A Noise in the Middle of the Night

It’s 12am on a Tuesday and my favorite sitcom is playing on TV. The volume is set low — somewhere between 5 and 10 — so all I can hear is the faint sound of the laugh track every few minutes. Hearing it in this setting makes me wonder why I’m just now noticing how persistent the laugh track actually is. Would this show even be a hit if it debuted on TV today?

It isn’t until I feel my dog rearrange himself at my feet that I realize I’ve partially fallen asleep since my last thought. It’s funny how your mind can come up with the most bizarre ideas while in the ‘falling asleep’ stage. I once caught myself half-dreaming that Kris Jenner was strapped to the back of the energizer bunny, quickly making her way down the rabbit hole in search of Alice.

That’s when I hear it.

The sound is so faint I almost don’t notice it. If I hadn’t had 3 gallons of diet coke today, maybe I would have been asleep by now and miss it entirely. Okay that was an exaggeration, but you get what I’m saying.

A door? My door? The neighbors door? A cabinet? No. Not a cabinet… unless I have a rat, which isn’t unheard of in this building.

I look at Dexter and he hasn’t moved at all, still curled up in an adorable little ball on top of his favorite blanket. The neighbors across from me get a lot of visitors but never on weeknights. I live alone. I have for years. That is, if you don’t count my furry dog child. I always wanted to live alone. As a kid I was told that living alone is the final level of financial freedom — a sign that one has truly made it. In this exact moment, I’m rethinking that theory entirely. Living alone might just be plain stupid.

Then comes another sound: a jingle of sorts. Keys?

At this point Dexter has hopped up from the cozy palette at his end of the bed and is now giving off a low growl with one ear pointed straight ahead. Don’t let him fool you — he acts tough but melts into a puddle of kisses as soon as you approach him. This, unfortunately, does not make him the best guard dog.

I get on my hands and knees to peep through the sliver of an opening beneath my bedroom door, but I see nothing. It is completely dark. Now that I think about it, this is probably why my mother always left the stove light on at night. I’m just too cheap to pay the extra few cents it would add to my electric bill, but I guess there really wouldn’t be a need for an electric bill if I wasn’t alive to pay it.

Okay, now I’m really freaking out. Now I’m sure I’ve heard something coming from inside of my apartment. It is most definitely a jingle, and it’s getting closer.

Where’s my phone? Dexter, lay back down. Don’t move. Dexter, come here. Where’s my phone…

Footsteps. One set. Approaching slowly.

Shit. Where’s my phone.

Got it. I grab Dexter, slip into the closet and crack the door. I have no weapons within reach. There is nothing I can use to defend myself. All I can find remotely close to a weapon is the blunt heel of the 5" stiletto’s I bought for a pole dancing class I went to on my best friend’s bachelorette weekend last year. I dial 911 as fast as I can, but as soon as I get an answer the footsteps come to a halt outside my bedroom door. I hang up fast, worried my intruder will hear the operator. There is nothing but a laugh track cutting the silence between us now.

I say a prayer, “God, if this goes south please make sure my family knows how much I love them.”

The door opens. I see faint movement but I can’t tell what, or who, I’m looking at from where I sit on my closet floor. I’m sweating bullets. I’m holding Dexter as tight as I can under my left arm with the stiletto in my right, heel facing forward. I can feel his heart beating fast but his focus is steady, his eyes locked on the small opening in front of us. I tell myself I’m prepared for anything that happens in the next few seconds. I hope I’m right.

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“Anna?” I hear softly.

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How the f%#$ did I forget I gave my sister a key last week.