Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sweet Sleep Chapter 2

Connected: To be joined or linked together. Having the parts or elements logically linked together presenting a thoroughly connected view of the problem.

Kevin stood at the window waving as his father’s car pulled out of their driveway. He’d done this for nearly a dozen years. He started picking at the slivered wood around the window frame with his fingernails. The blue paint was peeling and weathered. He got a sliver of it under his nail and cursed, “Son of a…” He dug the shard of out with his teeth. Blood seeped from where the paint chip had pierced his flesh. Kevin stuck his finger in his mouth and sucked on it for a second. “Works better than a bandage,” he said aloud and quickly turned to check for witnesses. Every time he talked to himself someone always appeared out of nowhere and made a smart assed remark. No…he was completely alone in his room. It was time to relax.
     Kevin sprawled on his bed, with his arms behind his neck. Very funny, he thought as he spotted the alterations Kayn made to the sexy poster above his bed of Megan Fox in a smoking hot pose. His shenanigan loving friend had given her a jiffy marker moustache. That’s why she was laughing so hard when she came back from the bathroom. It was a stroke of evil genius on her part. He’d allow her to have her moment. He stared at his ceiling, shaking his head. She was so weird.

     The day he met the Brighton twins had always stood out in his memory as truly magical. He had been playing in the park with his mother and brother. It was only a few days before kindergarten. A woman had given him a flower and told him a story about it. When she was done, she’d pointed at two identical little girls and suggested he tell them about the flower. He remembered walking over to the little blonde girls. He laid down in the grass close by. They were quietly watching bumble bees. He was intrigued by their unusual behaviour. In the end, he had stuck the flower in Kayn’s shoe, and just like that their friendship had begun.
     In school, the twins wore matching sundresses. They looked like little blonde angels with freckles and glistening shiny ringlets of curls. However, the Brighton twins were not cute identical, they were disturbing identical. They would respond to questions at the same time and often they’d even be thirsty or need to go to the bathroom at the same time. He could easily recall his kindergarten teacher’s frustration with their in-sync questions and answers. No matter how hard she’d try to help them socialize with the other children, they’d just play together like no other children were even in the room. They were different in some ways, even then. Chloe never had a hair out of place where Kayn was all grins, grass stains, and mud. He smiled at the friendly one a lot because Kayn smiled back, and he remembered wondering if she still had that flower in her shoe. He suspected that he would also have to become her sister’s friend if he wanted to play with her, so he set out on a mission to win over Chloe Brighton. It was a mission that had never ended. That day during lunchtime the girls had been lying in the grass looking intently at a patch of clovers.
     Kevin walked over, sat down beside them, and said, “What are you doing?”
     Kayn glared at him and whispered, “Shhh, quiet, you will scare them all away…we are petting the bees.”
     Even at the tender age of five Kevin knew petting bees was a buck crazy idea. “Bees can sting you; it really hurts a lot. Believe me, I know.” Kevin exclaimed in a soft whisper.
     “My daddy says they won’t sting us if we are really gentle with them,” Kayn whispered back.
     So, Kevin watched the two crazy little girls petting bees for the entire lunch hour. He was just waiting for them to be stung, for one to go screaming to the teacher so he could say: see, I told you so. He had been extremely impressed when it was time to go inside and neither one of them had been wounded. As a little boy, he found himself most impressed when someone did something dangerous without getting hurt. He had watched so quietly, without disturbing them that they must have decided he would be a suitable addition to their duo. Chloe hadn’t even acknowledged his presence on that first day, but the next day it was Chloe that asked him if he’d like to come watch the bees with them. They did this all the way through that year and for a few years after.
     One-year Kevin bought Kayn a stuffed bee for her birthday. She still had it on her bed even after she found out that she was allergic to bees. Kayn got stung and swelled right up like a balloon. It was an extremely scary day. She still loved the bees; just from afar now and with an EpiPen in her little fanny pack. Her parents had forced her to wear that fanny pack every day because being allergic to bees was a life or death situation. That was the first thing that made the twins unique. They never really knew if Chloe was allergic to bees, she’d never been stung by one. When questioned about whether she had an allergy to bees, Chloe would always reply, ‘A bee wouldn’t dare sting me.’
