Just moments after the explosion, Pierce and Gillian ran outside to what they mistakenly believed was safety.
Pierce believed the gas line may have ruptured.
Gillian, who was the more imaginative of the two siblings, believed a passing small fixed-wing aircraft may have malfunctioned and crashed into their roof. She explained this to her brother as they ran down the pathway to the street, and defended her imaginary pilot, rest his soul. “People like to use the term ‘pilot error’ a lot when speaking about these crashes but, though many of the operators of the smaller planes are often somewhat less experienced than those of larger aircraft, even seasoned aviators have difficulty maintaining control of such lightweight planes in adverse conditions.”
Pierce, who through ten and three quarters years of living with Gillian, had become accustomed to such ramblings, provided his usual response. “That’s interesting.”
Gillian’s fast-paced twelve-year-old mind changed topics quickly; she’d already turned back to observe the damage to the house. She was surprised to see no flames or smoke coming from the attic, where she knew the explosion had come from. There was only a single window busted out of the top. She didn’t know of any single-seat aircraft small enough to only damage a single window in a crash.
“It must have come from inside,” said Pierce, who was standing behind Gillian.
Gillian noted in the glass scattered in a cone-shaped pattern across the lawn- smaller near the window, larger nearing the street. She nodded in silent assent with Pierce. She spun around -so rapidly Pierce was startled and gasped-and began to scour for clues. She didn’t have to look very long; the white of the old plastic storage container lid shone brightly against the wet black asphalt of the roadway. She ran to the roadway and knelt beside the lid to examine it, her little brother walking meekly behind her.
“I think this from one of the boxes of grandpa’s old stuff,” she told Pierce.
“What’s up with those black marks on it? Is that from the explosion?” asked Pierce.
Gillian leaned closer and her eyes widened in amazement. “No, they’re some kind of writing. Weird, they look like- what do you call them? Those things the Vikings write in. You know, like in your stupid books.” She noticed a single word written on an old, tattered piece of masking tape on the edge of the lid: SNIPE.
“You mean Runes? Hey! They’re not stupid!” Pierce cocked his head, also catching sight of the label. “What’s a ‘snipe’?”
Gillian ignored her brother and reached to pick up the lid. “Ah!” she shouted, giving a small squeak of pain, and quickly dropped the lid back onto the pavement. “It’s burned me!”
The lid landed on the ground upside-down and Gillian’s burn was quickly explained. The underside of the lid was covered in a strange green substance. It bubbled and snapped, slowly eating through the lid like acid.
Gillian quickly washed her hand off in a nearby puddle.
Pierce crouched by the strange goo. “What is it, sis?”
Before Gillian could answer, a loud crash came from the attic, followed by a piercing, terrifying howl.
“What was in that box, Gill?”
“I don’t know what’s up there, but here’s what I do know: if we don’t take care of it, mom and dad will never let us stay home alone again.”
Pierce gulped and nodded. Almost in response to his fear, another series of crashes sounded from the house, and another howl.
“We’ve got two hours until they get home, Pierce. First thing we have to do is grab your air rifle out of the utility closet,” Gillian explained.
“What? Why?” Pierce asked, looking just short of pants-pissing scared.
Gillian smiled wryly. “Because mom and dad left me in charge, little brother, and I say we’re going hunting.”