It was Thursday afternoon. Melissa was home alone, as she always was at 3:22 p.m. on a school day. Both her mom and dad worked and never arrived home earlier than 5:45 p.m., and then always her mom. Mr. Kendall usually hit the front door somewhere between 6:30 and 7 p.m. He had a long commute.
Melissa was busily texting away on her new iPhone 6, a birthday present only three days old, grinning widely at the bang she'd just put on a fellow student at Martin Luther King High School. Melissa and her friend Dee Dee were both ninth grader's there, same as the victim of her snarky remark. She liked Adriana, but she was so irritating sometimes.
Deciphered, her text message read: I almost asked, is that a burka? But I wasn't sure she'd know what that was and didn't want to explain it to her, you know?
Dee Dee came back with an LOL, followed by: Burkas are so hot though, aren't they? Maybe we can go shopping for one this weekend?
Grinning to split her face in half, Melissa replied, OMG Yes! Aeropostle has them...
Aeropostle was not a store she or any of her friends would set foot into now.
I do want to go shopping this weekend, Dee Dee wrote.
Melissa replied: Mom might not let me. She is SO bugged out over Monday night. I don't know what the big deal is. So I got a little high. She gets high all the effing time, you know?
Melissa looked up, and then around the room, blinking. What was that noise? Then she heard it again and her naked upper body erupted in gooseflesh, her eyes bugged out and a shudder like an earthquake tore down her spine. Were those footsteps coming up the stairs?
Oh, my God! Oh, my God, she thought, panicking. She was wearing nothing but panties, her bedroom door was wide open, and someone was climbing the stairs to the second level. A sound that scared her even more escaped her throat. She tried to swallow and couldn't. She tried to move, and couldn't. Her stupid nipples were suddenly so hard they effing ached, and again, she made that frightening mewling sound.
"Hello?" She grimaced at how badly her voice cracked. "If there's somebody there, I'm calling the police right now!" Her three-day-old, 15th birthday present slipped from her numb fingers, fell between her bare feet, and bounced backward between her legs. She couldn't stop her frightened yelp of dismay. Then the house shook as though Godzilla had stomped down a huge foot right next door and Melissa screamed in terror, bouncing along with everything else. She landed on her narrow derriere, right atop her new cell phone, and thank God it didn't break. Grabbing it, she convulsively clutched hands and phone to her chest. She was this close to hyperventilating.
"Hello?" she repeated. She listened to the cacophony of car alarms blaring up and down the street. It was actually only three of four alarms, but it was a cacophony to her.
"I swear I have my thumb on 911 right now!" she cried. A lie; she wasn't sure she could even remember her four digit pin right now; she hadn't yet activated the thumbprint reader and had changed her pass-code from the simple 1-2-3-4 she had used with her Android.
Her heart was beating so effing hard. She thought she had peed her panties a little bit too. Struggling off the floor, she crept to the open bedroom doorway and peeked out. Half the framed photos had fallen to the floor during the earthquake-was that what she'd felt, an earthquake?-but no rapist hulked in the empty hallway. Instead of performing the sensible act of putting something on, making that mewling noise again, she tiptoed to the end of the hall and looked down the stairs. No would be rapist sprawled on the steps or at the foot of the stairs, either, so that was good. Not so much, the big crack running up the stairway wall to the ceiling. That was pretty effing scary. Gypsum dusted the carpeting white below the jagged crack, two inches wide in places, exposing the underlying wood studwork, which appeared cracked too. Had something hit the house?
Her iPhone buzzed and she screamed and dropped it on her right foot. This time it bounced all the way down the stairs and out of sight into the dining room. She was close to hyperventilating again, and maybe suffering a heart attack, she thought? "Fuck!" she muttered angrily. Are you intent on breaking your new iPhone? Good luck, getting another.
To her immense relief, the phone continued to buzz down there on the carpet out of sight. She rushed down to retrieve it before Dee Dee hung up. Only it wasn't DeeDee calling, but her mom.
"I'm okay," she assured her frantic mother.
"Are you sure? Is the house okay? Melissa, the building next door to us collapsed!"
Melissa was half-horrified at the news. As horrified as any ninth-grader can be about anything not affecting she or her friends directly.
