August 17, 1991. 3:30:42 PM
Christian Ikufube looked up at the smiling nurse who stood before him.
"The birth was a success, and they've been moved to the first floor. You can join them now." The nurse beckoned to him, and they both walked to the room, Christian trembling in excitement.
The tiny baby in his wife's arms had tufts of white-blonde hair on her head, big brown eyes that shone with curiosity and was wrapped snugly in a pink yarn blanket.
"She's beautiful." Christian whispered.
"Our little Amanda." His wife, Ame gently stroked the baby's cheek. Amanda blinked, gurgled as she looked at her parents, then closed her eyes as she drifted into sleep.
The two new parents laughed. Both mother and daughter were exhausted, and Ame soon fell asleep herself. Christian stayed up all night cradling his little girl.
October 31st, 1997. 7:05:52 PM
Amanda Ikufube ran out of her house, her purple princess dress dragging on the ground. Her mother Ame chased after her with an orange pumpkin bucket and a plastic tiara.
Christian, Amanda's father, watched them from the doorway of the house, cradling a baby boy in his arms. The boy's name was Shotaro, and he'd been born two months prior. The birth had been considered to be a miracle, as Ame had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer the year prior, and the pregnancy was originally thought to be a large cyst. Despite the slim odds, Shotaro was a healthy baby, just as his big sister had been when she was born.
Amanda was unaware of her mother's sickness. The elder Ikufubes wanted Amanda and Shotaro to enjoy their childhoods without worrying about Ame's failing health.
Thus, as Amanda was running down the street, Ame slowly trailing her, she assumed her mother was fine. She never expected the tragedy that would befall her three years later.
April 2nd, 2000. 11:27:37 AM
Christian Ikufube sat heavily down on the old, lumpy brown leather couch that Ame had fallen in love with when they'd first moved into their house. Amanda slept soundly in her room, and Christian couldn't bring himself to wake her with such awful news.
Ame had gone to the grocery store to pick up eggs and flour so they could make pancakes for breakfast that morning. She'd taken Shotaro with her, as she and Christian couldn't get him to go back to sleep and they didn't want him waking Amanda. They'd made it to the store just fine, but when Ame had turned onto the street leading back to their neighborhood, trouble came racing in.
As Ame was turning onto the street, a blue Corolla was careening down the street. The driver was a sixteen year old girl, and she was desperately trying to grab her burger before if fell apart onto the floor. The resultant crash killed both Ame and Shotaro, but the girl survived the ambulance ride to the hospital. She lived for two more hours, then died with her mother holding her hand and sobbing loudly. Christian didn't have that opportunity. The bodies of his wife and son were so mangled, they were only able to be identified through Ame's ID card.
The police had left an hour ago, leaving Christian to give Amanda the bad news. He had no clue how to say it. He felt Amanda, though only nine years old, was old enough to understand the gravity of death. The question was, could she be able to heal over time?
Christian looked up with red, teary eyes at his daughter. Her hair was all over her face, and she rubbed her eyes sleepily.
"Daddy, where's Taro? He wasn't in bed when I woke up."
"Oh, Amanda. I know this is going to be difficult to accept, but there's no undoing this..."
August 25th, 2005. 8:33:21 AM
"...And do you, Christian Ikufube, take Tamara Lazarus to be your lawfully wedded wife, in sickness and in health, till death do you part?"
Christian smiled down at the lovely blonde who stood across from him. Once a colleague, Tamara Lazarus was now to become his wife. They had met two years after the deaths of Ame and Shotaro, and the two fell in love almost instantly.
Amanda hadn't been pleased. Now at the age of fourteen, she still wasn't pleased. Even after Christian insisted that Tamara was not trying to, and never could replace her mother, Amanda still would not accept her. In a way, she blamed her father for not having her mother and brother stay home. She could have lived without pancakes for one morning. In fact, the young teen now hated pancakes with a passion. Tamara had made the mistake once, and only one of making pancakes for her and Amanda for breakfast to try and bond with her. The result was the angry young girl screaming at her and flinging all the plates on the floor, then disappearing for the whole day. Her punishment for that was having her bedroom door removed and all of her electronics taken away.
Now, she sat in one of the many pews, next to her maternal grandfather, Rokusaburo. She glared at the happy couple, wishing the stupid wedding was over so she could go home. Her grandfather had promised to take her home right away so she could go to sleep and forget about the stupid bitch for one day.
"Grandpa, can we please go now?" Amanda begged in Japanese.
He shook his head, smiling. "Why can't you be happy for your father, child? You know as well as I do that he loved your mother dearly."
"If he loved her, he wouldn't be getting remarried." After what seemed like forever, the bride and groom kissed, and the priest announced them as Mr. and Mrs. Lazarus.
Amanda grimaced. Just another thing she hated. In two weeks, she would no longer be Amanda Ikufube, and her last connection to her mother would be gone.
"Amanda!" her father called. She ignored him and pushed through the crowd, practically dragging her grandfather with her.
"Amanda!" The girl ignored her father's cries as she wrenched the car door open. Rokusaburo turned towards his former son-in-law, and gave him a sad smile, then opened the driver side door, and disappeared from sight.
