A sharp knock at the door startled Eric. The sudden jump caused him to drop the phone from his hand.
“Babe? I lost my key.” Vanessa’s voice came through the door. Eric stared at the phone embedded in the lush, grey carpet. It landed face up with the emergency message taking up the entire screen.
“LOCK ALL DOORS AND STAY INSIDE. DO NOT PANIC.”
“Honey?” Vanessa knocked again to get his attention. Eric moved to the door as quietly as he could manage, then held his breath while he peeked through the peephole. He did not want her to know he was on the other side of the door.
Eric saw the back of Vanessa’s head; his view was mostly obscured by a familiar tight, black bun. She seemed to be staring out the window at the end of the hallway. She knocked and called for him again, but without turning around. The knock felt low on the door enough that Eric realized she was knocking behind her. She was intentionally not facing the peephole.
“Eric!” She shouted with a trace of panic in her voice. “Let me in please!” The crack in her voice caused Eric to reach for the handle; he hated to see her uncomfortable in any way, but something did not feel right.
In their three years together, not a single thing slipped Vanessa’s mind. The message also added questions. Why hadn’t she said anything about the message? Her phone!
“Call me,” Eric said through the door. She still did not turn around.
“What the hell? I don’t have my phone, just open up so I can get my keys!” She yelled at the hallway.
“Where’s your phone?” Eric asked. He felt braver now, colder. His Vanessa would never lose her keys and her phone at the same time.
“Look, I didn’t want to scare you, but there’s some pretty weird stuff going on outside. When I saw it I was so scared that I literally dropped everything and ran back to you. Please, let me in.”
“What kind of weird stuff?” Eric asked the black bun.
“Eric honey, I”m really scared right now. Can’t I explain it to you inside?”
“No! The government sent a message to keep the doors locked. I’m scared too,” he admitted. He saw Vanessa’s head wobble and heard her laugh nervously.
“Locked doors aren’t going to help. We need to get out of here.”
“Get out of here? And go where?” Eric asked.
“Jesus Eric, open the door and I’ll explain everything.” She yelled at the hallway.
“Why aren’t you turning around?”
“I’ve kept a lot of things from you, and I’m really regretting it right now, but I need you to open the door. I promise you’ll get all the explanations you want.”
“WHY AREN’T YOU TURNING AROUND?” he yelled the question again. He already decided this woman was somehow an imposter, he just wanted her to admit it. He watched the bun rotate slowly as she turned to face him. Her once dark green eyes now sparkled with golden light. Her irises were shaped like golden glowing stars.
“I love you,” she said.
“WHAT DID YOU DO TO VANESSA!?” he pounded the door in a rage.
“I am Vanessa. Let me in so we can get out of here, then I’ll explain everything.
“Explain it from there!” Vanessa looked over her shoulder at the window.
“No time, this is already taking too much time. Let me in.” Eric chuckled.
“I’m safe inside. You’re the one in a hurry, so explain it fast.”
“You’re NOT safe inside. No one is safe from her, we need to go.”
“Her who? Go where?” Eric asked.
“There’s so much to explain it’s not going to be covered with me in the hallway. Open the door and you’ll get all the answers.”
“Why?” Eric asked. Suddenly a bigger question popped in his mind. “Why is it so important for you to get inside? If you’re in a hurry you can get somewhere safe until it blows over.” Vanessa laughed nervously again.
“There is no blowing over. You don’t know what’s going on, the government doesn’t either. She’s taking control of the Earth and WE need to be gone before that happens. I need to get inside because I need to get to you. I love you, it’s the only way to make sure you’re safe.”
“You’re not making any sense. If this mystery person is taking control of the Earth where are we going?” Eric saw Vanessa’s starry eyes roll upward and he felt a bit offended. Then, he noticed tears starting to flow down her cheeks.
“Another Earth, obviously.”
“What? What the hell are you talking about?”
“This is why I didn’t want to explain it out here. You’re going to have too many questions. Go look out the window,” she said. Eric left the door to stare out the living room window. Their apartment was on the fifth floor and he had a decent view of the city. He did not see anything at first until he saw a skeleton shatter on the street below. It instantly pulled itself back together and began marching into the nearest building. He watched several more skeletons land, then he looked up. The skeletons were falling out of a large black hole in the sky. He looked around and noticed dozens more black holes raining skeletons on the city. He ran back to the door.
“What’s happening!?” He shouted.
“Ballisea kills everyone, and she can’t be stopped,” Vanessa said with a soft, resigned voice. “It’s how she invades. Those portals aren’t just over the city, they’re all over the world.”
“There are already some skeletons in this building. If one of them finds me, Ballisea herself will show up,” Vanessa sighed. Her crying still managed to give her golden eyes a reddish color. “I love you, but I’m not going to die for you. This is your last chance. Open the door, or I’m leaving without you.” She stepped back from the door and made a gesture at the air. A smaller black portal opened in the hallway.
“You’re one of them!” Eric shouted.
“Goodbye, Eric. I did love you,” she said as she stepped into the black hole. When it disappeared Eric saw a skeleton step out of the stairwell. It walked to the first door in the hall and smashed through it with little effort. As it stepped into the apartment several more skeletons filed out of the stairwell, each crashing through a different door.