Chapter 1: “Is that all you remember?” The tall, hatted man asked in a calm but concerned voice. He looked down to the shaken woman…
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The Devil’s Rain was unlike anything Joseph had ever witnessed before. Even in some of his most nightmarish dreams, the terrors that the rain brought could never be rivaled. The dark red shrouds of harsh skin-chilling storms pounding wood and glass, the forceful twisting winds howling through the walls, was all concluded by an abrupt brink of ominous silence.
Then someone disappeared.
*vrrrr vrrrr* The sound of Joseph’s phone buzzed loudly in his ear, waking him up unexpectedly.
“Ah shit. Who is it?” Joseph groaned, answering the buzzing annoyance.
“It’s Joan. Come downstairs. We made breakfast,” she said bluntly and hung up the phone. Joseph continued to groan and stretch his body as he slowly got himself up on the edge of his bed.
He sat there looking down at his knees, dangling his legs and thinking about the dream he had last night. He remembered dreaming about The Devil’s Rain, imagining the deep red colors dripping down his windowsill and seeing a menacing face through the glass. It was difficult for him to make out entirely, but he could still picture its large brownish fangs and glowing crimson red eyes.
He continued to stare down at his feet with a blank expression until he remembered where he needed to be.
I better not take too long. That girl will ring my neck if I keep them waiting, especially after she cooked, he thought as he hopped off his bed, put on a wrinkled red shirt and stepped out the door.
Joseph ran down the stairs quickly and into the kitchen, partially blinded by the bright lights his eyes hadn’t adjusted to yet. He cringed almost painfully looking over at Holly who had an even brighter smile on her face.
“Did you just wake up, Joseph?” Holly asked as Joseph took his seat next to her and Marko.
“I did actually. Joan called me telling me to come down,” he responded, sounding a bit ungrateful.
“Well. It’s not every day I make everyone breakfast, right? She asked smugly. “You should be thankful I woke you for such a special occasion.”
“I guess you’re right about one thing,” Josh said with a very subtle country accent. “It definitely ain’t every day you cook breakfast. You should start doin’ it more. Don’t you think?” Josh purposely said that to be condescending, and Joan’s cringy and angry expression showed that she was much less than happy.
“You want to run that by me again, Josh?” She bit back confidently, holding up a light mallet she used for tenderizing meat.
“I’m just glad ya mama taught you how to use that thing,” he joked, making everyone but Joan chuckle beneath their breath. “Ah no need to get mad, girl. You know I’m just buggin. Put ‘er down. I ain’t ungrateful.” He smiled like an innocent puppy, allowing Joan to simmer down.
“You two just love antagonizing each other,” Marko said with a delighted smirk on his face. “Maybe you could have your own sitcom or something. I’d watch it.”
Joan shook her head and continued preparing plates. She tossed ham, bacon, oatmeal, and eggs cooked three different ways onto the plates and distributed the six of them. She then took her seat at the far end of the table across from Josh.
Enrique, with his long, spiky, jelled-up hair, sat next to Joan and started eating without saying anything to anyone.
“You alright, Enrique?” Joseph asked, appearing genuinely concerned for his friend. He looked at him with worry in his eyes, but Enrique peered back with just a blank expression and food in his mouth.
“Of course,” he said quietly. “Why do you ask?” He seemed to be telling the truth, but for some odd reason, Joseph still felt uneasy.
“No reason,” he said. “I guess I’ve just been a bit on edge recently.” Joseph rested his cheek in the palm of his hand and looked around the room awkwardly. Something strange seemed to be bothering him.
“Better question,” Enrique said. “Are you alright, Joseph?” He paused, thinking about how to collect his thoughts. There was a lot on his mind, but he wasn’t sure how to put them into words.
Everyone looked at him curiously, waiting patiently for him to respond, but he continued thinking.
“I would say that I’m okay, but…” he paused again. “I’ve just been thinking about the rain and having dreams about it. I’m just worried. I guess.” He sounded incredibly hesitant as though that was extremely difficult for him to say. He began to sweat and appeared to be nervous about either the rain or being put on the spot about it.
“I’ve been thinking about the rain too,” Marko spoke quietly. “It’s just not something we can un-see. It’s not something we can just pretend doesn’t bother us.” Frustration began to build with every word he said.
“You’re right,” Josh said. “It ain’t something we can just ignore, but what the hell we supposed to do ’bout it?”
“Maybe we can look around,” Holly intervened. “We could do some research on it. Try to see what we can find. Maybe it’s some kind of weird Native American curse or something,” Holly shrugged her shoulders with her eyes lighting up behind her rectangular glasses.
“Hmm,” Joseph began to think out loud. “Well this could either be really good for our anxiety or really bad.” He made a few very uncertain hand gestures and shook his head.
“Well here’s what I’m thinking,” Enrique suggested with a very ‘Sherlock Holmes’ attitude. “What Holly is saying has some leverage here. Perhaps if we do investigate the matter, we may actually uncover details that may lead us to a much larger picture.” He began to elicit the details, grabbing everyone’s attention and interest.
“One thing we know is that this rain is not normal. It is other-wordly, no doubt about it. I would normally suggest that there’s a logical explanation for this, but if either one of you actually thinks that, you’re on some other shit. Case-closed. Don’t Argue.” Everyone chuckled softly as Enrique continued explaining his thoughts.
"To be fair," Josh interrupted. "I'm always on some other shit. You know this." The two of them laughed hysterically.
"Okay. Good point," Enrique said as he continued to explain his game plan. "Anyway. It has to be something supernatural, so Holly's suggestion about some weird Native American curse is on the table. What I want all of you to do is to find out what you can about the rain today and then we will all come back together and talk about what we think it could possibly be. Once we generally agree on the most likely possibility based on the data you collect, we'll figure out what we can do from there."
