I sat shivering in the bed for a few moments, like a child, afraid to
come out from the covers. I had to be dreaming. I thought that if maybe
I just closed my eyes for a few minutes and opened them again, things
would be fine. I would wake up, it would be a new day, and everything
would be okay again. Damn, I thought. This is ridiculous.
I got out of bed, feeling the cool floor beneath my feet. The cold sweat and the
chill was getting to me. I slowly snuck to the window. Leaving the
lights off, I looked out for a long time. My eyes adjusted and all I
could see was the light drizzle the fell outside, and the darkness in
the trees, nothing more.
I knew it was going to be one of those nights. One of those nights that
no matter how tired I was, there would be no sleep for me. I carefully
made it to the bathroom. I opened the cabinet and grabbed a few more
pills. Splashing some water on my face, I tried to think of all the
reasons why this was a perfectly normal reaction to stress. I had a
very bad day, thought I saw a dead body, saw my neighbor's bloody
kitchen, and had a bizarre encounter with a State Trooper. Of course my
imagination was going to run wild. I was out here all alone, my services
were not working, and I had no way of getting them fixed until morning.
I was feeling vulnerable and isolated. I was overtired... It all made
perfect sense. There was no reason to be freaked out.
I made my way to the kitchen, and turned off the timer to the coffee pot
and set it to brew. I needed to wake myself up a bit, sit down, and
think carefully about what was going on. I had learned that thinking out
stressful situations rationally and clearly was the best course of
action when my mind started to whirl. If I could catch it early, take the
right meds, take a deep breath, and step back, things generally worked out.
The coffee pot gurgled in agreement. The refrigerator hummed happily in
the background. The house sounded happy and normal. I took a few deep
breaths, smelling the fresh coffee in the pot. I already was starting to
feel better. I thought about the days events in order. I had heard some
noises that were odd, but not that odd, in the woods that morning. It
could have been any number of things. I went the neighbors house, and
thought I saw Maggie floating in the pool. Now, I haven't seen things
that weren't there in a long time, but it has happened. Maybe my memory
is cloudy and I only looked out there after I had seen the blood in the
kitchen. It looked like a lot of blood to me, but how much was it,
really? Someone could have cut themselves in the kitchen by accident, or
had an injury. Maybe Maggie or Howard injured themselves and had to go
to the hospital? Boy are they going to be mad at me that I broke in to
the house. How am I going to explain that?
The coffee pot sputtered and gurgled its last breath and sighed deeply.
I got up and got a mug out of the cupboard, poured myself a cup and
sipped it. Leaning over the sink, looking out at the gloom, I thought
about the cop that had showed up just in time. He had seemed to be
looking for something as he had driven down the road. We never see the
police up here unless there is a reason to come here. This is not part
of their regular patrol route, I am sure. In all the time I have been
here, I don't think I have ever seen them drive by once. Maybe there was
a crime over there, but he had just not wanted to talk about it. Maybe
there was already something he was looking for and I just happened by.
I sipped my coffee thinking for a long while about the questions in my
head. The more I thought about it, the more I felt uneasy about the
police. If there had been a crime, wouldn't there be that yellow police
tape there? Why didn't he ask me my name? Why was he in such a hurry to
get rid of me? Why send me home? The questions swirled around my tired
mind. I could not make any sense of it at all. Had I been seeing things?
Had I imagined the whole thing? This was the worst part about insanity,
you never knew what was real.
I poured myself another cup of coffee and decided that tomorrow I would
go back down the the neighbors' house with a camera. I would take pictures of
what I had seen to prove to myself that what was there was real. I
could do nothing in the middle of the night. I went into the living room
and looked out the window. There was nothing there. I had been dreaming
or delusional, or both. Sitting down on the leather couch I took a few
deep breaths and thought about the news I had read. What was that all
about? I decided quickly that there were more important things on my
plate and I didn't need to be worrying myself with world affairs right now.
Thump, thump, thump....
"Who's there!??," I yelled into the darkness. I set down the coffee,
and listened carefully to the house. This time the sound seemed to be
coming from the front porch. I got up and went to the large oak door. I
leaned in and put my hear against the door, listening, holding my
breath, waiting for something to happen.
My breath caught in my chest and my body went rigid. There was something
right outside the door. I felt the door move when I heard it. It was
right next to my ear, as if someone was standing outside, banging on the
door. I didn't know what to do. I panicked and screamed.
"What the hell do you want?! Who is there?!"
There was no answer. I reached over and turned on the porch light.
Swallowing hard, I unlocked the door and opened it. There was nothing
there but wet footprints on the porch floor and the most foul odor in
the air. I leaned out carefully, looking out into the yard. I hit the
yard light, and squinted through the dark.
Standing in the yard, was a man, just in the shadow of the yard light.
He was about 50 yards away from me, standing in the rain, motionless. I
could not make out who it was exactly, but it looked like Howard.
"Howard? Is that you?," I yelled. There was no response. The man just
stood there in the rain. I could not tell which way he was facing. It
was the silhouette of a man about the same size and shape of Howard, but
it was hard to tell. My mind raced.
"Howard!" I yelled again, not leaving the door. "Howard, or whoever you
are, come on, this isn't funny!" I wanted to go out there, to confront
whoever this was screwing with my head, but my legs would not listen to
me. I stood there frozen, unable to make a move.
The man, turned, the started walking towards the house. There was
something wrong with the way he moved. He lumbered like a drunk. He took
several steps, as if in a haze. I watched, unable to move, as he began
to move faster. He was coming at me. I couldn't believe my eyes, but he
was coming at me. The closer he got, the tighter my chest became. My
heart was trying to pound its way out of my chest. It was Howard, but...
it wasn't. He got about 30 feet from the door when my body finally
started to listen to the panicked signals in coming from my brain and I
stepped back, slammed the door, and locked the deadbolt. Howard looked
all wrong. He seemed crazed, he never said a word, he just came at me,
like some kind of rabid animal.
I scrambled backward. I ran for the phone as I head Howard crash into
the front door, banging and hammering on the door. He was trying to
break it down but it sounded more like he was just flailing into it over
and over. I went for the phone. "Shit" I remembered that I had smashed
it. I ran for my bedroom. My .44 was on the dresser, I grabbed it and
ran back to the door. Howard was out there, slaming his body against the
door. The solid oak shaking in its frame. It was like he was possessed.
"Stop it Howard! I have a gun! I will shoot!" I screamed. "Stop it! Just
fucking stop it right now!!" I tried to sound tough and only sounding
out scared. I held the gun out in front of me. I had only fired it once
in my life. Five rounds to realize that the damn cannon was going to
kill anything I pointed it at, and leave me with a broken wrist. I held
it with both hands, shaking. Howard was not stopping.
I fired. All sound disappeared as the .44 rang out with a sound that was
so sharp and loud it deafened me instantly. I put 3 rounds into the door.
Three thumb sized holes exploded in the center of the door. My ears rang
in pain, and the only thing I could hear was my own heartbeat pounding
in my chest. The smell of gunpowder filled my nostrils. I had shot him.
A minute passed. Maybe more than that, but eventually I made my way to
the door and listened. The banging had stopped. There was no sound other
than the ringing in my ears. I reached down with my left hand, turned the
lock, and took deep breath, then opened the door.