GENRE: YA Fantasy
Something was terribly wrong. Mum rubbed at her neck and glanced up at the wall clock. She did it all during dinner. Lines creased my dad’s forehead ever since we sat to eat. He never frowned.
“So,” I said, “what will it be tonight?”
“Is it a Saturday?” Mum asked, her lip twitching.
“Yes,” I replied and stared down at my empty plate, avoiding my reflection in the glass dining table. On the first Saturday of every month, all three of us sat in the lounge, watched a movie, and ate popcorn together. Mum exchanged a quick glance with my dad and I frowned a little. Even the lingering scents of saffron and garlic, though my favourite, emphasised how wrong everything was. They normally cooked a barbeque.
“I think we forgot to pick up a movie from the video store,” Dad said. “Sorry Aisling.” I suppressed my sigh and feigned a smile. Never had they forgotten before, not in the six years since the tradition started.
I dropped my knife and fork together on my plate with a loud clatter. Mum’s leaf green eyes darted in my direction and she exhaled heavily. She never startled that easily before. Even dad shot me a quick glance.
“Can we play a board game instead?” I asked. Again, both of them exchanged looks, their eyes looked haunted. My stomached contracted into a tight ball.
Mum gave a short nod. “Sure honey. Why don’t you go grab one and we’ll clear the table.”
“Great,” I said and forced a smile. All the bedrooms were up on the second floor, the collection of board games sat on a shelf in the spare room.
Even though I knew something bothered my parents, I started up the staircase regardless. I only got to the third step when the power went out.
Instinctively I gripped the stair rail and took a deep breath. There was no storm, no rain, and no sound of a substation exploding.
“Mum? Dad?” I called out, and reached out until my other hand hit the wall. I didn’t hear their response, and I couldn’t hear them moving in the kitchen. Repeatedly in my mind, I kept telling myself it was ok, the power would come back on in a second. I heard my jaw pop and stopped biting the inside of my cheek.
“Have you guys found the torches? Candles, even?” I called again, and silence met me. Keeping one hand on the rail and the other flat against the wall I slowly felt around with my left leg. It connected with solid ground and I took a step backward. When I went to repeat the process, my foot encountered something, instead of air.
I swallowed a lump in my throat. “Mum? Dad?” No response but warm breath tickled the back of my neck. Goosebumps prickled down my arms. My eyes hadn’t adjusted to the darkness and my flight response kicked in. I tried to sprint up the stairs, only to kick a step and stumble.