When 17-year-old Dustin Shade woke up this morning, he realized what day it was and smiled. It was finally summer and today was the first day of summer break for him and the rest of his fellow school mates. Which meant for the next 2 months he did not have to put up with mean teachers or Kevin Knightly. Kevin was always tripping up Dustin, playing mean spirited jokes on him or would just start fights that somehow Dustin would end up taking the blame for.Dustin's smile quickly was replaced by a feeling of dread after he glanced at his right hand. It was swollen and still sore from an altercation he had at school yesterday with Kevin. The school had its fill of Dustin and expelled him. The police was called and his mother had to bail him out of jail. The ride home was no easy picnic for him, either.He was relieved that it was all over but knew he was going to hear it this morning from his dad at breakfast. Dustin took a deep breath and walked out of his bedroom door. The aroma of buttermilk blueberry pancakes filled the hallway as he continued down the short corridor to the bathroom. Dustin took a shower, hoping it would wash away the anxiety he was feeling, but it did not. A part of him wanted to stay in the shower all morning just so that he would not have to deal with his dad but another part of him wanted to get it over with. The walk to kitchen seemed to take forever to him. He glanced around the kitchen and saw that there were packed suitcases near the back door. Dustin asked his mom, who was cooking breakfast, pancakes and scrambled eggs with a side of orange juice, if she and his dad were about to throw him out. Dustin's mother, Melissa Shade, was 32-years- old and very fit for her age. She was of average height. Melissa and Dustin shared the same chestnut colored hair with auburn high lights. "Don't be silly, Dustin," she smiled She would always make this meal for him whenever he wasn't feeling too good. He took his normal seat at the table and was about to ask her why then were the suitcases there when his 8 year-old- little sister, Rocket plopped herself in a chair right next to him. Rocket loved and adored her big brother. She was dressed in a pink summer dress and her favorite pink shoes. Pink was her favorite color and Dustin was her favorite brother. Wherever he went, she went. She would not have it any other way. She looked at his slightly swollen right hand and asked him if it hurt. Just as Dustin was about to answer his loving sister, he heard footsteps coming down the hallway headed towards the kitchen. It was his dad, John, making his way to breakfast. John put his right hand on Dustin's left shoulder."I heard you had some trouble at your school yesterday, Dustin" John said while looking down at him.Dustin wanted to get up from his seat, but John had a firm grip on his shoulder. He had Dustin pinned. John had a six inches and fifty pounds on Dustin's 6-foot frame. John was not middle aged. He was in his early forties, clean shaven. He had a trim body which he kept that way by working out in the gym three times a week. His hair was reddish brown and his eyes were green. He was dressed in his favorite midnight blue business suit. Melissa knew how angry John would get whenever Dustin would get into a little trouble. John "accidentally" broke Dustin's right arm last summer when he grabbed him violently and threw Dustin out of the front door. Melissa loved her husband but she loved her son more. John knew that. That was one of the reasons why he hated Dustin. But this morning, there was something different about John's attitude towards Dustin. He was being decent to the young man. This was shocking to Dustin."No need to hold your breath over there, Mel," he said as he took his seat at the head of the table "I am not going to yell at the boy or anything like that."Dustin could not believe it. He wanted to say "you're not" but figured it would be better if he kept his mouth shut and eat his breakfast. Rocket, being too young to understand what was going on, just sat back in her chair and enjoyed her pancakes. John looked around the table, grabbed Melissa's right hand, who had just taken her seat next to him, and smiled as he looked dead into Dustin's eyes.Dustin could have sworn that was no ordinary smile. It was more of an evilish, "going to get you later" smile. This was making him very uncomfortable. He knew John was up to something. Not wanting to say anything to upset his mother, Dustin just excused himself from the table."Where are you going, Dustin?" John asked.Melissa's heart skipped a beat with that question. John stood up. "If you're finished with your breakfast, I want you to walk out back with me. There's something I want you to do today.""John," Melissa said."Don't worry, Mel," he said as he kissed her on her forehead, " You worry too much."Melissa watched as the two of them walked out the back door. She did not know what to think, but she kept a watchful eye on them