While Brad considered himself to be a relatively lucky guy, he couldn’t help feeling, in his darker, more self indulgent, moments, that he should be doing something more. His job left him bored and unfulfilled. He always believed that he was born to do something but he never had the guts or drive to go out and find it. His predilection for letting his life happen to him instead of diving into it and grabbing the things he wanted sometimes left him feeling that many opportunities had passed him by.
He knew deep down that he would never have the life he has now if he made different decisions in his youth. He was thankful for Kelly and the kids and would not trade them for anything in the world but he wondered why he couldn’t have both. Why couldn’t he have the great marriage to the beautiful wife along with the three adorable kids AND be someone that people talked about and admired. Someone that when something needed to be done they would say his name and everyone would say “Yeah. That’s the guy we need.” This is what he secretly yearned for.
The night went as his nights alone with the kids usually do. He sat in his recliner and alternately watched TV and broke up disputes between the kids. When it was time for the boys to go to bed he had the usual battles over getting them to put on their pajamas, brush their teeth and get into bed. After finally putting them in bed Brad was able to sit back and enjoy the peace.
He was on the couch with a glass of Chivas Regal that he snagged from his Father-in –Law, flicking between a Dateline episode about religious cults, a rerun of a South Park episode on the comedy channel and a documentary about the construction of the Hoover Dam. Life was good.
At around 10:30 he decided to check on the kids and then get ready for bed. He shut off the TV and made his way upstairs through the darkened house and peered into the boy’s room. Kids always seem to be able to sleep in the strangest positions and Brad’s three were no exception. He smiled as he saw Alex asleep with both knees on the bed and his butt up in the air. Jason had all the covers completely pushed to the bottom of the bed and Xavier was lying spread eagle with the back of one hand on his forehead as if to say Whoa is me.
Brad pulled the covers over Jason’s tiny frame, leaned over and gently kissed the boy on the cheek. Jason stirred the tiniest bit, rolled over and settled down again. Brad smiled down at him and whispered “I love you”.
The house was deathly quiet as Brad turned to leave the room. When he started for the door his breath caught in his throat. A figure was looming just beyond the doorway. The stranger’s frame was silhouetted by the night light in the hallway so that the face was hidden in shadow. Brad’s mind raced to grasp the bizarre situation in which he now found himself. The person was far too big to be is wife and Brad never heard anyone enter the house or walk up the creaky stairs. He had to protect his children as well as himself and Kelly could come home at any time.
“What’s going on?” Was all Brad could think of to say. The words came out of his mouth as a weak mumble. His lips felt numb as adrenaline was dumped by the gallon into his body. His heart raced like a trip hammer and his mind seemed to lack any coherent thought.
Brad was never a very confrontational man. He avoided fights like the plague but in his mind he believed that if he was ever in a situation where a physical altercation was unavoidable he would react with confidence and bravery. The last few moments were not exactly panning out that way for him.
His mind tried desperately to get its metaphorical feet under it. If he was going to protect himself and his family he needed to get a grip on his wildly out of control wits.
The stranger raised its hands with the palms out in a gesture that said “whoa now…calm down”.
“Take it easy Brad, I mean no harm” A man’s voice said. The voice had a deep and vaguely familiar resonance that had an immediate calming affect on Brad. His nerves were still wired up but his formerly galloping heart beat had, at least, slowed to a brisk run.
“Who the fuck are you? Brad barked. His voice was regaining its strength and he was, much to his immense relief, beginning to get angry. “What the fuck are you doing in my house?” With every word Brad became more and more determined. He WAS going to be able to handle this situation. He was going to kick this guy’s ass! He may get hurt, maybe even badly, but Brad was going to use all means both fair and unfair to make sure that this guy picked the wrong house and the wrong guy to fuck with.
These thoughts raced through Brad’s mind in a split second. Now emboldened, He advanced on the stranger in the hallway. His thought was to get this guy as far away from the kids as possible. He decided that if he suddenly charged at the intruder he could force him into the cast iron railing behind him that separated the stairs from the hallway in which they now stood. Their combined weight would probably dislodge the railing and send them both tumbling down the stairs. It was risky but it was better than being over powered by the stranger upstairs and risk not being able to protect the boys.
