3 a.m. was supposed to be the calmest time of the night. Everyone was asleep and just for a little while, the world felt calm. 3 a.m. was not supposed to bring about one of the most nerve-wracking moments of Zoey’s life.
In a dead silent house, the sound of her dog Bandit barking was more than enough to break her concentration on the book she was reading.
He never barks like this. Ugh, it’s probably just some possum that ran by and scared him, Zoey thought to herself.
So, she got out of bed, adorned her robe, and went down the stairs to quiet the puppy. As she turned the corner into the kitchen, a brief thought struck her.
What if it’s a robber at the back door trying to break in? If the blinds are open, surely, he would immediately see me!
However, she didn’t have enough time to process that because she had already turned the corner and sure enough, the blinds were open, but no one was there. A quick bout of relief washed over her, but that was gone as quickly as the initial thought because her dog was still barking, but not at the sliding glass door, where he would be if he saw an animal, but rather at the side door. Zoey could have sworn that she heard a noise from the other side but in an instant, it was gone and she dismissed it to being her imagination. By this time, Bandit had stopped barking, but her mother had come to join her in seeing what all the commotion was about.
“What’s going on?” her mother asked her.
“I’m not sure. He just kept barking at the door.”
“Was there a skunk or something?” she muttered, peering out the back door, then closing the blinds when she was satisfied that nothing was there.
“I don’t think so. Plus, he wasn’t barking at that door, he was barking at this one.”
The thought crossed her mind that this was Bandit’s behavior whenever someone came to the house, but she refused to acknowledge that any more than she had to if it wasn’t necessary. Besides, he had stopped barking so maybe some critter scurried across the small porch outside the door and woke him up.
“Well, that was weird,” Zoey said. “Alright Bandit. Back to bed.”
It was almost 5 seconds after she said those words and turned off the kitchen light that she heard the noise again. Out of pure fear, Zoey all but leapt back into the living room, out of sight of the door. She and her mom made eye contact, fright etched on their faces, and they turned back to the door. The noise was coming from near the doorknob and Zoey could only equate it back to the sound of someone putting in their keys or trying to open the door while it was locked.
Her heart had jumped up past her throat and was now pulsating in her ears. Whether or not she was actually breathing could be left up for debate. Frantically, without looking away from the door for too long, her eyes scanned the living room, attempting to find quite literally anything that she could use as a weapon. But after about 10 seconds, the sound stopped. As did her heart. Zoey’s feet were nailed to the ground and her eyes were glued to the door, waiting for it to open up to reveal a robber with a gun who would shoot her on-sight. Or a serial killer prepared to torture her whole family. Or God knows what else. Whatever was on the other side of that door was about to make its presence known again and she was far from ready.
The door never opened and she didn’t hear a peep. She looked at her mom again, confusion meshed with the still-present fear.
Eventually her mom turned on the kitchen light and took a peek through the blinds on the back door while Zoey took the front window, the nerves causing her to half expect to see someone staring right back at her and half expect to see someone running away. Yet, she saw neither.
Back in the kitchen, neither one of them wanted to open the blinds on the side door out of fear for what they might see. So, they did the next best option. They looked through the window on the side of the house that had an only partially obstructed view of the outside of the door. Again, there was nothing. At that point her mom felt it was safe enough to open the blinds to check for any indication of what they just heard.
The gate was closed, nothing on that side of the yard was astray, no obvious indication that there was a person there.
“What the heck just happened?” Zoey wondered out loud.
“Beats me. Maybe it was just an animal trying to get inside,” her mom suggested.
The teenager looked at her mom. “That’s not what it sounded like to me.”
“Well that’s what I’m going to accept it was because I really don’t what to think of the alternative right now.” Her mother took a deep breath. “Alright, I’m going to go to bed. You should too.”
“Ok mom. Goodnight. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
After settling back down in her room, Zoey pulled out her phone and opened the Messenger app.
Less than a minute later, she got a reply.
I’m sorry, have we met? Hi, I’m Jen: your local insomniac.
Haha smart alek. Now is not the time for jokes. Something really freaky just happened.
Oh, shoot. I’m sorry. What happened?
So, she told her. She added every detail she could remember while they were still fresh.
Holy crap!! Are you ok?!
Well needless to say, I’m pretty sure that I won’t be sleeping tonight. I’m pretty freaked out right now.
