Alex woke up. He was gripped with that sense of urgency that often accompanies sudden awakening. What had woken him up? It must have been a dream, but what had the dream been about? He desperately tried to grab at the pieces of memory in his brain and reassemble them into something coherent, but it was too late. The dream, like so many of his dreams these days, was gone forever, scattered to the four corners of his mind.
He looked around blearily, his eyes crusty with sleep. He noticed it was pitch black in his room, except for the dull glow of the clock on the other side of the room. He tried to make out the time. He couldn't. His vision was terrible. "That's what I get for staring at a TV screen for so many hours of my life", he mumbled to himself. There was no light coming through his windows. He reasoned that it must still be very early in the morning.
The silence was broken by the loud rumbling of his stomach. He was extremely hungry. He fought a short battle with himself as to whether to make the effort to go get some food, or just let himself fall back to sleep. In the end, hunger won out, and Alex used all of his willpower to force himself out of the bed. He walked over to the door, his footsteps padded by the shaggy carpet in which he had lost so many small items.
It took him the better part of a minute to wrestle the door open. It had recently taken up the habit of jamming itself in its frame in such a way that it had to be maneuvered just right for it to open. "Stupid door. Dad needs to fix that shit already...", he grumbled. He flicked on the lights so he could see his path to the stairs. The attic was strewn with tools and construction materials, and it wasn't uncommon for them to somehow find a way to trip Alex up. He wished his family would just finish working up there already so he didn't have to wind his way through a veritable obstacle course every time he wanted to go downstairs.
As he reached the top of the stairs, he grabbed the railing and began the trek downwards. Every step he took greeted him with an ungodly loud creaking, which he in turn greeted with a grimace. His parents would give him hell if he woke the baby up again. Good thing her room is right next to the kitchen, he rebutted sarcastically to no one in particular. He did that a lot, he realized. Had simulated arguments in his mind. He often wondered if this was normal. Not that he could help it anyway.
Finally making it to the bottom of the stairs, he opened the door and paused their quietly for a moment. He strained his ears to try and hear if he had woken the baby. Nothing. Relieved, he tip-toed over to the refrigerator. The badly lain tile floor squeaked under his feet. He opened the door to the fridge, the light from within illuminating his face like a flashlight at a so-called-scary campfire story. After rummaging through the fridge's contents for a minute, he emerged with only a yogurt. Figures. Disgusted, he let the fridge door close itself as he walked over to the cabinet to try his luck there. But as he reached up to open it, he heard a noise.
It was a thudding noise, and it had come from one of the bedrooms. Had Zooey fallen out of her bed? But then, why wasn't she crying? Alex began to move slowly down the hallway to the first room. Every step he took was agonizingly loud, despite his best efforts at stealth. He gently pushed open the door to Zooey's room. It was never completely closed. He peeked his head inside. Her bed was empty. Maybe she was sleeping with his parents? He made his way down the hall to his parent's room. Again, he peeked his head inside, and again he was greeted by an empty bed. What the hell was going on? Glancing at the clock on the bedside table, he noticed it read "21:37". Since when did his parents put their clock in army time? And wouldn't that make it 9:37? Dismissing it as obviously the wrong time, Alex moved back into the hallway.
He was starting to get uneasy now. If his brother Cid wasn't in his room, Alex was already resolved to panic. About halfway down the hall, Alex dropped the yogurt he had still been holding. It hit the ground with a clatter, and he could not suppress a silent, "Dammit!" But then he noticed that the yogurt was rolling off to the left. What the hell? Since when was this hallway so slanted? The yogurt rolled into the bathroom, and Alex pursued.
The bathroom was completely empty. There was so sink, no toilet, no shower. The walls were white, the floors were spotless. He knew his parents were in the process of remodeling, but there was no way they had done this since he had seen it last night. He scanned the room again. No yogurt. He could have sworn he saw it roll in here. What the hell was going on?
Freaked out now, Alex lost all pretenses of stealth. He sprinted to Cid's room and threw the door open. No Cid. He rushed to the living room. Empty. The TV was on and a fire crackled in the fireplace, but there was no one to be found. He only took a moment to note the bizarreness of a fire in June, then dismissed it and dashed upstairs. Julie's room was the only one he hadn't checked yet. He threw open the door, not even expecting to find anyone at this point. And his suspicions were correct.
Sheer panic had gripped him. He ran to his room to grab his cell phone. He would call the police. They would help him find his family. He fought the door open and froze.
What he saw horrified him. He stood there and stared for what seemed like an eternity. He opened and closed his mouth, but no words would come out. Sweat ran down his face. His eyes were unblinking, locked on his bed.
For there lay Alex, sound asleep.
He was riveted to the spot where he stood, his mind racing. Was he insane? Or was he just dreaming? He pinched himself. The pain certainly felt real. What was he supposed to do?
But before he had time to dwell on it long, the person in the bed, Alex, himself, whoever the hell it was, started to stir. The Alex in the doorway wanted to run, but he couldn't. His mind was screaming at him to get out of there, but his body wouldn't budge. The stirring got louder. The covers fell to the floor. The figure began to sit up. Its head turned toward him.
And then Alex woke up.