Kate stared out the window at the endless trees. Her stare was a tormented mix of sadness and a slight smile. Jake looked comfortable wearing his black T-Shirt and jeans, he kept his eyes on the road, but his mind was elsewhere. He looked over to her for long moment with a wide smile, before she noticed his gaze.
“Keep your eyes on the road. We don’t need any more tragedy this year.” Kate said.
“I wouldn’t call you sleeping with strangers a tragedy. A small storm, maybe.” Jake responded.
“You always find a way to be right.”
Jake turned his eyes back to the road. The silence returned to the inside of the vehicle. Their SUV continued down the quiet country road.
Jake’s brother Matt lived off a dirt road in a small town. Some people would consider the quiet life paradise, while others viewed it as a life sentence of torture. “I could never live this far from society any longer than a weekend.” Kate stated.
“My daily life is chaos, so I welcome this change.” Jake responded.
“You quit your job, and ran from it. Remember?” Kate folded her arms.
“We all can’t enjoy a coffee coma, blindly following society. A snap happy self absorbed existence.”
Jake chuckled, shook his head.
The SUV parked in the driveway of Matt’s house, a two-story country house with a wooden porch, one of those quaint ones found on butter containers. Matt and his wife Nancy stood on the porch waving to greet them, their ever present perfect marriage on display for the world to witness.
Jake looked over at Kate before exiting the vehicle, and spoke, “Let’s try and not act like a Jerry Springer special.”
“I’m not the one having a midlife crisis when he’s thirty five.” Kate said.
“Perfect. Exactly like that.” Jake exited the vehicle. Kate huffed and followed him.
Matt’s wife Nancy wore a flower spring dress that flapped in the breeze just above her knees. Nancy and Matt met three years prior at farmer’s market. They married two months after, and have been happy in love ever since, a nauseating relationship to all those whom observe it.
The greetings were straight out of a Tuesday afternoon Lifetime movie. Fake smiles all-around, and half effort hugs. Matt was the first to speak, “There’s my favorite couple.”
Nancy smiled and added “If you moved closer, we could do this more often.”
“Jake might pack tomorrow.” Kate said.
Jake bit his lip, “Yeah, not everyone enjoys the treadmill lifestyle, some rather have calm.”
Nancy and Matt exchange uncomfortable gazes between themselves. The tension faded as the night went on. Dinner was filled with delicious food, and smiles all around. Laughs and good times, it was almost enough to make Jake forget the last few months. Kate sat next to him at the table. He couldn’t help but feel a tingle inside at the sight of her. He rubbed his eyes to rid the feelings he felt. Kate smirked at how he squirmed in his seat.
“Allergies?” Kate asked.
“Country air.” Jake said.
After the last bite was chewed, Jake joined Matt on the couch in the living room. There was nothing country about the house on the inside, top-of-the-line electronics filled the space, from Ipads, smart refrigerator, to the 60inch 4K television in the living room.
“I see you’re doing well for yourself.” Jake stated as he motioned towards the television.
“The real estate business is good when you’re the only office for forty miles.”
Both of them laughed.
Meanwhile in the kitchen Nancy and Kate enjoyed homemade pie washed down with fresh coffee.
“So, are you and Jake having problems?” Nancy asked Kate.
“Perfection lives only in fantasy.” Kate responded.
“I like to think Matt and I are near the ideal example of a couple.”
Kate crinkled her face at the thought. There were a million different words running through her mind, all of which would make her smile, but would ruin a friendship in a split second.
“It takes hard work and good listening skills.” Nancy added as she took a bite of pie.
“We’re just not on the same page anymore. I’m not sure if we ever were.” Kate said.
“You two always seemed happy to me.”
“I think we gave it a good effort, but I’m not sure what the future will hold.”
Nancy sighed, covered her heart with her hand “If you need anything, I’m here.”
Kate stood up, placed her dirty pie ridden plate in the sink. “Everything will work out as it should.” She touched Nancy on the shoulder as she walked off.
