was just like any other night, or so it seemed.
Everything appeared normal as Rick Dodge pulled into his
neighborhood, but he was overcome with an unsettling but familiar sense of
dread. He had felt this
before, but only once. One
Wednesday morning about six years ago, he awoke with this same foreboding
sense of impending doom. Little
voices inside his head kept telling him to call in sick that day even
though he felt perfectly fine, to find any excuse to stay at home.
The voices were barely an audible whisper as he showered and
shaved, but by the time he finished breakfast and started out the door,
they had escalated to hair-raising screams.
Julia kissed him goodbye, as she had every morning since becoming
far too pregnant to go to work herself.
Rick then bent down and kissed their unborn child, whose day of
birth was sure to come within the next two weeks.
As he pulled out of the driveway that morning, he tried to convince
himself that his sense of dread was a figment of his imagination, that
that the voices in his head were utterly meaningless.
By lunchtime, he knew that they were not.
Julia had called around 12:30 that day, so frantic that Rick could
barely make sense out of what she was saying.
As soon as he heard her say the word
"baby," he dropped the phone, ran to his car without a
word to anyone, and drove maniacally to
what seemed like an eternity, the misery subsided.
The birth of their dear Sarah just over three years ago helped ease
the pain of their loss. But
the memory of that dreadful feeling, those voices telling him that his
world was about to crash around him, never faded.
He was convinced that on some level, he had known the stillbirth
would occur hours before it actually did.
And now, on what seemed like a normal late Fall Thursday evening,
the voices were back, and they were louder than ever.
As Rick turned onto his street, the voices he had not heard since
Julia's stillbirth entered his mind again.
They were without question the same voices, though not nearly as
subtle as six years before. They
resonated like cymbals in his head, telling him to approach with stealth
and caution, as if sneaking up on something.
Rick had never been one to put much stock in little voices or
intuition, but had he listened to them last time, he would have been at
home when Julia felt something wrong with the baby.
He certainly would have gotten her to the hospital much sooner, and
he just might be the proud father of two rather than one.
He did not heed his last warning, and he would not be foolish
enough to repeat that mistake. As
he neared his home, Rick slowed his Explorer and turned off the lights.
He parked on the curb rather that pulling into his driveway and
closely examined the front of his house.
Although everything seemed normal, Rick's sense of alarm was
stronger than ever.
Rick placed his right foot on the front step and then drew back.
He saw a shadow move through the living room window, a shadow far
to large to be that of his beloved wife.
Rick crept up to the window and peered inside, unable to see at
first through the drapes and blinds. He
knelt down and looked between two separated blinds, and to his shock and
horror, saw a large, bald man, mid thirties, sitting on his sofa.
He appeared to be dressed in a prison suit, and tattoos covered
both of his arms. Rick's
shotgun rested in the man's left hand while he smoked a cigarette with his
right. Rick's initial urge to
burst into the house and confront this stranger quickly passed when he saw
what the man was glaring at. Julia
sat across the room, gagged and blindfolded, and tied to a kitchen chair.
Sarah was clinging to her leg, crying and repeating "I'm
sorry, Mommy" over and over. As
Rick watched in horror, the man stood up and began fondling himself,
laughing and taunting his wife and child.
He watched the man toss his cigarette on the carpet, stomp on it,
and slowly begin pacing toward Julia and Sarah.
Dodge felt as if ice was in his veins as he backed away from the window.
He realized that in mere moments, the man that had invaded his home
would also be invading his wife. Who
was this man, and how the hell had he gotten into the house?
Rick always wondered how he would react to a crisis such as this.
What were his options? Calling
the police was out. By the
time they arrived, who knows how much damage would already be done.
Going into his home to face this monster without a plan was
foolish, but there was no time for planning.
He had to act now.
shotgun now sitting on Rick's couch was the only real weapon he owned.
He had never been much for guns, knives, or the like, but the
shotgun given to him by his grandfather was still in his possession for
purely sentimental reasons. Unfortunately,
it was now in the possession of a man who clearly meant to do unthinkable
harm to his family. Rick
strained to think of anything at his disposal that he could use for a
weapon against this intruder. Suddenly,
he heard Sarah let out a hair-raising scream.
The muffled sound of the man's voice followed, and then all was
silent again. Rick knew that
if he waited any longer, any action taken could be in vain.
moved quietly but swiftly to his back yard, keeping an eye on the house at
every moment. He slipped past
the back door and sprinted to his work shed.
He glanced over at the Johnson's house, fully expecting their
poodle to run to the fence, barking at the top of its lungs, and blow his
cover, but there was no dog in sight.
Rick wondered for a moment if its silence had anything to do with
the man in his living room. Opening
the work shed door, he franticly searched for anything that would disable
his uninvited guest. After
thinking briefly about a shovel or hand saw, he settled on the old axe
buried in the corner behind the other tools.
The blade was dull and rusted, but it would do in a pinch.
Rick turned toward his house and took a deep breath.
There was no time for a subtle, strategic approach.
All he could do was storm in and hope for the best.
went to the back door, which opened into the living room.
Judging by where he saw Julia tied to the kitchen chair, the man
should be close enough for Rick to have a chance of getting to him before
he could get back to the shotgun on the couch.
Rick turned his key slowly to unlock the door, then kicked it open
and made a mad dash toward the spot where Julia sat in bondage.
pants were around her ankles and her blouse was torn down the middle, but
things did not appear to have progressed as far as Rick feared.
The Intruder bolted toward the couch where the shotgun sat upright.
Rick ran toward him full speed, leapt over the coffee table, and
brought the axe down with all of his might.
The Intruder grabbed the shotgun, raised it, and turned just in
time to see the dull axe blade come crashing down on his right shoulder.
The force of the blow made his right arm go limp and knocked the
gun loose, and as the Intruder bent to pick it up with his left hand, Rick
turned the axe around to the backside and brought it down squarely on his
right temple. The Intruder
collapsed to the floor, blood oozing out of his shirt and the side of his
head, and began trembling as if in seizure.
In a matter of seconds, the threat this man had brought into their
home was over.
stood over him for a few moments, glaring down at the heap of human trash
that had terrorized his precious home and family.
The man kept trembling for a few seconds, mouth agape and eyes
bulging, then suddenly stopped and lay motionless in a growing pool of
blood. Rick backed away and
then hurried to free his wife. Sarah,
who had been hiding under the end table beside the sofa, came running and
leaped into her fathers' arms. The
three of them hugged, relieved that this ordeal which none of them would
have ever anticipated, was over. They
remained locked in embrace for several more seconds, crying together and
exchanging words of affection. Rick
turned to take another look at their unwanted houseguest, and what he saw
made the events of the evening up to this point pale by comparison.
spot on the floor where the Intruder had fallen was completely empty.
Rick raised the axe to his shoulder again and stood at attention,
expecting the man to charge at any moment, but then realized that not only
was the Intruder gone, but so were the bloodstains and shotgun. The sofa
and coffee table were even perfectly in place.
It was truly as if the Intruder had never been there at all, as if
the horror they had all experienced that evening suddenly vanished into
thin air. Rick turned back to
his wife and daughter, who were also staring in the same place with looks
of terror and bewilderment. As
Rick Dodge turned to look again to the spot where the Intruder had fallen
just moments ago, he heard the little voices in his head again, heard them
loud and clear. This time,
they were all laughing.