Because I am feeling a bit peckish I go to the kitchen to fix myself a snack. But, the second I am about to open the fridge, I think I hear a small sound. A creak or something, from somewhere in the house. Strange. But it’s so late at night and I’m so tired that it must be just my imagination, so I ignore it and proceed to open the fridge.

And then I hear it again.

Shit!

I pause, closing me eyes and staining with my ears for the slightest noise to come again, just to be sure. Nothing for a while. Nothing for a minute. Am I hearing things? And then, there it is again! Soft footsteps. Scratching and scraping. Movement. Someone moving around. Moving things around. Shit!

Someone’s broken into the house!

Panic grips me so hard that for a while my brain shuts down and I go even more still. I stand frozen, with the cool air from the fridge wafting over me, making me go cold. What am I supposed to do? What is anyone supposed to do in this situation? Who knows? I blink a few times in quiet terror, realizing suddenly I’ve regained some of my motor functions. When I can find it in myself, I break out of panic mode and move, letting the fridge door close soundlessly and stepping lightly as I drift out of the kitchen and slip into the pantry. Sweat begins to collect on my palms as I try and break down my situation.

It’s the middle of the night, I think. There’s no one else in the house besides me and this burglar. I take it from there. What’s my first step? Call for help. But I don’t have my phone with me. I left it upstairs in the bedroom. What next? Should I lock myself in a safe place? Hide until this person takes what he wants and leaves? But that’s not an option either. The pantry has no doors that latch and sooner or later he will find me, making his way to the kitchen, and the next best room to hide in is the bedroom. Which, again, is upstairs. Dammit!

That leaves me with no other option than to confront him. I need a weapon. I don’t know where I draw my courage from, but I tip-toe back into the kitchen and grab two knives out of their wooden stack, one for each hand. Clammy fingers clench tightly around the handles, slick with sweat, and I just hope I’m doing the right thing. I hope I know what I’m doing. This hasn’t happened to me before. I’m defending myself, I reassure myself. This needs to be done. I am defending myself.

I can easily make out this person’s location in the house, what with all the noise he’s making. Really, he’s not even trying to be quiet. I creep against the doorfame of the study and peer inside to find a man covered from head to toe in black fabric. His back toward me, he rifles through the collection of curios in the display cabinet. He’s probably checking if any are plated gold or silver, if some of the glass is crystal, but he won’t find any. His shoulders look broader than mine, and he is built like a boulder, but I can’t let that daunt me. Bracing myself, I hold my arms out in front of my chest, the blades pointing outwards. I take a deep breath, huff it out, and before I lose my nerve, burst into the room.

The burglar is taken unawares. He spins around, momentarily startled, but judging by his next move he quickly understands my challenge. He bends to pick a crowbar off the floor, his weapon of choice, one that he probably used to break in. I wonder how I didn’t hear that happen. He swings it over his shoulder, spreading his legs to widen his stance, confirming we will indeed be having this face off. In the process, his feet nudge a black bag that he has been using to collect his loot, and it clinks. From that sound, I can tell has certainly gotten his hands on the good stuff. His dark, steely eyes shine though a slit in the mask. They lock onto mine. I gulp, try not to shake. He’s not much bigger than me, and I’m pretty sure I can take him if I really have to. As if by some unspoken agreement, we begin to slowly trace a circle along the edges of the room, watching each other like hawks, squaring our shoulders, until after a minute I’ve had enough and I stop, and he stops, and I give him my first and last word of caution.

This is my house, I say, and I want you out of it. You better be smart about this and get out safely before I give you something to regret. I’m glad that my voice does not shake, and I know that I have made the threat sound genuine enough. I’ve impressed myself.

But this guy couldn’t care less. All he does is scoff at me, and then he charges like a raging bull.

But I’m faster, my reflexes quicker. Before he gets close enough to swipe his metal rod at me, I make a preemptive strike. Aiming, I toss one of my knives. It spins through the air before impact. With a soft, satisfying thwack, the blade buries itself in his boot, slicing right through his foot, muscle and bones and all, and into the wooden floor, pinning him to the spot. He cries out, losing his balance, dropping the crowbar to clutch his injured leg. I’ve immobilized and disarmed him now, but I did give him a choice and I promised to make him regret the wrong one. I march up to him and stoop to drive the second knife casually into his other foot. He howls, both feet impaled, far too busy reeling with pain to keep up with what is happening, let alone fight back. His bloodshot eyes swivel in their sockets. I grin to myself. I want to laugh a little, but I hold back for now. His crowbar is at my feet. I pick it up, testing its weight, and decide to do what he was going to do to me. I raise it over my shoulder and, with both hands, take a swing, putting all the power I have into it. The end of the rod connects to his jaw, making a distinct cracking sound and ripping the mask off his face. The force throws him backward. He lands on his back with a thud and loses consciousness instantly. He may be dead too, but I can’t be bothered to check for a pulse. I spit on his stupid blood-covered face and wipe the sweat rolling down my chin. The crowbar clatters when I drop it, and I turn and stalk my way back to the kitchen. I’m not hungry anymore after all this, but I sure am thirsty.

After I down my second glass of water, I go back to the study and take a look inside the idiot’s loot bag. It’s quite heavy, and also quite valuable. I go to the bedroom upstairs and grab my phone, and bag too, and then leave the house, pulling my own mask back over my face.

No honor in him, I think, but he did cut my job in half.

This was my house to rob.

———-

© Amaan Khan, March 15, 2018.