The rain started soon after. Everyone was gathered in the living room when the first drop fell. A black-and-white movie played on the television, a 1950’s film noir detective story. The group took refuge on the fluffy couch. A game of Trivial Pursuit took up the space on the coffee table in front of them.
“Rain is so peaceful, like the world is getting cleansed of all the past wrongs to start fresh.” Nancy said.
“As long as you’re with me.” Matt added. He cuddled up next to Nancy.
Jake relaxed in an over-stuffed chair to the side of the table. Kate sprawled out on the floor, her beauty on full display. The rain continued to pound outside.
The group woke to the rain pounding down even harder. It wasn’t the fact that it was raining that took their breath away, when they stood on the front porch. It was the fact that the rain was a sparkling black color. The consistency was the same as normal rain, but the eerie color made chills run down your spine. The smell made it even worse, a thick stench of copper hung in the air. Everything shimmered black in the world drenched with the foreign liquid. Puddles looked like endless pits that fell down to the depths of hell. The grass no longer green but painted black. All innocence stripped away in a single night, nothing white or clean remained. It seemed the world also fell silent over night; there was not a bird or animal to make noise. Only the tapping of the rain on various objects could be heard.
Kate took a step forward off the porch. Jake grabbed her by the shoulder before she could reach the ground.
“Let’s not go into the rain before we know it’s safe. There’s something about shiny black rain, I don’t trust.” Jake said.
Everyone else nodded in agreement and went back inside the house. The group reconvened in the living room. Matt flipped on the television. Nothing. Static on all channels. He continued to surf through the thousand or so channels on his high-tech television, which was now as useful as a rock. It took a long ten-minutes, before he gave up to the fact, there was nothing, the world had been turned off over night. Trivial Pursuit was switched out for a game of Monopoly. Everyone sat around the coffee table in the exact positions as the prior night. Three days past, and the rain had no sign of stopping. The front yard was now under a few inches of black sparkling water. No way to escape, unless you wanted to get wet. The group stood in the living room in a circle, like a team meeting before a third down play. Jake broke the silence, “Anyone want to make a run for it?” “We know nothing about this black rain. It could be contaminated.” Matt responded. “Water never hurt anyone, right?” Kate said.
“It depends what chemicals are in it. Some can burn the skin right off your face.” Matt continued.
“Just because you’re a chemical engineer or whatever, it doesn’t mean you have to scare us!” Nancy shouted. “I’m only pointing out the facts.”
Jake stepped in front of everyone, “Let’s give it another day or two until it stops. Better to be safe.” The rest of the group looked at Jake and nodded in agreement. Nancy rummaged the refrigerator with a look of a lost soul searching for a hidden treasure, or maybe the last remaining food that hasn’t yet spoiled. The power went out a day earlier.
“Matt, you ate all the flipping food.” Nancy shouted.
“We’re all in a bad place, there’s no need to point fingers.” Matt yelled back at her, as he entered the kitchen.
Kate and Jake watched from the entrance archway of the kitchen. Kate kept a keen eye on the situation with a smirk that did a terrible job of hiding a smile. Matt looked inside the refrigerator next to Nancy, “There’s still food left.”
“Nothing good.” Nancy said. Matt put his arm around Nancy, “We’ll have to tough it out, like the show Survivor. You always liked that show.” Matt looked in Nancy’s eyes, “You think you can do that?”
Nancy nodded her head in agreement.
“Perfect.” Matt hugged Nancy tight.
Kate sighed then returned to the living room.
Jake sat with Kate on the couch and listened to the pounding rain outside.
“Do you think it will ever stop?” Jake asked Kate.
“The rain?” She responded.
“We used to be like them.”
“I’m not looking back. Too much pain.”
Kate got up from the couch and went over to the window. She looked out into the yard. No green could be seen anywhere, everything was covered in the sparkling black liquid.