"Sounds good to me," Joseph agreed as he began to think about where he would start on this newly found mission.
"Agreed," Josh nodded with his hands tucked beneath his chin and index finger pressed on his nose beneath his glasses. He then brushed back his thick curly black hair with his hand and looked around the rest of the kitchen.
"I think we're all in," Joan added. "This is a good idea and I think that ultimately it will give us something to ease our anxiety. Being proactive on our problems is the best way to reduce stress related to it. It's much better than sitting around hoping it doesn't become a major issue," she explained very "matter-of-factly."
"Okay psychology major," Josh tried to antagonize her again, but she didn't seem to let his unnecessary comments bother her.
"Okay exercise quote on quote science major," she retorted incredibly condescendingly. Josh just smiled as he genuinely enjoyed this warring relationship he had with Joan.
"Thanks for breakfast by the way, Joan," Marko said, smiling at his empty plate. He then grabbed a hair tie and bundled his long black hair into a ponytail.
"Holly helped," Joan pointed to her and smiled genuinely. "Thank her too."
"Thank you both then," Marko said and everyone else followed his example. The girls didn't take their praise modestly and took the moment to really flatter themselves.
"Oh, it was nothing!" Holly asserted with a hearty smile, flicking her long bushy brown hair behind her shoulders.
"Oh! Before we all go—" Enrique exclaimed suddenly. "None of us really have anything going on today. I'm thinking we should split up in groups of two to figure out what we can about the rain. It would be better than doing it alone because having another person to debate with might help us get to more meaningful conclusions today." Enrique never stopped strategizing. There were probably hundreds of complex ideas about how to approach the rain.
"Sure," Joseph agreed confidently. "That sound like a plan to me. You and me, Marko?" He asked looking over to him with his eyebrows raised.
"Of course, bro. I wouldn't have it any other way," he nodded and smiled.
"You and me, Holly?" Joan asked, making the very predictable choice. Holly quickly agreed, nodding her head politely.
"So that just leaves the master strategist and the dumbass," Joan said with a smirk, feeling incredibly proud of herself. "That seems like a perfect balance."
"As long as I ain't paired with you, it's a good ass day," Josh riposted entirely unphased from Joan's insult.
"Okay. Jokes aside now," Joan said with a serious attitude. "Enrique, you claimed that you were entirely confident that this rain has to be something supernatural, right?" She asked. "How can you be certain? How do you know that this isn't just some really weird acid rain or something and the disappearances are completely unrelated?"
Enrique looked back at Joan with vivid intensity in his dark brown eyes, thinking about how he could explain his thoughts best.
"Well. I've never mentioned it before, but—" he paused as his gaze shifted down at the wooden table and then quickly back at Joan. "I've encountered the supernatural in my own home once, and the feeling that it gave me is the same feeling I get when the rain comes," he explained with hesitation shaking his profound voice.
"You've encountered the supernatural before?" Joan asked, taking Enrique very seriously. "Was it like a ghost or...?"
"Kind of," he responded with uncertainty. "I don't think it was a ghost more or less, but it was like a shadow. In fact, it was my own shadow." Everyone around the table looked incredibly confused and curious. The thought of a simple shadow invoking a supernatural suspicion didn't seem to make a lot of sense to them at first.
"Well look. The weird thing about it was that I was in my room with just my desk lamp on, and I was sitting at my computer. I noticed my shadow on the wall, but it wasn't doing the same things I was. I would raise my right hand just to test it, and nothing would happen. This started to seriously freak me out, so I started to walk a little closer to it, but it just sat there. I then placed my hand on it and it literally vanished. The whole experience gave me incredibly cold chills and I felt like I was standing in a freezer."
That last sentence got Joseph incredibly riled up and his bold green eyes lit up like a traffic light. "I've felt that before too!" He exclaimed with a multitude of energy in his voice.
"What do you mean?" Enrique asked, swiftly turning his head to Joseph.
"Remember when I told you guys about how my comforter randomly caught fire when I was sleeping?" Joseph waited for a response and everyone nodded hesitantly, being very confused as to where Joseph's story was headed.
"Well," he continued. "I didn't talk about it much because it was really confusing and I didn't know how to put it into words until now, but when that happened, despite practically being on fire, I felt cold—like I was literally sitting in a freezer, just how Enrique put it." Joseph seemed almost excited to explain, but at the same time, his voice shook with nervousness. He even began to sweat in several places on his body.
"Wait wait wait," Josh intervened. "You were practically on fire but you felt cold? How's that make any sense?" He shook his head with disbelief as Joseph focused his attention on him.
"It doesn't!" Enrique and Joseph both shouted in harmony. Joseph then continued to explain, "That's the whole point. This is why we're thinking there has to be some supernatural shit going on. Comforters don't just randomly catch fire when they're nowhere near a heater or anything that can set them ablaze, right? And I was FREEZING. That's like the number one rule of supernatural encounters—feeling cold."
"Hmm," Joan thought to herself and then looked around the room with her cheeks glowing red beneath her deep-sea blue eyes. "Are you saying this is also how you feel when the rain comes, Enrique?" She asked stiffly.
"Yes. That's exactly what I'm saying," he responded assuredly but with his eyes still wandering the room.
"That's how I feel during the rain too," she said. "I think we all know the feeling."
"Okay. Now that everyone has successfully freaked each other out—" Josh added with a charismatic tone that shattered the awkward and depressing mood floating in the room. "Let's just figure this rain shit out and get on with our little research project. We should be proactive, right, Joan?" Josh spoke genuinely this time without the intent to antagonize her.
"Yes. Exactly," she said. "We'll meet back here tonight at 6:30 for dinner and we'll discuss what we found."
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