• I turned the key and opened the door. Throughout the house, there was dead silence.
    “Mom…Dad…?” There was no answer. “Figures...” I muttered. I wasn’t surprised when I saw something scribbled on a post-it note sticking to the fridge.

    Dear Miranda,
    We will be staying in Las Vegas for two days. Kaleigh has a soccer game on Saturday and she needs to finish her homework, don’t forget. Also, the dishes need to be washed and put the clothes in the dryer, please. Have fun over the weekend!!
    Mom and Dad

    They’ve been doing this to me ever since my little sister was born. Now she is eight and I am eighteen; just about to graduate high school. I won’t even be able to go to college now because I have to take care of Kal. They would leave me alone with Kaleigh and all the chores without any baby sitter to supervise. I’m surprised they even remembered she played soccer. Yeah, they’re the ones telling me like I didn’t already know. But Kal really can play soccer. She’s great, too. She can kick really hard-and I know that from a personal experience. Mom and Dad purchased the house because they “think it’s better to live far away from other people so there are less distractions”, but I think they just didn’t want other people to know they left us alone so often. I started heading towards the door and I thought I heard footsteps upstairs. It sounded like huge boots clunking on the floor.
    “Hello?” No one answered. Of course no one answered; I was in a house by myself. I realized what a fool I must have looked like calling to no one in an empty house. I better just go pick up Kaleigh from school.
    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
    The next day was just an average autumn Saturday. I walked upstairs to turn the stove on and find a pot. I was planning to make some pasta. I went down stairs to watch some television while the water was boiling. Kaleigh walked downstairs holding her nose.
    “Umm, Miranda…” I looked at her so she would know I was paying attention to her. “It smells really gross upstairs. Can you go see what the smell is?” Now that I stopped watching the T.V., I noticed the smell, too.
    “Sure,” I mentioned half-mindedly, “I’ll go check it out.” I stood up slowly, my eyes still concentrating on the television. I went upstairs and the smell grew stronger. It was truly disgusting. It was coming from my parents’ room. Then, with hesitation, I opened the door and looked around. Then, I saw it, just laying there.
    “Miranda, can I change the channel?”
    “No,” I yelled down stairs, “Get your soccer equipment out of the closet.”
    I stared down towards the floor again. No, this can’t be, this is impossible. I didn’t know what to do, I couldn’t think. The horrible smell was surrounding me and trapped me in a cage. I couldn’t take it anymore. I stepped over the dead body to open the window. I sat on my parents’ bed and stared at the corpse. There was a slice in the lifeless man’s chest. I was assuming it was from a knife of some sort. The injury still looked fresh. A small puddle of blood stained the carpet. I looked at his face. His mouth was open like he had been frozen while screaming. His eyes were wide open, too…and even though he was dead, you could still see his fear. Then, I noticed his hair. It was a soft, light brown color…just-like-mine. DAD! No, no, no, my dad was in Las Vegas and he wasn’t coming home until Sunday. It was only Saturday. As much as I knew it was Dad in my head, I didn’t want to admit it to myself. Dad or not, it was still a dead body. What could I possibly do with it? Well I thought the best thing to do was call the police, but I didn’t know because I had never dealt with a dead person. As I picked up the phone, Kaleigh called upstairs real loud.
    “Mir-an-da…” I thought whatever she had to tell me was important by the way her voice sounded. I put down the phone. I took a step outside of my parents’ room and closed the door carefully. “MIRANDA!?” This time she sounded scared and confused. As I ran down the stairs, she was running up. She hugged me tightly and bursted into tears. “Look…in…the…closet.” She coughed out while choking on her own tears. She then plopped down on the steps and buried her face in her hands to cry. I walked down the rest of the stairs cautiously, not ready for what I was probably about to see. The closet door was half open…and there was mom, just hanging there by a rope tied around her neck. Her blonde hair in a neat pony tail, her make-up still on. She was wearing the beautiful blue dress that dad bought for her. I was thinking that she probably was the one who hung herself. But what if someone else did this to her? Who was this person, and what if this person was going to kill Kaleigh and me next? Where was Kaleigh? I should call the police now! I tripped over the area rug while I was walking towards the phone. I landed hard on the white, textured tile floor in the hallway. Oww, my head! I tried to push myself up, but I felt too weak. All of a sudden, I felt extremely tired. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Everything was blurry. I could have sworn I saw a tall man wearing black just walking around the house. Now I knew I was crazy. My eyes shut, and everything turned black.