through the screen door as John walked Dustin to the big cedar tree in the back yard. "If you are going to hit me, just get it over with."" I am not going to hit you, boy" John said with that devilish grin on his face again, " I just want you to clear these bushes. They're getting too close to the house."Dustin looked at him suspiciously, " That's all?""That's all." John said as he disappeared into the shed. He came out with a long silver, shiny machete. It must have been 2 feet long. Dustin did not recall ever seeing it before. John told him he bought it last week and was going to clear out the bushes himself but since Dustin had gone and gotten himself in trouble , John told Dustin, as he handed it to him, " You can do it. It will give you time to think about your life and what you are doing with it."Dustin stared at the big knife in his hands. He had never seen such a thing. It was brand new. "That's it?" he asked curiously " You just want me to chop down those bushes with this thing?" Dustin looked up at John.John turned to walk back into the house " That's what I said. Now, I've got to go to work. I will see how well you do with this when I get home tonight." With that, John disappeared into the house. Dustin stood there in the back yard trying hard to figure out John's angle. A few minutes later, Dustin heard John's car begin to purr. John owned a newer model Camaro. It was candy apple red with racing stripes down the hood. He loved that car. It was his baby. He allowed no one to drive it, other than himself. As the sound of the car faded into the distance, Dustin started chopping down the bushes. He was right handed and swinging the blade aggravated his hand, causing it hurt more and more. He thought that this might have been John's intentions all along. Two hours later, the sun was beating down on him but he was still cutting. He had brought out his cd player to listen to his favorite song, "Empire State of Mind" by Jay Z while he worked. New York was his favorite city for some reason. He had never been there but he always talked about moving there as soon as he turned eighteen. He had already cleared out an area half the size of their home. His hand was getting bigger from all of the swinging and it was really hurting. He was not sure but he thought it might have been broken. While Rocket was busy playing with her favorite dolls in her room, Melissa made Dustin some lemonade and sandwiches. She knew he must have worked up an appetite working away in the hot sun.Melissa went to the end of the porch and called out to him. With the cd player blasting out music, her calls to Dustin went unheard. The loud cry of an ambulance siren caught his attention. It was rare to hear sirens in their quiet town. "Sounds like they are headed South to Dayton," he told his mother, who was handing him a cup of lemonade."Oh," she replied " You can hear that but you can not hear your mother calling for you?" Dustin threw the machete into the ground and reached for the cup. Melissa noticed how red and swollen his hand was. She asked him if his swollen hand was a result of the fight he got into yesterday. He lied to her and told her it was not as bad as it looked. Melissa could always tell when her children were lying to her, and she knew Dustin was lying to her now. She grabbed his hand, put some firm pressure on it and waited for his reaction which was quick. He snatched his hand back from her and began to shake it as if he was shaking off the pain."I know when you are lying to me, Dustin," she said " Come sit here on the steps. I will wrap it for you." She went into the house and came back with a bag of ice and some bandage wrap. Melissa was a RN many years ago. Although she stopped practicing to take care of Dustin and Rocket, she never forgot what she learned and with two children who were constantly getting scrapes and bruises, they kept her in practice. After she wrapped his hand, Dustin put the ice pack on it and thanked her. She smiled at him " You are my son, Dustin. I will always take care of you. There is no need to thank me."Dustin looked down at his hand. Melissa suggested he not do anything else with that hand until the swelling goes down. He did not want to give John any reason to yell at him or her when he returned later that evening. "Let me handle your father."Dustin took a long look at his hand again, and then looked up at her. He had been wanting to ask her something for a few years now but he never could get up the nerve to do it. So he just blurted out."Who is my real father?"That question caught her off guard. She had never told him John was not his real father and wondered how he knew. " If you are wondering how I knew he was not my real dad, I look nothing like the man. I look at Rocket and I see him in her. I look in the mirror and I do not see any part of him in me. That's why he hates me, isn't it?"Melissa walked to the cedar tree. She was hugging herself. She never planned to tell