     He’d believed that statement the first time she said it as though it were a fact. They had only been eight years old, but he would wager her voodoo powers worked on bees as well as boys. Kevin grinned as he realised that the mission of that second day had never ended.  It had been well over ten years, and he was still on a mission to win over Chloe Brighton. Kevin lay on his bed, listening to the hum of a vehicle as it faded into silence. For some reason, he was feeling anxious tonight. Someone knocked on his door.
     His mother walked in and said, “Do you want to know what I think?” She stood balanced against his door frame, smiling in an all-knowing manner.
     His mom was sweet to her core and the sound of her voice always put him at ease. Kevin gave his mom a funny look and teased, “Not really, but I bet you’re going to tell me anyway.”
     His mom marched over and gave him a playful swat for being a smart ass. She questioned, “Is it possible you’re pining over the wrong sister?”
    “I guess anything’s possible,” he replied.
     His mom rolled her eyes and urged, “Just think about it. Which one do you really want to spend time with?” She kissed his forehead, ruffled up his hair and left his room, shutting the door softly behind her.
     The door slammed downstairs. Great…Hulk was home. His older brother Clay came thundering up the stairs. It was almost like his testosterone level made him completely incapable of even the simple act of climbing stairs without announcing his all-powerful presence. His brother was a muscle-bound meathead of astounding proportions. Don’t come in my room. Kevin was not a fan of the inevitable sock in the stomach he would receive if he dared to call his older brother out on a moment of moronic clarity, but it was difficult to keep his lips sealed when he had a great slam teetering on the tip of his tongue. It was a sibling thing.
     Clay was working as a mechanic in town while he saved for college. He also happened to be best friends with the twin’s older brother, Matt. Kayn’s brother was already in university with a football scholarship. Kevin’s bedroom door swung open without a polite knock.
     “I need to use the cord for your iPod. I want to go to the gym later and mine needs to be juiced up.” Clay blurted as he began digging through the cords around Kevin’s computer.
     Kevin raised his eyebrows and said, “What if I said no? Presumptuous much?”
     Clay shook his head and sarcastically questioned, “Did you seriously just say presumptuous much to me? You really need to start hanging out with some dudes.” He started to walk out the door then stopped and added, “No more big words. It’s painfully dorky. You’re my little brother. You should be making out with chicks on a Friday night.”
     Kevin looked at his brother and thought, Well, if I looked like a Greek god like you instead of what Kayn had called me…a vertically challenged dwarf. Oh no, she had called him vertically challenged; someone else had called him a dwarf. He scrunched up his face as he looked at his buff stallion of a sibling. This was genetically unfair. Although his brother had been built just like him at one time, he’d found a reverence for the gym and football. He achieved Greek god status and never looked back. Just then Kevin’s phone rang.
     Kevin grinned and teased, “Well, wouldn’t you know it. There’s a chick right now.”
     “Oh, come on. Kayn doesn’t count.” Clay sat down on his bed, looked up at the poster on the ceiling and exclaimed, “You are a creepy little dude.”
     Kevin ignored him. Kayn probably forgot her bag. He answered the call, “Hey, thanks for pimping out Megan Fox. It’s not at all embarrassing for my brother to see that.” He started talking into the phone as he jogged down the stairs to check and see if she’d forgotten her bag. He pre-empted most useless conversations with his knowledge of her usual foibles. She wasn’t talking on the other end. It was the infamous pocket dial. He kept listening, hoping for some juice about Chloe. His cell started squealing like there was interference.  Just as he was about to hang up, Chloe started shrieking in an ungodly pitch for Kayn to run. He froze as the colour drained from his face. Clay came down the stairs with the iPod cord in his hand. Kevin’s grabbed his brother’s arm and urged, “We have to get over there, right now.” He had to get to Kayn. His mind kept replaying Chloe’s desperate scream.
