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The Leftovers - Chapter One, Part One
I was shaking in my boots as I gazed up at the long, hideous face of a Leftover. That one second seemed frozen in time. 15-year-old me, standing stunned on my dead front lawn, in front of the roofless building that served as my lifelong home. The orange clouds swirled in the dust-choked sky. The beady eyes of the Leftover that leapt between telephone poles, its bare and metallic skeleton exposed by parts its ragged clothes would not cover. And Laurent, my darling little sister, trapped in its clutches.
?I could have dropped the keys to the house, I could have climbed up that pole, I could have filled that thing with lead, I could have done something. Anything. But I was frozen in the moment, paralyzed by the Leftover’s cold and cruel grin. And before I knew it, it was gone. It had dissolved into the horizon, and little Laurent’s screams were inaudible.
?With a delayed reaction, I whipped the gun out of the holster on my belt. I blindly shot into the heavens, far from the direction it departed. The only sound I could hear was the clink of each bullet casing as it fell to the sidewalk underneath me, along with my agonized panting and a constant breeze that at times would tousle my hair about. I shot and shot and shot until I ran out of bullets, and then I kept pulling at the trigger over and over so I wouldn’t have to accept the fact that Laurent was gone and I was the one who made it happen.
?My only thoughts were of my mother, and how I had failed her.
Janet was my great-aunt. She was rather young at less than ten years older than my mother; her brown hair was still full and the only wrinkle on her body, as far as I could tell, was a big one on her forehead. I knew that Janet’s house was a safe place, the place to go if I was ever in need of help, a place where I could hide from the decrepit outside world and would always be accepted. So, as soon as I gathered my senses, Great-Aunt Janet’s house was the first place I went.
?She answered the door looking a little fried. Her hair was frizzy and unkempt, her clothes wrinkled, and her glasses had a thick coat of dust. The woman recognized that it was me at the door right away.
?“Rene, dear,” she chirped, “How pleasant to see you.” Then she realized something was off, which she expressed by blinking several times and drooping the corners of her mouth.
?I took a step forward, my hand on my empty gun. “May I come in?”
?Janet glanced left, right, and left again, and then practically pulled me into her house. It was just like all the other houses in our neighborhood: one story with a basement, a fairly large backyard, three bedrooms, and two bathrooms. The abode was filthier than I had seen it in years, and after activating the numerous locks on her front door, she led me to the bathroom in the center of the layout, which had no windows.
?“Where is it?” she asked frantically. She read my expression, and I knew what she meant.
?“It went east from my house,” I replied, “With Laurent.”
?Great-Aunt Janet closed her eyes in grief and covered her face with her palm. “What about your mother?”
?I shuffled nervously. “She’s been gone for three days.”
?Her fingers curled slightly as she opened one smoky blue eye. She sighed, too, but otherwise there was no reaction from her.
?Janet was no ordinary 40-year-old. She was the head of the Leftover Hunters’ Association for our region. She was remarkable, brilliant, and often liked to let me test out her new inventions or brainstorm new ideas with me. The whole reason I had my trusty gun, which we referred to as “Isaac”, was Great-Aunt Janet. The best thing about the woman, however, was her uncanny ability to avoid and evade Leftovers. I’d seen her stand right in front of one before and go unnoticed.
?I became concerned. “G-Great-Aunt Janet…?”
?“You really screwed up this time, Rene,” she whispered. I could barely make out the disappointed glint in her irises through the pink lens of her glasses before they became trapped behind her eyelids again.