Home > The Glow (Glow #1)

The Glow (Glow #1)
Author: Aubrey Hadley

 

 

 


For all the girls who have struggled to find their inner bravery.

 

 

 

 

My hands are almost shaking too much to grasp the knob. Once I manage to get the front door open, I slam it behind me and collapse on the floor, gasping for breath.

I turn and reach to click the lock. A pink sticky note on the door catches my eye.

Harper, you’d better be locked in your room when I get home!

I toss Mom’s note on the floor as I rush to turn on every light in the house. Then I check the locks on the doors and windows — not that I’m sure a door or window would stop that thing.

I sprint upstairs, shove my nightstand in front of my bedroom door, hide in my closet, and pick up my brother’s baseball bat. My heart slowly returns to a normal pace. This is ridiculous, I’m seventeen and hiding in my closet like a little kid. Ugh. I wouldn’t be in this situation if it wasn’t for Mom.

 

Earlier today

 

My younger sister Olivia and older brother Brett were already seated on the couch when I walked through the front door. Across from them, Mom was leaning back into her shabby Victorian armchair, staring at me with that smug-ass expression of hers.

“It’s 7:30 p.m., Harper. Where have you been?” she asked, tapping her foot impatiently.

“I thought it was another stupid scare,” I said as I set down my backpack, trying to keep my cool. “Don’t worry. I was just at soccer practice with a few friends.”

Mom tilted her head and raised an eyebrow. “People are dead, Harper. That was very careless of you.” Her voice sharpened.

“But it happened like thousands of miles from here,” Olivia blurted.

Mom looked from Olivia to the window in thought. The evening sun highlighted her attractive, yet permanently scowling face, with faint wrinkles at the corners of her eyes. “It’s always better to be safe than to take risks,” she said quietly, practically to herself. “I shouldn’t let you out of the house unless the authorities can prove the Syndrome is gone. Especially you, Harper.”

“Especially me?” I forced myself to pause, trying to maintain composure. “What about Brett? He leaves all the time, and you don’t care … You’ve had me trapped in here for weeks. I needed some fresh air.”

“Brett is responsible. When he left the house this morning, he was going to his job— not to play soccer with his friends.”

“Yeah, but —”

She put up her hand. “And you’re hanging out with those … girls when you play soccer. Those reckless, irresponsible girls.”

“So which part are you really upset about, then? The girls, or the soccer?”

“Both.”

“Does this mean you’re going to keep us locked up like last time?” Olivia asked, her big doe eyes full of concern. She swept her dark hair away from her face, exposing the slightly awkward thirteen-year-old features that she hadn’t grown into yet.

“Oh, I’m such an awful mother, aren’t I? Trying to keep my children alive,” Mom added snidely for effect.

“More like dramatic,” Olivia huffed, crossing her arms.

Preach, Olivia! I looked to Brett for support, but he said nothing and kept his head down. Typical.

“Do you know how they diagnose the RSE Sleeping Syndrome?” Mom asked. “They can’t confirm it until you’re dead, then they slice into your brain and find it full of tiny holes. There’s no cure for it because the scientists don’t know what it is. Does that sound like something you want to catch while playing soccer with your friends, Harper? Or hanging out at the mall, Olivia?”

My stomach lurched with annoyance. “You’re blowing the situation way, way out of proportion again. The breakout happened on the other side of the freaking country. There are no cases here. Do you realize how crazy controlling —” I snapped my mouth shut, but it had already slipped.

Olivia and Brett shrank into the couch.

Mom stood with enough force to make her chair slide back. To reinforce her point, she stalked closer to me, and stopped when we were nearly eye-to-eye. “Nobody leaves or comes into this house unless I say so! Especially you, Harper. Is that clear?!” Her breath beat hot on my face.

My fists tightened. The seconds of silence that followed lingered in the air like a pungent smell. I peered at the door and then back at Mom.

“Harper, don’t you —”

She reached for me, but I was already out the door, pounding my anger into the ground with each step as I raced away. My feet carried me from the suburbs, through a creaky gate, and into the sagebrush-laden desert.

In the distance, the evening sun had sunk behind the great Sierra Nevada Mountains, the landscape darkening into a monochromatic gray stretch of bushes.

Antares, my favorite star, was one of the first to pierce the night sky. Away from the city lights, its ruby-red luminescence was brighter than even Mars tonight.

As my gaze lingered on it for a moment too long, my foot caught on a rock, and I crashed onto the gravel and skidded into a bush.

“Damn it!” I cursed. My leg was burning as I tried to wipe away the small rocks from my bleeding knee. But something on the ground caught my eye. Something fluttered. I turned. There was an odd glow in the not-too-far distance, and I froze.

Walking slowly towards me, almost floating, was a tall human-shaped silhouette— colors radiating off a black hole of a body at the center of what looked like a supernova.

I blinked over and over again, trying to correct my vision, holding the air in my lungs, so I didn’t make a sound.

As it continued toward me, its flame-like energy cast distorted halos across the surrounding sagebrush and rocks. When it passed the other side of my bush, a gasp slipped out.

Through the branches sheltering me, I saw the thing pause. Then its featureless black head revolved like an owl spotting prey.

In a panic, my fingers scurried across the dark ground until they found a small, jagged rock.

The thing made a sudden sharp turn, heading for my hiding spot. I shot up, my heart about to rip from my chest.

“S … S … Stop!” I shouted like an idiot.

It did … And for a moment, everything seemed to move in slow motion as colorful flames licked around its tall and slender body, but I couldn’t make out anything else in its black silhouette.

It started hovering forward again, and I hurled my rock to slow it. The rock passed straight through the thing, as if it were made of smoke. My feet skidded on the gravel as I turned and raced home, too scared to look behind me.

 

Now I’m clutching this baseball bat in my closet, trying to make sense of what the hell I just witnessed. Was it all a hallucination?

I hear the front door open and tiptoe downstairs, still wary of my mother. Brett sets down a small pile of groceries and gives me an angry look. That’s not fair. I should be mad at him for not backing me up with Mom.

He looks at my knee, which is still trickling with blood. Damn, I forgot about that. His expression softens. “What happened?”

“Harper!” Mom calls in her nails-on-a-chalkboard tone. I don’t move, and I hear her walk inside.

“Why are you two just standing here?” she says in an accusatory tone, without so much as a glance at my knee.

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