An Ode to the Imaginary Intruder in My House
I imagined that you wore all black. Black pants, black long sleeve shirt, black shoes (light ones so you could tiptoe around without being heard), black hat. Your face changed every day though. On rainy days, you looked mean; maybe you would have a scar on your cheekbone and a snarl on your lips. But on sunny days, you looked nicer; on these days I imagined that you wouldn’t bother me if I didn’t bother you. I was right. You never bothered me.
On a Tuesday in December, I thought I heard your footsteps in the basement. I had skipped home from the bus stop at four, unlocked the front door with the secret password that only my family knew (082497) at four fifteen, then at four seventeen I was on the couch calling my dad, letting him know I was home, asking him where he was. Then at four twenty five, I called my mom, told her I was home, sitting on my couch watching reruns on the TV and drinking chocolate milk out of my favorite mug. They both would get home at five thirty because that’s when they always got home.
But at four forty five, I swear I heard your foot beating into the concrete floor below me. My eyes got wide and I grabbed the remote, pausing the TV so I could hear better. I sat in silence until four forty nine, hearing nothing but my shallow breathing rushing in and out of my lips. I was about to turn the TV on when I heard something else in the basement. I could’ve sworn you were coming up the stairs; hand on the railing, stepping over the piles of mail on the third to last step that we walked by every day like we didn’t even notice it was there. I imagined that you had walked by it, too, because you didn’t care about the coupons in the Piggly Wiggly ad newspaper and you didn’t care about the letter from my uncle that I had forgotten about. You went straight past it all, continuing up and up.
That’s when I bolted at exactly four fifty two, throwing the remote onto the couch and hearing it bounce off and crack open on the floor. Batteries rolled onto hardwood like they were trying to run, too. I jumped over my little sister’s shoes that lied in the middle of the floor even though I could’ve sworn my dad told her to pick them up. I ran past the Christmas tree that had one light flicking on and off like a star in the sky at night, bursting into my parent’s room and running to their closet at four fifty three. It was dark and smelled like clean laundry. One side was my mom’s, the other was my dad’s and it was at the far end of the room. So I walked there and on the lowest level of hanging shirts, I pushed them aside and sat in the corner, covered in dress shirts on one side and a dresser on the other. I imagined that at four fifty five, I would feel thousands of spiders crawling all over me, and then at four fifty six maybe a mouse would brush across my toes like the wind. But by four fifty seven, none of those things had happened. It was just me in the dark, huddled like a baby in the corner of a closet, waiting to be found by you. I prayed at four fifty nine that you wouldn’t find me, even if you did happen to walk into the room. I thought that hiding place would work because it had worked before in a game of hide and seek with friends. They looked for me for thirty minutes until I came out because I was tired of just sitting there. I hoped that you were as bad of a seeker as they were.
I sat there for awhile, not hearing a peep. Maybe you had went back to the basement at five o five because there wasn’t much to steal but old picture frames and a flat-screen TV that you could’ve never carried away by yourself. Or maybe you thought I was up there but then you couldn’t find me so you left. I didn’t care where you had went as long as you weren’t with me.
At five fifteen, I heard the garage door rambling open beneath me. I strained to listen to you bolting out of the house or trying to hide but once again there was nothing. Then at five sixteen, a car door slammed and more steps were coming up the basement stairs.
My dad walked up at five seventeen. He yelled for my name in the living room and then upstairs. You weren’t there to scare him so I figured I was safe at around five eighteen. I crawled out of the closet and walked through my parent’s room again. My dad asked me why I had been his room and I just shrugged and said I had heard something in the basement. My dad nodded because he was used to me being paranoid when home alone.
After that, I heard you less and less. I knew that some sounds were the air conditioning or the water heater turning on and off, or maybe it was those squirrels that lived in our attic for a year. Either way I figured it wasn’t you. You had left a long time ago.
Annabelle Blomeley is studying creative writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham, AL. She has been published in Cadence Literary Magazine and Aura Literary Magazine.
Glenn Bowie is a published poet, lyricist and photographer from the Boston area. He also owns and operates an elevator company that supplies custom-built elevators for clients from New England to Hollywood. Author of two poetry and photograph collections (Under the Weight of Whispers and Into the Thorns and Honey) on Big Table Publishing, he donates all profits from his books to various charities for the homeless and local animal shelters. Glenn is also the official photographer for the Newton Writing and Publishing Center.