The day Columbus crumbled Mark had just picked up his daughter and was heading to Quinn’s house. The plan had been for the two families to go apple-picking together, but the universe had other plans.
Traffic on the way there was unbearable; nearly stop-and-go the entire way. Constant sirens blared in the distance and at some points people even got out of their cars and milled around while they waited.
After what seemed like ages, traffic started crawling forward again. Mark muttered, “Finally” under his breath.
As he approached the exit ramp, he could see the source of the traffic jam. More police vehicles than he had ever seen in his life were off to the side of the road. Their red and blue flashing lights glinting off the white concrete of the bridges and retaining walls near the ramp.
“Oooh Police!” his daughter squealed with excitement in the back seat. She had been getting quite impatient in the stopped traffic.
Mark directed his little Honda Civic across the lanes to get to the exit ramp. It was clogged with other vehicles trying to flee the traffic jam and then not knowing where the exit actually went. He looked over at the car next to him on the ramp. The driver wore the unmistakable look of confusion. Mark could tell that she was definitely lost. Her eyes darted this way and that as she craned her neck trying to read some of the nearby exit signs.
He laughed to himself and said, “Almost there, sweetie” to his daughter.
Most of the traffic from the highway was going straight or turning right. The road cleared up when Mark instead turned left into the nearby housing development. He quickly drove the last couple miles to Quinn’s house and parked his car on the road out front.
Quinn’s garage door was open as were both of the liftgates on his vehicles. Mark could see suitcases, boxes, bags, coolers, and other miscellaneous items crammed inside them.
He walked around the car and unbuckled his daughter from her booster seat. She held his hand as they walked up the steep driveway together.
Mark stopped suddenly.
He thought he had heard something.
Up the street it sounded like someone in one of the houses had screamed.
He tilted his head and listened.
“What’s wrong, daddy?”
There it was again; definitely a scream. Followed by the sound of glass breaking. The sound had come from further up the street toward the end of the cul-de-sac.
Mark hurried up the driveway into the garage. The door to the house was open a crack and Mark could see commotion inside. He clutched his daughter’s hand and reached with his other hand into his pocket to grab his phone.
Quinn came rushing out of the garage door carrying two large suitcases.
“Mark! I’m glad you are safe!”
“Quinn,” Mark said, “I think something is going on up the street. I heard someone screaming.”
“Really? Where? Did you see anything?’
“No, it came from up the road that way” Mark turned and pointed up the hill
“Ugh.” Quinn let out a frustrated sigh. “We really need to get going. We have to get out of here. There is some bad stuff going down in Columbus.”
“Don’t you think we should go check it out though? Maybe call the cops?”
“Get Renee inside. Audrey can watch her while we go see what’s going on.”
Mark scooted past Quinn in the tight space in between the van and the garage wall. Quinn went around to the back of the van and started loading the suitcases inside.
Audrey was in the kitchen with her head in the fridge frantically pulling things out and putting them in a cooler beside her.
“Hey, Audrey, can you watch Renee for a second? Quinn and I need to run up the street real quick.”
Audrey stopped loading the cooler and looked over. “Oh, hey. I didn’t even notice you come in. Yea, sure. I’ll keep an eye on her. Did Quinn tell you we are leaving?”
“Thanks, he mentioned something about it.” He turned to his daughter, “You wait here. I’ll be right back.”
“When are we going to pick apples, daddy?” She whined impatiently.
“Soon, sweetie.” He stepped back out into the garage. Quinn was waiting for him at the bottom of the driveway.
They started walking up the hill together.
“So where did you hear it from?” Quinn asked.
“I am not 100% sure. The first time was pretty quiet. Like in a house. The second time was louder and I thought I heard glass breaking.”
The street was eerily quiet now, but they could hear distant sirens out on the nearby highway.
They were almost at the end of the cul-de-sac when Quinn pointed
In front of the house to their left, glass lay over the flowers and bushes in the flowerbed maybe fifty yards away.
The large front window was shattered. As they continued to walk, closer they could see what looked like blood on the sharp points of glass still in the window frame.
“Holy crap” Quinn said involuntarily.
“Hello? Is everyone okay?” he called.
There was no answer. They were at the foot of the walkway now. Five yards from the front door with a clear view into the house through the broken window. It was mostly dark inside and hard to see in with the bright sun shining outside.
The blue curtains slowly swayed in the breeze, but there was no other movement within.
“Hello?” Quinn called again.
Still no answer.
Mark, still holding his phone, unlocked it and dialed 911.
“You gotta be kidding me,” he said as he pulled the phone away from his ear. “I got a busy signal!”
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Quinn muttered.
“There’s something going on in Columbus, Mark. We are leaving. We’re heading to my dad’s farm. You should come with us.”
“What do you mean? For how long? I don’t have any of my stuff.”
“Shh” Quinn shushed him
“Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” Mark asked puzzled.
“Listen” Quinn pointed to the door
They listened in silence for a moment
Then they heard it; a crunching sound. Someone walking on glass; crushing it against a hard floor.
A shadow moved in the back of the room.
“Is everything okay?” Mark called timidly. “I heard someone scream earlier.”
The shadow stopped. Quinn and Mark held their breath. Still no one answered.
Then the shadow started moving toward them.
A loud thud from above startled them.
They both looked up to see a second story window thrown open.
“RUN!!!!!” a woman’s voice screamed from inside.