The Doorbell

The doorbell rang in the middle of the night.

Half asleep, I was not sure if it was a dream or real. I lay in bed, ears straining, waiting for it to ring again and hoping it wouldn’t. I could not think of anyone who would ring my doorbell so late. My wife breathed quietly next to me, undisturbed, yet she was a much lighter sleeper than I. It was silent and dark apart from soft moonlight slicing through the parted curtains. There was no street noise and no noise inside the house. I wondered if it could be a neighbor in trouble or the police, perhaps. Would I need to deal with some drama? I was cozy and sleepy and did not want to get up. I waited a minute more and decided it must have been a dream. I wondered why my subconscious would want me to wake up. I wasn’t having a nightmare, or any sort of dream I could remember, and I didn’t need the bathroom. Maybe there was a noise outside, like foxes screaming at each other. They did that sometimes. I decided it must have been something like that, so I turned over in bed, snuggled down, and soon drifted back into unconsciousness.

The doorbell rang again.

This time I got up immediately, put my dressing gown on, and hurried downstairs as quiet as I could so as not to wake the children. From the hallway, there was nothing visible through the glass panel in the front door. No shape of a person or flashing lights from a police car. No sound of voices. I put on the hall light, checked and tightened the belt of my dressing gown, and opened the door.

There was nobody there.

Could I have dreamed the doorbell twice?

It was dark and cold and quiet outside. The street lights on our street went off at midnight, and orange tinted clouds obscured the moon and stars that night.

I carefully checked the door was on the latch and stepped out for a look around. Maybe someone was in trouble and had given up on me because I was so slow answering the door. They could still be on the street looking for help.

As I took a step away from the door I thought I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a shadow that was not mine slip into the house behind me.

I felt a violent lurch in my guts, like going over a hump on a roller-coaster makes you weightless for a second, but the weightless feeling did not end.

I shivered uncontrollably. I was shockingly, fatally cold, like being smashed through ice into freezing water.

Everything looked brighter but less distinct, like looking through a silvery mist.

I turned around slowly.

I saw the front door closing. A man was there, inside my house, closing the door. He was looking at me.

He had my face.

I tried to run to the door, lifting my arms to reach for it, but could hardly move at all and I could not see my raised arms.

“My family!”

The silence stole my cry.

The door closed.

The light went out in the hallway.

I looked down at my body and saw nothing.

I was not cold any longer.

I was not there.

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