Confusion

This little vignette was inspired by a prompt from Tomi Adeyemi’s site.

**

Henry was walking through the corridors of the house.  There was something very wrong with the entire thing.  It was dark and there were cobwebs, as if the place hadn’t been lived in for many years.  He heard childish laughter and blinked.  “Liese?” he called.  His voice echoed back to him, as it would in an empty house that was long abandoned.  Another childish laugh and he moved forward, towards the sound.  “Frieda?”

He rounded the corner that would lead to where the girls slept and froze.  There, in the doorway of their room, was a small figure with thick dark hair and wide blue eyes.  She was wearing the same frilly sundress she had been wearing when he’d last seen her.  Impossibly, she was also just the same age.  “Emily?” he breathed.

She stared at him, holding her favorite teddy bear in one hand and his pistol in the other.  “Hi, Dad,” she whispered.  In the same tone, her voice so quiet that he could hardly hear her speak, she added, “You need to wake up.”

Gasping, Henry jolted awake.  He lay in bed for a moment, trying to puzzle out what that was all about.  Then, he heard it: a footstep on the stairs.  He slipped out of bed and retrieved his sidearm from the lockbox under the bed.  He loaded it with the clip from the nightstand.  Then, he padded to the doorway, avoiding the perpetually squeaky board.

He peered into the darkened corridor as a shadowy figure moved down the hall, away from the stairs, towards the room where his daughters were sleeping.  He crept after the shadow, letting it get only to the door, then he leveled his sidearm at it and primed the weapon.  “Hello,” he said, when the figure froze at the distinctive sound.  “You’d better have a damn good excuse for sneaking through my house in the middle of the night.”

The figured turned to face him.  A mask obscured the person’s face, but Henry could tell it was a man.  He was holding a knife.  A smile split his face and he launched at Henry.  He made it just one step before Henry fired.  The man hit the ground with a groan.  Henry stepped on the knife, still holding his gun on the man.

Somewhere down the corridor, a door opened and he said, “Hansel, call the police.  Tell them your father shot an intruder.  We need an ambulance and the police.  Stay in there for now, girls.”

“Yes, Teva,” Frieda said.

Behind him, he heard Johannes hurry into his bedroom, where they kept the upstairs telephone.  Soon, he could hear the soft murmur of his youngest son’s voice.  A few moments later, Johannes said, “Teva, should I turn on the lights?”

“That’s a good idea,” Henry said.  He continued to watch the man on the floor.  The bullet was in his arm.  It wouldn’t kill him, probably.  At the same time, Henry felt like he was slipping.  He’d been aiming to take a chest shot.  “You can tell me now or the police when they arrive,” he said.  “What were you planning?”

“You’ve got pretty girls,” the man said, smirking.  “I didn’t expect you to wake up, that’s all.  None of the others did – not until… after.”

Henry was tempted – sorely tempted – to shoot the man again, but he refrained from doing so.  He heard sirens as the police arrived.  Then, there was a knock at the door.

Johannes hurried down the stairs without being told to.  There was a pause and then the lock clicked and the door opened.  “They’re upstairs.  Teva’s with the FBI, so he’s holding the intruder at gunpoint.”

“Stay here,” a soft voice said.  “You said you had sisters?”

“Teva told them to stay in their room,” Johannes reported.

“We’ve got him now, Agent Shepherd,” a light, feminine voice said.  Henry risked a glance back and saw a dwarven female officer.  He nodded at her, stepping back to let her move in to secure the intruder.  Only then, did he lower his sidearm and lock the safety in place.

“How’d you know?” the intruder said, his tone one of confusion.  He shook his head.  “They’ve never woken up before.”

Henry sighed softly.  He could understand the man’s confusion.  He felt rather the same way.  If not for that odd dream, he might not have awakened at all.

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