The sun had just started peaking over the horizon line. It was supposed to rise at 7:07 AM. It was unlikely Link would see anything given the situation of their house – middle of the street, facing the neighbor’s house and the upgrade of the hill they sat on. Not to mention their house’s window structure. That didn’t mean it wasn’t worth the effort. Just the acknowledgment that the lighted sky, the cool air not yet warmed by the sun, and a side angle was all that Link was going to see. At least that was the expectation. Crammed at an awkward angle trying to see the sky through the window, Link cursed the massive house across the street and its overly decorative roof for obstructing the view. The roof! The clock read 7:05, it was definitely possible to make it back upstairs, through Justin’s office, out the window, and onto the roof before the 7:07. It would be a stretch to do it quietly, but Link was light with a slight build, diminutive even, just as the name suggested. While size wasn’t supposed to matter, it was going to work in Link’s favor today. Justin wouldn’t be woken up, and Link would still get to see the sunrise.
Janet had been up 28 minutes before her alarm had gone off, but working almost 90 hours, six days a week, had dug a chip the size of a whole potato out of her shoulder and she made it a personal policy to only get up at the bequest of her alarm, never before. It was bad enough that she was constantly up before the sun. Her bedroom was in the back of the house, which despite being in the middle of the street and on the hill was still at the perfect angle for the light to come flooding in, warming up the guest side of her bed. She had already completed her morning spin class and was just leaving the kitchen to enjoy her breakfast on her front porch as the light outside has started shifting from night to day.
Chris had remote started his car. It wasn’t so much that he was cold as that having it started forced him to get out of the house on time. After working remotely for nearly two years, going back to the office on a regular basis was different. He still got up early, had pleasantries with his wife, did a quick workout, and all the while reviewing his schedule for the day, before showering and getting dressed in real dress pants with the proper accoutrements. Most of the time he was in his car as the sun was almost visible from his block. Their house was stationed in the middle of the street, on the downward slope of the hill. Great view of the lake two blocks behind them, unbelievable sunsets, but if he was looking to get any of that morning motivation from the sunrise, he wouldn’t have bought the house. When he was working from home he used to sit out on his back deck and watch the sun reflecting on the water and off the houses across the way. Now, he sits in his car making sure he has everything for the thousandth time, trying to find that other talk radio station he likes. Fighting his every inclination to answer the flood of incoming emails and just get driving. The agony of being in sales.
Brushing the dripping blood away from my eye, the smart box in the kitchen flashed a warning for sudden thunderstorm. Outside of the window a dark shadow had set in under the looming light of sunrise. Half the houses on Chipped Oak had a better view of the lake while the other had a better view of the mountain. There were a few, including this one, that had both. Mountain and water. Dark and light. There had been a plan, one that without competition, had seemed well thought out. If the storm were to break, and the darken, wet winds were to rage, it would make for a much better reveal.
Link had just sat down on the roof when he heard the distant clap of thunder. The first rays of light had been piercing the sky. In what felt like a nanosecond, they were eaten by a dark grey cloud.
Janet’s forked jingled against her bowl of yogurt and oats as the thunder rolled closer. Looking around she could have sworn night was moving in instead of the day.
The car filled with jumbled static as massive raindrops splattered against the windshield. It was pitch black, save for the lights illuminating Chris’ car. Everything beyond the blurred windshield was a mystery.
Justin stood, one eye opened, his head at a funny angle watching as Link ducked back in his office from outside. Muttering about murder, rain, and sunrise. It was clearly too early for whatever this was. Link broke out into nervous giggles at the sight of Justin, and in one breath launched into an explanation, “IthoughtIcouldseethesunrisebetterfromtheroofbutIdidn’twanttowakeyouupsoItriedtobequietbutthethunderitwasloudthenitrainedandhereIam.” And after a second, “good morning!” Justin grunted as he made his way to the bathroom. Least he didn’t kill me for getting his office couch soaked, Link thought. Barely down the stairs, Link stopped when Justin exited the bathroom. “Sunrise?” Link nodded. “If I’m up this early, we might as well watch it.” Link asked about the rain. Justin, now standing in his office, asked, “what rain?” Link ran back to the window. Already the storm had cleared up. Small bits of light were breaking through the overcast. It would be like a second sunrise! Together they climbed back out the window.
With one foot through the door, her array of breakfast once again bundled into her arms, Janet stopped as the deafening sound of rain and thunder quieted behind her. Already the storm had cleared up. Small bits of light were breaking through the overcast. It would be like an actual sunrise since the sun, in all science, should be more visible from her porch now. Once more she turned and walked back toward her favorite chair intending to have a quiet breakfast on her porch.
Feverishly hitting refresh on his work email that he wasn’t supposed to be checking, Chris breathed a sigh of relief when the text popped back on the screen. His reply had been saved and was still there. He started to look up, already the storm had passed. He finished his email, stuck his phone onto the holder, and began to pull out of his driveway.
A car horn honked. Someone is laying naked in the road. It beeped again, this time twice. A woman, just laying there exposed. Footsteps pounded from every direction.
Chris can’t move. His eyes are glued to the massive wound running from the woman’s shoulder down through her breast to the center of her chest. He can see inside this woman’s body and at the same time, he can’t see anything.
Janet has thrown up her pre-workout shake. The chalky taste of rotten milk fills her mouth. A mass of hair is missing, or squished deeply into the black hole in the top of this woman’s head. Her eyes snap back to the matted hair, no matter how hard she tries to resist. The hair, wet and gnarled, it’s familiar and foreign. Her throat contracts and she pushes up whatever was left of the shake.
Justin has Link shielded behind him, as if the woman is going to get up and attack them or worse, Link is going to see what he has seen. There are at least four deep slashes exposing bone and tendon in the woman’s arm. There is a chunk of her knee missing. He can’t bring himself to look at her face. Link is on the floor behind him. Feet flat, knees tucked under the chin, ass hovering above the ground, phone gripped tightly, just looking at the woman. The phone is shaking as the loud beep of buttons being pressed push through the depth of silence. Three beeps.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
Screams filled the block. The police were surely being called. I pulled out my phone, sending a quick text to the cell still plugged in upstairs in a bedroom that police would pilfer through later. The dead rest in the ground, not in their rooms. I hop in the shower, getting ready for another day of high school. Not the made for tv kind, but the vapid world of likes, followers, and views. Where teachers are just as bad as the students, and no one has ever really grown up. I dry off, get dressed, and before I start making breakfast I send a follow up text “???” The plant-based milk has been poured over whatever oatty cereal was on sale that week when there is a knock at the door. It is clearly two people, officers of the law I’m sure, standing and waiting on the other side of the front door’s opaque glass.