     The brothers ran out the door, jumped into the car and peeled out of the driveway, passing their father coming home from dropping off Kayn. They began frantically honking the horn, signalling for him to follow. Kevin waved wildly out the window. Their father swerved, pulled a U-turn and began to chase after them.
     Kevin’s heart was not with Chloe, just Kayn. Chloe’s inhuman screaming was still ringing in his ears like a sick recording, driving his desperation to reach her. Kevin had the cell phone up to his ear. She hadn’t hung up. There was a lot of crunching, sloshing, swishing sounds, then silence. He couldn’t hang up the phone. He knew she needed him.
     They raced down the gravel road to her house as desperation constricted his heart. The idea that someone might be hurting her was too much for him to bear. His mind raced through the worst-case scenarios.
     His dad’s car caught up as they pulled over in front of Kayn’s house and got out.
     His father yelled, “What in the hell is going on?”
     Choking on waves of fear induced adrenaline, Kevin knew there wasn’t time to explain. He took off up the path with Clay, forcing their father to follow. The veil of trees blocked out the glow of the moon, so it was difficult to determine where the path was. Out of breath, he slowed his pace. “Chloe was screaming on the phone,” Kevin explained.    
     “Stop!” his dad hollered, using authority reserved for danger.
     He couldn’t… Clay seized his arm to prevent him from pushing past his father.
     “We don’t know what we’re walking into,” his dad asserted while blocking the path to the door. He commanded, “Stay behind me, I’m going in first.”
     Danger was thick in the air. There was something dark, an ominous presence that made Kevin’s skin crawl. He could feel itIt was too quiet. “I have to get in there,” he panicked while struggling to wrestle free of Clay’s grasp.
     His father calmly replied, “I know, son. We are just going to exercise a little bit of caution, that’s all.”
     The ominous feeling came to chilling fruition as his father walked through the pitch-black doorway. He attempted to flick on the light. It didn’t work. Was the bulb burnt out?
     In the darkness he heard his brother’s voice say, “The lights are on upstairs. I saw them from the road.”
     “I know,” his father replied.
     Kevin instantly recalled one of his dad’s stories about pranks kids would play at the high school. One evening, every light in the school appeared to be burnt out, but they weren’t really… Someone had taken the time to manually loosen each one. So now, whenever there was a burnt-out light bulb, Kevin’s father always checked to see if it had been loosened. His dad reached up, tightened the bulb and it flickered on. Light illuminated the doorway revealing a morbid display of blood spatter on the wall. This wasn’t really happening. Tears clouded Kevin’s eyes. This was his second home. There were thick red drag marks, leading to the hall closet. His father covered his hand with his sleeve and opened the closet door.
     It’s not Kayn, it’s not Kayn, Kevin repeated in his mind.
     The opened closet door revealed the lifeless body of Kayn’s mother. Claire Brighton’s eyes were wide open, staring off in the distance. His father looked back and shook his head.
     “Don’t touch anything,” He ordered as he stepped away from the closet and dialled 911. His father was on autopilot from his years as a medic. The soldier had taken over. He’d remained remarkably composed at the sight of Claire Brighton’s body.
     In shock, Kevin stared at the gruesome scene with his eyes glued on Claire’s open glassy stare. All that had been Kayn’s mother was gone. This was nothing more than the vacant case that she had come in. There was a strange moment of spiritual clarity amidst the macabre. Kevin’s brain sparked with thoughts of Kayn. Find her… She needs you. The Smith brothers slipped down the hall as his father spoke to the 911 operator. Kevin reached up to twist the bulb as his father had in the entrance.
     His dad called out, “Don’t touch anything, we might be destroying evidence! Go back outside!”
