The house was quiet, much more quiet than usual. Laying in bed before falling asleep, the silence was delightful after the chaos of the day. The children slept peacefully in their warm beds and my wife was rugged up underneath the warm doona, her breathing soft and rhythmic. I watched the moonlight peek in through the gap in the drapes, the night was calm and the sky was clear.
I slowly drifted off, my mind at ease and free of thought for the first time in quite a while. The serenity was suddenly disturbed, as I heard the faint sounds of footsteps crunching outside on the gravel driveway, waking me from slumber. Like a predator out on the plains, my senses heightened as I reached down under the bed for the baseball bat, preparing for any pending conflict. I roused my wife, who was still half asleep.
“Call 000. Now.” I sharply whispered, with a sense of urgency. I pointed outside as the shadow of a person passed by our bedroom window. I ushered her to keep quiet, as not to raise suspicion that we were aware of their presence. She reached for her phone, and made her way to the kids rooms, grasping my hand before she left.
“Please be careful. I can’t deal with this again”
By the time she’d made her way down the passage, I was up out of bed. Hyper alert, I stealthily make my way around the house. I checked the front and back door, all deadbolted and latched securely. Everything was amplified in the silence. I’d heard those accents before, their whispers barely audible. Keeping away from any windows, I hear a click as the side gate creaks open. The side entrance through the laundry was not secured. This scenario was all too familiar, as the night of last year’s incident came rushing back.
It was a night similar to this one, but that day had been different. I had a real sense of foreboding from the moment I woke up, an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach that didn’t pass. I thought nothing of it, as the day had been rather hectic. I put this anxiety down to stress and worry. I’d made some phone calls and tied up a few loose ends. All I could think of was coming home, getting into bed and shutting out the world. I should’ve been safe, but the decisions of my past would come back to haunt me.
The attack was violent and heinous, a case of mistaken identity according to the police investigation. I was happy for the police to believe that, but I knew exactly who it would be and why they came. The offenders, armed with baseball bats and machetes, came intending to kill. Their raspy voices and thick eastern European accents scarred into my memory as they ransacked my home, looking for narcotics and jewellery. I was warned, but brushed it off. One bad business decision put my whole family at risk and now I was paying the ultimate price. They wouldn’t stop until the debt was paid.
“Take me. Leave the kids out of this.”
Pleading with them to stop, my cries fell on deaf ears, the bat making contact with my temple. They laughed as they swung, taking pleasure in my torment.
“You know what we want. We’ll keep coming until we get our dues.”
I tried to sit up, but collapsed to the ground. The bat was hurled in my direction. I tried to raise my arms but it was too late. The terror on my wife’s face and the cries from my children echo in my mind as everything faded to black. I was lucky to be alive, but maybe it would’ve been best if I wasn’t.
My children still had vivid recurring nightmares, screaming in terror and often afraid to turn out the light. I tried in vain to comfort them, wiping their tears and holding them close. The guilt bore a heavy burden on me, no matter how hard I tried to bury it.
I was unprepared then, so I vowed that I would never allow my family to be in jeopardy again, no matter the cost to my own safety. After that night, I made the necessary arrangements and thought that matters were all taken care of. How could I have been so stupid? My whole life was a lie and they were coming for me, just like they said they would.
Treading carefully through the kitchen, I rifle through the top drawer frantically looking for the torch. I’d blind them if they came in and I’d be at them, swinging until I connected. Heart pounding, I hid behind the wall, ready for action. My hands gripped the bat tightly as I held it above my head, like batter at the bottom of the ninth. They’d gotten away once before, but this time they wouldn’t be so lucky.
The door clicked open and I was ready.
©T. Zerafa 2023
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