Today we bring you the March winner of The Electric Discounter Writing Competition:
Winner March 2013 TED Writing Competition
My eyes fly open, I am yanked from my sleep and my dreams. I have heard something. I pull my teddy bear closer, hoping I am wrong.
The crunch of work boots on gravel. My silent, safe night world is shattered. Along the gravel driveway… It is a comforting sound, marking my dad’s arrival home from the world of work.
Tonight it is wrong. It carries threat.
The side gate slides open. I can only imagine which monster lurks there now.
My breathing becomes shallow. I cannot move, even to hide under my doona. I feel my jammies, the thin pink flannel barely enough to protect me from the cold night, let alone from what is stealthing down the driveway. Certainly not enough to absorb the sweat of fear.
Scruffy, my dog; too small to be effective – barks pitifully in the wake of the faceless, crunching intruder.
I hear the back sliding door open. It is final. We have been intruded. There would be no closing of this door, this sliding door will remain forever open for me, having changed ‘night’ for me for years to come.
Scruff yaps at the intruder’s heels – dog toenails clicking relentlessly and hopelessly on the lino. Her barks raise a notch and I am reminded of a woman I once saw at a car accident, screaming and crying, her voice a falsetto, and awfully like Scruff’s barks, unintelligible especially for my younger, pre-intruder self.
I hear rustle – it takes me a minute to decipher it.
Another recollection. My grandmother wearing a pale green waterproof jacket. I realise the stranger has the same type of clothes, the same fabric as my sensible Nan. I am confused. I don’t want to know anything about this person who has intruded my house.
The footsteps of the stranger are heavy across the lino. I imagine his shape standing in front of my parents’ photo frames. The intruder crowds my imagination. My mind does not rest.
My heart beat quickens again and my fingers clutch my teddy harder.
I hear the rustle of his jacket again. My senses are heightened and I know he is now walking on carpet, near where my mum displays the silver. I hear something being picked up and put down and I will that silver ornaments are all this stranger has come for.
My ears revolt and I know my heartbeat must be waking my brother and sister. I wonder if they are awake as well. I selfishly want them to be – I don’t want them to feel what I am feeling. I send them thoughts, and try to seek their sounds out of the darkness. I can’t feel them. I am alone.
Where are my parents? Can’t they see he has come for me?
The boots lands on plastic. There is a mat that protects the carpet from the feet of three lively children, my Dad’s work boots and my Mum’s scuffs….and Scruffy. The plastic runs the length of the hallway leading to the bedrooms.
The reality of this sinks in. He is only two bike lengths away from me.
I try to flatten into the bed, making myself invisible and I try so desperately to stop my heartbeat. Surely the thud of my heart will wake my parents?
He is not in my room, in my mind instead. I hear his breathing. I am completely alone in my fear.
There is another step on the plastic. At this moment I know, as surely as I know my teddy bear is pink, that all those unknown things that are done to little girls will be done to me next.
I do not have to stifle a scream, I do not need to stop myself from making a noise. I am frozen. I am still.
I feel my eyes open wider as even more adrenalin surges through me and dread ridden saliva floods my mouth as my stomach clenches tightly into a ball. The footsteps quicken and I sense they are moving away from me, back up the hallway plastic, across the tiles at the entry of the house.
The front door opens, and I hear the boots and the rustle move into the coolness.
I am immoveable with fear. I feel the drop in the temperature of the house. I wait for someone to get up. I wait for someone to come into my room. I wait for someone to ask if I’d heard. I would lie. I would say no. Deny it even to myself. Tell myself it was all a dream.
I wait longer.
I wait. I wait.
My heartbeat has not stopped drumming out the seconds I lie alone.
I ease the doona back, stiffly swing my legs off the bed. I try to walk without even rustling the carpet. Without inhaling or exhaling I am at my Mum and Dad’s bedside. They are peacefully resting. They have not shared this experience. They are not with me.
I wake them.
A dream, they think. An imagination. A creation.
They check, at my insistence, the doors. The gate. All open.
The police arrive, enormous. They confuse me with their questions. I am unable to look at them. I avoid their eyes and their concern and focus on afterwards, the time when it is all done. Eventually they shuffle out of the front door. More intruders making their way into the cold night.
My brother, my sister, my parents and I glance at each other. I look at the lino.
The decision is made. We all pile into my parents room and onto their cold bed. We all share body space, the dog, and the stale air of 3 am.
I insist that I am okay. I insist I am not worried.
I wait for the deep breathes of my siblings to tell me it’s safe for me to sleep. That I do not need to guard them. That they feel safe.
I close my eyes.