The sun went down behind the trees in the distance, it was possibly 8PM, no one knew for sure since the power went out, and charging cell phones went along with it. Blankets and pillows were spread about the living room floor. Everyone was about to lie down to sleep for the night, when a knock at the front door shook them from their calmness. It took a long moment for anyone to realize what they just heard. They stared at each other. Only a true nut would be outside in the black rain. Kate looked at the others, and spoke, “No one thinks we shouldn’t open the door. Anyone out in black rain, has to have something wrong with them.”
There was more loud knocks at the front door, louder this time. Everyone jumped, startled. “Since when are we scared of a knock on the door?” Jake said to the group.
“Since, we don’t know if it’s contagious. I could care less if someone is at the door.” Matt responded.
Nancy shook her head, “I’m scared, like really scared, but what if someone is hurt, and needs help.”
“Open the door and find out.” Kate said.
Matt looked in Jake’s direction.
“It’s your house. I was just pointing out we shouldn’t be scared of a knock. I didn’t say to open it.” Jake mentioned.
Matt took one step at a time towards the front door. His mind raced of the various possibilities that could lie on the other side.
He opened the door a crack to gain any advantage, even a small one. A soft innocent sounding woman’s voice emitted from the other side.
“Please help me!” The woman said.
“Are you injured? Is there anyone else with you?” Matt inquired. He kept the door open only a crack wide enough to get a visual on the individual on the other side. A young woman about twenty-five faced him, drenched from head to toe with the sparkling black rain, which made her look like one of those ducks covered in oil after a spill.
“I have been walking for days. My car broke down.” The woman said. She took a deep breath and continued on, “It stopped working soon as the rain started. There was no one to help me, so I started walking.”
“You didn’t find any one else out there to help?”
“Please let me inside.”
Matt stared off in the distance, he pondered all choices available. None were perfect.
“You try anything I consider threatening, you’ll come to regret it.” Matt informed her as he opened the door to allow her inside.
“I only want to dry off.” The woman stepped inside the house.
The woman stood in the entry, dripping with the sparkling black liquid, a small ink like puddle already formed under where she stood. The others stood wide eyed at the situation. Every part of the woman was stained black from her head to her toes. She shivered so hard her teeth chattered. Nancy and Kate kept stern gazes on the woman, puzzled gazes on both of their faces.
The woman broke the awkwardness, “My name is Emily Dunn.”
“Are you hurt, Emily?” Nancy asked, but kept her distance.
Emily shook her hand, while she continued to shiver. She hugged herself tight, trying to crawl inside her own skin.
“Is there somewhere I can dry off?” Emily asked.
“I’ll show you. Follow me.” Nancy stated as she took Emily by the hand. They walked off further into the house. Kate followed close behind them.
Jake paced back-and-forth with his arms folded. He took a deep sigh with each passing step. Matt sat on the arm of the chair. “Would you please relax!” Matt shouted at him.
“This entire situation doesn’t feel right.”
Jake ran his hand through his hair, “I haven’t felt normal since those first drops fell.”
“I used to enjoy rainy days.”
In the bathroom, Emily stripped down naked, gave her clothes to Nancy. The black rain soaked through her clothes staining her pale skin a gray color. Emily scrubbed her skin with a wet towel until the gray vanished from her body, and it returned to its regular tone.
“I’ll get you something clean to wear.” Nancy said while she walked out of the bathroom.
Kate handed Emily a towel to dry off. “What is it like out there?”
“A nightmare.” Emily responded. Her voice didn’t raise an octave, calm.
“It’s only rain, isn’t it?”
“It changes everything.” Emily had a blank expression on her face as she dried her wet naked body. She kept her eyes down to the tile floor.
“Care to explain?”
“Don’t let it touch your skin.”
Emily turned silent, lost in herself.
Nancy placed Emily’s drenched clothes in the dryer. Her hands were now covered in the black sparkling liquid. She looked at it with a horrific expression. She ran to the kitchen sink quick as she could. She washed off the liquid with ten pumps of soap from the dispenser, and scrubbed her hands to the bone.