     They left the light alone but continued down the hall, ignoring their father’s plea. They couldn’t wait for the police. Kevin’s mind kept repeating the same three words. Kayn is alive. He turned on the light in the kitchenIt was untouched. The two boys snuck back down the hall and slipped past their father who was busy on the phone with 911. Their father had closed the closet door to shield them from the horrors within. It was too late for that. Kevin quickly scaled the stairs, knowing his brother was still behind him. The upstairs hall was lit up, displaying a path of bloody shoe prints leading to the twin’s bedroom. They cautiously made their way past the family portraits that were now served as an eerie reminder of what used to be. Approaching sirens brought his shock numbed mind back a touch. A vision of Mrs. Brighton’s corpse distorted Kevin’s view of the hall and he blinked it away.    
     His father’s voice called out, “The police are here! Get back down here!”
     Kevin brushed a crusty red footprint with his shoe. It was nearly dry. He bent and touched it with his finger. It was dry? The voice in his head whispered, find her.
     His father’s voice bellowed, “I have to stay here and let them know you boys are upstairs! Once they see this blood, they might shoot us first and ask questions later!”
     The doorknob for the twin’s room was caked in blood and left slightly ajar. Kevin stiffened, to prepare himself. Clay elbowed him out of the way and shoved the bedroom door open from the upper left corner. The beds were still made. Clay pointed at the bloody footprints on the carpet. They were like bread crumbs leading to the adjoining bathroom. Kevin’s stomach clenched. There was a scent in the air; it reminded him of a handful of pennies.
     His older brother edged past him and gently opened the bathroom door with his foot. Clay staggered backwards, choking back the bile as it spurted out through his fingers.
     No. It’s not her. Kevin maneuvered past his heaving brother, pre-emptively covering his mouth. He stepped into the bathroom and slipped, landing on his hands and knees. Blood covered the white tile. His hands were submerged it. As he grasped what he’d slipped on, his heart constricted in his chest. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t even inhale the smallest amount of air. His vision wavered as his mind tried to stop him from seeing what could never be unseen. Don’t… You don’t want to see it. He looked up from his blood-soaked hands. It was one of the twins. He crawled through her essence with eyes blinded by tears. She was naked in the fetal position, her grotesquely swollen, severely beaten face was nearly unrecognizable. Blood and brain matter were sprayed on the shower curtains, walls, and ceiling. He reached out to touch her, stopping as a wave of nausea made him covered his mouth with the crook of his arm while taking in the ruthless macabre display. Her wheat coloured locks were matted with blood and the eye closest to the floor appeared to be missing. Her remaining eye stared into oblivion just as her mother’s had. Her fingers were clawed, and her arms reaching out as though she’d been willing her body to crawl away from the brutality she’d succumbed to. The towel rack had been ripped off the wall and it lay just out of her grasp on the blood-soaked tile. Had it been used in her torture or had she ripped it off the wall to use in her defence?
     Kevin inched closer until he was kneeling before her body, tranquillized by shock as an unfamiliar voice kept repeating the words, this is not Kayn...This is not Kayn. You must find her. He felt this eerie inner calm and it was like he’d stepped away from himself. He heard the rustling of the officers, the voices, the cries of horror and despair but it was as though he was completely detached from the situation. This is not Kayn. You must find her; the voice kept repeating the mesmerizing mantra. A hand clutched his shoulder and he heard a voice say, “Kevin.”
     His mind repeated the words again, this is not Kayn. Find her. She can still be saved. Snap out of it.
     “Kevin snap out of it!” His father’s voice shouted, as he dragged him away from the body and out of the bathroom.
     When he saw the carpet beneath him, he started to come back to reality. The reasons why this could not be Kayn filtered through Kevin’s mind as he scrambled to his feet. His father pulled him into his arms and he allowed himself a moment of serenity to hear the steady beat of his heart as he tried to ground himself. “It isn’t Kayn,” Kevin whispered against his father’s chest. His father held him tighter. Once again, he spoke, “Kayn had a shower after track. That isn’t her.”
     His father replied, “Kevin, this looks like a home invasion. You need to prepare yourself.”
     Kevin was aware of the accumulation of officer’s, ambulance attendants and first other first responders scurrying around. Still in shock, he heard his brother speaking to someone, “Matt’s at school…we were texting earlier today. He was going to a party tonight. I just texted him again and told him to call me back. I also called and said it was an emergency.”