“I am who I am” the unwelcome visitor said in a deep booming voice that seemed to come from everywhere.
The figure paused for a moment and then chuckled. “Sorry, I couldn’t resist” he said in a much more conversational and lighthearted tone.
Brad was on the verge of charging the figure when he heard this strange declaration and it stopped him dead in his tracks. The first words were from a movie, weren’t they? Which one? Brad found himself alarmed that he could not keep his anger hot. It was the conversational voice that he used that befuddled him. The voice was so familiar and so foreign at the same time.
“Maybe this will help.” the stranger said as he moved gracefully to turn on the hallway light.
The light from the overhead fixture revealed a tall, 6 foot 3 inch, ruggedly handsome man that could have just as easily been in his early thirties or early fifties. A playful gleam touched his pale blue eyes and a patient smile graced his lips. His short sandy brown hair was combed smartly off to one side and he was dressed in what would best be described as business casual. He wore a pair of crisp tan khakis and a white golf shirt that had a strange symbol where, on other shirts, you might find the Reebok logo or an alligator. The symbol looked to Brad like an inverted letter Y printed in fancy script. On his feet were faded brown leather loafers.
“Ahh…That’s better” The man said.
Brad’s anger had turned into bemusement. If this was a thief or a killer or a kidnapper or a rapist he sure didn’t fit the picture that he had in his head for such people. On the contrary, this man looked like he could be the golf pro at an upscale country club. Brad’s rational mind told him that killers didn’t always have that crazy look about them or drool leaking out of their mouths and thieves didn’t always come dressed all in black with a black stocking cap to cover their faces but his subconscious was telling him that he had nothing to fear from this man. He knew that that thought was irrational and quite possibly dangerous but nonetheless, he couldn’t shake it.
Still reeling from the drastic change in his feeling toward this trespasser Brad asked “What the fuck are you” the change in pronoun was intentional by Brad. He was no longer sure of what, not just who, he was dealing with. There was a very strong possibility, in his mind, that he could have suffered a stroke or some other catastrophic cranial episode and what he was now experiencing were just images in a faltering mind. It felt so real and so surreal at the same time.
“I know this will sound a little bit odd to you but I’ve come here to talk to you….and ask for your help.” The stranger paused and looked at Brad’s bewilderment. He smiled and said “Come down stairs with me. Let’s have a seat and talk a while. I think we’ll be more comfortable. Don’t you?”
When the stranger turned and started downstairs Brad automatically followed as if in some kind of trance. As they reached the bottom of the stairs the spell broke briefly and Brad was able to regain a portion of his lost indignation and said “Wait! I am going to ask you again. Who ARE you?! And how did you get in my house?”
The Stranger settled into the recliner in the living room and looked calmly at his host. “In a way you could say that I have always been here”
Brad now realized that he could easily reach the phone in the kitchen and dial 9-1-1 before the intruder could stop him. The second he recognized this he did just that. He broke for the kitchen and lunged at the phone and in the process sent the handset rattling to the floor. His composure had broken and in his panic he knocked the phone further from his grasp. His back was to the doorway to the living room and he knew that time was quickly running out. He knew he had only a few moments to call in the cavalry before the intruder would be on him. He grasped the phone cord and quickly pulled the phone toward him. When it was finally in his hand he turned to the phone to dial, fully expecting to see his nightmare coming at him. However, there was no one in the doorway. The house was silent. Confused, Brad peered around the corner into the living room. He almost expected to see an empty room. If he did, then the 9-1-1 call would not be to report an intruder but to book a rubber room for him.
Brad now saw that his guest was sitting in the same spot that he was when Brad made his leap for the phone. The stranger sat with his legs crossed and he had a calm and patient smile on his face.
“You can try and call the police if you want, but I’m pretty sure that it won’t do any good.” He said
“D-Did you cut the phone lines?” Brad said, desperately trying to keep the panic out of his voice.
“Well…let’s just say that phone service, along with everything else, has been temporarily suspended”
Brad slowly put the phone to his ear and heard nothing but dead silence.
“It’s o.k.” the man said. “Come in here and sit down and I can explain everything. In fact, if you bring us a couple of beers you may learn a lot more than you could possibly imagine”