My son, Samuel, was Superman.
At least he thought so while I held his light eight-year-old body over my head as we ran through our home. Even though Samuel was born deaf I still made swoosh noises for my own entertainment. His unique laughs filled each room we “flew” through. First, the kitchen, as my wife, Rose, cooked chicken Parmesan for the family. Samuel and I chuckled our way into the dining room to circle the handmade oak table that was surrounded by large windows. As we swooshed into the living room we found my daughter, Allie, who acquiesced in swooshing beside us before drifting off into iPhoneland again. I assumed she was finally over her ex since her usual pout was replaced with a smile. Teenage hormones baffled me.
Rose called from the kitchen that supper was almost ready just as Superman Samuel and I jolted up the stairs and around the circular hallway. We flew into Samuel’s room and shot our laser eyes at some aliens. We passed Allie’s room and straight into the playroom which required light feet to step over all of Samuel’s toys before circling back into the hallway. After flying past the two guest rooms we finished the circular hallway and stopped at the landing to freeze some aliens with our ice breath. After saving the world we flew back down the stairs. Samuel’s giggles concluded when I put him down after getting back to the first floor. I lifted my hands up and used sign language.
Play time over. Supper is ready.
Even though I saw her sneaking text messages to her new fling I reminded Allie to put away her phone as the family ate supper in the dining room. Samuel smacked on his pasta while Rose reminded him to chew with his mouth closed with a pinching motion close to her lips. I winked at Rose while taking a big bite of chicken and pasta. It was delicious.
We lived on the far end of the ninth hole on a golf course. We had a wide section to ourselves since we were one of four homes on the new course. The backdrop scenery of our dining room was gorgeous as the sun set. The scene was beautiful but the only negative was the occasional beginners forgetting how far a ball can travel with a swing. During construction I had the option for cheaper glass windows or expensive shatter proof windows that I knew wouldn’t be worth the price. After three broken windows, and an “I told you so” from my wife, I had new windows installed. The double pane polycarbonate sheets guarantee to be burglar proof, break proof, and help insulate our home. They were even difficult to scratch.
My home was beautiful and my dream of living on a golf course had finally came to fruition. My high income allowed me to build a beautiful six thousand square foot home for my family. Even though the scenery was amazing and I had money, my family was my prize. My beautiful Rose was just as amazing as the day I met her. Allie came next and brought a joy into my heart I didn’t know was possible. Next was Samuel, a challenging process that started with assumed learning disabilities, then the realization of physical disabilities, and finally a diagnosis of anacusis. His battle molded me into a more enduring husband, father and man. I loved my family and would do anything for them. I wanted to show them how a kind, decent, loving man should raise a family and be a good example.
Decent fathers help people in need.
We had just finished eating and the clanks of forks hitting plates interrupted the full-bellied sighs.
Good? I signed to Samuel.
He nodded with a big grin. Allie got on her phone again. Rose took some dirty dishes to the sink. I followed.
The dining room lit up bright as I lifted from my seat. Everyone squinted as the oversaturated room lost all detail. I put a hand up to block the source right when my wife found the culprit.
“There’s a car in the driveway, hun.”
“They need to shut off their high beams,” I said.
“Probably the older couple that lives on the 6th fairway. I saw him leave his blinker on for two miles last week.”
I made my way to a front window but didn’t recognize the car. Its high beams were bright LED lights and pointed directly at the front of the house as the car was slightly angled in our driveway. Allie and Samuel sat comfortably on the couch. Rose continued washing dishes while staring out the window in confusion.
“Allie, are you expecting anyone?”
“No,” Allie yelled across the house.
Rose gave me a look.
“I’m not either. I don’t know who it is. Maybe they’re just turning around,” I said.
“It doesn’t take that long to turn around.”
She was right. The lights penetrating the house seemed intentional, but there was no point in getting angry. There could be a dozen reasons why someone would stop in a driveway. Maybe even an emergency. Decent fathers help people in need.
“Give it back!”
Allie’s screams rip through the house as she chased Samuel upstairs. With Allie’s phone in hand, thieving Samuel scurried up the stairs with Allie and Rose close behind.
“Samuel, stop bugging your sister!” Rose yelled, not for Samuel to hear, but so Allie knew her mother was on her side.
