Get it? ApPEALing? You see, they’re both peeling potatoes and … Why are you wincing?
Anyway, it’s critique Friday. I hope you find today’s submission appealing.
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Cypress – by Alyssa
Cypress sat up in bed. Silence. She looked at her alarm clock, 7:00. Usually there was some noise. Her sister Carlene was staying and her daughter, Anna, was always up and about at this time making lots of noise. Cypress pushed back the covers and walked out of her room.
“Cypress!” a familiar high pitched voice called.
“Anna?” Cypress asked.
When Cypress walked into the kitchen she saw Anna sitting at her high chair.
“Where’s mommy?” Cypress asked.
“She fell asleep,” Anna replied, bouncing. “I want breakfast.”
“I’ll get you something.” Cypress walked to the cupboards and almost tripped over something behind the island.
“Mommy’s sleeping over there,” Anna said crawling down from her unbuckled seat.
“I can see that,” Cypress said.
She turned her sister over and saw her face. Placing two fingers at Carlene’s wrist she felt for a pulse. To her relief, there was one.
“Where’s everyone else?” Cypress asked.
“But it’s almost time for school and work,” Cypress said to herself. “One second.”
Cypress jogged up the stairs and into her parent’s bedroom. She opened the door and walked inside. Her mom and dad lay asleep on their bed, both fully dressed.
“Strange,” Cypress said.
She went back downstairs and found Anna back in her highchair, now with a box of cereal.
“I want breakfast,” Anna said.
Cypress smiled. A three year old wouldn’t know that something was wrong. But her smile faded when she saw something shift in the living room that looked human. Cypress looked harder, but didn’t see it again.
Shaking her head, she poured a bowl of cereal for Anna, all while keeping an eye out for something, or someone.
As Cypress was sitting down to ponder her family’s odd sleeping phenomenon, Anna piped up.
“There’s a man waiting here for you. He’s in the living room.”
“What?” Cypress asked, hoping her niece had only been recalling a dream.
“Yeah. He wouldn’t give me cereal.”
“How long has he been here?” Cypress asked, keeping her voice low and eyes on where she saw the shifting shape.
“When I got up this morning. Before the sun was awake,” Anna said matter of factly.
“Anna, come here,” Cypress whispered.
“Why?” asked Anna, her volume making Cypress cringe.
“Just do it,” Cypress asked, still keeping her voice low.
“Okay,” Anna responded, finally lowering her voice.
Anna slid out of her chair, her feet hitting the tile with a slap. She padded over to Cypress’s waiting arms.
Cypress picked her up and put her on her hip. Carefully she went to the island where she had left her phone the previous night. When she approached it she noticed that the back had been removed, as had the battery. There went calling 911.
Sliding the phone into her pajama pant’s pocket, she carefully approached the living room, the only way outside. Sweeping her eyes over the room, Cypress saw nothing out of the usual. Taking a few careful steps into the room, Cypress still saw nothing.
After a moment of painstakingly slow, quiet steps, the two made it to the front door. Looking over her shoulder, Cypress turned the doorknob, but it wouldn’t turn. Looking down she saw that the knob had been switched around, the keyhole on this side of the door.
Cypress took deep breaths, trying to calm herself. This was getting way to scary for her.
“What’s wrong?” Anna asked, noticing her aunt’s alarmed look.
“Nothing, I’m sure,” Cypress said, giving her best reassuring smile.
“Oh, I’m sure,” a male voice said behind her.
Cypress didn’t turn around for a moment.
“That’s the man who I was telling you about,” Anna said, squirming at Cypress’s hold.
Cypress finally turned. A man was sitting on one of the room’s couches. He had blonde hair that was cut military style and his strong face was set in a smile, both showing his young age; maybe twenty. But Cypress’s stare wasn’t on any of those, they were on his unnaturally blue eyes.
Standing up the man said, “Michelle, you’re looking well.”
Frightened, Cypress didn’t say anything. Obviously this man had her confused with someone else.
“She’s not Michelle. And neither am I.” Anna managed to squirm free from Cypress’s arms.
“Oh? And if you two aren’t named Michelle, then what might be your names?”
“I’m Anna and she’s-”
“Anna don’t, come back here,” Cypress hissed.
“No,” Anna said, defiantly taking a few steps backwards towards the stranger.
Why must she be such a stubborn child!
Cypress took a step and saw the man do the same. Cypress darted towards Anna, but the man made it first. He scooped Anna into his arms and held her tightly, though not enough to harm her.
“Let her go,” Cypress said, trying to keep her voice from quaking.
“Yeah,” Anna agreed.
“But Michelle, don’t you remember me?” the man asked, confusion clearly on his face.
“My name’s not Michelle,” Cypress ground out.
“Y-you don’t remember me, do you?”
“No. Get out of my house.”
“Samuel. Does the name Samuel ring a bell?” he asked. “That’s my name. Samuel.”
Cypress backed away towards the door. This man must’ve been an escapee from an insane asylum. Yeah, that was it.
“Just put Anna down. I don’t know you and you’re scaring us both.”
Tears coursed down Anna’s cheeks. “You’re scaring me really badly.”
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