This month’s prompt is to describe the scene/sequence of events which occur on a dark night when you’re alone in the house and someone is breaking in. This post has a special feature. You can choose your own ending from 3 different choices, which follow the story!
Choose Your Own Ending for…
by Kathy L. Price
Finally. It was so wonderful to finally be able to crawl into bed. It had been a long, hard day: productive, rewarding, but also physically exhausting. Gretchen’s big, old, four-poster bed was a welcome refuge on this frigid, sleet-filled night. She had turned the electric blanket on earlier in the evening so the soft flannel sheets were nice and toasty. After snuggling under the covers, she fluffed her long hair out onto the pillow so it wouldn’t get caught under her while she slept.
As was her habit every night, she thanked God for the day’s experiences and mentally reviewed what had happened. Everything had gone well, even better than she’d hoped. She took a deep, satisfied breath, and the lavender scent on the sheets made her smile. Granny Edith had given her a sachet to put in the linen drawer just the week before and the memory of the gift made her feel loved, cared-for and secure. All was right with her world and she drifted off into pleasant dreams.
Something in the wee hours of the morning, though, caused her to wake. Had it been a bad dream? If so, she couldn’t remember it. She sat up in bed and listened intently. Outside, the wind howled as the sleet and rain continued to beat a syncopated rhythm on the window. A branch from the old oak next to the house scratched against the glass. Maybe that’s what had caused her to wake, she thought. Glancing over at the clock, Gretchen saw 3:36 shining back at her. It was far too early to get up and start the day but she wondered if it was worth trying to get back to sleep. Then she heard it.
It was just a small sound but it had come from downstairs and was definitely out of place. What had caused it? A mouse, perhaps? Just the old house settling or contracting in the cold? No, an old house doesn’t go “chink.” There were times when she wished she didn’t live alone or at least had a dog to keep her company. This was one of them. There was a loaded gun in the drawer of the bed stand, but Gretchen decided she didn’t want to get it out. It was there simply as a concession to her father and she had vowed to use it only as a last resort.
Cautiously slipping out of bed, Gretchen tiptoed to the door. Carefully, gingerly, she turned the knob, hoping it wouldn’t squeak and give her away. For once, it cooperated and she was able to carefully swing the door open without making a sound. As she peered over the balcony, she could see a pair of flashlights sweeping their way around in the living room.
Gretchen bit her lip, her whole body tense, her heart racing. Who were these people and what on earth could they be looking for? There was little of value in the house, not even a television, but maybe they hadn’t known that when they decided to break in. Gretchen slipped back into her room and picked up the receiver on the phone to call for help. The line was dead. “Damn,” she thought, and wondered if the intruders had cut the lines on purpose or if the phones were simply out due to the storm. She lived too far out of town for cell phone coverage so that meant she was on her own. She could not count on any help from outside. What was she going to do?
For a happy ending, read A;
for a gory ending, read B;
for something neutral, read C.
Returning to the balcony, Gretchen hugged the wall as she crept down the hallway toward the back stairs which led into the kitchen. Before she had even gone four steps, there was another “chink,” followed by “Shhhhhhh, she’ll hear.”
Gretchen paused. Whomever it was knew a “she” lived in the house. Was the voice familiar? Still cautious, Gretchen waited to see if she could hear more. Giggles? What on earth was going on? Surely, an intruder bent on doing harm would not giggle. Was it someone she knew? Was it safe to go down and see?
After several more minutes of holding her breath and listening intently to the activity below, Gretchen pulled back into the shadow of her room as the intruders made their way out of the house. She desperately wanted to get a look at them, but didn’t want to take the risk of them finding her awake. Despite the noise of the storm, she heard the door gently click shut. Were they gone? She sensed she was, once again, alone in the old house, but what was that smell?
After waiting a few minutes to be certain she was alone, she threw on a robe and descended the stairs to access the situation. Each step increased her uncertainty. Maybe what she should do is get dressed and drive to the Sheriff’s office, but if the intruders were really gone, notifying the Sheriff could wait until morning and, hopefully, better weather. She really didn’t want to have to go out at night and in a storm.
Cautiously entering the living room, she flipped on the light. Roses! Dozens and dozens of roses! There were roses in vases on the table, roses in bowls lined up on the sideboard, several dozen long-stemmed roses in boxes strategically placed around the room. In the center, though, were roses in a heart-shaped wreath draped with a wide ribbon. The words printed on it read: Gretchen, will you marry me?
If she could get out of the house, she might be able to make it to the neighbor’s place a half mile away. Thank God she had made it a priority to keep fit despite all the years and physical challenges she’d faced. It was doubtful she would be able to get to her car in the garage so she’d have to make a run for it.
Pulling on her jeans and a heavy sweater, Gretchen left her bedroom and slipped down the hallway. She could hear two people below arguing in whispers but couldn’t quite catch the words. What were they looking for? It made no sense. Carefully, quietly Gretchen crept down the back stairs into the kitchen. She grabbed her boots and heavy work coat from the bench near the kitchen door. With luck, she could slip outside and be gone without them even knowing she was there and awake. Before she could bolt, though, she heard them enter the room.
Quick as a bunny, she dropped her gear and hit the lights, then grabbed a couple of knives off the magnetic bar hanging over the counter by the door. The men didn’t turn and run, which is what she had hoped they would do, but looked angry and menacing.
“Damn it,” cursed the bigger of the two and he lunged toward her.
The butcher-block table in the center of the room slowed him down and gave Gretchen a chance to throw the knives. Unsure if they would hit their marks, she quickly grabbed a couple more and turned back to face her attackers.
The big butcher knife had hit the closest one in the neck, piercing his windpipe and cutting through the artery. Gasping for breath, he was now staggering backward, clawing at the knife in his throat. In his panic to breathe, Number One must have twisted it when he yanked it out, which caused even more damage. Blood gushed in strong spurts as he collapsed to the floor.
The other knife, thrown with her left hand, had hit the second intruder in the eye. His screams were almost enough to shatter glass as he desperately pulled the knife out. What he hadn’t realized was that the knife had a hooked end and by pulling it out, he pulled his eyeball with it.
Gretchen wanted to get out of there fast and practically jumped into her boots. She grabbed her coat from the floor and opened the back door. Intruder Number Two bellowed in a fit of rage and pain, then lurched after her, calling her names and promising to kill her. The back door slammed shut and Gretchen sprinted across the strip lawn and into the darkness beyond the hedge.
Never in a million years could she have imagined herself throwing a knife at a real, live person with the intent to cause harm. She had learned to throw knives and even an ax just for fun at Renaissance fairs and SCA camp outs. Never had she imagined such a skill might someday save her life. Then she began to wonder. Had she really been in enough danger that it warranted killing another human being?
Gretchen crept back to the balcony.
“I’m telling ya, this ain’t the right house,” one of the intruders whispered loudly enough for her to hear. “Let’s get out of here before we get caught.”
She strained to hear a response but the other intruder’s voice was too low, too soft. The flashlights seemed to be going toward the front door so Gretchen slowly moved back into the shadow of her room. Fearful any movement might alert them to her wakeful presence, she didn’t risk closing the door. With luck, they wouldn’t notice it was no longer shut.
A draft of fresh, cold, damp air told her they’d opened the front door. After it clicked shut, Gretchen waited for what seemed like an eternity to make sure they were gone. She threw on her clothes and crept down the stairs. After a quick look in the living room to be sure nothing was missing, she grabbed her keys by the front door and made it safely out to her car. If hers wasn’t “the right house,” the intruders would be breaking in somewhere else. She had to warn the Sheriff.
The Spot Writers:
Catherine A. MacKenzie