cautiously, I poked my head around the door frame of each room as I came to them. Nothing in my room. Nothing in Lucas’ old room. Nothing in Annie’s. A little blood glistened on the railings along the landing; drops, not smears. The bathroom mirror and window were steamed up, like someone had showered recently.
I felt like I was going to throw up. I closed my eyes. I’d come this far; now I had to just find out what had happened. I needed to know. It was getting harder to make myself move. Every step felt like a mile. The smell of blood was getting thicker.
Time had stopped being linear; it slowed and sped up as it pleased. One minute the door to my parent’s room was a million miles away, it could take an age to reach it. The next, I was stood outside it, nudging it open with the toe of my shoe; my heart was in my throat.
A breeze brushed across my shoulder as the door swung inwards; I just about jumped out of my skin. I spun around, but no one was there. When I looked back and saw that the bedroom window was open, I would have laughed, if it wasn’t for the blood. Covering my nose, I shuffled in, forcing myself to look around at...
I frowned. Dropping my hand, I began to search the room. There was a huge dark stain on the floor that squelched under my trainers. But there were no bodies. Nothing. Just the blood.