I stood at the kitchen counter, pouring over the bills. Oddly, the room was dimly lit. Usually I’m one to keep many lights on, especially on a dreary, rainy day like this. The TV played in the living room. Frasier was on; my favorite TV show. Frasier and Niles were discussing each other’s levels of happiness with their lives. My girls, 12 and 20, had been scurrying back and forth between the back patio and their rooms. My son, 21, was still asleep, his first day off from both work and college classes in weeks. My husband had gone out of town for a conference and wouldn’t be back till the weekend.
A knock at the back door had me spinning around in frustration. I’d told the girls to leave me be while I got all of my paperwork done. I was startled to see a young man, 25 or so, standing in the doorway. It suddenly occurred to me I hadn’t heard the girls in several minutes. As I approached the door, he opened it. I stopped, stepped back, and then instinctively lunged forward to keep him from coming in any further. His hand was caught in the door. I wanted him to go away, but I kept pressing on the door even as it held him there. In the scuffle I hadn’t noticed three young women coming up behind him, and now all of them were pressing against the door. I couldn’t hold them all at bay and the door flew open. Never losing composure, the young man began to lecture me about the undoing of my evil ways while the three women staked out positions in the rest of the kitchen. In a creepy, monotone voice and with a relentless stare, he recited biblical scripture after scripture, demanding my repentance. The women repeated his every word with sickening singsong voices.
I yelled to my daughters, hoping they could hear me wherever they were. “Get out of the house! Go through the front door and get in the car!”
I heard my youngest cry out from the living room. She let loose with a blood curdling scream followed by an angry wail from my older daughter, “This is my house! Get out! I’ll kill you! I mean it!” I ran to the front door. I pushed the girls aside. My older daughter grabbed her younger sister and held her in a protective embrace. Whilst I was feeling both terrified and angry, she was only enraged. My younger daughter collapsed in tears.
The person at the front door was no more than a teenager herself. She was insisting herself in the door while chanting in an unrecognizable language. I pushed her down onto the concrete steps. Her head hit the cement with a crack. I was sure she was dead. Rain pelted her face. Her feet were still inside the door. I moved them with my own and shut the door. I knew as soon as I’d done that it was a mistake. I turned to find my living room had filled with young people, their faces stricken with blank stares, all of them muttering the same chant as the girl had who now lay dead on my front steps. I caught sight of a few older people in their 30s and 40s. It occurred to me the TV had gone off and there was light classical music playing. The girls and I shuddered to see these people engaged in some sort of deranged cocktail party.
I kept the girls close as I made my way to the phone. I attempted to call the police but I couldn’t remember the number. In a bizarre flashback, I recalled every home we’d ever had — my mother’s house in Wichita, the trailer in New Bern, the military housing units at Cherry Point, and the logistics base in Barstow, the house in Jacksonville, the house aboard Camp Lejeune, and finally, this apartment here in Stuttgart. Every detail of these homes rapidly filled my mind, one after the other: the front doors and living rooms, the windows and curtains, the patios and porches, the walkways and carports. But how do I call for help? Then I remembered all the different numbers I’d had to dial on every base to get the MPs or the police. One began with a 450, the next with 252, the next with 353. But what was the number to the police here? Was it 911? No, that was for calling the police in the states when out in town. Was it 112? 113? Was I supposed to call the MPs (military police) or the Polizei (German police)? I started to dial 0711 for the Polizei, but the line went dead. I banged the phone against the bookshelf. I got a dial tone and dialed 115, thinking that was the number for the MPs. A man answered, but not in a way that would indicate it was the MPs. “Damn it,” I thought, “I’ve dialed the Fire department.” I heard my husband’s voice. He’d called just as I’d hung up and I’d inadvertently answered before it could ring. “What’s going on there?” he shouted. I thought it was odd that he was shouting. I told him I was trying to call for help. I told him to hang up and call the MPs here and send them over, that we had intruders.