"I'm fine, Mom, I'm fine. There's a crack in the stairway and whoa ... Jesus Christ," she muttered breathlessly. The house across the street was destroyed like Godzilla had stomped it flat.
"What is it? What is it?" her mother cried. Melissa retreated into the dining room as one of her neighbors-that creepy Mr. Davenport--dashed into sight and stopped in her front yard, gazing frantically around.
"Nothing, Melissa," said hurriedly. "The Renfro's house collapsed, that's all."
"What?" her mom cried.
She crossed her arms and hunched in case creepy Mr. Davenport happened to glance back at the house and spot her through the wide bay window. Her mom continued to bray over the Renfro's destroyed house, but Melissa was less concerned with her mother's dismay (if she even realized it was directed more at her, than the collapsed house) than she was about being spotted almost naked by creepy Mr. Davenport. It never occurred to her to wonder if someone across the street was home, or was injured in the demolished structure; no one her age lived there, after all. But then, she did wonder, displaying a little unexpected maturity. The house shook again, violently.
The car alarms started up again. Melissa hadn't been aware they had tapered off to nothing in the few minutes since the initial quake, but now they were blaring again crazy. God, she hated car alarms! A tremendous cracking noise like maybe a telephone pole had broken in half made her cry out in alarm, and suddenly the power went out. Melissa only knew this because the red, back-up-battery light started flashing on the keypad by the front door. She looked down, and was mostly unsurprised to discover her iPhone had not only dropped the connection to her mom, but also showed the no service icon at top. That meant all the local cell towers had gone down? Was that even possible, she wondered?
"Mom? Are you there?" Mom didn't answer. She tried texting a message to Dee Dee, and that didn't go through either. She was cut-off and alone, mostly naked and paralyzed with fear, in a house that might or might not be ready to collapse around her ears.
Creepy Mr. Davenport turned around and looked directly in through the front window. Melissa froze, becoming part of the furnishings. Mr. Davenport's gaze skipped over her-she made a quailing little squeak of abhorrence-but continued on after only a moment's hesitation to took at the house as a whole, during which time Melissa could have made her escape. Melissa could be polished marble though; she didn't even breathe. Then creepy Mr. Davenport angled across the front yard to the walk and disappeared as he approached and climbed the front steps. A moment later, he knocked loudly on the door.
"Melissa? Are you in there?"
"Nooooo," she moaned. "Go away!"
"Melissa, I know you came home from school! If you hear me, please answer the door or come to a window so I know you're okay!"
Melissa cursed vehemently under her breath. "Go away, you creepazoid!" she muttered. To her horror, the doorknob rattled ... and then the effing front door opened and creepy Mr. Davenport stuck in his head and looked around. He spotted her cowering against the wall behind a skeletal floor lamp that did absolutely nothing to hide her nakedness, and jerked violently at her high-pitched scream. He yanked his head back even as Melissa scurried away into the stairway and back upstairs.
She was so effing humiliated. But she had calmed enough to don a t-shirt and open her bedroom window and call down to her creepazoid neighbor.
"I'm so sorry, Melissa," he apologized for the dozenth time. "I had no idea you'd be downstairs. I thought ... I was just looking ... I didn't mean too..." He took a deep breath and continued. "The important thing is you're okay. Have you talked to your mother?"
Melissa nodded, and then said, "Yes," realizing he couldn't see her. "She's on her way home. Dad too," she added hopefully, knowing that he would be no less worried about her than her mom. It distressed her, how much she wanted them home. She normally wished they were in another state.
Her cell phone rang. Which didn't make sense, as there was still no service per the freaking icon. She answered it anyway, clumsily, almost dropping it again, and scowled at the weird static blaring from the speaker.
"Is that your mom?" Mr. Davenport called up.
She didn't know who, or what it was. The house trembled strongly again and she yelped, dancing away from the window and looking everywhere at once. "Dammit!" she heard Mr. Davenport exclaim from the front yard. Everything on her furniture skittered about, some right off the edges to drop to the floor to bounce and roll around. She looked down, making sure there was nothing sharp underfoot to step on.
"Are these earthquakes?" she shouted out the window.
.... There is more of this story ...