I smirked, knowing they may chase him all night, but quickly turned my attention back to the odd scene unfolding outside. My family’s steps thudded up the stairs and around the second floor while I kept peering out at our unknown guest. I recognized the brand as Nissan, but could tell by the low body clearance the vehicle had been tuned for racing. Curiosity overcame my reluctance and soon I found myself outside. I cautiously approached the vehicle but grew nervous when I saw the tinted windows. With the sun gone I had zero visibility of the passenger… or passengers.
I approached the driver’s door and tapped on the glass fully expecting a gun to emerge. Instead, there was nothing. The low hum of the coffee can sized exhaust pipe revealed the running engine so I knocked harder. Still no answer.
“Hey!” I announced. “What’s the problem?”
I slammed the underside of my fist on the window loudly. Annoyed, I pulled the door open to see who was being a stubborn asshole.
To my dismay no one was in the car.
The keys were still in the ignition, the lights were switched to bright, and the radio LEDs cast the driverless interior into a blue haze. Not sure what to do, I looked around in the cup holder and door side panels for any identifying clues but came up empty.
I looked around the exterior of the car for any clues. The license plate showed the car was registered in our area. The car had a few scratches and dents but nothing that would be considered damage from a wreck. I glanced down the driveway then made my way up to the front yard then finally to the car trying to find anything that would make sense of the situation. I heard a faint click that brought my attention back to my home. The only person I saw was Samuel in the second story window getting scolded by my wife with Allie happily grinning behind her.
I started walking back inside to call the police. Something about the situation unsettled my nerves. At that point I didn’t care about being a decent man I just wanted to follow my gut. My gut should have spoken up sooner.
I almost slammed my face into the front door when it didn’t open. I tried twisting the knob several more times wondering how the hell I locked myself outside. I reached into my pockets but remembered I didn’t carry my phone or keys with me. I put my hand into a fist to knock loud enough for Rose to hear but stopped when I heard a faint tapping.
Through the kitchen window stood a demon holding a knife. It was staring at me. Its head was slightly cocked to one side.
It took me a few seconds to notice it wasn’t a real face but a terrifying paintball mask being worn by an intruder inside my home. Judging by the intruder’s height and body type it was a male. He tapped on the window again with the knife making sure to get my full attention. He cocked his head to the other side, titled the knife back and forth to catch the moonlight, then disappeared into the darkness of my living room.
My God. My family!
My first instinct was to kick the door down or bust a window. I wanted to get my Rose, Allie and Samuel as quickly as possible, but I stopped myself. My locks were too strong for a kick from me and the windows were shatter proof. My only available actions would cause noise and bring my family’s attention to downstairs. Closer to the living room. Closer to the knife wielding intruder who locked me out of my own damn house.
What was I to do? I had no phone. No keys. My home was locked tight. My nearest neighbors could call police but my quarter-mile run would leave my family helpless and unaware. I thought about shouting but that would identify what room my family was in. I had no answers. I felt helpless. Until I saw Samuel, oblivious to the situation, gleefully wave to me from the second story window.
Get mom now! I signed.
Why? Samuel signed back.
Get mom now!
My look of terror must have been obvious. He disappeared briefly before Rose came to the window.
Intruder inside. I am locked out. You and children escape through window now! I quickly signed to my wife.
Her smile faded when she realized I was serious.
Do not speak. Keep kids quiet. Climb out now! I continued.
She lifted the window up and fidgeted with the corner mechanism. I saw her wave Allie and Samuel closer even though I couldn’t see them from my position. Rose positioned herself to gain leverage but I could tell by her constant glances away from the window she was scared of being found. She proceeded to maneuver the locking mechanism around by pushing and pulling until her unsuccessful attempts reminded me of something.
I forgot to take the child proofing locks off the window in Samuel’s room. What was supposed to be a temporary safety measure was keeping my family from safety. I watched my wife struggle to find a way to open the window as I panicked outside unable to help her. A few turns of a screwdriver would remove the locks but the nearest screwdriver would be downstairs. Frustration had built up with Rose and the tears started dropping down her cheeks. The combination of remaining silent and using force was a battle she was losing. Samuel and Allie got closer to her as they began understanding the weight of the situation. I dashed back to the kitchen window but saw nothing. I ran across the front porch to sneak a look through our large dining room windows.
