Blackout Part 2
Read Blackout Part 1
Sarah pulled the paper off the tree. The paper felt odd in her hands, heavier than the sheets of lined loose leaf she used at school. It was also slightly yellowed and the handwriting looked like one of those fancy invitations her parents used to get for weddings.
She carefully folded the note and stashed it in her jeans pocket as she looked around the woods behind the playground. Every so often a bird would chirp and a tree branch would rustle, but there was no sign of the boy. After a few minutes, Sarah turned back toward the park, checking over her shoulder here and there.
That night Sarah sat down to eat with her family. The menu consisted of canned vegetable soup heated over an open flame and stale rolls. If she dunked the bread into the hot soup, it softened a bit, making it more edible.
Her father tried to make small talk, asking each of her family members what they did during the day. Her brother just shrugged, his depression over the lack of power worsening every day. Her mother rambled nervously about walking with a neighbor to a nearby gardening store to look for seeds.
“We figured we might as well start planting vegetables and fruit, right?” she said optimistically. “They’ll need time to grow, and I’ve always wanted a garden.”
Sarah wasn’t confident that her mother’s plants would last, especially since the woman managed to kill a cactus two years ago, but maybe her neighbor’s thumb was greener.
After dinner, Sarah headed to her bedroom to sneak chocolate chip cookies she swiped from the convenience store up the road. She ate one per night so that she could make the dessert last as long as possible. As she savored the last bite, she heard movement on the ground below her bedroom window. Sarah carefully moved toward the glass, keeping her body as close to the frame as possible so whoever lurked below didn’t see her. Since it was dark inside her house, it was easier to hide, but she was sure she’d still cast a shadow against the moonlight.
It was the boy. He was running through her backyard, peering under rocks, looking inside garbage cans. He seemed frantic, and every few seconds he’d stop and look around, chewing his fingernails. Sarah could see his chest heaving nervously. She watched him for another minute and just as she was going to reveal herself, he took off into her neighbor’s yard. He nearly fell into the hole their German shepherd Jaxon dug out of boredom last night.
It was too dark to see where he was, but Sarah could hear him digging around their yard and garbage cans.
The next morning while her parents whispered about survival and her brother stared blankly at the wall of the living room, Sarah went to search the area where she last saw the boy. He had knocked over their trash cans, letting packaged food debris scatter across the grass. It looked as if a raccoon tried to take advantage of the leftovers, too. She looked for other signs of his presence, maybe even another note, but there was nothing.
Sarah rounded the house toward the front lawn and there it was. Tacked to a large rock in her mother’s flower garden was another sheet of the same heavy paper.
“You have to help me find it.”