• Joshua Blaylock

The Intruder

Why, love? Why are we here? Sitting here in this room as if nothing is happening? The banging still hasn’t stopped. Yes, sure. There have been breaks – moments of tranquility in the endless sea of pounding – but the relentless pounding persists ever onward.

At times, I am able to forget, to drown it out. Perhaps that’s why it stops. I don’t always notice the stopping, but one can’t ignore when it starts again.

How long has this gone on now? It’s been more than a few minutes, but has it been an hour yet? Maybe a few? I left my phone and anything else we could use to tell time behind when we ran in here.

Why did we choose this room of all places? There are no windows, no way to reach the outside world except one. One dreadful portal to freedom, blocked by…

Wait. There it goes again. Silence. A temporary oasis of quiet. Perhaps we could make a break for it. Maybe our villain has left to find other avenues of entry. I understand. It’s likely just fatigue. Or maybe it’s a trap to get us to try and leave.

Oh, the sinister nature of these things. Hah, sinister. Ironic that I should choose such a word. I, a person born sinister and living that way every day of my life (as I am left-handed, after all), put down by a sinister foe.

Ironic. Is that the correct usage of it? I don’t know anymore. I feel as though my mind has taken to the lifeboat and is attempting to sail away from my sinking ship.

Perhaps we should make for the door, and should the cursed intruder be waiting for us I’ll…

No! No, no, No, NO NO!!! The incessant banging has returned. It taunts me. It teases me. “Come out and play.” True, there are no words. Not really. But I know. I know they’re waiting just behind the throat. I hear the taunting lure latch onto my mind, tempting me to just open the door and accept my fate. But I will not give in.

Perhaps you can comfort me? Sing that song you used to sing and help me drown out the creeping madness.

What were we thinking? We need a plan. We will escape. Next time the banging stops, we will make our way out of this room. But we need a plan.

The obvious first step is to attempt to defend ourselves just in case the intruder waits outside the door, but what could we use? I have this pen, but it would require me to get too close if I am to be effective. I could carry the chair, but it would be difficult to swing and could be caught on the door frame.

Ah, I see it. A microphone stand. It’s long enough to jab from a distance and easily wieldable. A relic from my younger days come back to grant me older ones.

I remember how I used to say that there was no feeling quite so great as being on a stage. It wasn’t the roar of the crowds that couldn’t be seen or heard over the lights and music. It was the feeling of being entirely one with myself – being exactly who I am in a way that I never knew how to be otherwise.

But that dream ended long ago. I haven’t used this piece in years. Now, it sits as a reminder of a man I once was – a testament to one of the many lives I’ve had the pleasure to lead.

If my attack is successful, which I must move with certainty that it will be, I need to find my phone. I had been sitting in the living room watching the television when I heard the intruder. The show was nothing special, and I was dreaming of another story – a man, a woman, a life in dreams – while eating chocolate truffles.

I generally leave my phone on the side table when I watch television.

I remember picking it up, though, to start dialing the police.

But then, I dropped it on the floor. I attempted to reach it, but it had slid under the couch.

I’ll have to try again to get it. It will make things much easier if I have it. I can call the police. Then I can call someone to pick me up as I run from the house. I know. I know. It makes more sense to do it the other way.

Curse this banging! I cannot concentrate. My head is throbbing, and my pulse is pounding. I feel the heartbeat in my own chest. It’s as if my ribs are a nearly failing gate holding back an increasingly strong battering ram. Soon the gates will fail, and the enemy will flood the castle.

Funny how this is not the case with our intruder. Though the banging continues, and it is loud and maddening, there has been no attempt to actually knock down or break through the door. The knock demands, “Let me in!” but it never attempts to force the issue.

My heart and the knocking have synced their rhythms. A beat in need of a song. The beating, despite its breaks, remains perfectly in time. My heart is the metronome that keeps the band from getting off-beat.

Right, I’m getting distracted from the plan now.

Even if our foe is not outside the door, we’re not safe until we’re outside at the least. Fortunately, there are no surprises between here and the kitchen.

The kitchen – the place where I first spotted my intruder before running in here, standing right by the refrigerator. Wait. That doesn’t make sense. I wouldn’t have, couldn’t have run in here then. I entered from the other side, where the living room is. That would have required me to walk right past the intruder.

