The Intruder

Her eyes flew open. In an instant, she was wide awake. Had she really heard a sound, or was it all that remained of a bad dream? She closed her eyes tight, forcing her body to once again be asleep, but it refused.

He pushed the door open as softly as he could, yet the hinges let out a tiny cry. He froze, knowing the sound of his heart beating madly in his chest was surely louder than that of the hinges. He would certainly be discovered.

“Deep breaths” she said to herself as she willed her lungs to comply with her thoughts. “Rational thoughts” she repeated over and over in her mind. Nobody was in the house trying to hurt her. It was only a dream. A vivid imagination. Bad memories.

He listened fiercely yet heard no sound. Neither the hinges nor his heart had betrayed his secrecy. He was scared, but he knew his destination: her room. He could not turn back. Cautiously he took a step, testing it as if the floor might collapse below him. No sound. He put down all his weight and then moved the other foot.

Her heart was racing. Her mind raced after it, trying to slow it down. It didn’t work. Her fear was more powerful than her logic. There! Another sound. This time she knew it was not just a dream. It was closer now. He was closer.

“Stupid!” After those few cautious steps he became careless, dragging his feet across the carpet in the hall. He must have been heard. His fears multiplied, but his need to reach her room increased even more. He continued to move forward.

Sweat dripped from her body. Adrenalin surged through her veins. She would not be a victim again. Memories flooded her mind: emotions, fear. She remembered it all. It felt like she had been attacked yesterday, not ten years ago. But she had not forgotten. She knew he would come again. She would not be helpless this time.

The foyer. To reach her room he would need to cross it. Moonlight seeped in through the windows. Long shadows stretched towards her door. There was no other way. He would be in plain site, so he just ran.

He’s coming! She dove from the bed. The nightstand drawer. The gun inside, already loaded. Now it’s in her hands. Scrambling across the floor. Hiding behind the dresser. Holding the gun, trembling, crying, scared, but sure of one thing: not again.

He rushed to the door and threw it open. He was in her room! He began to run to her bed but stopped. The blanket was on the floor, the sheets pushed back, but it was empty. He didn’t understand. She had to be here!

She heard the door open, heard his steps. It was for real! She could not see him, but his moonlit shadow fell across the bedroom. Don’t think! She closed her eyes and squeezed the trigger.

The sound was deafening. Now pain was searing through his chest. He fell back to the ground. The hallway, the foyer, he had made it through them all. He was in her room. He should be safe now!

She opened her eyes and horror filled her soul. In that instant she discovered a pain worse than being a victim again. She looked at his body on the floor. It hadn’t been her nightmare, but his. A nightmare that woke her young son and sent him running to her room.