     Kevin struggled out of his father’s arms, so he could say what he needed to say, “Kayn had a shower before we left the school. That’s Chloe in there. It’s not Kayn. We need to find her.” He tried to maneuver his way past the officers blocking the door and they wouldn’t allow him to pass. He’d seen enough C.S.I to understand that they were trying to protect the integrity of the crime scene. What did that matter? His DNA was everywhere in this house.
     His father whispered, “Son, they’re searching the house for the other bodies, even if it isn’t her, chances are…”
     “No.” Kevin blurted out while shaking his head in denial. “No.” He couldn’t listen to unhopeful words, not now. Not when every nerve ending in his body was vibrating with the knowledge that she was alive. To prove his point, Kevin addressed the lady taking pictures of Chloe’s body in the washroom, “Kayn has a crescent shaped birthmark behind her right ear. Chloe has one behind her left.” Kevin marched over, puffed himself up in front of the officers blocking the door and asserted, “Kayn’s fast, she’s a runner. If anyone could get away, it would be her. She would have found somewhere to hide. I know all her hiding spots. You have to let me out of here.”
     Clay touched his shoulder, squeezed it and whispered, “Kevin, you don’t want to be the one that finds her.”
     They were in no hurry because they thought they were looking for bodies now. They were counting bodies, and there were two unaccounted for.
     He knew she was alive with every part of his being. Kevin looked back at his father and brother and asserted, “You all know how fast she is. She would run; with everything she had. She would run!” Kevin spun around and attempted to burst through the blockade of men. He struggled as they restrained him.
     Officer Jenkins shoved through the crowd of men and came to his aid as he ordered, “Hands off. I know these people, he’s a good kid.”
     Kevin recognized Officer Jenkins. He’d been friends with Kayn’s father since high school. He piped in, “Son, if she’s in this house, we’ll find her.”
     “I can find her faster,” Kevin asserted.
     An officer stepped into the bedroom and announced, “We found Stan in the carport. Looks like he didn’t even make it into the house after he arrived home from work.”
     Officer Jenkins skin lost its colour as he numbly added, “We’re still missing one of the twins.”
     The young officer addressed Kevin, “We all know there’s been a history of issues with young men and Chloe Brighton. Has she broken up with someone recently? They were identical twins… It’s possible Kayn was mistaken for her sister and abducted.”
     Kevin’s heart sank as he gave his response, “No, she was nothing like her.” They all thought a Chloe stalker had gone nuts and massacred the whole family. Kevin looked directly into Jenkins’ eyes and pleaded, “I know Kayn’s alive. I know her hiding spots. You have to let me look for her, she’s not dead.”
     Officer Jenkins took Kevin’s desperate pleas to heart as he stepped aside and motioned for the others to let him pass while declaring, “There’s nothing to lose at this point. Take the lead, kid. Find her.”
     Kevin didn’t know whether or not Jenkins really believed him, but he began to rally the troops.
     Jenkins shouted out, “We still have a missing girl, it’s possible she’s found somewhere to hide. The kid may have some insight as to where the girl might be hiding. She could be in shock or wounded… Let’s find her.”
     Kevin descended the stairs, and just knew she wasn’t in the house. She would have tried to run. He stepped outside and following the pull of intuition, he walked around the side of the house into the backyard.
     An officer tossed off the panel to the crawl space beneath the house. She wasn’t in there. The spiders would have been a deterrent. Kevin called out, “She’s not in there, you’re wasting time!” Kayn could run. She could run fast. He glanced at the opening to the trail and spotting something white in the grass. He sprinted over knowing what it was. It was the plastic bag full of eggs his mom gave her. “She’s in the trails!” Kevin shouted as his heart cheered. She got away. She knew these trails. It was possible and that’s all that mattered. She was alive. The search party was enveloped in incapacitating darkness as they entered the overgrown bike trails. Kevin dug around in his pockets for his phone to use the flashlight. He paused midstride and peered down at the cell in his hand. I can’t believe I’m this stupid. Why hadn’t he thought of this earlier? Kevin grabbed the police officer in front of him to get his attention. “She had her cell phone on her. She pocket dialled me. That’s how we knew they were in trouble.”
