I turn and proceed to the next one, a small two-story house on the corner. The rich forest-green walls are caked with grimy mud at the bottom. I move forward dexterously, and soon I am through the door, my gun held up in front of me. “Team 294 present. By the New Law, you must show yourself,” I recite, scanning the room for signs of life.
On the wall, inside an elegant frame, there rests a family photo. A mother and father beam at me, and two kids are slightly blurry in front of them.
There are no places to hide in this room. I re-scatter the coats and shoes that have been flung out of the way, making sure nothing valuable is left, and then step around the corner to the next room.
This one is decorated with rainbow wallpaper, and well-worn toys are sprinkled here and there. A stuffed giraffe. A puzzle, the edges nibbled on by some scavenging creature. A board game set up that will never be finished. “I know you’re hiding,” I say, since that’s a handy trick I’ve learned. But the iridescent room stares innocently at me, revealing only a spider, which strolls casually across the room, mocking me. I almost chuckle when I think about how not long ago, that little guy was those kids’ biggest fear.
I sigh and lower my weapon. I can picture them playing here, eyes glistening with delight, safe in their own home. Then I see the children screaming, crying, abandoning their game and fleeing from the terror coming to them — me.
I stand for a moment contemplating this, surrounded by a cheerful dwelling waiting for my decision. Finally, I turn and walk outside, uneasy.
I don’t go to the next house, or any after that.
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