Neon Gray

Ripper and Alex. Alex and Ripper. That's the way its always been. Of course, Alex is changing, wanting her own things in life. Ripper however, refuses to move on from their intwined lives and struggles to cope with independence.
Then suddenly, Ripper disappears.
There's rumours he is dead. There's rumours he's addicted to drugs. And then there's the rumour he's just plain vanished.
Alex is heartbroken. She thought she could live without Ripper. Her dad hadn't liked her being so close to a boy and wanted her to get some more girl friends. But then, Alex stumbles upon a sickening discovery.
Ripper has changed in a way which is against every law of normal.


2. MIA (Please. Believe that if you will)


   Despite it only being six o’clock, darkness flooded the sky, muting the shards of light falling through my blinds—winter. My Math textbook set out in front of me, I tapped my pencil against my head, humming. The questions squiggled about the page refusing to sit still. I sighed, slamming the book shut. I dragged my unfinished English essay over to me. Merchant of Venice. Fantastic. I frowned. I was sure that we’d done this before. I squinted at my curvy writing, scanning over the mistakes. Surely they wouldn’t make us do it again?

   My IPhone buzzed, interrupting my pondering.

   I grabbed it automatically. Then, I dropped it like it was red-hot. It fell with a dull thud on my bed. The screen was lit up and I couldn’t resist looking at it. In a small bubble in the middle of the lock screen was the start of a message from Jake. I sighed, picking it back up again. My chest relaxed—when I’d grabbed my phone, it had been so tight I’d struggled to breathe.

   Unlocking my phone, I read through the message from my brother. Rolling my eyes, I jumped from my bed and opened the door.

   “Mum!” I yelled. Nothing. I scowled and huffed. “Mum!”

   Muttering. “What, Alex? God, could you yell louder please?”

   I ignored the sarcasm, bursting into her room. She was plaiting Sammi’s long caramel hair—my little sister loved it, clapping her tiny hands. My throat tightened. I was happy for my mother. She’d finally gotten the daughter she’d wanted. Silky, beautiful and showy. I knew she’d been disappointed with both me and Jake. I was sullen, more likely found inside and had raven black hair. Jake was only slightly lighter, his hair teetering towards more of a rustled brown. He was an outgoing kid but could hold the best grudges if he wanted to. Nice enough dude, though.

   I coughed. “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

   My mother rolled her eyes, her lips forming words as she plaited. Sammi looked up at me with blue eyes—so different to my brilliant green ones.

   “Hm? Uh, no, I don’t think so.”

   I rolled my eyes at Sammi who chuckled. “Do you remember that other child? The one who finished football an hour ago?”

   Her hand flew to her mouth. “Oh crap! Jake!”

   I smirked. My younger brother wouldn’t badger my mother about being late but she would none the less feel guilty. As my mother finished the last plait, I put my hands under Sammi’s armpits and picked her up. She squealed, nuzzling into my neck. I smiled, rubbing her soft flushed cheek. The sibling jealously I’d been feeling evaporated quickly. Sammi was the cutest three year old I’d ever met. She just had something about her that made you like her.

  Mum scrambled to her feet, grabbing keys off the dressing table. She glanced at her phone, wincing and dashed past me.

   “Wait,” I called, following her. I shifted Sammi onto my hip. I felt her little fingers wrap around my hair. I watched my mum from the top of the stairs. “His football is forty five minutes away. Will I give Sam her supper?”

   My mother shrugged a fluffy jacket on—it could have been mine, could have been hers. We basically just wore the same clothes. She ran a hand through her brown hair.

   “That would be great, Alex. There’s pizza, I think, or chicken nuggets. Just make her something.” With that, she blew a kiss to each of us and slammed out the door. There was an eerie silence left behind her. My stomach twisted a little as I glanced at the still creature in my arms.

   She smiled, her pearly white teeth shining. I grinned back, bopping her on the nose. She giggled. I laughed along, carefully making my way down the stairs. The carpet was soft and fuzzy beneath my feet, giving me a small sense of security. I took a deep breath in of the musky scent of the living room. I awkwardly tiptoed around Penelope, our sleeping Doberman. She’d been in our family for four years but she was still far too vicious for me. I was wary letting Sam around her but my mother told me to stop worrying.

   “So, what will it be? Pizza or chicken nuggets or...” I checked the fridge. “Or tomato sauce?”

   Sammi’s face contorted as she thought. “Pancakes,” she decided.

   “Sam, I can’t make you pancakes for your tea. You know that.”

   She pouted, her bottom lip sticking out. I knew that face well. All three of us kids had the same one. I laughed, pressing my forehead to hers.

   “If you eat all your chicken nuggets, I’ll make us both pancakes—deal?”