him the truth. It was too painful for her to think about. She knew the day would come when she would have to tell him the truth, she just never thought it would come so soon. Tears flowed down her face."I had hoped to never tell you this," she started " I wanted to protect you from it.""Protect me from what, mom?" he asked "Did you cheat on John while y'all were dating?"She could remember clearly what happened even though she tried very hard to forget it. She shut her eyes. "No. I met your fath...John almost a year after you were born. Your real father..." before she could finish her sentence, they heard a pair of sirens coming from the south heading towards their small town. That was in a third time in a few hours Dustin had heard sirens. He wondered what was going on. Could someone have had a heart attack, was someone's house on fire? They did not smell any smoke nor did they see any signs of a fire any where.Rocket popped her head out of the back door. " Momma, phone," she said as she walked onto the back porch. "I think it is Mrs. Roberts.""Alright, Rocket," she started "I'm coming. We will finish this after I get off the phone."As Melissa walked past her into the house, Rocket smiled at Dustin "Dusty, come have tea with me my friends?" "I promise to come play with you as soon as I finish up what I'm doing out here, Rocket," he said quickly " I promise. 'kay?" 'kay," she said and went back into the house headed to her room. Dustin smiled as he thought about his baby sister. She absolutely adored him, he felt the same about her. He would do anything for her which included pretending to drink tea with her and her dolls. Dustin walked back out to the bushes. He was about to take a swing when his mind went back to the conservation he and Melissa had. He wondered what it was she was about to tell him before she had to go answer the telephone. He thought maybe it was best she was interrupted before she could tell him who his real father is. He didn't want to know.Yeah right, that was a lie.He wanted to know who his dad was. He wanted to know why the man was not in his life, why she kept the truth from him all this time. Was he anything like his dad? Did his dad know about him, why did he leave them?As thoughts of his dad raced about in his mind, Dustin did not notice some movement going on in the bushes not far from him. Melissa was still on the telephone with Mrs. Kendra Roberts. Kendra was about the same age as Melissa. She stayed a block away from them and was the neighborhood busy body. If something was going on in town, she knew about it. No secret was safe with her. Kendra was telling Melissa about a killing she heard about at the chemical plant in Dayton. The media was reporting it as a disgruntled employee gone mad and was killing workers at the plant. The person was still attacking people when the police showed up.Melissa realized that was why they heard the sirens earlier. She knew John worked at the plant and was concerned about his safety. Kendra could not give her any specifics as to which employees had been killed, but she was watching it live as it happened on the television and had not seen John come out of the building. Melissa told Kendra she would talk to her later, and went into the family room where the television was. She wanted to see what was going on for herself. All of the local news media was on the scene covering the event as it went down live. The police had taped off the area surrounding the building, keeping the large crowd of onlookers and employees a safe distance away from the ruckus. It seemed like the entire city of Dayton was there, watching. She turned the television on just in time to see the crazed killer exit the building, which was surrounded by the local police. The man staggered about as if he was drunk or high on something. A camera man zoomed in on the alleged "killer." His clothing was bloody, and torn. He had a distant, crazed looked on his face. Some reporter said he looked as if he had rabies. He looked strange. He did not look right, something was wrong. The police ordered the man to surrender and to get on the ground .The man just kept walking towards them, ignoring their orders to surrender. After the third and final warning, the cops unleashed a storm of bullets upon the unarmed man, knocking him off of his feet. With their guns still drawn, they carefully walked up to the man lying on the ground. One officer kicked the man's left foot to see if he was still alive. Because he looked dead and did not move, they assumed he was dead. Some of the officers went inside the building to look for any one more assailants and or injured workers while a few officers stayed near the body. A nosy male reporter managed to get within four feet of the body before the officers swarmed him. He tried to talk them into giving him exclusive shots of the body. Of course, they did not. To their surprise, as the officers were escorting the reporter back behind the