     The officer got everyone’s attention; the crowd hushed. The woods were pitch black with shadowed outlines of trees and stumps. They couldn’t see two feet in front of their faces, but maybe they’d be able to hear her phoneShe would have called him by now if she escaped. No…He had to hope for the possibility that she was still alive. He dialled her number, and everyone was silent. Kevin pressed the speakerphone setting on his phone. In the distance, they could hear her phone’s ringtone, as an eerie muffled melody through the misty trails. They made their way towards the sound of the ring. It went to voice mail and the volume on Kevin’s cell was loud… They all heard her message.
     It was like Kayn had really answered the call. She said, “Hello,” then paused and added, “Hello, I can’t hear you. It’s a bad connection.”    
     Everyone froze, it sounded like she’d answered and was alive.
     After about five seconds the message carried on with, “Ha-ha, got you. I’m not able to get to the phone right now. Leave a message.”
     He’d forgotten about that message. Everybody was frozen in place as the split second of hope in their hearts dissolved when they realised it was only a recording. That joke message had been hilarious the first time he’d fallen for it and started talking … It was horrible now.
     Officer Jenkins piped up, “Walk slowly and cautiously people. We need to find that phone. There should be a blinking message light. Look for the flashing light. If her mail box isn’t full, we’ll be able to call it a few more times before it starts going directly to voicemail.”
     Kevin knew there was no point in trying to call. Her inbox was always full. The next unanswered call would probably go straight to her voice mail.
     It was so dark, they could walk right by her even with the makeshift flashlights. The trails were onyx with an eerie lacing of thick mist lingering just above the forest floor. Kevin was trying to walk the pathway through memory. He felt the absence of the voice in his head. It wasn’t urging him on anymore.  Maybe she’d dropped the phone as she escaped? Then he saw a glimmer of light through the dense forest and began to walk gingerly to it. The message light indicating the missed call was like a lighthouse beacon through the mist.
     “It’s over there,” someone yelled.
     “Kayn, can you hear us! Kayn!” the mix of voices beckoned.
     Kevin picked up the cell phone in his hand and stared at it. Come on Brighton, where are you?  Feeling defeated, Kevin passed the phone to Jenkins as the rest continued scouring the bushes.
     A voice yelled, “Hey, what’s going on? Can I help?” It was a man’s voice.
     “We’re looking for a missing girl!” Jenkins hollered. 
     Kevin made his way through the foliage towards the voice. With a backyard adjoining the trails he couldn’t have missed the sirens of every cop car in town.
     The man pushed his way through the bushes at the back of his property to see the excitement in the trails. “Oh my God,” he choked, “Over here… she’s over here!”
     Kevin frantically forced through the bushes at the back of the property until he saw the man standing solemnly before a bloody naked body, in the fetal position at his feet. He was immobilized by grief as everyone shoved by him. The eerie similarities between Chloe’s lifeless body and Kayn’s was more than he could bear. Kevin’s heart began to race, as the dark violence of the night spun around him. He dropped to his knees trying desperately to catch his breath. She isn’t deadshe can’t be, his mind repeated as if it could only be the truth if he believed she would survive with everything that he was. An emergency team pushed by him.
     Kevin had never been overly religious, but he closed his eyes and began to pray, “Don’t take her away from me. Please, I will do anything.”
     Someone yelled, “We have a pulse! We have a pulse!”
     Tears of happiness filled Kevin’s eyes. “Thank you,” he whispered, as he looked up through the darkness towards the heavens.
     Kevin watched in elation as he followed the paramedics out of the forest. He stood beside his father and his brother as they put Kayn into the back of the ambulance, while desperately fighting to keep her alive. The moment they announced there was a pulse Kevin was overcome by an instantaneous sense of peace. He couldn’t explain it, but every cell in his body knew that she would survive. Kayn would fight her way back because she was strong, maybe the strongest person that hed ever met.


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