Understandable. I would be too. Want me to come over?
Nah, I won’t make you do that at this hour.
Zo, I’m literally right across the street.
Well there may be a crazy robber or serial killer running around!
Are you positive that it wasn’t an animal and you just have read too many true crime novels?
Ok, ok. I believe you. How can I help?
Zoey smiled at that. After 17 years of knowing each other, through ups and downs, their friendship at its core never changed. Specifically, Jen never changed. She was and always has been the eternally witty presence in Zoey’s life, but thank heavens she knew how to be serious and caring when needed. Zoey honestly could not think of another person that she would rather turn to at a time like this.
Just keep talking with me.
That I can do. Your resident (unofficial) therapist is in. You know, my mom always said my big mouth would never do me any good. But here we are.
And I thought you were the resident insomniac?
Resident (unofficial therapist), local insomniac
But don’t tell me you agree with her?
You can’t deny that it has gotten you sent to the principal’s office AND suspended more than once…
Betrayed by my own best friend.
I can’t believe that you would do this to me.
You know, I could just stop talking right now. I’ll do it!
No, you won’t. You’re too good to abandon me.
So, you think you can butter me up now that you’ve stabbed me in the back, huh?
Is it working?
… a little
For the next half an hour, their text conversation went on like that. It ranged from teasing each other to discussing news about their other friends to debating completely arbitrary topics. With every laugh, Zoey could feel her anxiety levels decreasing.
That is, until she heard her dog start to growl. She picked up the knife that she took from the kitchen before going back to her room and opened her door. Creeping slowly, Zoey made her way back to her kitchen to find her dog growling at the door again. Quietly, she hushed him, listening for any sound. And then she heard it and her blood ran cold. It was the same noise as last time. Zoey ducked behind a chair and sent out a text.
Hey, did you decide to come over anyway?
No, you said you were good. Why?
Can you see my side door from your window?
Partially. There’s a bush blocking out part of it.
Can you see if there’s something at the door?
Shoot! Do you hear the sound again?!
Yes! Now please check!
I don’t see anything.
Ok, so it must just be an animal. Phew!
A head just popped up!
ZOEY ANSWER ME!!!!!
PICK UP YOUR PHONE!
ZOEY I AM CALLING 911
*read at 3:42*
Ok, the police are on their way.
He isn’t inside yet so that’s good. Get everyone in the basement or something. Please
AND FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY ANSWER ME
HE JUST UNLOCKED THE DOOR!
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE TELL ME YOU ARE SOMEWHERE SAFE
I am. As you can probably see, whoever was at the door is now running like hell.
Oh, thank God. Thank God you’re ok. What the hell happened?!
Well, I downloaded a sound effect of a gun being cocked (which is why I couldn’t answer your calls) and once he unlocked the door, I played it and yelled that if he dares step foot inside and if he doesn’t leave this house alone for the rest of his pathetic days, I won’t hesitate to shoot on-sight out of self-defense. Apparently, that seemed like too much hassle to deal with for a robbery or whatever and he took off. Whether or not he took me seriously is debatable. Point is, it worked.
OMG! Holy crap! My best friend the absolute badass! I’m so proud of you! Also, is that legal?
Thanks! However, I may need to pass out because my legs are shaking so, so bad and everything is just now starting to hit me.
As for the legality of self-defense, no clue. Maybe. But who cares because I don’t even own a gun and he won’t be coming round here no more.
But don’t pass out. The police are down the street and will probably have a few questions.
Thanks for the heads up and for calling them.
And thanks for everything else tonight.
You really were there for me and I appreciate it a ton.
Of course! As your best friend and unofficial therapist, it is my legal responsibility to make sure you don’t end up dead or in an anxiety spiral! ;)
Plus, I know you would do the same for me.
As always, love you too!
After answering the police’s questions and making a statement, Zoey was thoroughly exhausted. With a police car stationed down the street to make sure the man didn’t come back for a third time and the assurances from her night owl best friend that she would keep an eye out just in case, she could finally succumb to sleep. Despite it being 5:30 in the morning, a time when really early risers started their days and graveyard shift workers made their ways back home, to Zoey, the world was finally at peace.
Of course, during the following weeks, the sound of keys in the door and Bandit randomly barking at a squirrel would still make her heart skip a beat and her blood run cold, but whenever that happened, a quick text to her best friend was all it took to make the world feel safe and right again.