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You drop the magazine and stare out the window at the flakes of snow drifting from the midday sky, the clouds swirling in a dark, amorphous blob. Heat from an old radiator warms your hands, and the wonderful aroma of homemade vegetable soup (Grandma's recipe) wafts through the air.

A crash from the back of the house—you twist in your recliner and face the kitchen, the thin wooden door only a few feet away. You wait a few accelerated heart beats and hear no sound from the other room. Rushing to the door, you open it in a slow swing. The old hinges creak in exaggerated squeals, each one instigating a cringe. You shiver as you pass the door.

Cold air greets you with a sharp "hello" as the wind carries snow through a shattered window. Ivory-colored curtains over a bay window flutter in the frigid May air. On the yellow-tiled floor, a creature twitches, small and brown with dark red swatches in a fresh bloody glaze. Tiny paw-shaped blood marks swirl in a pattern beneath its body, and glassy eyes stare up at you as if to ask, "why?"

Your smartphone vibrates in your pocket, and you view the screen—Jaime. You decline the call—there are more important, pressing matters.

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