    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
    When I woke up, I felt kind of dizzy. I heard a tapping sound. Pit pat pit pat. It was raining hard. What time was it? 9 o’clock! But I fell asleep at 2 o’clock. Most of the lights were on. I smelled gasoline from somewhere. Then I noticed mom lying down on the floor. The rope was still tied around her neck. Then what was in the closet? I stood up and went towards the closet door. No, I thought, I’ve seen many horror movies before, and whoever opens the closet, dies. I should run the other way while I still have the chance. But I couldn’t resist, it was like a magnetic force pulling me towards the door against my own will. Now I knew why it was so hard for the people in the horror movies. No matter how loud you yell “Don’t open the door!” they do it anyway. I thought that since I was right there, I’d open the door. The light was off in the closet. As I was about to turn it on, a little hand pulled down on my pant leg. I was caught off guard so the light tug brought me down. Someone shut the door behind me. I was about to panic, but from the light shining under the door, I could tell it was just Kaleigh. She raised a single finger and placed it up to her lips. Then, quieter than a mouse, she whispered “A man is in our house. He is looking for one of us I think.” I looked straight at her for a second. Then, as if she knew what I was going to ask, she added “I didn’t get a chance to take a good look at his face, but I’m sure it was a guy. He had a black stick. I saw it in his pocket. He…” I stopped listening to her for a second. A black stick? Maybe it was a gun or a…A KNIFE! All of a sudden, I had an epiphany. The man who killed mom and dad has been living in our house and I didn’t even notice. The footsteps I heard, the black shadow I saw before I passed out, I wasn’t just imagining things. They were real. I noticed Kaleigh was still whispering. “…wearing black. Miranda, did he kill mommy?” I shook my head up and down.
    “Listen,” I whispered quietly, “you stay here. I’m going to find something-something I can use as a weapon.”
    “NO!” Somehow she raised her voice while still making it sound like a whisper. “I need you here! You need to stay here with me!” She was near tears. I could tell because her voice was getting scratchy. A minute passed before she actually looked up at me. Now she was crying. I could see the tears running down her face. “Don’t leave me here alone, I’m scared Miranda-I’m really, really scared.” I nodded so she would know I was staying. I looked down after that because I really didn’t have any other choice. I watched the light shining from under the door. Then I heard boots hitting the floor a lightly as possible. He was walking and then stopped right in front of the closet door. The door knob turned. I closed my eyes and stayed still. Even though I knew this was probably my last moment, I hoped and prayed that there was still a chance. The door opened and I heard the man snicker. He lifted me up by grabbing my shoulder in the most uncomfortable way. I wanted to cry as he smiled because I almost knew what was going to happen. He would kill me and Kaleigh would watch the whole thing happen. I looked at his face closely. His smile was beautiful. His teeth were as white as could be. His eyes were the most unique shade of blue-green. How could such an evil criminal, look so gentle. I knew I should at least try to save myself, so I spit in his face.
    “Ugghh!” he cried while wiping off his face with his hand. I picked up Kaleigh and ran out the door. I forgot it was raining, and I wasn’t really dressed for this weather. I looked behind me and he was chasing us. He left the door open. I faced forward so I could see where I was running. I ran, but I couldn’t run fast enough. The man was already catching up. I knew Kaleigh could run fast because she’s good at soccer. I told her that once I put her down, to run as fast as she could. Once I put her down, I could run a bit faster,too. She had run down the sidewalk. I turned and ran by the side of my house, stupid me. I turned my head to see if the man was following. He was right on my tail. Since I was so busy trying to look and see how close he was to me, I didn’t see the garbage can. Instead, I tripped over it. I crashed down, my forehead scraping against the brick exterior on our house. I landed on my stomach, but turned on my back. There he was looming over me with the knife in his hand. My forehead felt warm and it burned. I thought it was blood, but it could have been rain. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t spit at him, and at this point, I could hardly see him. The rain was blurring my vision. I thought he could sense my fear.
    “You’re probably wondering why I killed your parents, right?” I stared at him for a second. “You see, your father owed me lots n’ lots of money. He promised me that he would pay me back. But cha’ know what, he never did. He kept telling me the money would be there ‘next time’. Again, just another lie. I told him he didn’t pay me now, then he would pay me big time. And he did…with his life. I thought I was lucky to have this house all to myself, but then I realized I would have to deal with you two first.” What kind of monster was he? “I wasn’t gonna kill you, ya know. I would just take you as my own children and threaten you to keep quiet. But now that I told you all that, I’m just gonna have to kill you.” He raised his knife up. I closed my eyes because at the time, I thought that maybe if I closed my eyes, I wouldn’t feel the pain of dying. I opened them for just a second. He was lighting a cigarette with a match. I was wondering how the match was still on fire if it was raining. Yeah, like that was my biggest concern. Then I saw Kaleigh right behind him, but he didn’t notice. She gave him the hardest soccer-kick that she could. He fell over away from the house while grunting. The cigarette and the match landed right by the house. Suddenly, the house blew up in flames. I had left the stove on before I hit my head and passed out. The fire from the match must have made it blow up. The man caught on fire and by the looks of it, he was already dead. I wanted to call the police, but the phone was inside the house and there wasn’t another house I could go to for miles. I had to stay there hoping the firemen would come soon. Kaleigh and I were huddling up close enough to the fire where we could at least feel some warmth. The rain and the cool night wind weren’t helping. We had no home, no parents, no money, and no protection. What would become of us?