I peer, quizzically, into the darkness. Something out of place, I don’t know what, has lifted me out of the depths of sleep. A mild threat of chaos. And it calls to me. It says, “Be a man.” So I get out of bed, stepping gingerly onto the carpet. It whispers to my tired feet as they move past. The wife is sleeping soundly under a mound of pillows and blankets. She is burrowed in comfort, unconcerned.
I survey the doorway, slightly outlined by the light of moon and stars. I step forward carefully, sticking my head out of the door first, into the hallway, like a thief looking for a cop. I can barely see anything. I listen intently to see if it will repeat itself. The thing that woke me.
The noise. I’m sure I heard a noise.
I look into the room where the children sleep. They are breathing the night air, softly, content. Unaware. I move past, stepping through the hallway as my eyes begin to adjust to the dark. I see the vague shapes of chairs and windows. The light from the street illuminates the livingroom. I move forward. Quietly. Listening.
I pass from the living room to the kitchen. In the moonlight I see that it is empty too. I don’t bother with the light. I can see now. The moon is bright. It sticks its fingers through the kitchen shades and pries them apart, curious, looking to see what’s inside.
I grab a spatula for protection from the counter, then move ahead, down the creaking steps to the basement. It’s dark down there. Silent. Ominous. The inky darkness crawls all around me, leering at my inner child, boiling up childhood insecurities. I decide to turn on the light. I brush my hand along the wall to find the switch. I connect. The light fills the basement like water fills a swimming pool. It hurts my eyes, but it is a friend. The room glows with the greenish yellow phosphor of florescent bulbs, emitting their bad humor. It is an empty place at this time of night, offering no solace. Yea, verily.
I listen again to nothing out of the ordinary. The furnace blows warm air through the ducts, out the vents, keeping us alive. It is a grace. The small refrigerator hums. The florescent bulbs buzz in quiet, desultory anger. But I can’t let myself be distracted.
I look around at the empty room. I walk to the other rooms, through other doors. I look and see nothing but what was already there. I feel the night, pressing against the outside of the house, slouched against the block glass windows of the basement, wanting to get in. I return to the steps and turn off the lights, as if to say, “All full here. No more room for the night.” At least the darkness in the house is familiar.
I walk back upstairs into the kitchen, checking the lock on the back door as I pass. I stop one more time to listen for the noise, half heartedly, doubting my senses. I move on and glance out the tiny window through the front door. The street is gently illuminated by street lights. Motionless. Nothing and no one. That door is locked as well.
I look at the kids, the wife, thanking God they’re in this house with me. I listen to them breathe, wondering vaguely how I could ever live without them there. Then I lay back down, weary but satisfied. I have done my duty.
Peace to you.
© LW Publishing 2010