From that position I saw the intruder calmly walk out of our master bedroom. His calm demeanor left a stain on what I prayed was the reason for his intrusion. A simple burglar who stole a few pieces of jewelry then left. Nothing more than a quick robbery to make a few bucks. Plenty of open jewelry was in the room he just left so I focused on what he was stealing. My heart sank when I saw he wasn’t stealing anything. He passed my wallet on the night stand, yet he left it alone. This man was not after valuables. He was after souls. As a grim reminder, the moonlight caught the metal blade one last time before its carrier disappeared toward the stairs.
Possible solutions flooded my mind but each one was met with giving away my family’s position. The maniac had almost reached the stairs when I decided to create a diversion of our own.
I ran to a spot in the yard so my wife could see and began signing.
Leave lights on in Samuel’s room. Close door and lock behind you. Run to playroom. No lights. Diversion. Go now!
Rose understood and wiped her cheek. Allie and Samuel’s face was beside Rose’s as they each pieced together what was making their mother so frantic. By then all three of them had been crying. I couldn’t tell if they were being loud, but I hoped to God not.
Go now! I signed to all three.
They left my sight.
My veins funneled acid into my heart. My adrenaline pumped my muscles into potential storms but it was useless. I had to use wit not might. I did my best to slow my breathing and tried to come up with a plan if they didn’t make it unnoticed to the playroom.
What if I heard screaming? What if I heard my family begging for my help? What would I do? What COULD I do?
As terror fueled my legs I ran to the adjacent side with the playroom windows and discovered Rose wide-eyed and waiting for new instructions. Thank God they made it. She covered her mouth to keep from crying loudly when she spotted me.
Now what? She signed.
Plan worked. Sneak downstairs. Fast and quiet. Now! I motioned to her before she disappeared into the darkness.
I snuck to my previous position just as the intruder busted through Samuel’s bedroom door. The intruder paced around the empty room checking hiding spots. I couldn’t see every spot he checked but since the light was on I could see it was buying us time. My plan to illuminate the one room worked as it was drawing the intruder’s attention. The paintball mask covered his entire head. In the window he appeared as a demon searching for my family. I knew I had to get them out soon.
I crept to the back of the house and peered into the far-side living room window. I held my breath in anticipation of seeing my family emerge from the staircase and sprint to freedom out thcuttie front door. My fear clouded my judgment as I almost started trying to shatter the window. It would have been useless and drew the intruder’s attention back downstairs. I waited to see my family but they didn’t show. I waited so long I took another breath.
Had my wife and children been caught? Had the intruder saw them while he visited another room? What was happening? Where is my family? WHERE IS MY FAMILY?
Suddenly Rose turned the banister corner with Samuel straddled over her shoulder. Allie was right behind them. Rose eyed the front door, but as Allie stepped off the last step she stumbled into a nearby table sending two picture frames hurling to the floor. I couldn’t hear anything but judging by Rose’s reaction it was loud. Everyone looked for me in the surrounding windows, but no one looked behind them. Rose and Allie’s face shot upstairs. Too far from the front door they grabbed Samuel and sprinted into the nearest room. The master bedroom’s darkness swallowed them just as I saw the mask wearing maniac arrive downstairs.
He began to investigate the broken frames then started cutting on every light switch he saw. His little game was finished. His patience had run out. He started with the foyer then made his way to the dining room. In his frustration he pulled the curtains off their rods and smashed a few pieces of pottery. In any other situation I would have smirked at how frustrated the son of a bitch was, but my family was still inside. It was only a matter of time before he searched the master bedroom again. I ran into our exterior closet and removed the fuses for the house. All the electricity went out.
My family knew the layout of the house. The intruder didn’t.
Hoping the darkness would give my family an advantage I returned to my spot in the far-side living room window and watched as a demonic silhouette looked behind curtains, closet doors, and appliances for his souls. He punched on walls. He cut into furniture. He flung the television into a wall. He was getting angry. On his way to the pantry his knife shined brightly for some reason. Why could I still see him so vividly? What light is catching the blade? The moon was barely out tonight.
