THUMP. CLANG. CRASH. The sounds seemed to come from all directions: upstairs, the garage, outside. What was happening?
“Jenny, check on the girls.” Amanda shouted up the stairs, to her sixteen year old daughter. “I need to check on Dad.”
Amanda’s bare feet slapped the hardwood floors as she raced to the garage door.
Had he fallen off the ladder? Was he lying unconscious on the concrete floor? Or had he merely dropped a tool? That was more likely, just a dropped tool.
“Michael, are you okay? Michael?” The garage was empty. The metal ladder lay on the floor, the attic door pushed open. But where was Michael?
“Mom. They’re gone.” Jenny raced through the door.
“They can’t be. Check the bathrooms and my bedroom. They have to be here somewhere.”
“I already did. They’re not here. I just found Rachel’s big doll on the floor.”
Amanda clutched the stair rail; her legs felt like jelly, her heart galloped--what was happening? Closing her eyes, she forced her racing brain to slow down; she needed to think. Michael was probably at the neighbors, but what about the girls?
Hide-and-seek. Of course.
“They’re playing.” Amanda barreled up the stairs and ran from one room to the other. “Allie-allie-outs-in-free.” She called over and over as she looked in every nook and cranny. Jenny’s voice chorused her mother’s, but no giggling voices answered.
“Mom…I’m really scared. What’s happening?” Jenny grasped her mother’s hand, tears coursed down her face, washing over an unwanted pimple.
This wasn’t making sense. People didn’t disappear into thin air. Amanda expected someone to jump out at any moment with a sly grin on their face shouting, “Smile, you’re on Hidden Camera.” Or whatever the newest prank your neighbor show was. But there was no camera, and no laughing host.
“Okay.” Amanda took a deep breath. “Listen to me Jenny. I need you to look outside for your dad, if he’s not there check with the neighbors. I need to call Becky and Leah’s mom. I don’t know what say…but I have to call her. Okay?”
“Okay Mom.” Jenny brushed tears with both fists, then, with one quick glance at her mother ran out the gray metal door.
Amanda grabbed her cell phone from the kitchen counter, and with a trembling finger, pushed the number five. “Come on, come on. Answer.”
It went to voice mail. “I can’t come to the phone. Please leave a message.”
“Marcia…this is Amanda…I…uh.” Amanda took a deep breath. “Marcia, you need to call me right away. It’s about the girls.”
“MOM. Come quick.”
The purple phone fell from Amanda’s trembling fingers, landing on the kitchen mat with a soft thump. What now? Michael was dead. She knew it. Heart attack, or, stroke. Amanda followed her daughter’s frantic voice to the front walk, fearing the worst.
“Please don’t let him be dead. Please.” She prayed to a god she didn’t believe in. Or did she?
“Look.” Jenny stood frozen, her finger pointing, her eyes wide. “What happened?”
“Oh God, no.” Amanda’s hand flew to her mouth.
It was Bedlam.
Children’s abandoned bikes scattered the sidewalks, a red ball rolled across the street. Mangled, unmanned, automobiles and motorcycles cluttered the road, dazed and bleeding people crawled from the wreckage. A stunned father stood with a baseball bat in his hand, his son’s mitt lay on the ground. Confused cries echoed throughout the town.
“Mom?” Jenny wailed.
“NO,” Amanda shrieked.
Michael had tried to tell them. He had prayed for them. But Amanda and Jenny refused to believe. Jenny had followed Amanda’s example; digging in her heels. They put their faith in the visible, and Jesus wasn’t visible.
Jenny fell into her mother’s arms, sobbing.
Amanda clung to her daughter. “I’m so sorry Jenny, I’m so sorry. God NO. Not Jenny. Forgive her. Please.”
This was all her fault. Not Jenny’s.
“Forgive us please,” Amanda sobbed.
Amanda’s eyes popped open.
“Sorry Mandy. Dropped my shoe, go back to sleep.” Michael kissed Amanda’s forehead.
“MICHAEL. You’re still here.”
“Where else would I be?”
“Oh God, thank-you.” Amanda grabbed Michael’s hand. “Michael I believe. Thank-you Jesus, I believe. I need to talk to Jenny. NOW. Then we’re all going to church.”
Michael fell to his knees. “Thank-you Lord.”
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