The answering machine beeped into the dark of the basement. The panel for the security system flashed, indicating a Perimeter Violation in the master bedroom, a faint, high-pitched ring, somewhere.
Chumley was freaking out, his claws skittering across the tiles. The answering machine kept beeping, but I knew it was the alarm company and didn’t want to go downstairs.
I had a bad feeling about one of the guys at the party, who my step-brother knew, but not well. He was older, didn’t talk much, and had been lingering by the glass sliding doors before he left that night. Was he casing the place? Was it him?
The guns were in the master bedroom but I had been moving them every few days, from the bedroom to the kitchen, and back again. Because the house was fully exposed to the west, with two stories of glass, I was starting to get the feeling I was being watched.
I stopped drinking since the party that weekend, since Emmet had gone missing, and since I was starting to feel edgy here, alone in my parent’s house, in the woods.
Chumley started barking and skittered again toward the front door. I pulled a handgun out of the drawer, got down on all fours, and moved quickly to the dining room, peering through the houseplants, outside.
There was a state cop there, looking in. I put the gun down on the drum kit, restrained Chumley, and opened the door.
We got a call your alarm went off, he said.
I nodded, it did.
He gestured toward the drum kit, and the gun: You been playing the drums?
I nodded, yes.
He said alright, well let us know if you need anything.
I closed the door and returned to the kitchen, shaking, and put the gun back in the drawer, by the liquor, near the cat food. It struck me then, since he hadn’t asked to see my I.D., how did he even know that I was the owner of the house? For all he knew, the real owner could be tied up, downstairs.
That night I started sleeping in the middle of the house, in the living room on the couch, by the fireplace. I couldn’t sleep in the bedrooms anymore, I had to be in the heart of the house in case something bad happened.
I imagined the HVAC and the air vents were the respiratory system of some large, sleeping beast, and finally drifted off to the hum and snore of the warm, forced air.