line, the man rose to his feet. The crowd tried to warn them but it was too late. The man attacked an officer from behind, biting him on his neck.Before Melissa could see what happened next, John entered the room. He was out of breath and very nervous. Melissa jumped up from her seat and hugged him. She was glad he was safe. He hugged her back for a moment and told her they had to leave now. He called out for Rocket, who was still in her room having her tea party with her dolls. Rocket peeked her head out from behind her bedroom door. "Daddy, " she smiled, "You are home early." John rushed to pick her up. Before Melissa could ask what was going on, John had tucked Rocket in the backseat of a black SUV, along with the suitcases that had been parked by the back door earlier that morning. "John, What is going on? What are you doing?""We have to go, Mel," he started "It is not safe here anymore.""Joh....""Get in the car, Mel. I will explain everything on the road. "Melissa looked in the SUV. There was no sign of Dustin. She was not going anywhere without her son. She started to head around the house towards the back yard calling for Dustin. John hit her across the back of her head, knocking her unconscious. "There is no time for that boy," said John as he put her in the passenger side of the SUV " He can die for all I care." At that exact same moment, Dustin had taken a break when he thought he heard someone calling for him. He looked around but did not see anyone. Thinking his mother might have called him, Dustin headed back towards the house. He had nearly made it to the cedar tree when he heard loud rustling coming from behind him in the bushes. At first he thought it might have been a dog or some wild animal. He quickly realized it had to be a person because the bushes were about his height, if not taller, and the tops of the bushes were moving as if someone tall was walking through them. Holding tightly to the machete, Dustin waited for what was in the bushes to show itself. He was surprised when a woman in a pair of raggedy jeans and a blouse came dragging her self out of the bushes. Her eyes were red and almost bloodshot. Her right ankle was badly broken, yet she was still walking on it as if she felt no pain. Pieces of her flesh was missing from her neck and left thigh. She looked as if some one had tried to eat her alive. She was moaning, making incoherent noises. She looked like down right scary. Even worse, she was walking directly towards him. Looking at him as if he was her next meal.Dustin began walking backwards towards the house. He did not know what was going on and did not care to find out. He ran to the house. The sound of someone calling for his name caught his attention. It was coming from the front of the house. With the scary woman still coming, Dustin jumped off the back porch and headed towards the front. "Dusty!" a voice screamed. It was Rocket. She was hanging out the rear window of a black SUV, screaming for him. Tears poured down her face, as it drove farther away.Dustin ran into the road to try to catch it. He tried, but he could not catch them. Although he was able to catch a glimpse of the driver. It was John, he stared at Dustin through the rear view mirror. He was happy to be rid of Dustin. His mother was in the passenger seat. He could not tell if she was conscious or not. Dustin stood in the road trying to get a grip on what was happening. Everything was happening in slow motion around him. Dustin heard screaming and saw a neighbor, crawling on the ground. She was trying to get away from a man who had just taken a bite out of her left ankle. He could hear the sound of her bones crunching. Dustin ran to help her when he heard a bullet sail past him. The woman had been shot in her forehead. She was dead. He turned to see where the bullet came from. There was a man, with a gun, dressed in black, standing less than 20 yards from him. His face was covered. Dustin could not tell who this person was. The masked gunman, without any hesitation, quickly shot the cannibalistic man in the head also.Dustin could not make any sense of what happening, it was like he was in a state shock. Chaos was breaking out all around him. He did not hear the soft screams coming from his sister, Rocket. She had jumped out of the suv. It was clear to see that jumping from the moving suv did not harm her as she ran towards Dustin, screaming his name as tears poured down her face. She was trying to warn him about the woman creeping up behind him. It was the same thing he saw earlier in his backyard. Still hungry for his flesh, the woman had followed him and was about to take a bite out of him when another shot rang out. "Wake up, kid," the masked gunman said. "This is not the time to be sleeping."The loud noise snapped Dustin out of the daze he had been in. This cliffhanger ending was intentional. I left it like this to set another book.
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