Nancy returned to the bathroom carrying clothes for Emily. The clothes were Nancy’s, but would be perfect all the same. Emily changed into the new clothes. Nancy and Kate’s eyes stayed glued to the woman who walked days in the black rain and survived.
When the ladies returned to the living room, the guys were enjoying the last two beers in the house.
Jake looked up at them, “Everything good?”
“As good as it can be with the way things are.” Kate responded.
“We’re going to get Emily some food.” Nancy said. The two of them took Emily into the kitchen. The men were left alone once again.
The night went on like the previous nights, quiet and dark. Jake read a book to pass the time. Nancy did crossword puzzles, while Matt rubbed her feet. The activities did not last long as fatigue was setting in for the group. All eyes closed for the night. Everyone rested peaceful, until a loud bump woke everyone. Jake rubbed his eyes, tried to get his vision back to normal and out of sleep mode. His mouth dropped in shock.
Emily stood in the center of the room with a large knife in her hand. Her eyes were completely black, there were no pupils, no whites, but only darkness. Just under the surface of her skin were black sparkles like the ones found in the rain. It made her glow slightly in the dark room. At times it seemed the sparkles moved on their own, like they were alive.
Emily stabbed at Jake with the knife. The blade caught his arm slicing it. Blood poured from the wound to the floor. He stumbled back on the couch landing on Kate, who jolted awake. She screamed at the sight of Emily standing in the living room with her black abyss eyes like some demon. Her scream woke the others, and all the neighbors too, if there were any left.
“What the hell is wrong with you? Jake screamed.
“Calm down Emily, there is no need for violence.” Nancy said to Emily. Kate looked at Nancy with a look of disbelief.
Emily let out a noise, which was between a growl and gurgle. Kate covered her ears from the horrific sound.
Jake’s eyes darted around the room. Matt’s house was too simple, not one item within sight that could have deemed dangerous enough to do any harm.
Emily lunged at them with the large kitchen knife. Everyone ran towards the kitchen to get away from her. Emily was fast, faster than any human. She gained on them in a flash. Matt took a slice in the shoulder from the blade.
Emily pounced on Nancy, and straddled her while she held her down. Nancy fought hard to knock Emily off, she was too strong.
Jake tried to pull Emily off Nancy, but failed horrible. He grunted and tugged at her shoulders again, Emily remained in her exact position. Emily knocked Jake off with a sift elbow to the nose. Blood poured from his nostrils. Emily stabbed Nancy over and over, the blood squirted in the air like a fancy fountain. Jake scrambled to his feet, attacked Emily. Matt ran and joined him with rage burning in his eyes. Emily stabbed Jake in the stomach. They managed to get the knife away from Emily. Matt did the honor and ended Emily’s life, before she could cause anymore destruction.
The living room now had the image of a fresh massacre blood splattered everywhere. Matt and Kate carried Jake out of the room into the kitchen. They placed him down on the kitchen table. Tears streamed down Matt’s cheeks. He breathed heavy, then bent over the sink, puked.
“She’s dead! The only person I ever loved!” Matt screamed. He poured himself a glass of water. He chugged it down, half way through he broke the glass with a squeeze of his fist. Bloody pieces of glass fell in the sink.
Kate wrapped Matt’s cut hand with a towel, “We don’t need any more violence for one evening.” Matt took a breath, nodded in agreement.
Jake clinched his stomach, blood seeped through his fingers. The spot he was holding was soaked with blood. Kate eyed it with horror. Kate bite her lip, and spoke calm, “You’re going to get through this, nothing to it.” Jake stuttered with each word, “Sorry for everything.” “You keep that to yourself; I’m not hearing it.”
Blood continued to flow from the wound on his stomach. Kate covered the wound with a towel, and kept pressure on it.
Matt screamed with frustration, “It’s all gone to shit!”
“You need to keep it together.” Kate screamed back.
“Nancy is dead!” Jake is on his way!”