I felt the pressure of someone’s hand on my shoulder but it was too cold to be someone’s hand. I turned to see the young man from the kitchen. I screamed. I had the phone in my hand was about to smash him in the face with it when my older daughter lunged and took him to the ground. I grabbed my younger daughter, pulled her to me, and reached down to yank my older daughter back up. The young man had a hold on her, yelling that she would be the sacrifice for his religion, his God, and my sins. I felt the fear drain from me. The rage she had felt now filled me. I yelled out, “I don’t care about your goddamned religion!” That was the wrong thing to say. The chanting murmur of the people in the house became a profound and overwhelming hum, not unlike the sound of many electrical lines powering up. I kicked him in the head repeatedly until he let her go.
I looked up to see the house had filled with strange, horrifying people. Both the front door and back door were blocked. Like a blow to the head, it hit me: my son. He was still asleep. As if taking part in a 6-legged race, the girls and I clung tightly to each other and made our way down the hall through the crowd of people who didn’t seem to take any notice of us except to say “You must repent. Ours is the only God.” I pulled my son from his bed and told him we had to go, that it was an emergency. He pried his eyes open and looked at me the way he does when he isn’t really awake. He tried to get back in bed. My older daughter jerked on him and pulled him through the door and we all headed down the hall toward the front door. The kids huddled in the hall. We could go no further for all the people. I looked down at my hand and wished I’d had a gun. Suddenly, I did. I shot every person in our way. My older daughter screamed and I turned to see my younger daughter being drug away by one of the people. I followed with my two oldest right behind me. We went room to room; they blocked each door while I looked for my youngest and shot anyone in my path. Finally we found her. I shot the man, and the older two pulled her to them.
Once again we headed for the front door. It was completely blocked by the people. My oldest two let out a war cry and began throwing people away from the door until the way was clear. The three of them broke through the screen door and headed for the car. I turned in the doorway to look back into my living room. There were people lying about everywhere but they were getting up. The people I’d shot were coming out of the hallway. I looked at all the family photos on the far living room wall. I couldn’t believe I had to leave them behind. I just knew the people would destroy them along with everything else.
The kids were already in the car and had started it. On my way across the lawn I saw several of the people pushing a gurney up the drive. They were carting away the girl I’d pushed down on the front steps. She rolled over and gaped at me with wide eyes. She screamed, “You will pay for this!” I flipped her off and instantly felt the foolishness of it. If these people couldn’t be killed, they probably couldn’t be insulted either.
I turned toward the car and was aghast. It wasn’t my Durango, but instead a beat-to-shit 1977 Monte Carlo. It was missing, blowing blue smoke, and pinging. It must’ve belonged to the people and they must’ve stolen my Durango away. Whatever. It was our only way out.
The kids and I drove down the street, slowly but surely. The car backfired several times, and with that last backfire I woke up from this horrible dream to hear more backfiring from the car outside my bedroom window. Like any good mother, I surveyed the house, checking to make sure the kids were okay and that there were no other people anywhere around. The phone rang. For a moment I was frozen in place. I shook it off and answered the phone. My husband was calling to tell me he’d landed in D.C. and would call later with the phone number of his hotel room. I didn’t say anything at first. “You okay?” he asked. I told him I’d had a bad dream, that was all.
I don’t tell him I only have nightmares the first night he leaves to go somewhere. When he deployed to Croatia and Iraq, I couldn’t bring myself to fall asleep for days for fear of what I might dream. Exhaustion and Prince Valium helped on those occasions, but in between were so many work-ups, operations, schools, and now, conferences. Every first night brings forth whatever terrifies me most at the time. This is precisely why I’ve never been a fan of horror movies, preferring comedies like Grumpy Old Men, The Birdcage, and Groundhog Day, instead.
Apparently I harbor a fear of religious fanatics; and I have got to stop listening to my son’s enthusiastic reviews of the latest zombie movie.