Fear is the first thing I feel when I wake up.
Maybe it’s the expectation that my father will come barging into my room drunk out of his mind. Or maybe it’s an unfamiliarity of the small room, or the fact that everything is in complete darkness; even though it feels like morning. I pull my phone from the nightstand to check the time but it’s dead. My watch is also dead.
I get up from my bed to flip on the bedroom light but there isn't any power either? I call back to Josh that I’m going to check on things outside, groggily leaving the bedroom while trying to rub the sleep from my eyes. Opening the front door to the apartment doesn't really reveal much either except for a silent hallway in complete darkness. So I walk back in, feeling a little weirded out since it’s so quiet.
"Josh I'm gonna see if there's anything to make for breakfast," I call out again towards the bedroom.
By the time I shuffle into the kitchen I find myself with enough light coming from the window to see my way around the small apartment. I steal a glance outside only to find the area out the window is completely empty of…anyone. The park area down below is totally empty and unkempt with bits of trash fluttering around in the wind here and there. The horizon has this weird hazy and foggy red early morning glow to it which just leaves me with even more of a sense of dread.
I walk over to the counter to check the cupboards for something easy to fix while also trying to ignore the weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. I'm then jolted from my thoughts when a voice calls from behind me from the direction of the bedrooms.
"Dude! What the actual fuck, Branden? Why are you up so early and who the fuck is Josh?"
I quickly turn my head to look at whoever this person is that’s in my apartment, and for some unknown reason, somehow seems to know me. I take a step back against the counter as I've never seen him before, but he also seems and sounds oddly familiar at the same time.
He’s tall. Somewhere over six foot, well built, thick shaggy black hair that's experiencing some pretty bad bed head, and chocolate brown eyes that glare at me as he rubs the sleep out of them. He walks right up next to me in the kitchen which makes me really uncomfortable since he's walking around in only a black t-shirt and boxers.
Who is this guy? And where is Josh? This is all freaking me the fuck out so I back away from him against the wall. Without looking away from this random guy in my apartment I sidestep towards the bedroom to check on Josh.
His glare drops as he looks at me with concern to ask me, "Dude, what's wrong with you today? It's just me. Zander."
An internal scream erupts in my mind as I stare at him in shock, I. Don't. Know. A. Zander!!! I make it to my bedroom and Josh isn't there. I frantically look under the bed and in the closet for his stuff and it's all there except for his phone.
"Are you okay? You're acting weird today, Branden. More than usual I mean."
I look behind me and this Zander guy is in my doorway leaning against the door frame looking at me with even more concern than a few seconds ago, like he's known me for years?
"No I'm not okay! My brother isn't here! Josh? My twin? Looks exactly like me but with longer hair?"
He raises an eyebrow at me and I can hear him audibly inhale through his nose in irritation as he stares at me unconvinced. "Never seen the guy, just you. And dude, we've been here at college for a whole year. I knew you hated me but, fuck. Is this some sick joke something?"
A what? A full year? My eyes get blurry as I feel a panic attack beginning to set in. Where's my brother? And a whole year without him? What the hell is going on here?
"These are his shoes though, and this side of the closet-"
He cuts me off, clearly pissed as I hold up one of Josh's shirts that had been laying on the floor, "Dude, you wore that shirt yesterday. You switch out your shoes every day, those Adidas one day, the Nikes the next."
He sighs and leans his head against the door frame, "Do you… Want a hug or something? Or maybe I should make some breakfast, though I'm not sure how well that'll go without power… Yeah, I'll give you a minute. I'll be in the kitchen if you need me," he loudly sighs before hesitantly walking back out.
I take a few minutes to calm down. Or it feels like only a few minutes. Then Zander is back, sitting on the bed next to me with a bowl of dry cereal. He hands it to me and I’m surprised there isn’t any milk in the bowl. "Here man, I didn't want to open the fridge with no power, so, boring cereal today."
I carefully take the cereal from him, not breaking eye contact with this unknown guy as I slowly dig into the dry cardboard-like flakes.
"So uh, Branden. Is your phone working? Mine is dead. I guess the power went out just after we went to bed yesterday?"
I break my eternal stare-off with Zander to glance at my phone resting on the nightstand, "No mine's dead too, and my watch…"
"That's weird. I'm gonna go across the hall and check with Chance and Wes to see if theirs is working. I'll be back in a minute. You gonna be okay, dude?"
I nod, glancing back at him as he stands back up, watching him as his big muscular figure recedes into the shadows of the dark hallway. Still freaking out here. It's not as bad as it was, but, still freaking out. Reducing into an anxiety-induced frozen mess on the floor isn't going to help to understand what's happening. So as Josh says, deep breaths.
I get up from the bed and head out to the kitchen to put my bowl in the sink. Then there's a noise at the door and a loud thunk from it shutting. I look towards the door where Zander is coming back in and he's speed walking up to me at almost a run.
I take a cautious step back and ask, "...What's wrong?"
He puts a hand over my mouth and looks completely scared out of his mind, putting a finger to his mouth to hush me, "Dude I don't know what the actual fuck is going on but there's no one here except these… Things."
In a loud whisper he looks at me then the door, then at the living room window, "We have to get out of here."