No. I ran back into the living room. I remember now. I accidentally tripped over the coffee table, knocking it ajar and… revealing my phone!

Oh yes, it was under the coffee table. That’s why I couldn’t find it under the couch. I grabbed my phone, and by the time I looked up, the intruder was in front of me somehow, opposite the kitchen.

Then, where did my phone go?

I need my phone. We need to get a ride out of here if we are to be certain of survival. Sure, I can run, but you know I’m not very fast. And I’m very out of shape. I doubt I would last long even with the rush of adrenaline that will likely push me through the first part of my escape.

I made my way through the kitchen, and then? Then, what? There must be something else, but I can’t remember.

Ah, yes! Thank you! I tried to find a knife. There were none sitting out, so I checked the drawer. Empty as well. They must be in the dishwasher. I must have set my phone down when I looked in the drawer. It has to be sitting right on top of the counter, next to the picture of us.

Wait. It’s stopped. When did it stop? I must have drowned it out again with my scheming. The microphone stand, my phone on the counter, then out the door. Call a car then the police. Alright my love, as they say, here goes nothing.

There went nothing. The base on the microphone stand was heavy and unwieldy. By the time I got it unscrewed and made my way to the door, the banging had started again.

Why did we come into this wretched room? There is no sanity to be had in here. There is no connection to the outside world, no understanding of the passage of time.

There was the hall right there. The door to the outside world was only a few feet away. Why would we choose the place from which there could be no escape?

It’s like those horror movies where someone is chasing the character and they run upstairs. What are you planning to do upstairs? How do you expect to get out? Do you think your pursuer will get tired running up after you? Will they take one look at the stairs and say, “Nevermind, It’s not worth it?”

Well, now I have the microphone stand, and I’m ready to head out once this infernal pounding recesses again. My phone should be easy to grab, sitting right there by that picture.

My dear Ellen. Love of my life. I still remember so vividly. What was it? Three years ago? Yes. Well, in two months it will be.

I took off of work a couple hours early and went to pick up the flowers. You are a hard one to surprise, but I planned this one out to perfection.

The gift was waiting at the house. You had received it earlier that day, but the packaging was a poster tube. You have no interest in the posters I order from time to time for my office, so you wouldn’t have opened it.

I made my way to the house and parked a block away. You had gone out on an errand, as I expected, and I made sure to park in the opposite direction of where you would be coming from on your way back.

I popped open the tube as soon as I got inside the house and pulled out the gift. I called to guarantee our reservation for that evening and waited near the doorway for your return, flowers in front in one hand and the gift behind in the other.

A quick “I love you” text to you before placing my phone down on the little table next to me. Then my phone rang. You were calling me. I didn’t want you and I to be on the phone when you got there, which would be any minute now. But I didn’t want to be rude and reject the call. I chose to let it ring.

I peeked out the window a few times and stood there waiting. The ding from my phone let me know you had left me a voicemail. I glanced outside again and picked it up to listen.

But the voice was a man’s. “This is officer Brown. Could you please give me a call?”

The ring box dropped to the floor. The rest is much less vivid to me anymore. A blur of torment and disbelief. When the brain decides to wholeheartedly reject an idea, it doesn’t see the need to properly store the memories, I guess.

I have remained in this house through the days, weeks, months that followed because I fear the world out there has nothing for me anymore. Time has stopped. While the world around me keeps going, I remain stuck in that moment. Stuck in a life with no meaning. The love of my life has been ripped from my arms, from my heart, from my world.

But here I am, locked in a room while a monster pounds at my door begging, demanding to be let in. And you. You are not here with me. You cannot comfort me with your song. You no longer feel. You no longer remember. You no longer love.

This battle, perhaps my last, I must fight on my own. I must escape this sanctuary if I have any hope to survive. Otherwise, this place I have run to for protection will be my death.

It has stopped. I will give my intruder a moment to step away, if that is the intention. Then, I will make my move. I will not suffer this torture any longer. I will make my way out of this trap I’ve locked myself in. I will fight if I must. And I will escape, or I will die trying. Either way, I will be free.

Goodbye dear friend, my love eternal. My freedom awaits.

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