"I'm home!" I shouted excitedly.

Oddly enough, my parents didn't reply.

I walked down the hallway stretching out from my front door and called once again, "Hello? I'm home!"

"Oh well," I muttered to myself, "I guess they're out running errands or something." Naturally I sat down at the computer and glared at the screen for a minute before opening Facebook. I scrolled aimlessly down my news feed, occasionally liking a picture or two, before getting up to grab a soda and some chips.

Like a ritual, I got my food and started up the stairs. With my parents gone it was awfully quiet, so I walked to my room, sat down, turned on my MP3 player, and put my headphones over my ears. I leaned back and closed my eyes.

"Bruce?" my dad said, "you awake buddy?" I suddenly felt a hand on my shoulder and I jumped in my chair. I had been asleep for over an hour.

"Yeah, I'm up now," I replied, "I must have dozed off."

"Sorry didn't mean to wake you up, Mom just wanted to let you know dinner will be ready in 20 minutes"

"Cool, are we going to work on that bicycle tonight?"

"We'll see, I'm swamped at work. I just signed a new customer last week."


With that my dad headed back downstairs and I stretched in my seat. I checked my phone and sure enough my girlfriend, Anna, had texted me a few minutes ago.

"Hi babe :)" the message read.

"Hey love!" I replied, "How's my girl doing?"

As I waited for her to message me back, I stood up and walked down the stairs. A bit groggy, I held on to the rail and watched my step. Once I reached the bottom I headed for my kitchen.

"Well good morning, sleepy head!" my mom said sarcastically. She was stirring something over the stove while singing along to a song playing on the radio.

"G'morning!" I laughed.

I walked past my mom and sat at the computer again. My phone buzzed, so I dug it out of my pocket to see that Anna had just replied.

"I'm doing great! Hey, you wanna go to the movies tomorrow?"

"Sure, why not?" I replied.

"Great!" she messaged back, "I'll call you then!"

After that I ate dinner, worked on my paper for school, and went to bed. The next morning I woke up, fell out of bed, and dragged myself to the bathroom to shower. In the middle of my shower Anna called and we arranged that she would pick me up later that day. Then I had some breakfast and went for a bike ride.

I stopped at the bike shop, talked to my friend who worked there about building bikes, and rode home. As soon as I walked into the garage, put my bike up, and stowed my gear away, I heard a knock at the front door.

"Is that one of your friends at the door?" my dad called from upstairs.

"No clue, hold on."

I walked down the hallway and opened the door to see a beautiful girl standing politely on the porch.

"Hey! It's Jenny! I'm Anna's friend," she said, "Your girlfriend ran out of gas on the way to pick you up for the movies, and she wanted me to come get you."

"Oh, okay. That's no problem," I said, "let me go grab my wallet."

I shut the door, ran upstairs, got my wallet, and shouted across the hall to my parents.

"Hey, I'll be back in a little while. I'm going to go see a movie with Anna."

"Sounds good," my mom shouted back, "see you soon! I love y--"

"See you later, I have to get going."

With that I ran down the stairs, stepped across the lawn to Anna's friend's car and got in. She turned on the radio and we drove to the movie theater. When we reached the corner of the building she slowed down and let me get out.

"Thanks Jenny!" I said.

"No problem!" she replied. Then she drove off.

I walked around to the front of the movie theater and met Anna at the box office. We talked for a minute and then grabbed some tickets for a show. Stepping into the lobby, we bought a bag of popcorn with a Dr. Pepper to share, and we headed down to the movie. We entered the theater room, climbed up the stairs, and picked out two seats to sit at. I made it about half-way through the movie, and then fell asleep. And so about an hour later the movie was over and we walked out of the theater and onto the sidewalk. It was early evening, and we both had to get home to our parents.

"It was great seeing you today!" she said, "thanks for the movie!"

"You're welcome! I'm glad we got to hang out today."

We kissed and started walking away from each other. Then I remembered Jenny, so I turned around and said, "By the way, tell that friend of yours thanks for me."

What are you talking about?"

"Your friend Jenny," I said. "Tell her thanks for picking me up and taking me here. I'm just going to catch the bus home though."

"Bruce," she said in a confused voice, "I don't know what you're talking about. I don't have a friend named Jenny. Are you messing with me?"

"No, not at all," I replied. "You're telling me that you don't know the Jenny that picked me up today?"

"No, I don't..."

"I had better go home and try to figure out who she was. That's really weird."

"I agree," she said. "Do you want me to come with you?"

"No, that's okay, I'll text you later."

"Well, alright. Let me know about this chick that picked you up, babe."

"Will do, love, talk to you soon."

With that we parted ways and I headed for the bus stop. I got on the bus and sat alone for the entire ride. That journey home from the movies felt sort of eerie, and I just stared out the window, wondering who the girl that picked me up earlier was.

When I got home I walked up to the front door and noticed it was locked. I fumbled for my house key, and when I found it I turned it in the lock.

"Huh. That's weird," I thought to myself, "they don't usually lock the door."

I pushed the door open slowly, and as I got in the house I noticed all the lights were off. It was very unlike my home; the radio was silent, the aroma of food or treats my mom usually makes was gone, and I couldn't even hear anyone moving around upstairs in my dad's office or my parents' bedroom. I stepped slowly towards the kitchen and peered around the corner. Nothing seemed off in that room, but something still felt.. strange. I walked around downstairs for a minute and then called upstairs.

"Mom? Dad?" I shouted, "are you taking a nap?"

There was no reply.

"Hello... Mom? Dad?" I called, this time in a more frantic tone.

I stepped up the staircase, every second feeling no shorter than an hour. My heart was thumping in my chest as I walked towards my parents' room.

"You guys?" I called one last time.

I waited at their door for a second and then turned the doorknob slowly. The door creaked open and I stepped inside. Seeing no one around, I walked towards their bed. Suddenly, I paused and turned around to face the back wall of their room.

There they were.

My parents sat on two separate chairs. They were completely still as I approached them, and I could feel tears welling up inside of me. Their eyes looked like glass and smiles were stuck on faces. Tears began to flow down my cheeks as I rushed towards them.

"Mom? Dad?" I cried out in desperation. "Mom! Dad! Wake up! Listen to me, damn it!"

I shook them and jerked at their shoulders, but to no avail. They just sat there, paralyzed and lifeless. Behind them on the dresser there was a quiet music box playing a song out of tune. A tiny glass dancer twirled in the middle of the open box, and behind it was a note. All the note said was:

"You shouldn't take rides from strangers, Bruce"