April 1st, 2008. 10:11:52 PM
Amanda Lazarus cackled loudly as she stuck her head out of the large black van's front passenger door window. In the driver seat was her best friend Christina Valen, who smiled wickedly as they raced down the highway. In the middle passenger seats were Christina's older twin sisters, Caroline and Cathrine. Their mother Candice had an annoying fondness for 'C' names, at least when it came to the girls. Their younger brother was named Joe, after their grandfather.
"How much money have we got so far, Tina?" Caroline shouted towards her sister.
Christina preened, and shouted "Over two stacks! Two more stores and our total for the month should be at least ten thousand!"
The girls had been robbing tiny corner stores and family owned businesses for cash for over two years now. The girls had accumulated a little over one hundred-thousand dollars, and by some miracle had not yet been caught. On top of the robberies, Christina and Amanda would often team up and shoplift at high brand stores, pawning their finds on EBay and the likes. Out of bitter spite, Amanda had pawned off some of her unwanted stepmother's jewelry and made big money off of it. The woman had cash, but Amanda wasn't going to suck up to her to try and get an inheritance when the old bag died. No, she wanted to make money her own way. The criminal way.
"What. The fuck."
Amanda glared at her stepmother, not pleased to see that her getaway with her friends would now have an unhappy ending. She and the girls had been relaxing in the jaccuzi at the Four Seasons of Beverly Hills. With the money the girls had earned that month, $605 a night was no big deal.
"Now I understand why Mrs. Valen was so confused when I said none of you had been at the house in days. Amanda, your father and I have been worried sick about you. You could have at least called."
"I don't need a whore like you worrying about me. I'll apologize to my father later."
"Amanda, this is not how a future valedictorian should be acting!"
"Mrs. Lazarus?" Amanda spit the name out with as much venom as she could muster, "I wouldn't talk down to me if I were you. In fact, I'd go back to my room and tell my father the trip has been canceled."
"You know very well I will not be doing that, Amanda. Your father and I are both tired of all this acting out. Once spring break is over, we're going to make sure all of these disappearing acts come to a halt at once!"
Tamara tried to turn to leave, but found her pathway blocked by the Valen sisters.
"Sorry, Mrs. Lazarus." Christina said in a creepy monotone, "I'm afraid I can't let you do that."
Cathrine flicked out her switchblade. "What should we do with her, Mandy? Should we make her disappear like Jodie's mom?"
Amanda shook her head, flicking out her own blade. "No way. She should suffer, as I have suffered for the past eight years. Let's see how long it takes to break her."
The girls closed in on Tamara like a pack of hyenas, all of them laughing at the older woman's frightened expressions. Amanda's rang loudest and the most painful.
Tamara had had enough. "What have I done to deserve this, Amanda? All I've ever done is try to be a mother to you!"
"So what? You never will be my mother no matter how hard you try. I've only ever had one mother, and I'll never see her again because your little sister killed her! Over a fucking cheeseburger!"
The only person who hadn't let out a surprised gasp was Amanda. She held Tamara's frightened gaze. After all these years, Tamara had never expected to see the family of her sister's victims. She'd never known who they were, but the fact that she'd been living with them, married to one of them...she felt sick.
"Amanda, I'm so sorry. I didn't know-" Tamara was silenced by the blade now embedded in her shoulder.
"Tell your sister I said 'hi' when you see her in Hell."
June 2, 2008. 9:45:45 AM
Amanda gulped softly as Jodie plodded onto the stage. The past few years of crime and not caring about life had finally come crashing down once she'd returned home to her father. She silently finished her school year, working hard to make her father proud, to make up for the coldness she'd shown him since his second wedding day. It was the least she could do, now that he was mourning the loss of his second wife.
She wasn't dead, Amanda hadn't had the heart to kill her once she saw the regret in Tamara's eyes. She had told Caroline and Cathrine to run off with her and dump her somewhere. The threats made towards the elder Lazarus were enough to make Tamara divorce Amanda's father and disappear off the grid.
Amanda took in a deep breath. She and Christina had freed themselves from their criminal pasts, most of their stolen money had been taken by the twins and the younger girls had been left with a little over $2,000. Christina and Amanda had both taken office jobs that started a week after graduation, they'd soon become law-abiding citizens after the twins' disappearance. Not a phone call or text since the girls ran off. Amanda felt so bad for Christina. She could see how much she missed her sisters.
Amanda held her head up high, and proudly walked onto the stage. She insisted that the school principal use her original last name, in honor of her mother and her brother. She once again got a huge round of applause from her senior class peers, the first time having been after her valedictorian's speech. She'd worked hard on her speech, and her class had clearly enjoyed it from all the cheers and applause. Amanda preened just thinking about it. She'd fondly spoken of the good times and bad times, and she tugged at the heartstrings of the friends and family of the Valens. Of course, she was genuinely sad that Christina had pretty much lost two of her sisters, but being the manipulator she was, she used their disappearance to her advantage in her speech.
I am a highschool graduate now. Crazy how much things change. Soon me and Chris will be pencil pushers. Wow.
June 6th, 2010. 10:55:55 PM
"Mandy, are you sure we should be down here?"