Kate stepped up to him, face to face, “This is not the time to be weak. Jake needs us.”
Matt took a deep sigh, “I’ll get the first aid kit.”
Matt walked out of the room.
Kate looked into Jake’s eyes, “You’ll be fine, I promise. There’s still time left for me to be pissed at you.”
Jake laughed. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
She pressed the towel tight against his body. She watched the blood drip on the floor with a blank gaze. A tear ran down the side of her cheek.
Jake grabbed her hand, snapping her from her trance, “Promise me you’ll fight to stay alive.”
“You’re going to make it too. You’re not allowed to leave me in this shit world.”
The blood soaked through the towel Kate held over the wound. She tossed it to the sink, and grabbed another one. Soon as the towel left the area, blood squirted to the floor. Kate gasped at the sight, reapplied pressure with the fresh towel. Jake’s eyes kept closing, each time Kate would slap him in the face, “That’s not allowed.”
Matt returned with the medic kit, but it was too late. Kate kissed the lifeless lips of Jake.
Kate looked up at Matt, face soaked with tears “Thank you for getting here so fast.”
“I was fast.” Matt responded. He touched Kate’s shoulder. “I’m sorry.”
Kate kissed Jake’s forehead, closed his eyes with her fingers. “It’s been one messed up night.”. She wiped tears from her cheeks smearing makeup across her cheek. A loud bang against the side of the house made them both flinch. Kate and Matt ran to the window to check on the noise. There were a group of people racing towards the house, maybe eight people total. Two of which already reached the house and were pounding on the side of it with axes. Chunks of wood exploded off the side of the house with each axe blow. These people had the same physical attributes as Emily; black hollow eyes, and sparkling specs imbedded in their skin. Kate looked at Matt, “How do we deal with them? Emily was one person and she almost took us all out.”
“I’m not a fighter if that’s what you’re asking.” Matt responded.
“Well, we need a plan or something.”
“I’m all ears for this bright idea.” Matt said. He paced back and forth in the middle of the room.
“The rain is clearly contagious, so there’s no splashing around in it.”
“How do you know that theory?”
Matt looked at her surprised.
“Emily had black sparkling skin, which is far from normal and the crazy assholes outside have the same skin. All have been in the fucking rain. So, I feel it’s safe to assume the black rain is causing some fucked up stuff to happen to those it touches.”
“That doesn’t help our situation.”
Kate could see the terrified expression on Matt’s face, “Keep an eye on them, I want to make sure the back doors are locked.” Kate said.
Matt nodded, agreed. He breathed heavy, rubbed his eyes. He stared out at the crazy people in the front yard, never blinked.
Kate opened the back door to the darkness. The pouring rain couldn’t be seen, but the sound it made in the world could be heard with a vibrant presence. She didn’t see any more psychos. The path to escape the confines of the house seemed clear. Kate looked back towards the interior of the house where Matt was watched the front and waited for her. She leaned her head against the wall. The plaster felt cold on forehead. She smiled. Kate took a moment to think. She shook her head, punched the wall, the plaster indented with her rage. Kate went into the nearby laundry room.
Kate emerged from the room with an umbrella, wearing rubber boots, and a bright yellow plastic rain slicker. The blue rhinos that covered the boots, made her chuckle, like everything will all work out. Kate opened the umbrella, flung open the door to the backyard. She looked back toward the inside of the house, one last time.
“Sorry.” Kate said.
Kate stepped outside into the pouring black rain. The entire ground was covered in the black water, her boots squished with each step. Everything shimmered in the moonlight as it reflected off the mysterious liquid, beautiful but terrifying. Kate smirked, the boots an umbrella kept her safe, at least thus far. Kate walked away from the house toward dense woods. A scream emitted from the house behind Kate. She whipped around towards it. She wiped a tear from her eye. She continued to walk away deeper into the woods, out of sight into the darkness. Kate marched through the woods determined to survive, for Jake, for herself.