   Sammi squealed, clapping her hands yet again. Chuckling, I set her down and grabbed the nuggets from the fridge. Once they were in the oven, I checked my phone again, slightly hopeful. Nothing. I sighed, placing the phone back in my back pocket. I didn’t want Ripper to text, or call. But I also kind of did.

   I froze. I scanned the floor for the sight of a knee high child. She was no where in the kitchen to be seen. I ran through to the living room, panicking. I knew how prone little kids were to accidents—Ripper’s little brother had walked straight into a shed once, earning a scar down his face. I shuddered. I’d been there when it had happened. The screams were burnt into my mind.

   “Good doggie!”

   I rolled my eyes. Of course—the one thing I wanted her to stay away from, was the thing she was with. I paused. I wonder if that’s what my mother thought. She’d never liked Ripper from the start.

   I scooped my little sister up and plonked her in front of the TV. She told me in great detail about her day, how Maggie, the girl across the street, stole her favourite Barbie doll. I picked the remote and flicked through the channels, only half listening to Sam.

   “Wanna watch the news?” I joked once she’d finally stopped speaking. The presenter was a sweaty man, with wide eyes and a balding head. He breathed in between every word, constantly clicking the pen beside him. I got no response from Sammi. I looked at her, to find she had a colouring book. I glanced back to the TV.

   “Somewhere outside Aberdeen, a boy has gone missing. He was last seen talking to a girl about fifteen in Newton Park, yesterday about four o’clock.”

   I vaguely listened out for the timer of the oven. Surely it would only have about ten minutes left.

   “He goes by the name of Ripper, although his name by birth is Ryan Adams.”

   A whimper escaped my lips. The remote dropped from my fingers, banging onto the floor, the batteries leaping out. I barely noticed.

   “Hey! It’s Ripper!” Sammi toddled over to the big screen, pointing with ink covered hands. I couldn’t even respond. My mind was too frazzled.

   It couldn’t be him. It wouldn’t be him. Besides, I’d seen him less than twenty four hours ago. It wouldn’t count as a missing person. But now, they were showing a picture, one I seen put up in Adams’ house. It had been taken about three years ago, at Christmas. He was wearing one of those stupid hats on his head and grinning stupidly. His hair was still a rich brown, wavy and untamed.

   “From recent discoveries, the boy now has black hair. We could not find a clear enough picture to show from any recent years. This fifteen year old would not be counted as a missing person yet if it weren’t for his father, Constable James Adams. He knows that Ripper—Ryan would never do anything this rebellious. When we interviewed his father, he said this:”

   They cut to footage of Ripper’s dad. He had red eyes and tear marks trailing down his face. James rubbed his forehead, his voice broken.

   “There is no way my son would do this. Truthfully, when he came home yesterday he was upset but I just wondered if he’d had a tiff with his girlfriend—possibly the girl he was seen with in the park. I just...please, Ripper, just let us know your safe.” James now turned to the camera. “Ryan, we love you. This can all just be straightened out if you just let us know your okay.”

   “If you see this boy, please call...” The number flashed up on the bottom of the screen. I was already on the floor, jamming the batteries back into the remote. When they were successfully in, I squeezed my thumb down on the PAUSE button. It stopped, cutting off the sound. I scrambled to the desk, grabbing a sheet of torn paper and a blunt pencil. I scribbled down the number, tears dampening the page. The pencil fell from my fingers as I wrote down the last number. I dissolved into a sobbing heap on the floor.

   Ripper couldn’t be gone. Where would he possibly have gone? And where?

   The timer pinged but I ignored it. My heart throbbed in my chest, pressing up tight against my ribs. This wasn’t happening.

   I didn’t move until Sammi put her little hand on my back. An animal noise escaped my lips. A knife jammed into my stomach, serrated and rusted. I gasped and looked down. Nothing was there—no knife, no blood. The weapon was purely a mental defect.

   “Alex? Alex, can I have my nuggets now?” Her voice was tiny and scared. I wiped the tears away, turning and smiling weakly at her. I couldn’t foist my delusional pain upon my three year old sister. I swallowed, still smiling and picked myself up.

   “Yep, sure.” I led the way back into the kitchen. I heard her sigh with relief but the knife twisted even tighter in my stomach. My throat closed and I had to grip onto the counter to stop myself from crumbling.

   It’s probably one of his sick minded jokes, I told myself. Or maybe it’s his way of coping with what happened yesterday.

   The knife loosened a little as I came to this conclusion. I yanked the tray out of the oven with no oven gloves on but I didn’t feel the shooting pain in my hand. I didn’t feel my skin blister and tighten. I just felt numbness. Numbness everywhere. When I tried to manoeuvre my hips round the coffee table after giving Sam her tea, I bashed my side into the table. I didn’t feel the spiky needles burst through my right side as my body recoiled from the impact.

   I didn’t feel anything. 

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