"Yes, Tina. The lab is mine now, and I have to see this for myself."
The two young women crept into the top wing of the abandoned laboratory. Amanda's father had suffered a heart attack earlier in the year, and passed on, leaving everything, including the laboratory to Amanda. Amanda's first order of business was to reopen the lab and change the name from Lazarus Labs back to Ikufube Labs. She wanted every trace of the Lazaruses gone from her life. She'd been able to convince her father to change his last name back to Ikufube before his death, and she was more than happy to be carrying her mother's last name once more.
"What's even in here that you can use? What do you want anyways?"
"I want my inheritance. I will bring this laboratory back to it's former glory, and I will make sure that Tamara Lazarus has no say in the matter. My father told me the cryonics machines were in here."
"And I'm the last queen of Scotland. Can we just go home?"
Finally, they reached the spot Amanda was looking for. The Ikufube Wing, her mother's research wing where she started building the Kouri Machine. It was her mother's biggest project, as she'd always dreamed of creating a way for safe cryonic freezing.
Amanda slowly opened the door into the room with the machines. They were all covered, and looked creepily enough like coffins. This wasn't right. Her mother's blueprints showed large ovals for the subjects to be frozen in. She'd even created a suit that could withstand the temperature required to induce stasis.
Christina lifted up one of the cloths, and inhaled sharply. "Amanda, come look at this."
Amanda joined her friend on the far side of the room, and saw what she was talking about.
In large, silver letters, it read: LAZARUS DEVICE.
"What?! No! No, absolutely not!" With rage in her eyes, Amanda ripped down every cloth covering up the machines. Each one of them had the same silver lettering, the same terrifying coffin-like look, every one of them betrayed her eyes as the name of woman she hated most glared back at her.
"You mother was a brilliant woman. It's too bad she never got to finish them. Well, too bad for you at least."
The lights flickered on, and Tamara Lazarus made her way into the room, locking the door behind her.
"What are you doing here? This is MY laboratory!" Amanda glared at the older woman.
"Goodness, did noone ever teach you to share? This place has been my home for the past two years."
"Well now I'm kicking you out! Leave!"
The woman said nothing, continuing to make her way over to the machines. "It was amazing how far your mother had come in such a short amount of time. Of course, my sister went and ruined your life and by extension mine. I had everything, and I would have given you everything if you'd have let me. Christian writing me out of the will hurt a lot."
By this point, Amanda was seething. Tamara chuckled lightly.
"Look at you, you must really want me gone, don't you? Fine."
At that moment, Tamara pulled out a gun and shot Christina in the shoulder. The elder girl cried out, and fell down, gripping one of the machines for support.
"You have three choices. One: I put a bullet in your brain. Two: I let the police put a bullet in your brain. Three: You-"
Amanda grabbed a large metal pipe and smacked the woman over the head with it.
"Three: I take back what's rightfully mine." Amanda ran over to Christina, taking off her shirt and wrapping it tightly around the wounded woman's shoulder.
"W-what the fuck do we do now?" Christina stuttered, shaking violently from the pain.
"I-don't know. If there's a chance that Ms. Lazarus has police on her side, we need to find a way out."
The women sat there, Amanda nursing Christina's wound the best she could with what was in the lab. After what seemed like hours, Amanda came to a descision. She'd typed up a long explanation of what had happened since they'd arrived at the lab, and with that, she'd processed two copies a video recording of the first thirty-five minutes of their journey into the lab. It was enough to show Tamara Lazarus shooting Christina, then cut off after that. Amanda thanked her lucky stars that she was so into surveillance that she had a small spy cam she carried around with her constantly.
"Can I tell you something? Something you don't want to hear?"
Christina glanced up at her friend. "What?"
"We're completely fucked if we don't get in those machines." Amanda opened two of them up, throwing one of the suits at Christina and yanking her own clothes off as quickly as she could.
"Wait, what? What are you talking about, Mandy?"
"I've walked around the whole top floor of the building. We're surrounded by police. We have to get in the machines."
Amanda had gotten the suit on, noting that it was cool on the inside and felt almost like a diving suit.
"Wait, stop and think Mandy! These machines are giant human coolers. You're telling me you want us to risk our lives, knowing we could possibly never be found, just to get away from the police?!"
Amanda sighed. "Fine! You want to be buddies with the piggies, go ahead. I'm not staying here."
The younger girl ignored her, gathering up the original Kouri Machine blueprints, the typed up letter and one of the SD cards containing the videos. She placed the items into the many pockets of her suit, then looked back up at Christina.
"You're really going to do this?" Christina looked at Amanda with deep sadness in her eyes. The two of them had gone through so much together, only for their future adventures to come to a grinding halt.
Amanda nodded firmly. "Tell everyone what happened to me. Tell everyone where I am so I can be found ASAP."
Amanda placed the hood of her suit on, then laid down in one of the open machines. Christina slowly looked over the blueprints and instructions, making sure to follow them to the T.
The cover of the machine closed up, and several needles injected Amanda with different medicines and fluids. Slowly, she felt herself drifting off, and she said her first and only prayer.
Please God, let me be found...