Chapter 6 - The Night I Disappear

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I shouldn't be awake. It's 3 a.m., and for some surprising reason I actually slept for the past five hours. In the bedroom. Next to Nicole. Next to the baby in the bassinet.

Things aren't perfect, but they're drifting that way. Nicole says I have a ways to go. I agree. It's still hard to turn into the driveway coming home from work. It's still hard to know my low-decibel evenings will only turn up for the baby. It's still hard to look Nicole in the eye and tell her I love her and not expect sex.

But it's not the anxiety of this new frontier that stirs my eyes open, though. It's that feeling of dread resurfacing in my gut. It's like someone is holding an invisible knife to my throat. I choke as I come to, positive I'm about to die. My arms and legs thrash, sending blankets sliding to the floor.

It takes me a moment to realize I'm alive and alone in my panic. Nicole is still asleep, but her bunched up frame curled on the edge of the bed next to the bassinet looks different. I can't place it, though.

The room feels off, too, as if it's the first time I've ever been in it. I recognize every feature, from the greasy fingerprint stains on the wall next to the light switch to the meandering coat hangers on the floor, but none of it seems familiar. Even the air is foreign, like the rotted breeze they circulate into hospital rooms.

I'm going to die tonight.

The ominous thought hits me so fast it feels like someone else put it there. I must still be half asleep. I know what I saw last night, but the police were probably right about it being kids messing with me. No reason to think they're going to actually break in and murder me. Besides, they're kids.

But a piece of me needs assurance all the same, specifically the part that's dozing in the bassinet. I leave the lights off and head into the kitchen, down some water and stare at the glass oval in the front door like I'm about to put my fist through it.

You better not be out there, you sons of bitches.



I break open the peanut butter out of habit. I'm not even hungry, but the sticky stuff acts as a placebo to lure me back to sleep. I drink more water to clear my throat and put the peanut butter away.

And that's when I hear it.

Knock knock.

I spin to face the front door. As sure as the night is dark, there's a face outlined inside the ornate design of the glass oval. I can make out eyes, nose and a face. Looks about half the height of myself.

Forget calling the police, I'm putting a stop to this bullshit right now.

I stomp across the living room and get halfway before a thought slams into me once again, stopping me in my tracks.

I'm going to die tonight. If I open that door, I'm going to die tonight.

Closer now, I can make out the finer details of the face. Looks like a girl, maybe 12 or 13, in a hooded sweatshirt. She's stoic as the glass she's looking through, studying me staring back at her. I don't blink, and neither does she.

I don't want to, but my foot takes another step toward the front door. And another. And another. I can't resist. I want to turn around. I want to find my cell phone. I want to call the police. I want to get the gun in the basement. But my feet aren't interested in what I want when they need to get me to the door.

Even though she can clearly see me only inches away, the girl raises her knuckle to the door once again.

Knock knock.

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