When she first whispered to him that she had heard someone in their back yard, he thought he might still be asleep and dreaming. But then she nudged him with an urgency in her voice. “Get up. He’s in our backyard now!” He stared at what he could see of her in their blackened bedroom, and then eased off his side of the bed. He took a step forward, slowly and quietly, and separated the blinds with his finger and thumb, staring out onto the small lawn bordered by the woods beyond. He saw nothing and figured it was an animal until his wife said, “He rang the doorbell. Twice.” He couldn’t process what she told him at first, and then he quickly realized an intruder had been scoping out their house to see if someone was inside. The only question was whether the stranger was looking for an empty house to rob, or a house full of people to victimize. He told his wife he would look around inside and peek out the windows. He turned off the motion detector alarm and crept out into the living room without turning on a single light. He wanted the advantage of seeing out instead of someone looking in and seeing him. He stopped by the kitchen and withdrew a large, serrated cooking knife from the cutlery drawer. He continued looking around, holding the knife downward by his side, his palm sweating.
When the first bluish flashlight beam from the back yard went across the blinds he knew he wasn’t dreaming. He froze in fear for a moment, and then became even more fearful of the prowler’s intent. He ran through the dark where his wife was waiting. “I’ll get you something to protect yourself with. Call 911. There is someone out there and he’s circling the outside of our house.” He left her hiding in her closet with an aluminum tennis racket and a cell phone. That’s all he could think of. As he made his way back to the center of the house he heard her talking to the operator.
The second time he saw the light it was being beamed directly into their guest room, lighting up that whole end of the house. The blinds had not been completely drawn, so the prowler could see inside. This time the man who owned the house became a boy, and was truly frightened, and did not know what to do. His wife whispered from the bedroom that the sheriffs were on their way. And that’s when he heard the phantom in the back yard wriggling the locked handle on the back porch door, trying to get inside. The sound became louder, more forceful, and then he heard that awful sound of metal screening being cut and ripped. And the room he stood in got darker and darker, and his knees became too weak to support his weight, and the intruder was coming in to get them, and the flashlight beam, blue and menacing, kept tracing the surface of the thin, thin, thin and very breakable glass windows. And the porch door handle kept rattling and rattling and soon it sounded like he was trying to rip the porch door right off its hinges, and he wouldn’t stop, he wouldn’t stop, he wouldn’t stop.
Now the man was angry because someone would dare to threaten him and his wife in their very home, and he lifted the knife up and held it before him, but it shook so much that he was afraid it would fall onto the ground in the darkness. He asked his wife if the sheriffs were any closer, and she said the operator told her they were right outside. He stood by the front door and separated the blinds and saw nothing. “The operator wants to know if we’re on the north side of the street.” The man became a boy once again and forgot all about directions and wanted everything to be good and normal again, so he simply agreed – yes, yes, yes, they lived on the north side of the street.
And now there were more lights in the back yard, and this time voices. They were so brazen, he thought, talking out loud. And then he wondered why they didn’t even care that he knew and that made him even more frightened. But then he noticed the light beams were different, not so blue. And his wife told him the operator had just said that the sheriffs were searching their back yard and that everything would be okay. He heard the voices go around the side of the house toward the front, and that’s where he waited, looking through the blinds once again. When he saw the first deputy he gently placed the knife down on a table. He fetched the key to unlock the front door and let the sheriffs inside. The man and his wife told them their story, but the prowler had not been caught, or even seen. He was still out there.
After the sheriffs had gone and the doors were all locked, and then double and triple checked, they went back to bed and closed their eyes and tried to sleep. They both dozed off some hours later, and then his alarm clock went off to tell him it was time to go to work. He walked slowly to the kitchen first, and turned on the stove light. He eyes darted about, looking for movement in the shadows. He contemplated the thickness of the glass window in the bathroom as he took his shower. And then he cursed the darkness while he drove to work, leaving his wife behind. Alone.
They both kept themselves busy and made it through the day. That night the two of them were exhausted, but only his wife went to bed at a normal hour. He stayed up with the excuse that he had to write, knowing all along that he didn’t want to close his eyes, knowing he might fall asleep too deeply and not hear the doorbell ring again. Not hear the slicing of the door on the screen porch. Not hear the footsteps in the dark, just outside their window. Not see the sickly blue beam of a flashlight. He would stay up all night if he had to, regardless of his fatigue from the night before.
Because closing your eyes can be a very bad thing to do when you are living in a house of fear.