A flush of adrenaline rolls to my legs and they start to tingle. My heart rate speeds up so that I can no longer feel individual beats coming from my chest.
I am 33 years old, a suspicious thump in the night shouldn’t cause so much fear. Unfortunately, bravery has never been a trait of mine.
In the rational section of my brain, I know that the sound came from outside the house. A car door slamming in the street or a neighbor slamming their front door.
Tonight, I have no room for rational thoughts as I sit listening to Stephen King’s It audiobook. I look to my wife and see that she is fast asleep.
It’s nothing, obviously. Everything is fine.
A couple of minutes pass with no mysterious noises. Relieved, I laugh at myself and how I am letting Mr. King get the best of me.
Then, as I am listening to Bill Denbrough and Richie Tozier escape the maniacal clown that has disguised itself as a werewolf, I can hear the bass of two voices talking downstairs in our living room.
I pause the audiobook and freeze, doing my best not to make a noise. It’s difficult to make out the voices over my heartbeat pounding in my ears.
Somebody is in my house.
In the past, I would have locked the bedroom door and waited for morning to come. And, that would be my plan tonight.
Then, it hit me.
My son is asleep in his room and I am his only defense against whoever or… whatever is in my house.
I get up and creep towards the bedroom door. The voices becoming more clear with each step. Once I reach the door, I am filled with euphoric relief for two reasons.
First, the voices are coming from the talking heads on ESPN. They are discussing the upcoming NFL playoff games.
It’s the TV.
Second, I had left all the lights on downstairs.
My relief is short lived as I realize that I have no clue what caused the TV to turn on. I peer over the railing of our loft, looking down at our living room.
How is the TV on? Wouldn’t this be the perfect trap? Make me think that everything is okay when I hear that it is the TV and let my guard down. Then, when I am distracted by turning off the TV, sneak up behind me and take me out. I need a weapon.
The problem is, we have nothing even resembling a weapon in our house. I turn around and scan the bedroom. Nothing. I look around our loft and that’s when I spot it. My best, and only, option… a three-foot wooden toy broom that is a part of a cleaning set that we gave our son for Christmas.
He had left it at the top of the stairs. He insisted on cleaning his spilled Fruit-Loops singing, in his toddler babble, “Clean up! Clean up! Everybody everywhere…”
Now, I am prepared to turn it into a deadly weapon against whatever awaits me downstairs.
Yeah, now I’m ready. Whoever is down there will be sorry if they meet the business end of my son’s toy broom…
Halfway down the stairs, I smile for a moment, thinking that it would be more effective to get naked. That would scare away even the most dangerous of intruders.
At the bottom of the stairs, I scan the room. No signs of danger. Broom in hand, I exhale a sigh of relief. I spot the remote on the couch, pick it up, and shut off the TV, still not sure how the damn thing turned on in the first place.
Feeling proud that I protected my family, I walked to the kitchen and started turning off the lights. With my hand resting on the final light switch at the bottom of the stairs, I take one last look around, confirming that the house is empty.
I flick the light switch. I begin my sprint up the dark stairs, feeling the imaginary intruder nipping at my heels.
I reach the top of the stairs, clutching the broom in my sweaty hand, out of breath. Before I head back to my bedroom, I decide to check on my son.
I slowly turn the knob and push open his bedroom door.
His room is dark, except for the dull orange glow from the street light leaking through the blinds. I hear his rhythmic breathing from the door over the whir of the space heater that we have in his room to keep it at tolerable temperature during bitter Minnesota nights.
He is laying crooked on his new toddler bed. No blankets covering him, due to the fit he through out of protest of being put to bed. I gently straighten him out on the bed. As I grab his blanket to tuck him in again, I am struck with terror.
I can feel something looking at me. I freeze. I listen.
The heater continues to blow warm air across the room, but I can’t shake the chill that has made its way down my back.
I shake my head at myself. Embarrassed that I can’t shake childhood fears.
I turn and tip-toe towards the door. I can see, in the slight orange haze of the room, that the sliding closet door is open a crack. I squint trying to look inside, but it is useless against the infinite darkness inside.
I make it to the door, carefully turn the knob, pull the door open, and begin to slip out. Just before the door latches shut, I hear it.
A giggle coming from the closet. It, somehow, sounds joyful and menacing all at the same time. It is broken up by slow, rasping draws of breath.
I pull the door shut. Obviously, my mind is playing tricks on me tonight.