The intruder’s car!
Although I shut our house electricity off the high beams from the intruder’s car still cast light into the front of our home. I sprinted around to the front yard, threw open the driver door and flipped the lights off. Complete darkness followed. The exhaust hummed.
The humming reminded me of when Samuel was very young. He hummed constantly. Our objections and demands for him to stop were ignored. It was one of the first signs we noticed of his condition. During that time Allie was in middle school and tried out for the cheerleading team. Rose had just finished her first year of online courses. It was a hectic time. Stress was so constant in my life that panic attacks even happened in the shower. However, the tough times are the ones that shaped me as a husband and father. It reinforced my love for my family and how, no matter the situation, it was my responsibility to protect them.
I was outside, helpless, while my family was in a pitch black chamber waiting for the grim reaper. I knew I had to do something. The veil of darkness could only work so long.
The backdoor was far away from the master bedroom but closer than the front door. I wondered if I could get the intruder’s attention long enough would my family be able to sneak out. I ran to the front door and knocked loudly.
“Hey, asshole!” I yelled. “My family already escaped! They just ran to get help!”
A barely visible polycarbonate demon face appeared in the window. He showed me the knife. I noticed his shoulders were moving up and down heavily. He was exhausted.
“Hey, asshole! Everyone is outside! If you want to fight come out here and fight like a man!”
The intruder tilted his head down before the mask lit up bright blue. He pulled a phone from his pocket and closer to his head before tapping on it lightly. Then he turned his gaze into the house. Another blue light penetrated the darkness from the master bedroom.
The intruder sprinted away as I saw him disappear towards the light. . . towards my family. He called my bluff. I threw my shoulder into the front door as hard as I could while screaming for him to stop. Tears poured down my cheeks as I threw a pot into the window trying unsuccessfully to reach my family. My knuckles bloodied from the force of me trying to enter my own home to save them. My fingernails bend backwards as I clawed at the door hinges. My Samuel! My Allie!
Three silhouettes popped up from behind the kitchen counter. Rose scurried around the kitchen cabinets with Samuel and Allie close behind. Although barely visible I could see their outline zip around the living room furniture and reach the front door. Somehow the intruder knew Allie. Somehow my family knew that and left a diversion.
My family exploded out of the front door and sprinted down the front yard. They searched for me but I wasn’t in sight. Rose picked up Samuel mid stride and raced down the yard with the faint moonlight allowing the shallowest of sight. Allie searched the area for help, for me, but only found a demon masked maniac staring at her from the porch. My family’s trick bought them time but not safety.
I knew this.
The intruder leapt off the front porch in pursuit of them. He chase them down our granite sidewalk and over the driveway easily gaining on them. The knife shimmered in the moonlight as it swayed back and forth in unison with his run.
That was my target.
By the time he noticed the roar of the exhaust over his own heavy breathing it was too late. His tuned up vehicle flung him into the air. From inside the car I could hear his bones snap as I ran him over a second time. Then a third. Then a fourth.
I jumped out of the car and returned to my family. We didn’t stop running until we made it to our neighbor’s house to call police. Everyone was shaking, cold, and in shock. Allie wasn’t even crying. I kissed Rose and thanked her for her bravery. I hugged Allie while Samuel cried into my shoulder for an hour even though the area was covered with police.
You’re safe now. You’re safe now. I love you. I signed to my son.
It took a few days for the police to piece together everything. The intruder was Patrick Eggston, an ex-boyfriend of Allie’s. He had been threatening suicide for over 3 months after their breakup but she refused to tell anyone thinking he would move on. Instead of moving on he changed his plans.
When Allie got her phone back from Samuel that night she had a message from Patrick saying, “I’m here. What happens next is your fault.” During the incident Allie explained to Rose the intruder was her ex-boyfriend. After hearing him destroy the house in frustration they expected him to call Allie’s phone so they increased her phone volume, left it on the bed and set up the diversion. Of course Samuel was terrified because he couldn’t hear anything. Rose had to keep her hands over his lips most of the time to prevent giving away their position.
The police assumed Patrick was going to kill Allie, possibly our whole family, then himself. Patrick’s diversion worked to get him in the house, but thank God our diversions got him back out.