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  Table of contents Issue Fourteen ALARM

by
KRISTIN BROOKER
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mall hands clutch a white-furred bear, its belly tucked by a tiny arm. Inquisitive green eyes peer up at the mother, lips parted as a question tumbles from the depths. The mother shakes her head, brown curls bouncing as much as the dried hairspray will allow. Her slender hand finds a smaller, pudgy one as she pulls her son into the house, dropping her leather purse on the table as they walk past. In the kitchen, the father leans over the stove, tie removed, turning over slow-browning beef that wafts meaty scents about the room. The mother tsks, says she will have to cancel the dinner plans they set that morning, but smiles as she picks up her child and sits him at the table. The teddy bear falls from his grasp, but the boy doesn’t notice as his father is currently leaning away from the stove and lavishing affections on the boy’s face. He giggles, proceeds to talk in length about his adventure through the supermarket as the mother goes to the bathroom to freshen up.



The alarm starts beeping from the basement, scaring the child, who begins to sniffle. The father replaces the cover to the pan, shushes the son, and walks to the door leading below, standing in the doorway so that he can better determine the location. Satisfied the sound was, indeed, coming from the lower level, he proceeds down the creaky wooden steps, each sagging under his weight. He flips the switch for the light. It flickers overhead, temporarily illuminating the room and the sounding carbon monoxide alarm, but it dies and everything is dropped into a murky gray hue courtesy of the dust-covered slits lining the bleached walls. He reaches the bottom step and walks toward the alarm, but is acutely aware of being watched.



The smell of food burning fills the room as the mother rushes down the stairs. She finds the stove unmanned and her child swinging his legs to and fro from his throne of a high chair. She turns the dial to off and pulls the pan from the element, wondering where her husband has gone. Beeping can still be still heard from the basement and she walks to the doorway, stares down the stairs. Shaking her head, she returns to the kitchen and lifts her boy, placing him in the living room amongst blocks and wooden trains. The sound continues. The mother finds her way to the door and places her foot upon the first step. Her hand searches for the switch as she continues to scan, unseeing, the lower part of her home. She lifts the switch, but nothing happens. She scoffs and descends, calling out for her husband. Something crashes in the corner of the room; she snaps her head in that direction and feels her heart pulsate wildly in her chest. Nothing to be seen. She continues, believing it only to be a loose box that has fallen from a shelf. The alarm carries on its unwavering tune as a hand is pressed into her lower back.



The child builds railway stations for imaginary conductors to send their wooden vehicles through. Passengers in the form of fallen plastic soldiers litter the carpet around him like a windswept trailer park. Giggling, his pudgy hand leads a train into a pile of wobbling blocks – their structure tumbles without a chance. His stomach chastises him for his actions and he teeters to his feet, thin rubber soles slapping against the linoleum in search of his parents. He passes by the basement, mimics the beep beep of the machine, large round eyes peering around the kitchen to no avail. He continues his search around the house, stopping momentarily at the stairs leading up, but is blocked by a white gate extending from one wall to another, allowing no entry. He proceeds with his journey and once again reaches the doorway leading down, the noise welcoming, beckoning him into the dark recesses of the house. The child stands, fixated on the darkness and not wanting to move further, but hears the soft lull of the father’s voice. Sitting down on the floor, he scoots his body close to the edge and further, plopping down on the next step. Plop, plop, plop he goes, the ground below rising shakily to meet him. He calls for the father, but gets only a cold breeze as a reply. He tries to climb back up the steps, but his chunky arms won’t allow him the strength. Tears prick his eyes as he realizes he’s stuck, though the beeping of the alarm washes out the noise of his sobs. Through his blurry vision, he sees a dark bulky figure approach, the cement being stomped in time with the unlikely metronome. After that, nothing but the color of the letters adorning his favorite blocks – red.



The basement door shuts snugly into its frame, the alarm finally fizzling out. Burnt meat pervades the house as the phone rings, a bright orange dot on the phone set allowing only a fraction of light within a realm of pitch black. An older lady speaks after the tone, wondering over her daughter’s whereabouts and whether she will finally get that small family portrait promised to her when they next come to visit.



   
   

 

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Kristin Brooker lives in Middle of Nowhere, Ohio, where she dreams of places that aren’t surrounded by seemingly endless cornfields. While she holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Bowling Green State University, she is currently holed up in her house with her lover, her cat, and her computer, watching paranormal documentaries and awaiting the next bout of leaf-turning weather.



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