Full Alert

2 AM, the dead of night. A light mist hangs over the house, shrouding us within its mystery. I’m awake, for no reason I can conceive.

Well, might as well roll over and go back to dreamland.

“What’s that man doing?” Rachel asks.

Full alert. I freeze. The only light I can see is the dim crack of indigo that penetrates the curtains. If there is a man in my room, he is behind me.

I am as still as can be. The smoke detector flashes, and it takes all that I am to remain motionless.

“No, I already have a balloon,” says Rachel, then she rolls over, asleep, oblivious.

I take the opportunity to match her, and I can now see what was behind me, any would-be attacker believing I am still asleep.

But there is no one: a curtain, a kitchen, a home devoid of motion, save the three cats that breathe in silence. I, myself, take in a lungful.

My bladder aches, perhaps the reason I drew away from slumber in the first place, so I throw off the covers and stumble to the bathroom. I look out the window as I do my business. Empty, the back yard. The sun-torn garden getting its few hours of relief.

My phone rings. Full Alert.

I button my shorts as I run the short distance–both because I want to avoid disturbing my wife’s deep, yet interesting, sleep, and also because… 2 AM phone calls are always bad news. Your mother never calls at 2 AM to catch up. Or maybe she does. The police certainly never call at 2 AM to deliver the good news. Or the hospital.

“Hello?” I ask the unknown number.

I am greeted in return by a loud, steady hiss. The hiss of air escaping a cracked pipe. Of an air-compressor’s blasting valve.

But no body. No voice.

“Hello?” I ask again, this time sans the sleepy panic I may have had before.

Still. Nothing. Hiss.

I end the call, study the number. It could be anyone.

I’m a rational man. I know I’m prone to panicked flights of fancy. I know how to maintain the facade of calm serenity.

But I wonder if the shotgun under the bed is enough. Perhaps I should relocate the handgun from the closet to the nightstand.

Perhaps I should go back to bed. I am safe, I say, I am no target. I may have been one in the past, but no longer. I am invisible.

I step to the bed, the palace of dreams, and hear a car door slam.

Full alert.


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